Multi-days Desert 4x4 Trip 7days/6nights Tour
DAY 1: MARRAKECH - KASBAH TELOUET -AÏT BEN HADDOU - OUARZAZATE
Early morning departure from Marrakech south in our 4WD through the Glaoua countryside and up through exhilarating hairpin bends into the Western High Atlas mountains and Aït Ourir Taddert (1650m) to alight at the peak of the Tizi n'Tichka (2260m) so as to take in the vista offered by the Jbel Toubkal - at 4167m the highest peak in the Maghreb - Jbel Siroua (3304m), and the second highest peak in the Maghreb - Ighil M'Goun (4071m) - the Plains of Jbilit and Tidili and of distant Ouarzazate. We start our descent from the Tizi to the Assif Telouèt and the Glaoui kasbah, where we stop for a visit of this dramatic red-earthen eyrie, fast crumbling under the attacks of wind and sun, a labyrinth of passageways, delicate iron window grilles and finely carved ceilings. As these once all-powerful brothers, the greatest and most successful of all the Berber leaders and who ruled this southern region, once said: "To last a long while, our homes and castles must have a good hat and good boots".
We'll picnic by a spring before continuing on via the Assif Ounila Valley until we reach the magnificently exotic kasbah and ksour of Aït Ben Haddou, declared, and rightly so, a World Heritage Site. Here we alight from our vehicle to visit these various kasbahs, so closely-knit that they appear to be but one complete building, backed up against the looming mountain in a stretch of unforgiving hammada. The thick, high, sheer, elaborately decorated pisé walls, stepped-up housing, turreted, crenellated ramparts, balustrades and arched 'babs' are a sight not to be missed. Obviously, here Hollywood has shot many of its films, including, as everyone will tell you, "Laurence of Arabia". One of the more spectacular sights in the Atlas ranges, set upon a rock above a reed-strewn assif, commanding the area for miles around, this kasbah controlled the route to Marrakech until the French blasted a road through the Tizi n'Tichka in the late 1920s.
From here we continue south to Ouarzazate and our dinner and overnight accommodation in the Hotel Drâa or similar. Should you feel up to it, you can take a stroll around this town, still echoing with the atmosphere of the French Foreign Legion of the 1930s.
DAY 2: OUARZAZATE - KASBAHS OF TAOURIRT, AMERHIDL AND AÏT YOUL - DADES VALLEY & GORGE.
After breakfast around the pool, we'll drive to the 100 year old Kasbah Taourirt for a quick visit of this complex of courtyards, a maze of richly decorated rooms, alleyways and crenellated towers before setting out towards the east into what can best be described as 'Beau Geste' country and the magnificent Valley of a 1000 Kasbahs - the Dadès Valley - the harshest and wildest of the southern valleys, which makes the sudden appearance of palmeraies even more dramatic, hemmed in as it is between the Western High Atlas range and Jbel Sarhro.
We shall stop to visit the fabulous kasbah of Amerhidl (to be found printed on the current 50 dirham banknote) before stopping for our picnic lunch in an Auberge restaurant in the Skoura oasis, where Nature puts on her show of red earth, yellow sand, blue-green waters, green vegetation and brilliant blue sky.
We continue along this Valley of the Roses, through El Klâa des Mgouna, (Citadel of the Mgouna Tribe) where thousands of small, pink roses, first planted by French settlers, are grown to make the rose oil essence - "Eau de Rose" - so beloved of the Berber people, to continue on up to the ksour of Aït Youl and a brief visit of this fortified village, tucked up against the stony slopes with its associated palmeraie, prior to our dinner and overnight in bivouac around Aït Youl.
DAY 3: AÏT YOUL - DADES GORGE - TODRA GORGE - TINEGHIR.
Having chosen to make this comprehensive - and somewhat "off-the-beaten-track journey in a 4WD, we now get to experience a hike which comparatively few enthusiasts have made - a hike from the Dadès Gorge to the Todra (Todgha) across the High and Middle Atlas ranges. After our typical Moroccan breakfast, we set out up for a 45minute drive up via a superb grouping of ksours at Aït Arbi, past a region known by the local Berber people as the "Hills of a Thousand Bodies", as the rock formations look like human feet. We climb over a little Tizi to Aït Oufi where the red cliffs of the gorge narrow quite dramatically. We are now on a poor piste, driving through a small canyon and zigzagging bends and an even narrower gap to reach Taghia n'Dadès to arrive, some 63km from the mouth of the Gorge, at Msemrir (1700m).
Here we alight from our jeep to set out for a 5½ hour hike eastwards along the Tizgui n'Ouadda Valley and rocky outcrops up to the Tizi n'Ouano (2800m) where we shall stop for our picnic amidst impressively craggy surroundings - and the occasional golden eagle, rock thrushes, bulbuls, wheatear - and ground squirrels. From here we continue down to the village of Tamtatoucht at the end of the Todra Gorge where we rejoin our 4WD.
We shall now drive for some 1½ hours down this fault in the plateau - giving all the appearance of the earth having being savagely split open by a great force - to make several photo-op stops on the way, for in the evening these magnificent rock formations are coloured in bands of pinks, reds and purples, whilst the ruins of kasbahs and ksours stare silently down on us.
We continue on down this dusty, bumpy ride past mini gorges in an amphitheatre of red-ochre and pinkish-grey cliffs to the Source Des Poissons Sacrées - a pool where the Berber womenfolk come to bathe, seeking a cure for sterility - to the palmeraies of the Oued Todra and the main village of Tinerhir for our dinner and campsite on the outskirts of this unexpectedly large settlement.
DAY 4: TODRA GORGE - TINEJDAD VALLEY - ERFOUD - MERZOUGA.
Breakfast tucked away, we set out further east along the Tinejdad Valley - the stamping grounds of the Berber warriors of the south, the highly-independent Aït Atta tribe - through palmeraies and stark hills along a well-surfaced road, occasionally covered with blown sand to leave the oasis at Mallâab and continue alongside the hammada until we reach the vast palmeraie of El Jorf. En route we shall see parallel lines of strange, conical humps, which are really man-made entries to old underground irrigation channels, and long fields of piles of pointed stones, which are, in fact, Berber cemeteries covered to prevent the bodies being raided by the desert jackals and foxes.
From El Jorf we continue to sandblasted Erfoud, a Berber village at the end of the Assif Ziz Valley to enter the desert hammada via stone and sand pebble tracks to picnic with some dromedary breeders before setting out for a hike through the desert to the undeniably impressive high dune of Erg Chebbi whilst our dinner is being prepared at our bivouac for the night in nomadic tents in a palmeraie near the centre of Merzouga.
The hike will take us into a sunset to take your breath away; the changing colours from yellow to purple and then black to a sky resplendent with a myriad of stars is Nature's Son et Lumière show without a sound. Should you prefer to ride a dromedary instead of walking, you may arrange through your guide to pay for one directly to the drovers.
DAY 5: MERZOUGA - RISSANI - AINIF - TAZZARINE - N'KOOB.
After a typical Touareg breakfast, we set out northwards to the quiet village of Rissani , where a quarter of the population still live in the 17TH century ksar of the Alaouite dynasty, and the last stop of the caravan routes south to Timbuktu . We stop to visit the Zaouia of Moulay Ali Cherif - the original stronghold of the Alaouite - and the 19th century Ksar Akhbar, a grandiose ruin which was once a palace for exiled rebellious family members and for the wives of the dead sultans. The access to many of the pisé houses is through underground passageways.
From here we set out towards the west between the Jbel Ougnat range and the Chorea Hammada, passing through Tikkert n'Ouchchane, and the natural ford at Ainif, where we turn towards the south from the Jbel Galz (1425m) until we reach Aït Sâadane, with its small ksar. Here we turn towards the west and the village of Tazzarine , set in a grassy oasis surrounded by stark mountains, and on through several small palmeraies until we reach the pleasant small sand-coloured town of n'Koob, set in the foothills of the starkly beautiful chaos of volcanic peaks and black rock of the Jbel Sarhro (2554m).
Jbel Sarhro, in Berber, means " Dry Peak ." Here we shall stop for our picnic lunch before visiting the waterfall and the kasbah set amongst the palmeraies. We return to n'Koob for our dinner and overnight accommodation under canvas.
DAY 6: N'KOOB - BAB N'ALI - ER-ASSOUN.
After our typical Moroccan breakfast we set out for a 6 hour hike up into the Jbel Sarhro - the last parallel chain before the extensive hammada - through a forest of basalt pitons to visit the Berber village of Hann Dour (1200m) whose pisé houses seem barely anchored cliff, and a surprisingly beautiful palmeraie, to continue along the Assif Taoudach through banks of barley, corn and potato and fruit trees growing in the shade of date palms, up to the village of Trif d'Assine where we shall stop for our picnic under the shade of palm trees.
Our afternoon is sent hiking up to the impressive "gate" in the Jbel - Bab n'Ali - two sandblasted basalt pillars amidst basalt pitons in the stony Oussdidene Valley and then back to our dinner and campsite for the night in Er-Assoun.
DAY 7: ER-ASSOUN - N'KOOB - AGDZ - OUARZAZATE - MARRAKECH.
After an early breakfast and camp struck, we set off back to n'Koob to rejoin our 4WD to drive towards the south-east and the village of Tansikht, thence northwards up through the Drâa Valley to the blood-red village Agdz (pronounced Ag-a-dèz) to visit its simple yet solidly-designed kasbah and stop for our picnic between the starkly-eroded tajine pot shaped Jbel Kissane and a beautiful palmeraie.
We then continue towards the north via the Tizi n'Tinififft towards Ouarzazate and up over the Tizi n'Tichka (2260m) to arrive finally at Marrakech around 8 in the evening.
Mountain & desert tour Guide
Imlil - Atlas Mountains - Morocco
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