Day 1: 1st day : Marrakech – Dades Gorges
It is a morning departure at 8. 30 from your hotel or riad in Marrakech to set out on your Marrakech desert trip. The adventure begins by crossing the High Atlas Mountains. After the Tichka passes at the highest point, you take a side road to 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. The Kasbah was 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 and is one of Morocco’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, which you can visit after lunch.
The road passes Ouarzazate and continues to the Skoura Oasis, where olives, almonds, lucerne, barley, and fruit trees such as apples, apricots, figs, and pomegranates are grown. Here numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees, but you will visit a very famous kasbah, Kasbah Amredhil, which used to be depicted on the old 50 dirham banknote. It has been beautifully restored, so it is intact and well worth a visit.
From here, the route goes through Kela’a M’gouna, the Valley of Roses, with a stop to see cosmetic articles locally made from the valley’s abundant roses. You stop in the Dades Valley in a guest house there.
2nd day : Dades Gorges – Merzouga
After breakfast, you will drive up the Dades Valley, including some amazing hairpin bends (cf youtube Cadillac brakes test) just before reaching the Dades Gorges. Having stretched your legs by walking through the gorges and taking a peak at the landscape on the other side, you will continue to Toudgha to the very different gorges there. Lunch will either be here in the Gorges or later at the bivouac in the Erg Chebbi dunes. You drive there via the Ziz Valley, and the towns of Erfoud, famous for its fossil finds worked into beautiful artifacts, and Rissani, which is where the king’s family originates.
In the afternoon, after a welcoming glass of tea, you can take a one to one & a half-hour camel ride in the Sahara. The sunset from the top of the dunes is spectacular (250m).
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 : Merzouga – Marrakech
If you wake up early enough, you can watch the spectacle of the sunrise, when the color of the dunes and the play of shadows are an awesome sight. The drive back west to the Dra’a Valley takes us along the length of the Saghro mountains, one of the driest areas in the country with about 100 mm of rain at the bottom and 300 mm on the hills. We pass the villages of Tazzarine (featured in the film ‘Babel’) and N’Qob, where we have lunch overlooking the mountains.
In the afternoon, we drive further west to Tansikht on the banks of the Dra’a River. The Dra’a valley is full of large palm trees and ancient kasbahs, typical of the landscape in this part of the south. We go along the track of the ancient caravan route which worked its way north from the Sahara to Agdez with its precious cargos from Mail and Niger. The oldest kasbah in the valley, Kasbah Tamnougalte, is situated almost at the top of the valley. Many of the watch towers to ensure the safety of the camels and the accompanying men are still very visible on the tops of the mountains on the side of the river.
Back on the main north-south road again, we cross the Tizi-n’Tinfifte pass, 1660m, to reach Ouarzazate. We end this unforgettable Marrakech desert trip by continuing along the main road over the High Atlas again. We reach Marrakech by the end of the afternoon. Your 3-day Sahara Desert tour from Marrakech to Merzouga Desert comes to an end as your driver escorts you to your riad!