Duration: 3 Nights, 4 Days
Our Luxury Erg Chigaga Sahara Tour transports adventurous travellers from the heart of Marrakech to Erg Chigaga, one of two major dunes of the Sahara in Morocco. (The largest being Erg Chebbi.) Erg Chigaga promises the desert experience, exactly as you would imagine it: the quiet dunes of the Sahara reach high into the blue sky and stretch out as far as the eye can see, creating a cinematic emptiness that is far removed from the frenetic energy of Marrakech.
Upon arriving at Erg Chigaga you will spend the night in a luxury desert camp, hidden amongst the sea of sands of the Sahara. Here you will be given the opportunity to trek across the desert on a camel, relax around a campfire to traditional Berber music and enjoy an evening meal, served under the stars. We also recommend you rise early to watch the sun rise, an event of indescribably beauty.
The Luxury Erg Chigaga 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; and follow the traditional trade route through luscious green oases, stopping off at fortified Ksars and traditional Berber villages along the way.
- Day 1:
Depart from Marrakech, crossing the Atlas Mountains to Ait Ben Haddou via Telouat and Valley Oulina. Overnight stay in either Tamdaaght or Skoura.
Bright and early at 9.00am, our driver will meet you at a dedicated pick up point close to your accommodation 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 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 4-5 hrs travel
- Day 2:
Travel from Ouarzazate province, along the Valley du Draa to Zagora, where you will change drivers to start your desert excursion to Erg Chigaga for your overnight stay in the Sahara desert.
It is on your second day of the tour that you enter the Sahara desert. How appropriate then that your first stop is Ouarzazate, a city nicknamed ‘the doorway to the desert’. Here, you will be encouraged to explore the city’s ancient medina, which remains relatively untouched by tourism. This allows for a calm and peaceful exploration, promising excellent interaction with the locals and the chance to get up close and personal with Morocco’s vibrant history.
The road from Ouarzazate to Zagora takes you along the Draa Valley, a 95km of lush oases running alongside a narrow ribbon of water. It is at Zagora where your your desert adventure begins. Driving by 4 x 4 you will pass the villages of Tamegroute, the Dades de Timfou and Tagounite, where you will begin the last leg of your last trek into the high dunes of Chigaga by camel.
As you enter the surreal and mystical landscape of the Sahara, you will be hit by the profound silence of the endless rolling dunes. Indeed, the Saharan landscape is spectacular at any time of day, but they are perhaps most spectacular at sunrise and sunset, when the golden dunes take on a glowing red hue. After sunset, the isolation of the desert also 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.
Indeed, by spending the night in a luxury desert camp you will be able to experience all of these wonders: enjoy your evening meal as the sun sets; watch the twinkling stars above as you relax around a campfire; and wake up early to see the sun rise over the majestic desert plane. This is the desert experience, exactly as you would imagine it.
Approx 3-4hrs travel
- Day 3:
Return from Erg Chigaga to Tamdaaght or Skoura.
After spending a magical night in the Sahara desert, you will retrace you steps back across the Ouarzazate province to Tamdaaght or Skoura, you home for the night. 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 3-4hrs travel
- Day 4:
Return to Marrakech.
Today, on the final day of the tour, you will travel back across the traditional caravan trade route and the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. Although this is a fairly travel intensive day, there will be plenty of opportunities for breaks along the way: a final opportunity to take in the majestic Moroccan landscape.
Approx 4-5hrs travel