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9 days, desert, Marrakech and Essaouira

Tour from Marrakech, through the desert and beach break

This 9-day circuit has the desert as the main protagonist, but adds two other major attractions: the Atlantic beach (Essaouira) and the city of Marrakech, where the route begins and ends. So if you are looking for a complete proposal with that duration, put yourself in the hands of our agency to enjoy this trip to the south of Morocco.

Feel the unmissable call of the desert

If you choose this 9-day tour of Morocco, it is because you like unique landscapes, genuine experiences and popular culture, the one practiced by the local people in their daily lives. And you will find all this in the Moroccan Sahara desert and its immediate surroundings, known as the ‘pre-Saharan area’. The dunes of Erg Chebbi will be the main goal of the route, but to get there and to return we will discover unique environments, both from a natural point of view (rocky canyons, endless palm groves…) and from an ethnographic point of view (folk music, meeting with nomadic families, humble handicrafts…). Undoubtedly, a trip that will make you rethink many things about our frenetic city life.

World Heritage Cities and the embrace of the sea

Although the desert and its surroundings make up a large part of this 9-day tour of Morocco, the program includes many other attractions. Culture and history lovers will enjoy visits to Essaouira and Marrakech (the latter with a guided tour), as they are declared World Heritage Sites, as well as the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou. In addition, there will be free time, weather permitting, to take a swim in the beaches of Essaouira, which are not only the closest to Marrakech but also the most beautiful and lively of the region.

Itinerary of this 9-day tour from Marrakech

In 9 days and 8 nights, the program covers a wide variety of places, which will always be reached by road, in a comfortable private vehicle. This is how the days of the circuit, which starts and ends at Marrakech Menara Airport, are divided up:

  • Day 1: Marrakech airport – Marrakech
  • Day 2: Marrakech – High Atlas – Ait Ben Haddou – Dades Valley
  • Day 3: Dades Valley – Todra Gorges – Erfoud – Merzouga – Dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Day 4: Erg Chebbi Dunes – Merzouga – Khamlia – Desert Nomads – Merzouga
  • Day 5: Merzouga – Rissani – Draa Valley – Ouarzazate
  • Day 6: Ouarzazate – High Atlas – Essaouira
  • Day 7: Essaouira – Marrakech
  • Day 8: Marrakech
  • Day 9: Marrakech – Marrakech Airport

Day 1: Marrakech airport - Marrakech

To get off to a good start on this 9-day tour, our staff will meet you at the arrival terminal. We will welcome you and transfer you to the riad in the medina of Marrakech without making you wait. Once in the city center, you will have free time (depending on the arrival time of your flight) to have a first contact with the ‘red city’, which we will explore in depth later in the tour.

  • Meeting at Marrakech Menara Airport
  • Transfer to the riad in private vehicle with driver
  • Free time in Marrakech
  • Night in a charming riad

Day 2: Marrakech - High Atlas - Ait Ben Haddou - Dades Valley

After the acclimatization of the first day in Marrakech, we will depart from the riad to the wild south aboard our vehicle. Our driver will take you to the High Atlas Mountains, which serve as a border between the most vibrant and populous Morocco and the most peaceful and traditional Morocco.

We will cross this mountain range through the Tizi n’Tichka pass and the aridity of the environment will become more evident during the descent, dotted from time to time with oases where palm trees grow. Next to one of them is the spectacular ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, a fortified village that looks like something out of fiction. In fact, it has been chosen as the setting for scenes in films such as
or series such as
Game of Thrones
. Knowing it inside and out will help us understand its importance centuries ago, when the commercial caravans that connected Marrakech and Timbuktu mainly passed through here.

Our route will not take us that far, but it will make us enjoy the valley that opens before our eyes soon after: the Dades Valley, one of the most fertile in the area thanks to the wet and green areas that arise on the banks of this river. In one of the picturesque villages along the valley we will spend the night in a charming riad, where dinner is also included.

  • Breakfast in riad in Marrakech
  • Beginning of the route by road:
    • Ascent of the High Atlas and Tizi n’Tichka pass
    • Ait Ben Haddou: visit of the ksar
    • Dades Valley
  • Dinner and night in a charming riad in the Dades Valley

Day 3: Dades Valley - Todra Gorges - Erfoud - Merzouga - Dunes of Erg Chebbi

The landscape that bid us farewell the previous day will continue to be present at the beginning of the third day. The Dades Valley will continue to show us its landscapes combining bare mountains, crop fields and lush palm groves. An unbeatable example will be Tinghir, one of the most important and interesting towns in the valley.

Nearby is another of the attractions of the day: the Todra Gorges. The river that gives them their name is seasonal and has acted here as a real knife, piercing the rock to form a narrow and deep canyon, through which we will walk. Its walls are over a hundred meters high and are a true paradise for climbers.

Back to the Dades Valley, our road will continue between ancient kasbahs and oases until we reach Erfoud, where the landscape is already fully desert: its hamadas (stony and arid terrain) hide paleontological sites of the first level and, in fact, this city is one of the richest in prehistoric fossils.

After leaving Erfoud behind, it is the turn to Merzouga, where we will park the vehicle and get on the camels (one per person) with which we will complete the last kilometers of today’s route. We will be driven through the dune field of Erg Chebbi, the most fascinating of the whole country for its soft hills of fine sand.

The camel ride ends in a luxury tented camp, equipped with all comforts. The welcome tea, the delicious dinner and the pleasant fire that warms the atmosphere are three indispensable elements in this place. And the desert’s own starry sky is not usually absent either.

  • Breakfast in a charming riad in the Dades Valley
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Tinghir
    • Todra Gorges
    • Erfoud
  • Arrival in Merzouga:
    • Dromedary ride in the Erg Chebbi dunes
  • Dinner and night in luxury Berber tents camp in Erg Chebbi

Day 4: Erg Chebbi Dunes - Merzouga - Khamlia - Desert Nomads - Merzouga

Although the sunrise takes place every day, contemplating it in the desert dunes is something that can only be enjoyed on very special occasions, as on this trip. So it will be worth getting up early and watching the day light up, with its magical lights changing from cool to warm tones in a matter of minutes.

After this natural spectacle, we will have breakfast at the camp and return to Merzouga. What awaits us at that moment are sensory and exciting experiences, which can only be found in the desert. The first was a concert of Gnawa music, performed by the inhabitants of Khamlia, dark-skinned because they are descendants of former slaves.

The route becomes an adventure as we then travel along the dirt tracks with our 4×4, just as the motorcycles and off-road vehicles of the Paris-Dakar rally did years ago. The landscape here becomes lunar and ghostly, with kohl mines and abandoned villages, some of Berber origin and others from the time of the French Protectorate.

Contemplating this panorama, it will be even more admirable to know how the nomadic families that inhabit this area manage, which we will get to know thanks to the intermediation of our driver-guide. These are people who, despite adopting some sedentary habits, maintain a lifestyle very different from the one dictated by globalization.

These families who struggle every day to get ahead have the reward of contemplating the spectacular desert scenery every day, as we will also do from a panoramic viewpoint in front of the dunes of Erg Chebbi. After that, we will return to Merzouga for dinner and overnight in a wonderful desert hotel.

  • Sunrise on the dunes of Erg Chebbi
  • Breakfast at the tented camp
  • Return to Merzouga and start of the 4×4 route:
    • Khamlia or black people. Gnawa concert
    • Dirt tracks used in rallies
    • Meeting with nomadic families
  • Dinner and night in hotel in Merzouga

Day 5: Merzouga - Rissani - Draa Valley - Ouarzazate

After the landscapes and experiences lived in the heart of the desert, it is time to return. And we will do it by an alternative route to discover other places of interest in the south of Morocco.

For example, Rissani, a small town that has a large medina and maintains a lifestyle similar to that of centuries past: many of its inhabitants travel by donkey, which they park next to the wall, go shopping at the spice and food market, and venerate Ali Sherif (initiator of the Alaouite dynasty) in his mausoleum, inside the wall.

After visiting Rissani, our odometer will advance at a good pace because we will take the road to the Draa Valley, leaving behind Nkob, Tazzarine and other villages in this huge palm grove of 150 km long, which reaches almost to Ouarzazate. Precisely in this city, nicknamed the ‘Hollywood of the desert’ for its film studios, we will spend the night of this day, in a hotel-riad that will also serve dinner.

  • Breakfast at hotel in Merzouga
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Rissani. Visit
    • Draa Valley
  • Arrival in Ouarzazate
  • Dinner and night in Ouarzazate

Day 6: Ouarzazate - High Atlas - Essaouira

The sixth day will begin with an interesting visit without leaving Ouarzazate: the kasbah of Taourirt. It is the great monument of this city and stands out for its combination of exterior austerity and interior refinement, with Berber (adobe, crenellated towers, etc.) and Islamic (ceramics, tiles, wood, plaster) tastes. It was one of the main residences of Thami El Glaoui, one of the most powerful men in the country in the twentieth century, holding the title of Pasha of Marrakech.

After visiting this impressive kasbah, we return to the road to start the ascent of the High Atlas and crown the Tizi n’Tichka pass. On the way down we will be delighted with a much more fertile landscape than that of the previous days, with villages and farms that are perfectly integrated into its valleys.

The route continues and does not stop for the moment in Marrakech, but continues towards Essaouira, where we will arrive at the end of the day, between argan fields. We will go directly to the charming riad where you will stay, leaving for the next morning the most important of this beautiful city, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Breakfast at hotel in Ouarzazate
  • Visit of the kasbah of Taourirt
  • Continuation of the route by road:
    • Ascent of the High Atlas by Tizi n’Tichka
    • Marrakech-Essaouira highway
  • Arrival in Essaouira
  • Night in riad in Essaouira

Day 7: Essaouira - Marrakech

After breakfast at the riad, you will have the morning free to discover the beautiful city of Essaouira, which offers a great contrast to everything seen so far. The Atlantic breeze will be felt and the military constructions from the Portuguese period (16th century, with later reconstructions) compose a unique atmosphere, to which are added everyday scenes such as the fishing boats next to the fortress and the lively beaches to the south, where many people practice water sports. The medina invites you to get lost in it, reaching the old gates of the wall and the Jewish quarter (mellah), which still preserves synagogues and a large Jewish cemetery.

During the afternoon, we will be back on the road again, this time to return to Marrakech, in time to enjoy a few free hours before resting at the riad in the medina.

  • Breakfast in a charming riad
  • Free morning in Essaouira
  • Return by road to Marrakech after lunch
  • Free time in Marrakech
  • Night in riad in Marrakech

Day 8: Marrakech

The in-depth visit of Marrakech is almost at the end, but not for lack of interest, far from it: on this penultimate day we will discover the most beautiful and interesting corners of the medina, with an official guide of the Ministry of Tourism.

Palaces like the Bahia, mosques like the Koutoubia, medersas like Ben Youssef and mausoleums like the Saadian tombs will attract our attention during the tour, in some cases with access to its interior and in others not, because they are forbidden to non-Muslims. And the epicenter of Marrakech life, the Jemaa el-Fna square, will be a must stop at some point during your visit.

The afternoon will be free to complement the program with cultural visits (Marrakech Museum, Yves Saint Laurent Museum…), pleasant walks (Majorelle Garden), leisure activities or shopping for handicrafts in the souks of the medina. In the evening, again for the last time during the trip, you will rest in the riad in the medina.

  • Breakfast in riad in Marrakech
  • Guided tour of Marrakech
  • Free afternoon in Marrakech
  • Night in riad in Marrakech

Day 9: Marrakech - Marrakech airport

On the ninth day, this trip comes to an end. The day will be organized according to the time of the return flight. Breakfast will be at the riad and transfer to the airport, at the agreed time to arrive in plenty of time to the boarding terminal. There we will say goodbye with gratitude and until, hopefully, the next time.

  • Breakfast in riad in Marrakech
  • Check-out and transfer to Marrakech Menara Airport
  • End of our services

Services included in this 9-day tour

Transportation, accommodation, guided tours… This travel package includes a wide range of services, which are shown below:

  • Transfers from/to Marrakech Menara International Airport
  • Chauffeur and premium private vehicle throughout the tour
  • Three nights in riad in Marrakech, on breakfast only basis
  • One night in a charming riad in the Dades Valley, half-board (dinner and breakfast)
  • One night in a luxury tent camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi, half board (dinner and breakfast). Depending on the package, the morning shower will be taken at the camp or in a hotel in Merzouga.
  • One night hotel accommodation in Merzouga on half board basis (dinner and breakfast).
  • One night in hotel-riad in Ouarzazate, half-board (dinner and breakfast)
  • One night in a riad in Essaouira, breakfast only.
  • Dromedary excursion in the dunes of Erg Chebbi (one per person)
  • Guided tour of Marrakech, with official guide

Services not included

This 9-day Morocco tour does not include the following services:

  • Roundtrip international flights
  • Midday lunches
  • Dinners in Marrakech and Essaouira
  • Beverages
  • Tips
  • Entrance fees to museums and monuments

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