Day 1: Marrakech – Tizi n Tichka – Skoura Oases – Roses Valley – Dades Valley
We will depart from Marrakech at 7:00 am in a modern, air conditioned vehicle. We will journey over the Atlas Mountains, enjoying the magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as we continue onward to Ouarzazate (approx. 40 min or so), for a delicious lunch prepared locally.
After lunch, we will do a little sightseeing as we continue along the route of The Valley of Roses, which is renowned for the Festival of Roses. We will also pass through the little Berber villages of Skoura, ‘El Kelaa des M’Gouna,’ and ‘Boumalene Dades.’ Taking the road again, we will reach Boulmane de Dades, famous for its bird- rich Vallee des Oiseaux (Bird Valley), and for being the starting point for exploring the spectacular Dades Valley, a lush carpet set against the massive rocks. We will stop for dinner and accommodation overnight in a charming kasbah in the area.
Day 2: Dades Valley — Merzouga (Erg Chebbi)
After breakfast, our first stop will be Tinerhir (Tinghir), with its extensive palm grove, the ksours built into the rocky hills above it and its mysterious decaying Jewish quarter. No more than a mountain village set at an altitude of 1300 metres, it has been a stop for nomadic Berber tribes traveling from the mountains north of the village towards the desert during the winter months for generations. Do not miss a walk in the palm grove, an amazing world of its own. You will see date palms at the edge, terraces of olive, pomegranate, almond and fruit trees further in, with grain and vegetable crops planted in between.
The most spectacular gorges of Morocco, the Todra Gorges, lie only 15 km from Tinerhir, presenting an arresting spectacle with its crystal clear river emerging from it, its huge walls changing colour by magical effect as the day unfolds. It’s 300 meter/1000 foot high walls are home to more than 150 bolted routes. At any time of day, you can catch a glimpse of someone rock climbing up the gigantic walls. Before reaching Merzouga, we will pass through Erfoud and Rissani. Rissani used to serve as last stop on the great caravan routes south, with gold and slave auctions taking place here as late as 1800’s. It is also from here that the Alaoui dynasty, today’s Moroccan rulers, launched its bid for power centuries ago.
The last village on our way is Merzouga, and behind it lie some of the highest dunes of the Sahara in Morocco, Erg Chebbi. Nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle stretching in front of your eyes from the top of the dunes. For as far as you can see, there is nothing but sand. It is an ocean set to conquer everything that stands in its way. In the desert, all worldly matters lose sense and the feeling of peace are overwhelming. After a short camel trek, you will spend the night in a nomadic desert camp under the most beautiful starred sky.
Day 3: Merzouga – Rissani – Alnif – Tazarine – Nkob – Agdez – Low Atlas Mountains – Ouarzazate
Just prior to sunrise, we begin our camel trek back, further exploring the area as we return to Merzouga on our Camels. Upon reaching Merzouga, you will be able to shower and enjoy a good breakfast at the hotel.
We start the day’s journey through the Draa Valley and over the Low Atlas Mountains. You can’t fully appreciate the amazing feat of Morocco’s existence until you have seen the Draa Valley. Before the Almoravids could conquer territory all the way up to Barcelona and the Saadians could monopolize the sugar trade, they had to get past unassailable gorges, mudbrick watchtowers and fiercely autonomous oases. This desert landscape still seems wildly adventurous. After crossing the Ait Sawen pass over the Low Atlas Mountains, we will reach our guest house in Ouarzazate. We will enjoy dinner and stay overnight in Ouarzazate.
Day4: Ouarzazate – Cinema Studio – Kasbah Of Ait Benhaddou – Telouet – Tizi N Tichka –Marrakech
After breakfast at the guest house, we will visit the cinema studios in Ouarzazate, known as ‘Ouallywood.’ Movie studios have built quite a resume providing convincingly exotic backdrops for movies supposedly set in Tibet, ancient Rome, Somalia and Egypt. Ait Benhaddou makes a perfect example standing as one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Morocco. You might find it familiar if you watched ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Alexander,’ or ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, having served as background for all these pictures. The citadel is strategically built on the side of the mountain so as to control the most precious goods of the area: the river flowing beneath. Its adobe houses intertwine with each other, giving place to mysterious passage ways and intricate light patterns. You can reach the peak through various narrow stone paved alleys, a hide-and-seek paradise. The view f rom the granary on the top is breathtaking. After the visit, we will set out on the Ounila Valley to reach Telouet.
The beauty of the valley zigzagging underneath the route is beyond words. At Telouet, once the main residence of the ‘ Lord of the Atlas,’ Pacha El Glaoui used to accommodate his court, the stables, a Mosque and countless slaves at a time when the Pacha was reportedly having tea with W. Churchill and started the first bus company in Morocco. A visit is recommended if only to marvel at the extravagance of this modern-day dynasty and the contrast between the derelict exterior and the opulent interior.
We will then start our way back, crossing the High Atlas, this time on the tarmac road that used to be the route first build by the French Foreign Legion over the Atlas Mountains. The route zigzags its way through the abrupt valleys and mountain peaks to arrive in Marrakech later in the evening.
This tour can also be arranged to travel from Marrakech to Fez over 3 nights and 4 days, spending one night in the Sahara Desert.
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