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Morocco Desert Tour

Kasbahs of the Sahara Caravan Trail

6 days / 5 nights (* see notes)

Tour Ref:   SV009
Tour start:   Marrakech
Tour end:   Marrakech
Tour type:   Family, Cultural, Desert
Regions:   Southern Valleys, Sahara Desert, Atlas Mountains
Available:   mid-September to early June upon request

Tour summary

This 6-day desert tour from Marrakech is a combination of cultural and authentic adventure. It offers a deep insight into the architectural wonders of Southern Morocco by following the route of the Saharan trade caravans of the 19th and early 20th century. The fierce local rulers dominated and protected the trade routes from their stronghold fortresses - the impressive and beautiful kasbahs. With guided museum visits and opportunities to get close-up inside the major kasbahs of the region, even sleeping inside restored old kasbahs - this trip is educational as well as terrific fun! You travel on and off-road in 4x4 vehicle into the High Atlas Mountains above the Valley of Roses and into the Dadès Gorge. You drive through the Draa Valley Oasis and the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, sip tea with cave-living nomads, walk in the Todra Gorge, ride a camel in the Sahara and sleep in old kasbahs as well as in the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi. This is a fascinating historical and cultural tour of Southern Morocco, complete with local Sahrawi guide to escort you and with daily driving times of around 5 hours. Suitable for families, older children, students, couples, friends and accessible to all ages and all fitness levels.

Please note: All our Morocco tours can be customised to allow extra days for shorter daily car journeys, extra activities, relaxation days, exploration days etc. We can also adapt tours to connect with different start/end locations in Morocco. Let us know your wishes and we will build your perfect Morocco tour itinerary.

Price: Contact us for a personalised quotation.
Prices will vary according to number of people travelling in vehicle, number of days, time of year, category of accommodation chosen and activities requested.

NB Our Morocco tours are private tours organised upon request.

Day-to-day tour itinerary

Day 1

Marrakech - HIgh Atlas Mountains - Tizi n'Tichka Pass - Telouet Kasbah - Kasbah Ait Benhaddou

Depart with your driver and Sahrawi guide in 4x4. You head out of Marrakech across the agricultural plains of olive and orange groves and into the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, stopping for breaks as you wish. You follow the winding Tizi n’Tichka pass, the main thoroughfare to the south, which twists its way up through breathtaking mountain scenery. At the highest point of Col du Tichka at 2260 m, you veer off inland onto a minor road that leads to the restored 19th century Kasbah at Telouet - once the opulent home of the infamous Thami el Glaoui who ruled these mountain lands ferociously, guarding the caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. The kasbah has many magnificent mosaics, carved ceilings and well-preserved reception rooms. You can enjoy a delicious lunch nearby, overlooking the valley below. From here the route is along the unspoiled Ounila Valley which sees little tourist traffic. Mud-built Berber villages, snow-capped peaks (in winter) and valleys filled with almond blossom and wild flowers (in spring) make this a spectacular drive. After about two hours, you reach the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Kasbah Ait Benhaddou and walk across the river to visit this hilltop citadel, built in the typical southern Morocco architectural style using sun-baked mud bricks mixed with straw. The walled ksar is entered by two main gates and the buildings are closely packed together. Turrets of the individual houses are carved with Berber motifs, with slit windows and crenelated ramparts. There are around 8 families still living here and some of the original construction dates back to the 17th century. Nowadays, a few houses ares still occupied and are open to visitors. You can walk through the narrow alleys to the grain store, or agadir, at the top of the hill which has incredible views across the surrounding desert landscape. Ait Benhaddou is famous these days mostly for its appearance as a backdrop in many Hollywood blockbuster movies - Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel in the Nile and Gladiator. After visiting the Kasbah you retrace your route for about 15 minutes to reach the Kasbah of Tamdaght, where the Glaoui once housed their slaves. Here you will spend the night in a traditional house converted into a charming guest-house with pool and terraces next-door to the kasbah and overlooking almond orchards.

Stay: Kasbah guesthouse or 4-star kasbah hotel Ait Benhaddou

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Day 2

Ait Benhaddou - Ouarzazate - Kasbah Taourirt - Kasbah Amerhidil and the Skoura Oasis Kasbahs

This morning you depart from Ait Benhaddou and head south towards Ouarzazate to visit Kasbah Taourirt for a guided tour. This Kasbah is one of the finest examples in Morocco and was built in the 19th century by the Glaoui pasha for his extended family. The main kasbah residence has stately reception rooms, with carved plaster and painted ceiling as well as rather formidable servants quarters, harem rooms and kitchens. It is a labyrinth of around 300 rooms, some of which are open to the public. Within the walls of the kasbah are narrow streets and individual family homes with decorated square towers. You will have lunch near to the Kasbah at a Moroccan restaurant, or you can head to the modern square in the centre of town. After lunch the road heads east for less than an hour into the Skoura oasis - a palm grove that was planted in the 12th century and named after the indigenous Berbers of the Haskourene tribe. Within the oasis are several kasbahs, some in ruin and some still inhabited. Your tour visit the most famous and reently restored 17th century Kasbah Amerhidil. A visit to the Museum of Skoura will explain the significance of different kasbah architectural styles, decoration and local tribal customs. Depending on time, you can opt to take a walking tour for the afternoon to visit Kasbah Ait Abbou and the kasbahs and holy tombs, or ‘marabout’ sites in the Skoura oasis. In order to cpmplete the authentic experience, you spend the night in the beautifully restored Kasbah Ait Ben Moro, which is now a luxury guesthouse (subject to availability) or in other boutique accommodations in the palm groves. NB you may like to add an extra day here for exploring the oasis on foot, hiking with a guide or even on horseback. Other activities in the region include quad biking and visit to a local pottery.

Stay: Renovated kasbah guest-house in Skoura oasis

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Day 3

Skoura - Valley of Roses - Dadès Gorge - Valley of Thousand Kasbahs - Todra Gorge

From Skoura, you head east for about an hour until you enter the Valley of Roses at Kelaa M’Gouna. The region is famous for its cultivation of the Damask rose which is grown in the valley and hillside terraces on the south-facing slopes of the Atlas. The petals are harvested at the end of spring and distilled to manufacture perfumes, rose oil, rose water, soaps, cosmetics. In May each year the annual Rose Festival celebrates this age-old tradition. At Kelaa M’Gouna you take the route north into the High Atlas Mountains as far as Bou Tharar. From here the journey is off-road to discover Ait Atta Berber nomads living in caves in the mountainside. We stop to share some mint tea in the simple grottos before continuing on rocky tracks to enter the Dadès Gorge. The astounding rock formations from thousands of years of erosion of the sandstone have left ‘the monkey’s fingers’. The valley is especially beautiful in spring when the almond orchards are in blossom. You head up into the gorge to the famous switchback mountain pass and enjoy lunch along the route. From here you will drive for about 2 hours through the Dadès Valley, also known as the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs, due to the numbers of crumbling mud-built kasbah fortresses and villags which line this route which once was the trade caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. At Tinerhir you reach the road that winds up into the Todra Gorge, with its immense cliffs that attract rock climbers from around the world. Palm trees, figs, oleander and pomegranate and olives line grow in the fertile valley, which is Morocco’s highest oasis. Dinner is enjoyed on the roof-terrace or the dining room of a cosy traditional guesthouse that is located close to the narrow gorge, where the river runs next to the road. You will have time to walk for a while at the end of the day in the gorge or in the riverbed and gardens below. NB this is an ideal location for spending an extra few days trekking or rock climbing.

Stay: Traditional guesthouse in Todra Gorge

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Day 4

Todra Gorge - Erfoud - Rissani - Merzouga - Erg Chebbi dunes

The morning you head back down to Tinerhir and then east for about an hour to Tinejdad where you stop to visit the fascinating community-project, the Museum of the Oasis at Ksar el-Khorbat. This fascinating museum gives an insight into life inside this typical village and the importance of the Tafilalt oasis. Sitting drinking tea on the shaded terrace is a delight before then continuing to Erfoud and Rissani. Between Erfoud and Rissani, look out for the ‘khettara’ ancient water irrigation system that lines the road and also the Museum of Geology and Paleontology. This region is particularly rich in prehistoric fossils, ammonites and trilobites embedded in the bedrock for millennia. Polished black marble and granite is a speciality of Erfoud and you may wish to visit a marble workshop along the way. In Rissani, the birthplace of the current Alaouite dynasty, you stop for lunch before then continuing to Merzouga village to reach the Moroccan Sahara dunes of Erg Chebbi. Here you swap your 4x4 for a camel and local nomad guide to take you to your bivouac desert camp in the Erg Chebbi desert dunes for the night.

Stay: Standard or luxury desert camp Erg Chebbi

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Day 5

Erg Chebbi Desert - Merzouga - Rissani - Alnif - N'Kob - Draa Valley Oasis - Tamnougalt Kasbah - Agdz

Early morning departure by camel from your desert camp in the Sahara dunes. You rejoin your 4x4 vehicle and driver to continue your Morocco desert tour to return to the oasis town of Rissani. This time you will follow the pretty 21 kilometre circuit touristique that passes by several ruined ksour of the ancient site of Sijilmassa. From Rissani you then head west along the southern slopes of the Jbel Saghro mountain range. You pass through the small towns of Alnif and Tazzarine, perhaps finding a few prehistoric fossils along the way! At N’Kob, a Berber village with some 45 kasbahs, you stop for lunch overlooking the palm groves. Then you continue into the Draa Valley oasis and follow the route of the Draa river back up through Tamnougalt and Agdz. In Tamnougalt you visit the kasbah and museum which dates to the 16th century. You spend the night either in a renovated kasbah next door to the Tamnougalt kasbah or at a boutique guesthouse in the palm groves, built in the kasbah style.

Stay: Restored kasbah guesthouse of boutique hotel in Agdz/Tamnougalt region

Meal plan: Breakfast

Day 6

Agdz - Ouarzazate - Tizi n'Tichka - High Atlas Mountains - Marrakech

This morning you depart to head north through the Draa Valley and heading towards Ouarzazate city. After about an hour-and-a-half of driving through the oasis and following winding mountain pass, you reach Ouarzazate and can stop for refreshments. You may wish to visit the Atlas Film Studios at the edge of town - the ‘Hollywood of Morocco’, where many major blockbuster movies have been shot and where you can explore the sets that remain here. The journey then crosses north over the High Atlas Mountains, with the incredible scenery that you saw on Day 1 - mountains, valleys, rivers, Berber villages clinging to the hillsides, stunning geology and truly magnificent rural landscapes. By mid-afternoon you descend into the plains outside Marrakech and reach the ‘red city’ by around 5 p.m. You can stop for lunch at a roadside cafe-restaurant on the top of the Tizi n’Tichka pass. We drop you back at your hotel/riad in Marrakech where the tour ends, or we can arrange accommodation for you, or you can choose to continue your holiday in Morocco with us by adding on one of our Suggested Morocco Adventure Tour Itineraries.

Stay: N/A

Meal plan: Breakfast

  • We can arrange a qualified national guide specialising in the history of the kasbahs and southern Morocco to accompany you if you wish.

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