1st day : Marrakech – Agdez
Your morning departure for the Marrakech to Erg Chegaga desert trip is at 8.30 from your hotel or riad in Marrakech to cross the High Atlas Mountains. After the Tichka pass, you take a side road to the Telouet Kasbah, which belonged to the Lords of the Atlas, the Glaoui family. Each addition to the building now stands in ruins exposed to the wind and the rain, having been abandoned and plundered after the last Pasha fled the country following the departure of the French in 1956. Wait to be pleasantly surprised by the traditional interior decoration as you reach the farthest end of the Kasbah.
From here you drive along the beautiful and awe-inspiring Ounila Valley, full of bends in the roads, surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs. Almost at the end of the road, you reach Aït Ben Haddou, where you stop for a tasty lunch.
This is the most famous Kasbah in Morocco, one of Morocco’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. The architectural style is well preserved and the earthen constructions are perfectly adapted to the climatic conditions, in harmony with the natural and social environment. Probably originating in the 17th century, it is also famous as the backdrop to many Hollywood blockbuster films.
Having driven through Ouarzazate, we continue south over the Tizi-n-Tinfifte pass to Agdez. Descending from the pass you will be amazed at the view of the extensive oasis and the number of palm trees. This indicates the beginning of the Dra’a Valley with its thousands of date palms, producing an amazing 44 varieties of dates. The date harvest starts in September and lasts a couple of months; the best time to stop in Agdez for the freshest ones. We spend the night in a guest house.
2nd day : Agdez – Chegaga Dunes
After breakfast, there is time to visit Kasbah Tamnougalte, the oldest kasbah in the Dra’a Valley. Some of it is still inhabited but the Jewish area has been crumbling since the departure of its inhabitants to Israel – the last woman having left in 1963.
From here, we take the ancient caravan road between the river and the mountains for a short while. which was used to ply goods from sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco. The road passes between the mountains and the river, through many villages and gardens. This road allows you to gain a better idea of the Berber way of life in the life-giving oases.
Just before the police checkpoint in Tansikht, the driver can stop and show you the dinosaur footprints right at the side of the road. We then arrive in the village of Tinsouline, from where you can drive just a kilometer or so off-road to the fascinating rock carvings of animals long extinct in Morocco at Foum Chenna, some 4000 years old.
Zagora is the largest town in the whole area and here we shall stop for lunch. Later we reach Tamgroute, with a stop at the potteries famous for the green glaze. You can also visit the ancient Quranic library with exquisite hand-written Arabic texts.
In the afternoon we drive further south still, to M’hamid, the very gate to the desert and the end of the paved road. In the Erg Lihoudi dunes, we stop for lunch or alternatively, in Kasbah Touareq in Ksar Bounou.
You continue to the Erg Chegaga dunes (300m) with 60km of off-road driving. This route passes different features of the desert; ‘erg’ (dunes), ‘hammada’ (stony desert), and oases. These dunes are far away from civilization, in the desert proper ……. and the silence and the expanse of the sand are overwhelming. Once there you can take a camel ride of about an hour and a half.
You have dinner and spend the night at a luxury camp with a private bathroom, king-sized beds, beautiful Moroccan furnishings, and lamps tastefully arranged to enhance your enjoyment of the silence and beauty of the dunes.
3rd day : Chegaga – Marrakech
After breakfast, our 3-day desert trip to Erg Chegaga from Marrakech takes us west through another 90km of the desert with varying scenery: Lake Iriqui, where you are likely to experience a wide mirage in the heat, the mountains, and have an opportunity of searching for small fossils.
Lunch will be in Foum Zguid, the first village after the desert. “Foum” means “mouth” so the name is the “mouth/source” of the Zguid River. From here the drive goes north along paved roads and past amazing rock formations to the small town of Taznakht, famous for its Berber carpets and rugs. If you are interested you can visit a display room with looms and women at work.
From there, we cross the High Atlas again on a different road from the journey south. You reach Marrakech at the end of the afternoon, having had the best possible Saharan desert trip in Morocco. Your driver will escort you to your riad bringing your Marrakech to Erg Chegaga desert tour 3 days to an end.