A fantastic holiday for a those wanting to experience the Saharan desert in style. Visit enchanting Marrakech, Unesco World Heritage sites, palmeries and then enjoy pure luxury in the Saharan dunes on this road-trip of a life time.
This holiday has been designed for travellers who like the finer things in life, but not at the expense of individuality. We have designed this itinerary for those looking for a relaxing desert adventure with style and have chosen small, characterful intimate accommodation that offers a boutique experience in lovely surroundings with friendly staff.
Starting in Morocco's finest Imperial city, Marrakech, there is the chance to explore all that the souks have to offer before heading out to the desert. Driving over the stunning Tizi n'Tichka mountain pass, offering panoramic views, you will visit the crumbling Telouet kasbah, before heading on to the Unesco World Heritage site of Ait Ben haddou, made famous by films such as Gladiator.
Driving deeper into the desert, you follow the Draa valley, offering an intriguing mix of fertile oases and barren desert plains until you reach Zagora, gateway to the Sahara, Passing herds of camels and nomadic farmers, you will eventually reach the Erg Chegaga dunes of the Sahara - an unforgiving yet beautiful environment. Here, you will experience this harsh environment in the lap of luxury, sleeping in wonderfully comfortable beds in generous and beautifully furnished en-suite tents,.
Whilst in the dunes, you can sand-board, go camel trekking, visit a nomadic family, or simply kick back on one of the sun loungers and relax. Evenings begin with a sun-downer and then continue with a generous meal and finally a camp fire under the Saharan stars, which have to be seen to be believed.
Once you have had your fill of the desert, you will head to an oasis to stay amongst the date palms. A walk through the fertile farmlands is a stark contrast to the barren dunes and helps to build a picture of what life is like in Saharan Morocco. You then head back to Marrakech to explore the medina and highlights of its intoxicating medina.
You will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your riad. If you are arriving on a late flight, you might want to consider pre-booking dinner on this first evening so that you can relax after your flight without having to worry about finding a restaurant.
Today we suggest you set off and explore Marrakech's medina. You can spend all day pounding the souks and taking in the atmosphere or you could relax on the roof terrace on one of the sun loungers. In the evening, be sure to head down to the main square here food stalls, acrobats, snake charmers and story tellers congregate creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
Leaving the pink city behind, you will head out over the spectacular Tizi n' Tichka mountain pass snaking its way over the High Atlas mountains. Watching the terrain changing shape in the space of a few hours is incredible. Donkeys carrying huge loads, women working in the fields and shops with large meat carcasses being hung out to dry - not to mention the cacti, almond trees and deep mountain valleys.
You will stop for lunch in the small town of Telouet, before visting the town's main attraction, the kasbah. Built in the 1800's by the Glaoui family, the kasbah enjoyed a propseprous strategic position on the trans-Saharan trading route and close proximity to the area's salt mining industry. After Morocco's independence in 1953, the Glaoui family was evicted and the kasbah was left to ruin. Visitors catch their first glimpse of the kasbah as they drive into Telouet; an imposing building standing proud on top of a small hill. On closer inspection, the walls are crubling and close to collapsing. The entrance to the building is no less delapidated, with incomplete walls and rubble. As you walk through the corridor, it is unclear what makes the building so remarkable, with its bare, neglected walls. It is only when you reach the heart of the building that you can understand the significance and fallen wealth of the kasbah. Stunning mosaics and intricate wood carvings adorn the walls, reminiscent of the Bahia Palace in Marrakech. The attention to detail is most incredible and the work and money spent on building it is unfathomable. After being astounded by the mosaics on the first floor, more treats await you, with far-reaching views of the valley and mountains beyond from the roof terrace.
After your visit, you will continue your journey by car to your accommodation, close to Ait Ben Haddou.
Total Driving Time - 4 - 4 1/2 hours
Today is a day at leisure for you to explore the area. After a relaxing morning, you will almost certainly want to go and visit Ait Ben haddou. Best enjoyed after lunch, after the day trippers have left, you can either visit by car or on foot, depending on how active you are feeling. The walk takes about 2 1/2 hours and you follow the river through the valley.
Ait Ben Haddou itself is essentially a small, fortified town. Designated by Unesco as a World Heritage site, it has been well preserved and restored, thanks to the film industry who have used it as the set for several Hollywood films, including Gladiator. You can climb on the crumbling buildings and see up close how they have been constructed out of mud and straw and get a real insight into local architecture. Then, you can climb to the top, for far-reaching views of the wild desert and mountains. There is a small tea house along the way where you can stop for a refreshing mint tea.
Today is a long drive. Fortunately, it is through some spectacular scenery and there are plenty of places along the way to stretch your legs and take photos. Leaving Ait Ben Haddou, you will drive over the mountains before descending into the Draa Valley, which you will follow for the rest of the day. Passing palmeries and hundreds of kasbahs, you will eventually reach Zagora, where you can stop for lunch. Famed as the gateway to the Sahara, this town was seen as the start of the trans-Saharan trading route and you can see the famous sign in the town, depicting the length of time taken to reach Timbuctu (52 days)
After leaving Zagora, you head further into the barren desert, leaving the palmeries behind. You will pass some smaller dunes, a teaser as to what lies ahead. Once you reach M'hamid, you will then start your off-road journey (if you are self-driving you will meet a driver here). This final leg of the journey takes about 2 hours. Passing nomadic farmers and herds of camels, it is a bumpy ride. Once you arrive at the camp, however, the length of today's drive will fade away. Nestled in the dunes, the camp is a luxurious retreat away from modern day life.
On your first evening, you might want to wander up to the high dunes to see the sea of sand around you, then wander down to the camp to enjoy a sundowner and await the emergence of the fantastic stars - a night sky you will never forget.
Total Driving Time- around 6 1/2 hours
Today is at leisure in the camp. You might want to go camel trekking, sand boarding, visit a nomadic family or just kick back on one of the sun loungers and read a book. All meals are included in your stay.
After breakfast, you will get back in the 4WD for the journey to Agdz, an oasis in the Draa valley.
Total driving time - around 5 hours
After yesterday's drive, today is a day at leisure. You can spend the morning relaxing around the pool and then in the afternoon, you might want to take a stroll through the palmery. Walk through the towering date palms, past large cacti and then through lush farmland, with beautifully maintained plots. If you're lucky, a local farmer might invite you to take a look at his land and point out the different vegetables and plant that he's growing. Dinner tonight is included and is in your hotel.
You will leave Agdz after breakfadt and start the journey back to Marrakech. Driving back over the spectacular mountain pass, you will stop for lunch with panoramic views of the High Atlas Mountains. You will arrive back in Marrakech in the afternoon.
Total driving time - around 5 hours
Today you might want to see some of the main cultural sights of Marrakech, including the Medersa Ben Youssef, Palais el Badi and the Bahia Palace, interspersed with a leisurely lunch watching the storks nesting on the ramparts of the ancient city or perhaps some people watching at a cafe in the Spice market. In the evening, you might want to enjoy dinner in one of the restaurants over-looking the main square, or perhaps ask your host to book you a table at the atmospheric Foundouk restaurant, serving up delicious French & Moroccan fusion food.
Another free day in Marrakech. Today you might want to catch a petit taxi out to the Majorelle Gardens, designed by Yves Saint Laurent. The gardens are beautifully laid out and offer a welcome respite to the chaos of the medina. (There is also a lovely cafe there) In the afternoon, there are plenty more cultural sites to enjoy, or you might want to put your haggling techniques to the test and indulge in some shopping in the souks.
You will be transferred to the airport in time to catch your flight home.
All airport transfers, an economy sized hire car, 4WD transfer to the desert, all inclusive accommodation in the desert, half board accommodation in Ait Ben Haddou & Agdz and Bed & Breakfast accommodation in Marrakech.