A different Morocco opens up to the south of the Atlas, more arid but also wilder and more authentic. It is the cradle of the Berber civilization, which has left us masterpieces of its architecture and culture, intermingled with others to give a genuine result that we will know firsthand. But without a doubt, the most enchanting part of this trip is the Sahara desert and the valleys that lead to it, which have a very recognizable personality. So if you are seduced by the idea of discovering the desert and its environment, this 5-day tour of southern Morocco will not disappoint you.
High mountains, fertile valleys, farmland, huge palm groves, canyons with vertical walls, dunes of fine golden sand… The contrast of landscapes is enormous in this 5-day circuit through the south of Morocco which, despite its aridity and hot climate, is home to a surprising richness and biodiversity. This richness, by the way, also includes the sky, which is especially clear and bright at night, making this trip a dream for astronomy lovers.
Although this area of Morocco is characterized by a very low population density, those who live here have managed to maintain their traditions and culture, whether popular or artistic. Therefore, in this circuit we include enriching experiences such as a gnawa music concert or a coexistence with semi-nomadic families of the deepest desert. All this with the mediation of our driver-guide, who will be the best ambassador of this country.
Below we detail the five days that make up this circuit from Marrakech, with 4 nights and the end of the tour in the same city:
The first day of the tour starts early in order to make the most of the day. Our driver will pick you up punctually wherever you indicate, whether it is the hotel in the city or any other point. On board our comfortable vehicle, we will head for the High Atlas Mountains.
This stretch of mountain range is the highest in the country, with Jbel Toubkal as the ‘roof’ of Morocco. But we will cross it through its most accessible part: the Tizi n’Tichka pass, at about 2,260 meters above sea level, altitude enough to enjoy the view at the top and be surrounded by snow in winter.
The southern face of this mountain range is more arid, anticipating the desert landscape that will accompany us from now on. The first stop after the descent will be the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, a fortified village declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Reasons are not lacking: it is the best example of traditional and defensive architecture that the Berber civilization has bequeathed us. From inside and outside we will understand its importance in the caravan routes and the original atmosphere that can still be breathed from the walls inwards.
Our route will continue towards the Dades Valley, whose axis is this seasonal river. Around it are located villages and small towns with a lot of charm, which have a humble agriculture and adobe constructions, the most used material in these latitudes. And in this valley is the village that will offer us the first dinner and the first night’s rest of the route: Boumalne Dades, in one of its charming riads.
The second day is a long mileage day. And that is synonymous with many interesting visits and experiences. The first stop of the day will be Tinghir or Tinerhir, a small town nestled between steep hills, a palm grove of the Dades River and farmland, with very characteristic adobe buildings.
At the height of Tinghir we will take the detour to visit the Todra Gorges, one of the most amazing places of this 5-day circuit. It is a narrow canyon with vertical walls, formed by this small river, on whose banks there is a walkway to admire this enclave, dreamed of by photographers and climbers.
Back on the road, the landscape intersperses palm groves with ancient kasbahs and humble villages. Erfoud will mark a milestone on the route, as it announces the ever closer presence of the pure desert and invites us to discover its great variety of fossils, found in the surroundings of this city. Some, in fact, date back to the time of the dinosaurs.
And soon after, in Merzouga, it will be time to change the vehicle for the camels, not only for the experience itself to get on them, but especially because it is the best way to cross the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. We will then arrive at the luxury tented camp that will host us for the second night, where we will also receive dinner and the proverbial welcome tea.
This corner of the desert should be enjoyed with all the senses and at all times of the day. This includes dawn and the moments immediately before and after it, as they make up an unparalleled sunrise. After that, breakfast will be served and we will return to Merzouga to start the day’s off-road route.
Khamlia is one of the stops on this route. It will be a visit full of folklore, since its inhabitants, mainly of black skin, will delight us with their gnawa music, inherited from their slave ancestors and reinterpreted to be recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
After the concert, the adventure of the day and of the circuit will come: we will ride on dirt tracks that were once part of the Paris-Dakar route. Today there are only vestiges of kohl mines and old Berber or French villages from the Protectorate period.
And this day, so different from the others, could not miss a social and ethnographic touch, thanks to the meeting with nomadic families in the process of sedentarization. They will tell us about their lifestyle, which they maintain through effort and self-love.
Undoubtedly, an enriching experience that will be on our minds during the return to Merzouga, especially when we stop at a panoramic point to contemplate the immensity of the sand dunes and the desert in general. Dinner will be served in a hotel perfectly integrated with the desert in that locality, where it will be very easy to sleep thanks to its tranquility.
After spending two nights in the desert, it is time to return to Marrakech. But due to the remoteness of the ‘red city’ and the many attractions along the way, it will be a return spread over two days.
Thus, the first stop of this day will be Rissani. Among its great attractions is its medina, still witness to scenes more typical of another time, such as its donkey parking. Its populous market and its Islamic monuments, some of them related to the first Alaouites (reigning dynasty in Morocco) are other places of interest for the visitor.
After discovering Rissani, our route by road travels for miles and miles, passing through villages such as Alnif and Tazzarine, until we enter a huge palm grove: that of the Draa Valley. In fact, it is considered to be one of the largest in Africa, stretching some 150 km from end to end.
With the impact of this explosion of palm trees on both sides of the road and the Draa River, we arrive shortly after to Ouarzazate, where the hotel is located where dinner will be served and we will sleep tonight.
The fifth day of the circuit is the last, but after breakfast and leaving the hotel in Ouarzazate, there is still one more visit: the Taourirt Kasbah, which was one of the residential castles owned by the El Glaoui family, one of the most powerful in the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The structure is a perfect combination of Berber sobriety and Arab refinement, since it is based on adobe structures with chiaroscuro effects on the exterior, while the interior rooms are decorated with tiles, plasterwork and wooden coffered ceilings.
After visiting this amazing kasbah, we will head to Marrakech by the road that climbs up to the port of Tizi n’Tichka. After this point, you will begin the descent through green valleys where villages and farms emerge and blend in with the mountain landscape.
Upon arrival in Marrakech, you will have free time in the afternoon if it fits in the program, as our driver will drop you off at the hotel or at the place you indicate. And after that, our services will end in this 5-day circuit through the desert and its surroundings.
5 days is a long time. And even more so if the travel package includes these premium services so that you only have to worry about enjoying yourself:
The following services are not included in the travel package, so you are free to decide on them: