Duration: 5 Days, 4 Nights
Of all the deserts in Morocco, the Erg Chebbi dunes at Merzouga are by far the most majestic. Spreading 28km from north to south and stretching 7km across at its widest point, with dunes reaching as high as 150m into the sky, Erg Chebbi offers a sublime isolation that is quite unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Our Erg Chebbi Sahara Tour is an excellent opportunity to experience this sublime isolation of the Erg Chebbi dunes first hand. Staying in one of two secluded desert camps, you will spend the night under the stars in Berber tents, listen to traditional folk music by campfire and enjoy your evening meal under the clear night sky. Indeed, after sun set the sublime isolation of the desert transforms the night sky into a wonderful light show. Stars shine brightly, the Milky Way glows over the dark dunes, and, if you are lucky, you may even spot a shooting star. Add to the mix a superb sunrise and a camel trek, and you have memories that will last a lifetime.
This Erg Chebbi Sahara Tour is also an excellent opportunity to explore the diverse Moroccan landscape and fascinating Moroccan history. En route to the golden sands of the Sahara, you will cross the majestic Atlas Mountains; visit the UNESCO heritage of Ait Ben Haddou; the dramatic Todra Gorge; and a plethora of historic oasis towns, each with their own unique stories.
- Day 1:
Depart from Marrakech, crossing the Atlas Mountains to Ait Ben Haddou via Telouat and Valley Oulina. Overnight stay in Skoura.
Bright and early at 9.00am, our driver will meet you at a dedicated pick up point close to your accommodation in the heart of Marrakech. From here, you will drive southwest towards the majestic Atlas Mountains. The Berbers call the Atlas range idraren draren – “The Mountains of Mountains” – and it is easy to see why. As you leave the hustle and bustle of the red city behind you, the omnipotent Atlas Mountains stand tall as an unmoving monument, dominating the skyline, stretching as far as the eye can see.
As the road starts to curve and climb up the Atlas range, the scenery begins to change offering stunning panoramic views of lush valleys and arid gorges, peppered with small earthen Berber villages and dazzling minarets. However, the site which offers the most stunning views and the most amazing photo opportunities is the Tiz n’Tichka pass, your stop for lunch. Reaching an elevation of over 2,000m above sea level, the Tiz n’Tichka pass is the highest mountain pass in North Africa and offers amazing 360 views of the surrounding Atlas Range. If you are travelling from November to March, snow can often fall on the pass, but it is usually warm all year round thanks to the bright Moroccan sun.
After passing the Tiz n’Tichka, you will join the main road between Marrakech and Sub-Saharan Africa. This former caravan route that was once used to trade gold, salt and slaves and traces of this industrious and prosperous past are easy to find. Along this stretch you will be invited to stop off at Telouat – an old Kasbah that once functioned as the seat of the powerful El Glaoui family, who ruled Marrakech in the years leading up to Moroccan independence in 1956 – and The Ounila Valley – a narrow-sided, fertile river-valley that once served as the main route over the Atlas Mountains between the French protectorate constructed the Tiz n’Tichka – before heading to Ait Ben Haddou – a fortified city, or Ksar, that was once the main trading post on this route.
Ait Ben Haddou offers a great example of 17th Cent. earthen clay architecture, a style which was very popular across southern Morocco. This traditional beauty has not gone unnoticed: the city of Ait Ben Haddou was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987 and has also been used as a set for many films and TV series, including Babel, Prince of Persia, The Mummy, Gladiator, and, more recently, Game of Thrones.
From here you will progress on to Skoura, your resting place for the night. Unspoilt from mass tourism, this town offers a spot for relaxation and laid-back exploration. Whilst in Skoura be sure to visit Amerdildil Kasbah, which can be found on the front of the Moroccan 50dh note.
Approx 4-5 hrs travel
- Day 2:
Travel from Skoura to the Todra Gorge, then onto Tinghir for your overnight stay.
Day two starts with a trip to the Todra Gorge, a dramatic canyon cut into the eastern side of the red-hued cliffs. Here you will have the chance to explore the gorge via an easy-to-maneuver stony track, which runs through the canyon. Local tourists usually out-number international tourists here, so expect a laid-back vibe. The last 600m of the Todra Gorge are by far the most spectacular: the canyon narrows to around 10m and the gigantic, smooth rock walls reach 160m into the sky, blocking out the bright Moroccan sun. The effect is truly sublime.
As you head away from the Todra Gorge to Tinghir, the landscape becomes noticeably greener. This is because Tinghir, your home for tonight, is set in the center of one of the most attractive oases in Morocco. You will arrive at Tinghir with ample time to explore the area. If you head to the eastern edge of the town, you will find a palm oasis that shades a number of crumbling Kasbahs and an abandoned 19th cent. Medersa (Islamic College). We also recommend the ruins of Ksar Asfalou, an ancient fortified structure to the north of the city.
Approx 3hrs travel
- Day 3:
Travel from Tinghir through Efroud, Risani and Merzouga to Erg Chebbi for your overnight stay in the Sahara desert.
En route to Merzouga, your entrance to the desert, you will have the chance to briefly explore two small Oasis towns, Erfoud and Risani. Perhaps the more interesting of the two is Risani, which was once the famed capital of the desert (Sijilmaa), where fortunes in gold and slaves were traded. Today, thanks to the harsh weather conditions and a change in fortune, Risani does not shine so brightly. However, this picturesque city has gained recent popularity as a destination where visitors can still experience the authentic mystique of Morocco.
Upon your arrival at Merzouga, you will begin you trip into the Sahara. As you leave the main village, the golden dunes of the desert seem to rise out of the black Hamada rocky plateau, until a sea of sand at every angle surrounds you. This is the desert experience, exactly as you would imagine it.
It is here, secluded in the sands of Erg Chebbi, that you will stay the night in an authentic desert camp, sleeping in private Berber tents fitted with proper mattresses, sheets and blanket. During your desert experience you will be given the opportunity to trek across the sands on a camel; taste your delicious evening meal around a campfire, set to the backdrop of traditional folk music; and enjoy a refreshing breakfast as the sun rises across the Saharan sands.
To make your stay extra special, why not upgrade from to the Luxury Desert Camp for only £100 per person? Fabricated with handcrafted furniture and soft textiles, each tent has been carefully designed to offer the highest comfort and luxury. The tents are very spacious, over 25sp m in size, and come complete with either a king-sized bed or two single beds and an en-suite bathroom facility with shower, flushing toilet, hand basin and running cold and hot water – quite a rarity in such a secluded location. The Luxury Desert Camp also includes Sandboarding and ice-cold beverages, fresh fruit and snacks served at any time.
Approx 4hrs travel
- Day 4:
Travel from Merzouga through Alnif, Tazzarine, Nekob and Agdz to either Tamdaaght or Skoura for your overnight stay.
After spending a magical night in the Sahara desert, you continue the tour by visiting many small villages, each showcasing a unique aspect of rural desert life. This includes Anlif, world famous spot for fossil exploration; Tazzarine, with it’s flourishing henna fields and palm trees; and Nekob, a Berber village home to 45 kasbas; before finally arriving at Agdz, a traditional resting place on the ancient trade route, offering pristine palmeries and authentic mudbrick Kasbahs.
From here you will progress on to your resting place for the night, either Tamdaaght or Skoura. Both locations offer a tranquil spot for relaxation and laid-back, guide-free exploration, set amongst photogenic Kasbahs and fertile palm tree groves, which are still unspoilt form mass tourism. The choice between Tamdaaght and Skoura depends on the availability of accommodation and your personal preference. If you have a specific preference, please let our staff know when making a booking. If not, then we will be happy to walk you through the options available.
Approx 5hrs travel
- Day 5:
Return to Marrakech from Tamdaaght or Skoura.
On your fifth and final day has a relaxed departure time. Here, you will retrace you steps back across the Atlas Mountains and back to Marrakech. Although this is a fairly travel intensive day, there will be plenty of opportunities for breaks along the way.
Approx 4hrs travel