Day 1 : Marrakesh – Ouarzazate
Morning departure from your hotel/riad in Marrakesh at 8 o’clock and driving across the High Atlas mountains. At panoramic viewpoints, there will opportunities to stop and take photos. The first scheduled stop is at the Kasbah of Telouet, which served as a palatial residence and the headquarters of the powerful Glaoui tribe. Here you will stop to have a leisurely lunch. Then the route crosses the Oumila Valley and leads to the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, the oldest and most famous Kasbah in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you spend the night in a riad. Alternatively you can continue the 30 kilometres to Ouarzazate to spend the night there.
Day 2 :Ouarzazate – Dades Gorges
After breakfast, you set out towards the Dades Gorge, passing the Skoura Oasis, where numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees. From here, our route takes us through Kela’a M’gouna, the Valley of Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in May. Here we stop to see the cosmetic articles which are made locally from the valley’s abundant flowers. These products are well-known throughout Morocco and are highly valued. From here, you take an off-road route to have a better impression of the landscape. Along the way, you will stop at caves, used by whichever Berber nomads happen to pass and claim residence there. We will have a glass of tea with them before continuing to the Dades Gorge for lunch. This leaves you half a day to walk in the valley, or to spend it relaxing or simply strolling by the fields and gardens, or having tea with a Berber family.
Day 3: Dades – Merzouga
After breakfast, the trip continues a short distance to Tinghir and the very different Toudgha gorges where you can take a short walk to appreciate the steep sides to the gorge and the narrow expanse of the sky above. From there, you continue to the Chebbi dunes via Tinjdad, and the Oasis of Tafilalet near Erfoud, famous for its Date Festival, and Rissani, which is the seat of the Alaouite family of the present king of Morocco. Erfoud and Rissani. Between Tinjdad and Erfoud, you can stop to go down into the fascinating underground water cannels deep below the earth, always cool and preventing the evaporation of this source of irrigation. In Erfoud itself, you can stop to see the workings of thousands of fossils made into all sorts of artefacts. Lunch will be in a Berber village along the way. At the bivouac you are welcomed with a glass of tea before taking a camel ride to watch the sunset from the top of the dunes. Later there is dinner and the night in a nomad tent at the foot of the dunes.
Day 4: Merzouga – Agdez
If you wake up early enough, you can watch the spectacle of the sunrise, when the colour of the dunes and the play of shadows are an awesome sight. The drive back west to the Dra’a Valley takes us via the villages of Tazzarine (featured in the film ‘Babel’) and N’Qob, where we have lunch. In the afternoon we continue to Tanasikht, along the track of the ancient caravan route, reaching the Dra’a valley, abundant with large palm trees and ancient kasbahs, at Agdez, where we spend the night in a kasbah.
Day 5: Agdez – Chagaga:
After breakfast there is an opportunity to visit the Tamnougalte Kasbah, the oldest in the Dra’a Valley and which some consider to be the most interesting. Some of it is still inhabited and other parts crumbling away. The way follows the ancient track of the caravan route to Zagora. From here the trip continues along paved roads to the village of M’hamid, which marks the end of the paved road and the beginning of the Sahara. Here we pause for lunch in a riad set in a beautiful garden full of palm trees and with a swimming pool. In the afternoon, we leave for the Erg Chagaga dunes (300m) with 60km off-road. This route passes different features of the desert; ‘erg’, ‘reg’, ‘hammada’ and oases. These dunes are far away from civilization, in the desert proper …… and the silence and the expanse of the sand are overwhelming. Dinner and the night are in a bivouac there.
Day 6: Chagaga – Fint oasis:
After breakfast, the road takes us through another 90km of desert with varying scenery; Lake Iriqui, the mountains and fossils. Lunch will be in Foum Zguid, the first village after the desert, where it is also possible to freshen up with a shower. From here the drive back north is along paved roads via the village of Taznakht, famous for its Berber carpets and rugs. Before we reach Ouarzazate, we turn off the main road and head for the mountains to the hidden oasis of Fint, which was once the head of the caravan route, where the caravans converged before their goods, slaves, gold and salt were distributed across Morocco. Here the night is spent in a traditional auberge.
Day 7: Fint oasis – Marrakesh:
After breakfast, we drive back to Ouarzazate to Kasbah Taourirt, once owned by the Pashas of Marrakesh, the Galoui family. From here the road goes north again to Marrakesh, stopping for lunch in the mountains and reaching Marrakesh by the end of the afternoon.