Moroccan Atlas Mountains and Sahara Tour
Day 1: Marrakech to Zagora
Your English-speaking guide will pick you up from your hotel or riad in the morning, in an air-conditioned minibus or 4×4. We will travel south, climbing up the High Atlas Mountains and crossing the Tizi n’ Tichka Pass, also known as the ‘Gateway to the Sahara’, which at 2260m is the highest pass in North Africa, with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
We continue our journey, passing picturesque Berber villages set against the stunning backdrop of the High Atlas Mountains, until we reach Kasbah Ait BenHaddou, a beautiful fortified city of terraced kasbahs dating back to the 18th century. The site is amongst the best examples of earthen construction in existence, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It may also look familiar, as several well-known films have been shot there, including epics such as “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Alexander” and “Gladiator”. Here you will have the chance to explore and to have lunch in one of the local restaurants.
Next we continue our journey, crossing a second mountain pass, Tizi N’Tnifift(1710m), which was once the route of caravans for Sahara traders coming from Timbuktu. Passing through the fertile Draa Valley, we will stop to explore the biggest palm grove, before arriving at Zagora.
From Zagora we will travel by camel, watching the sunset as we ride to our camp at a nearby oasis, where we will spend the night in bivouac tents.
Day 2: Zagora to Marrakech
We wake up early to watch the sunrise over the dunes, followed by a traditional breakfast in the bivouac. After breakfast we get back on our camels and ride back to Zagora, where we rejoin our driver and vehicle and start our return journey.We stop at the town of Ouarzazate, sometimes referred to as the ‘African Hollywood’ because it is home to Atlas Studios, one of the largest film studios in the world, and where the films mentioned previously were made.Here you will have time to explore and have lunch in one of the local restaurants.
There are many things to see in Ouarzazate: such as the beautiful medina built of the same red clay, which is so typical of the region; and Taourirt Kasbah. This sumptuous 19th century palace, comprising some 300 rooms, was home to some of the family of T’hami El Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakech until 1956, also known as ‘Lord of the Atlas’, a feudal warlord of the early 20th century who, supported by the Colonial French government, controlled all the caravan trade routes to West Africa and ruthlessly suppressed local rebellions.
We then continue on the final stage of our journey back over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech, passing through more spectacular scenery, stopping several times for photo opportunities, before taking you back to your riad or hotel.