Marrakech to Fes
Key: on a scale of 1-5
1 = short driving days and / or short overall distance
5 = sustained driving days and / or long hours in the car
When to tour?
Try to avoid the height of summer and depth of winter
Temperatures not only in the Sahara but also in Marrakech, Ouarzazate & Anti-Atlas are in the 40s °C in summer. In winter (typically January) snow in the mountains can close the high passes at times, or lead to unexpected delays and route changes. The weather conditions in the desert are prone to change quickly and never predictable. However windy conditions in the desert are common, this is not the same as a sandstorm.
Going the extra mile
Don’t underestimate geographical distances and travel times. Although Morocco is smaller than Spain, traveling in the South can lead to long driving hours due to the nature of the terrain here (mountains, desert, valleys). Be prepared to travel on average 5-6 hours per day. It’s far better to miss out a couple of places to maximise time elsewhere and to enjoy the journey. You can always come back!
The imperial cities of Morocco are the four historical capital cities of Morocco: Fes, Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat. The term was used from the 15th century to denote a self-ruling city that enjoyed a certain amount of autonomy. An Imperial city held the status of Imperial immediacy, and as such, was subordinate only to the emperor, as opposed to a territorial city or town.
Marrakech to Fes – drive the Ounila Valley, Dades Valley & camp at Erg Chebbi dunes
A relaxed 4 day itinerary from Marrakech to Fes that may either be shortened to a 3 day version, or made in the ‘opposite’ direction with collection in Fes. The 4 day tour allows more time for walking in the foothills of the Atlas mountains in the unspoilt Ounila Valley, or in the Dades region, and for dedicating to kasbah visits.
The final night’s stay at Erg Chebbi dunes near Merzouga will be in either a standard Berber Camp or a Deluxe Camp.
Click on the images to enlarge / © Images courtesy of A. Harmon, R. Fiserova & Wild Morocco
Drive Marrakech to Ait Ben Haddou, via the Ounila Valley. Traverse the High Atlas mountains via the highest main road pass in Morocco, at 2260m altitude, offering stunning views and exhilarating driving. The route passes lush valleys and traditional adobe Berber villages. After the pass, leave the main route to reach Telouet (for the Kasbah Glaoui) and then follow the beautiful Ounila Valley to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou. Visit this fortified village – essentially a living museum, it is a ksar comprising numerous dwellings, and for years used as the backdrop in many international films. Overnight near Ait Ben Haddou, in the Berber hamlet of Tamdaght, at a charming guest-house inside a restored kasbah.
Walk in the Ounila Valley after breakfast (optional and at additional cost with a guide – please enquire prior to booking). Drive from the locale of Ait Ben Haddou to the Dades Valley, via Ouarzazate and Skoura. North-east of Ouarzazate start to follow the Dades River, which charts the self-titled “route of a thousand kasbahs”. North of Boumalne Dades, the Dades River winds its way through a lush valley, dotted with ruined kasbahs on vantage points and surrounded by the most unusual rock formations and cliffs. The valley becomes ever narrower until the river carves through the spectacular gap of the Dades Gorge. Overnight in a traditional guest-house in the Dades Valley.
Drive Dades Valley to Merzouga, via the Todra Gorge (another striking natural canyon cleaved into the Atlas mountains, by the Todra River). Option to stretch the legs and walk. After lunch continue to Merzouga, at the end of the sealed road, with the expanse of the Erg Chebbi dunes visible. Your driver will drop you at the meeting point with your camel caravan and you will trek on camel back for approx. 1 hour to reach your choice of desert camp (standard or luxurious) in time for sunset and home for the night in the dunes. Take an evening meal and then enjoy music and song at the campfire.
Wake early to admire the desert sunrise, take breakfast, then transfer out of the dunes by camel-back to rejoin your vehicle to take the road to Fes (or if you are travelling by 4×4, you can be collected at the camp). Your route today follows the course of the Ziz River, north, passing the Tafilalt region (which it irrigates), a region of verdant date palms bordering the Sahara. This region, of historical importance, once marked the crossroads of the West African caravan routes, and is the origin of the establishment of the Alaouite dynasty (17th Century), the dynasty that still holds power in Morocco today. Pass through the spectacular Ziz River gorge before traversing the Middle Atlas Mountains (at approx. 1900m). On the north of the mountains, you take in part of Morocco’s vast cedar forests (close to Azrou), before reaching Fes late afternoon.
The private itinerary includes:
- 4×4 vehicle with driver-guide for 4 days, with collection in Marrakech and return in Fes (at your riad / hotel);
- 2 nights guest-house accommodation, each with breakfast and evening meal;
- 1 night tented accommodation at your choice of desert camp at Erg Chebbi dunes, with breakfast and evening meal, drinking water / hot drinks;
- guided camel-ride to / from desert camp round-trip from Merzouga.
Please contact us for a tailor-made price quotation.