Are you planning to go from Fez to Marrakech during your trip to Morocco? In this case, instead of moving directly from one city to another, why not cross the Atlas Mountains and go into the desert to discover this unique space for its nature and its ancestral customs? This is the proposal that gives meaning to this 4-day tour from Fez to Marrakech, which you can learn about below.
Far from the big cities like Fez or Marrakech, there are great natural attractions in Morocco, unique in all of Africa. This is the case of the Atlas Mountains, which we will cross through two different passes (one in the Middle Atlas and the other in the High Atlas), with stops at the most emblematic places. This will help us to discover that the geographical relief of the country is more rugged and richer than we might imagine. And of course, the desert that opens before us beyond these mountains is also unique: it is a natural spectacle worth discovering, especially when you reach the dunes of Erg Chebbi, the most fascinating of the Sahara in Morocco.
The low population density south of the Sahara means that daily life seems to move at a different pace here. And that favors the preservation of ancient customs and traditions, such as those we will discover on this trip. For example, the way of life of nomadic populations who, despite progressively adopting some sedentary habits, continue to live in a way that is totally alien to frenetic globalization. Or that of the descendants of former black slaves who settled here and continue to preserve an absolutely original folklore, recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
This is the detailed description of this 4 days and 3 nights tour in Morocco, starting in Fez and ending in Marrakech. All travel is by road, except for some off-road sections in the desert.
To start this 4-day tour from Fez, our staff will pick you up wherever suits you best: it can be the hotel of this city, the airport or any other point that is convenient for you. And without further ado, we will start the route south, crossing the Middle Atlas.
This mountain range is home to places of great beauty, both urban and rural and natural. A small town that will surprise us is Ifrane, since its appearance is reminiscent of alpine villages: its gable roofs are a solution against the snow and rain that falls in the cold season, which is a rarity in the country and has earned him the nickname of the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’.
Very close to Ifrane and Azrou (another town of similar appearance) is the Ifrane National Park. Here, what led the authorities to establish its protection is its large mass of Atlas cedars and its populous population of Barbary macaques. Both are true symbols of the country and are often used to name this reserve of high natural value: Bosque de Cedros (Cedar Forest) or Bosque de Monos (Monkey Forest).
All of this is on the northern side of the Middle Atlas, but as our journey continues we will reach the southern side, where the landscapes are very different: the aridity is more pronounced and the rivers are often
seasonal. We will travel through the Ziz Valley which, despite its enormous length, is scarce in water and ends up dying in the desert.
Once in Erfoud, we will have lost track of the river, but one of the great attractions of this city will appear: its fossils, some of them with remains of prehistoric species. Not surprisingly, important dinosaur remains have been found here, and these extinct animals are often evoked in its streets.
Shortly after we will arrive in Merzouga, a small town that gives its name to a portion of the Sahara desert. And not just any portion, but probably the most beautiful. The dunes of Erg Chebbi, an expanse of fine sandy sea that stretches for more than 20 km from end to end, are to blame for this. A part of these dunes will be crossed by camel, in an excursion guided by a Touareg, who will take us to the luxury tents camp.
Among these traditional Berber tents, under a sky free of light pollution, dinner will be served before retiring to rest in the quiet of the desert.
The second day of this circuit takes place entirely in the desert of Merzouga, in several of its most special locations. Of course, the beginning of the day will be one to remember: the sunrise on the dunes of Erg Chebbi always offers a spectacle of light and peace that is an act of inner purification.
After breakfast at the bivouac, we will return to Merzouga to resume our journey on wheels. The first stop will be in Khamlia, a small village that, despite this, can boast of being one of the cradles of Gnawa music, brought here by former slaves from the other side of the Sahara. Now, its dark-skinned inhabitants are its best guardians and ambassadors, as we can see in a show of rhythm and dance.
After that, the asphalt disappears to give way to dirt tracks with a lot of history: the Paris-Dakar rally used to pass through them and, although it no longer does so due to its environmental impact, our off-road cars do, with which it is possible to experience a very intense adrenaline rush. On this route, we will also see abandoned villages and disused kohl mines, which are vestiges of the French domination of the area.
The last experience of the day also seems like a trip to the past, but in this case with relevance in the present: we will live with families of nomadic tradition that, although they no longer live in permanent displacement, they do preserve habits of life of past times. We will do so without disturbing or invading privacy, since our guide will act as a mediator with these families, whom he knows personally.
Back in Merzouga, after a short stop to admire the panoramic view of the dunes of Erg Chebbi, you will have dinner and rest in a charming hotel, with an atmosphere and interior design in harmony with the environment.
On this third day of our tour of Morocco, we leave the purest desert, but not before discovering a most unique town: Rissani, which preserves a historic medina full of ancient monuments and scenes from another time: donkeys are still a means of transport used and parked on the outskirts, the popular market sells food and local crafts…
After visiting Rissani, we enter the pre-Saharan valleys, characterized by landscapes of small bare mountains, ancient Berber kasbahs and villages around oasis of palm groves, where farmland also makes a niche. One of the places that best symbolizes this region is Tinghir (
in the local Tamazight language).
In Tinghir we will also take a detour to discover a natural space that looks like a fairy tale: the Todra Gorges. Here, the small seasonal river that gives them their name has been carving natural rock walls that astonish for their verticality and height. Walking through this rocky corridor is an experience and a demonstration that nature never ceases to amaze.
Following the Dades Valley we will stop the route in a charming village, Boumalne Dades, where you will find the riad where we will have dinner and spend the night.
On the fourth and last day of this tour from Fez, we will reach our final destination: Marrakech. But there is much to discover first. Leaving Boumalne Dades behind, we will reach the Valley of the Roses: it is actually a stretch of the Dades Valley, but with its own character thanks to the millions of rose bushes that populate both banks, which give it a special color in spring.
Ouarzazate is the most important city in the region, with a great prestige in the film industry thanks to its Atlas studios. However, its most historic and imposing monument is the kasbah of Taourirt, as we will understand when we visit it: it was a grandiose Berber-style castle-palace that belonged to the powerful El Glaoui family. Its adobe exterior, with crenellated towers and chiaroscuro decoration, contrasts strikingly with its refined interior.
But very close to here, about 30 km away, is the great jewel of Berber architecture: the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, a walled village lying on a hill, under a ruined castle and surrounded by an impregnable wall. Unesco recognized it as a World Heritage Site for this reason. Today it can be visited, which does not prevent some families from still living in this unique enclave.
Ait Ben Haddou was a key stop on the caravan routes coming from the south of the Sahara. And today it still is, but in this case of the tourist routes that, like this one, connect the desert with Marrakech. So, after the visit, we will start the ascent of the High Atlas to cross the Tizi n’Tichka pass and descend through the valleys of the north face of this mountain range.
Thus, descending between mountain villages, open-air farms and streams that give freshness to the environment, we will reach Marrakech, the ‘red city’. There we will say goodbye, in the place you indicate us, to put an end to an enriching trip from all points of view, and that can be inspiring to organize other similar ones around the country.
All services included are of premium quality and are designed to ensure that the circuit runs smoothly and safely:
The following details are not included in the price of the service package and are at the discretion and expense of the clients: