Remote Dunes 4 Days
When to trek?
October through April
October still has rather warm day-time temperatures, very pleasant evenings. Night-time lows of around freezing in December / January. But winter light conditions are beautiful, due to the low winter sun. Possibility of a light rain shower in March. The desert is in bloom and camel calves are grazing. Early April sees the arrival of higher temperatures.
Who is it suitable for?
Anyone wishing to get well off the beaten path and to experience the raw beauty of the Sahara.
The Iriqui National Park is home to an array of flora & fauna and the scenery unparalleled. Be prepared to walk on average 5-6 hrs per day. Option to trek by camel. Simply bring a sense of adventure.
An erg (also sand sea or dune sea, or sand sheet if it lacks dunes) is a broad, flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand with little or no vegetative cover. The term takes its name from the Arabic word ‘arq’ – meaning ‘dune field’. Approximately 85% of all the Earth’s mobile sand is found in ergs that are greater than 32,000 square kilometres (12,000 sq mi).Ergs are also found on other celestial bodies, such as Venus, Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan.
Trek a circular route from/to M’hamid to reach the remote Erg Zahar dune field, little-visited and offering astonishing views from its highest point across the erg. Erg Zahar truly represents a ‘sea of sand’, please click on the Gallery images below to see the unique form of Erg Zahar. Cross the vast Draa River bed in the heart of the Sahara desert and enjoy the sense of freedom that desert trekking offers. 4×4 transport in the desert is not necessary.
Click on the images to enlarge / © Images courtesy of M. Charytonowicz & Wild Morocco
Early morning pick-up at riad / hotel in Marrakech and transfer to the desert frontier village of M’hamid El Ghezlane, at the end of the tarmac road, on the Draa Valley. Today’s journey is wonderful – traverse the High Atlas Mountains via the highest main road pass in Morocco (the Tichka Pass at 2260m), pass typical Berber villages and lush valleys by the road-side, beyond Ouarzazate cross the Anti-Atlas mountain range before meeting the course of the Draa River valley (the longest river in Morocco and flanked by glorious date palm oases & crumbling kasbahs) and driving via Agdz and Zagora. Overnight just outside M’hamid El Ghezlane in the palm grove of Bounou, staying at one of the best guesthouses in the region. Overnight on half-board basis.
After breakfast, your vehicle will drive you the short distance to M’hamid from your guesthouse. There, meet your desert guides & camel caravan where the camels are loaded with your luggage / equipment. Your guides will also help you to wrap your turban, ideal protection in the desert. The morning’s trek follows the southern banks of the Draa River, through the vast palm groves and original settlement of M’hamid (purported to be approx. 300 yrs old); take time to visit some of the ancient pise-mud buildings, now abandoned, and enjoy the partial shade offered by the trees. Once at the end of the palm grove, take lunch at a point known as Ras Nkhal. Here, the palm trees open out and give way to desert scrub and stone (hamada), earth banks & tamarisk trees for the rest of the day’s trek. After lunch, continue on a south-westerly course for approx. 2.5 hours towards the marabout (the shrine of a holy man) of Sidi Naji, close to where overnight camp will be established, in the seclusion of small dunes. Today’s trek time: 5-6 hours, depending on the pace of the group.
After breakfast, camp is struck, and the day’s goal, the large, remote sand dune region, of Zahar, will be reached before lunch. Today’s trekking terrain is largely flat, plateau-like earth (a dried lake) which gradually transforms into rolling sand dunes, with far less vegetation visible today. Camp is established at the foot of the tall dunes, between smaller dunes, and lunch is served. This is a little-visited dune region and your afternoon is given to exploring Zahar, reaching the highest point to enjoy the wide-reaching views across the ‘erg’ (sand sea) and then the sunset. Zahar is also known as the ‘screaming dunes’, for a legend that tells of a village buried beneath the sands there. Today’s trek time: 4 hours, depending on the pace of the group.
After breakfast, camp is struck. This morning, for the first time since leaving M’hamid, you will cross the bed of the Draa River, to its northern banks, to start the return trek in the direction of your starting point. The size of the river bed is astonishing, given it now runs dry, but once flowed in abundance through the desert (so much so, that up to 35 families lived on its banks, at the settlement of Erg Smar, further west from your route). Water does still run deep underground here and today’s trek will see more vegetation, some lining the course of former river tributaries. Lunch is taken under the shade of the tamarisk trees. After lunch, trek across flat land which was once fertile (when water was present) and you will come across remnants of agricultural land which is now used as pasture for grazing camels. Overnight camp will be established, in the seclusion of small sand dunes. Today’s trek time: 5-6 hours, depending on the pace of the group.
After breakfast, camp is struck. Today’s goal is the village of M’hamid, to complete your four day circuit. The terrain once more becomes marked by desert scrub and earth banks, and palm groves become more apparent the closer you reach M’hamid. You will break for lunch, in shade, before reaching the village. Your vehicle will be waiting to transfer you back to your overnight guest-house, at the palm grove of Bounou. Today’s trek time: 4 hours, depending on the pace of the group.
Early morning departure from your guesthouse, to re-trace the journey north to Marrakech. Expect to arrive to your riad / hotel in Marrakech late afternoon.
TREKKING WITH COMFORT
During each desert trek, wild camps are established by night. We provide the essentials for a night under the stars in the Sahara desert.
However, if you choose to upgrade to ‘trekking with comfort’, your nights camping out in the Sahara will be altogether a different experience. The camps, as with the standard trekking, are not fixed by location and are entirely private for your trek.
Sleep on a plush mattress, with linens, quilt and pillows, hot water bottle (in Winter), inside a spacious, carpeted Berber tent (5mx4m). In warmer conditions, have your bed set up outside.
We provide a separate tent for evening meal-times, with table and chairs, and pouffes/cushions for relaxation near the campfire, or for star-gazing. Lunches are al fresco and under shade.
Hot water and towels are available for bucket-washing (which conserves water).
Sodas, wine, beer will be available (at no extra charge).