Best time to go: February, March, April, May, September, October, November
Best for: Adventure & Off-the-beaten track, Cultural & Immersive, Repeat Visitors, First Time Visitor
There is something impossibly romantic in delving into the great dunes of the Saharan Desert. Nights under canvas, sunsets and camel rides; experiences that undoubtedly make you feel like you have escaped. A desert adventure in Morocco is undeniably one that genuinely takes you off the beaten track. Pass through frontier towns and villages, past palm-fringed oases and into the dunes. You can still see Morocco’s highlights, such as Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, but a trip deep into the desert adds the spice that truly offers you the outstanding Moroccan experience.
Casablanca is your starting point, unquestionably Morocco’s most cosmopolitan city with flight links to most European and North American cities. You start here because there are direct flights down to Zagora in the deep, far south of Morocco. This tiny frontier town acts as a base camp to explore the great dunes of the Erg Chigaga. We suggest that you are driven straight into the desert for your night under canvas after flying into Zagora. The final 90 minutes in your 4×4 is off-road, heading over dunes into the great unknown.
That evening, you’ll take camels out at sunset to witness the fantastic views before returning to the camp for traditional camp dinner. You won’t be roughing it. The tents have their own en-suite with hot showers and almost impossibly comfortable beds with crisp linen. In the morning, head out to your deck and admire the views – the golden sands changing colour as the sun slowly rises.
Your driver will then take you back to Zagora for a stay at the Azalai Lodge. You might like the idea of a quick swim in the pool when you arrive. The town itself is a throwback to times gone by – and once housed a sizeable Jewish community. We suggest a three-hour climb of Jebel Zagora for incredible views over the surrounding countryside for the more active guest.
After your time in Zagora, you are driven north along the Draa Valley. You firstly stop at Tinzouline, known for its beautiful dates (perfect from September to November). Afterwards, stop at Timidarte, where you’ll stop at Timarine Tijara – an artisan producer of excellent date jam and syrup. Next, stop in Agdz for lunch, a classic caravanserai oasis. You can see the Caid’s Kasbah and Glaoui Kasbah before having lunch at Kasbah Azul.
Skoura was where the goods from the camels coming from the Sahara used to be offloaded and placed on more hardy mules to traverse the high peaks of the Atlas Mountains. The town has a vast palm-fringed palmeraie and is known for its picture-perfect mud-brick kasbahs. It’s worth a few nights here if only to break the journey to Marrakech. You can walk, relax, or make longer day trips into the nearby Dades Gorge.
You then head into the Atlas Mountains and pass the stunning Ait Benhaddou. This red mudbrick ksar hangs onto the mountainside, as seen in countless Hollywood films. You drive over the Atlas takes about four hours, where you spend the next two nights at Bab Ourika. Here, you can head out on a day walk, visiting local villages.
Finally, it’s just an hour’s drive down to Marrakech. Marrakech is where those merchants from the Sahara came to sell their goods and rest up in a traditional caravanserai before returning to Timbuktu. Your final two nights explore a little more of this – such as seeing the Fondouks where these traders stayed and Maison Tiskiwan, which focuses on the Sahara to Marrakech trading route. You will, of course, have time to delve into the souks for some shopping and have plenty of time to relax before flying home.
Of course, any element of our Desert Adventure to Morocco can be tailored to match your individual interests.