Valleys & Gorges
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!
Erg Chigaga Great Dunes
Erg Chigaga dunes are Morocco’s longest sand dune field. It is 2 hours off-road journey across the desert terrain from the nearest village and sits within Morocco’s largest protected national park – Iriqui National Park, approx. 500 km from Marrakech by desert piste and road.
DADES VALLEY, GORGES, DRAA VALLEY, SAHARA DESERT & OUNILA VALLEY 4×4 TOUR
A 5 or 6 day 4×4 tour, round-trip from Marrakech, with overnight stays in kasbah guest-houses and desert camping at the Great Dunes of Erg Chigaga. Outside of summer months an additional night may be spent in the desert.
Click on the images to enlarge / © Images courtesy of M. Dady, S. Fargeot & Wild Morocco
4×4 Tour route
Leave Marrakech after early breakfast. Drive from Marrakech to Dades 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 & traditional adobe Berber villages by the road-side. 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 Valley.
Drive Dades Valley to Zagora, 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 Zagora, via the Anti-Atlas region of the Jebel Saghro (an other-worldly, volcanic mountain range), to join the magnificent Draa River valley (the Draa is the longest river in Morocco, flanked by vast palm oases and crumbling kasbahs). Overnight in the palm grove of Zagora, frontier to the Sahara, in traditional guest-house.
Drive Zagora to Erg Chigaga great dunes, via Tamegroute and M’hamid El Ghezlane (where we leave the tarmac road behind after lunch), to reach the Berber desert camp during late afternoon. Late afternoon is spent exploring the nearby dunes by foot (you will be approx. 50mins walk from the tallest dune in the region), camel trekking or relaxing. Enjoy the sunset from a vantage point, then a hearty Moroccan meal, and the warmth of the campfire.
The sleeping tents at camp have mattress/linens and there are separate toilet / shower facilities on-site. The staff at camp play traditional music and sing at the fireside after dinner.
Wake early to watch the desert sunrise and then take breakfast. After breakfast, leave the camp and drive out of the desert in the opposite direction to how you arrived. Drive off-road across the desert for 3 hours (north-west) to the town of Foum Zguid, via arguably some of the finest remote scenery in Morocco (including the vast dried salt flats, at Lake Iriqui, and the imposing mountain ridges of the Jebel Bani, the Anti-Atlas range). From Foum Zguid, pass through the town of Tazenakht and then drive across the outer reaches of the Anti-Atlas range (the Jebel Sirwa will be visible in the distance, to the west). Thereafter, reach the UNESCO Site of Ait Ben Haddou, in the beautiful Ounila Valley. Overnight near Ait Ben Haddou, in the Berber hamlet of Tamdaght, at a charming guest-house inside a restored kasbah.
Before breakfast, option to bake bread with the neighbours near to the guest house. After breakfast, drive back across the High Atlas mountains, via the scenic, single-track Ounila Valley and the Telouet Kasbah. Shortly after Telouet, re-cross the High Atlas at the main crossing (the Tichka Pass, as day 1) and descend towards the Marrakech plain. Expect to reach Marrakech mid-afternoon.
The private 4×4 tour itinerary includes:
- 4×4 vehicle with driver-guide for 5 days, with collection and return at your riad / hotel (or airport) in Marrakech;
- 3 nights guest-house accommodation, all with breakfast and evening meal;
- 1 night tented accommodation at Berber desert camp Erg Chigaga great dunes, with breakfast and evening meal, drinking water / hot drinks;
- guided camel-ride out from camp.
Please contact us for a tailor-made price quotation.
For further images of Morocco’s southern Valleys, desert and Gorges, please click here.