Disclaimer: Thank you Morocco Trips 4 You for hosting us as your guests. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
Morocco stands as the gateway between Europe and Africa - bridging not only the continents but also its travelers: from nomadic backpackers to adventurous souls, families to foodies, culture lovers to couples … this country offers a little something for everyone and for good reason. Morocco entices its visitors each year with historical attractions, white sanded beaches, snow capped mountains, delicious cuisine and our personal favorite, the Sahara Desert.
After traveling the world, we’ve had our share of incredible opportunities, places that wowed us and left us humbled, but we have NEVER experienced anything as mystifying as the Sahara Desert. The Sahara is one of the largest hot deserts in the entire world, covering a whopping 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million sq km), which for those of you who are more visual … is one third of the African continent and roughly the same size as the United States. The Sahara desert is home to various mountains, plains, plateaus, salt flats and sand dunes that can reach 600 feet (183 meters) high. Seeing this in person will change your perspective on the natural diversity of not only Morocco, but on the African continent as a whole. With so many competing Morocco Desert Tours, it can be overwhelming which to choose, but we’ve found the perfect private tour from Marrakech to Fes with Morocco Trips 4 You.
The particular tour we decided to book was a 3 Day Tour from Marrakech to Fes, allowing us time to explore the wonders of Marrakech’s imperial city, medina and souks, while also experiencing the Moroccan countryside. The three day trek covers a vast 600 km as you wind and weave your way through the High Atlas mountains, palm tree laden valleys, the Saharan desert and farm painted terrain. There is something so intrinsically unique about exploring a country's borders by car. Taking a road trip lets you escape the sanitized confines of your average tourist trap and immerse yourself into the country like only a local would; so that’s exactly what we chose to do.
DAY 1 - Marrakech – Ait Ben Haddou – Ouarzazate – Dades Valley
Our guide, Achraf picked up our motley crew from the main square in Marrakech. We would later come to know he was raised in a Berber family, nestled in the heart of the Sahara desert and knew our route like the back of his hand. His knowledge and enthusiasm for Moroccan topography was both astonishing and expansive. After many hours in the car and late nights by the fire, we saw him less as a tour guide and more as a close friend.
The first day will take you towards Ouarzazate through the vertiginous High Atlas Mountains.
Reaching the highest point of the pass, at 2260 meters, you can stop to take photos of the red dusted landscapes and snaking road below.
From there you’ll head to Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO world heritage site that once served as the former caravan route from Marrakech to the Sahara that was nicknamed for this reason “The door to the desert.”
This was once a bustling mecca for Moroccan citizens and tourist traders, but over time the luxuries of modern technology enticed locals to move to more modernized dwellings … but who could blame them? Electricity is, and will forever be, a game changer. Four Berber families are still living in the walls of this ancient city - split amongst the various kasbahs and merchant dwellings, as a reminder of what once was.
Ait Ben Haddou is an incredible display of earthen clay architecture. It’s made with mud, clay, dirt, dust, straw and soil - withstanding centuries of harsh climates and seasons; making it one of the most photogenic cities in the world, and proving to be a perfect backdrop for films like “Indiana Jones,” “Gladiator” and “Game of Thrones.”
Setting out once more, you’ll take the Road of 1000 Kasbahs to get to Skoura Palm Grove, where some of the most beautiful fortresses in Southern Morocco are located. You’ll continue on your trek as you pass Berber cities and the Valley of Roses until you arrive in Dades Valley for an incredible one night stay at Dar Rihana, a fairytale-like Riad only 2 km from the famous Dades Gorge.
DAY 2 – Todra Valley – Morocco Camel Trekking - Merzouga Desert Luxury Camp
After breakfast, you’ll set out for Todra Valley where you’ll get a chance to stretch your legs and walk through the acclaimed Todra Gorge. The gorge is an impressive 300 meter (985 foot) fault that splits its towering limestone walls into a deep ravine that is wide enough to fit a small river and a few visitors willing to squeeze through.
From there however, the real adventure begins, as you make your way past the oasis town of Erfoud, towards the Erg Chebbi Dunes. Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy a brief lunch at Auberge Cafe du Sud, a hotel at the base of the Sahara Desert, for some traditional berber pizza and mint tea. You can also bring your own wine to enjoy on the outdoor patio, overlooking the dunes before embarking on a once in a lifetime Morocco camel trekking experience.
Camels are the funniest, most quirky animals you’ll ever encounter, but they are so gosh darn cute. Your caravan of camels will be patiently awaiting your arrival, until you are ready to mount your not-so-noble steeds. As you set out for the Sahara, you’ll enjoy a one hour camel ride through the wondrous wind sculpted dunes. There is nothing like it in the world, and you’ll be awed with each passing minute, as you savor the warm sun kissing your face with the magnificent dunes before you.
As you arrive by camel to your Merzouga desert luxury camp, nestled in the heart of the Sahara and bordering the famous Erg Chebbi dunes, Berber guides will greet you upon arrival with mint tea and an assortment of sweet and salty snacks. From there, you’ll be escorted to your tent, inspired and designed by renowned Berber and Arabian decor. Think Moroccan luxury re-imagined.
After briefly getting settled in, locate the largest sand dune near you and begin your determined trek to the top. Here you can sandboard for an hour, or do what we did - grab a bottle of wine and make your way to the highest peak, settling in right before sundown. As the sun slowly makes its decent, the true magic takes place as the sky and dunes before you begin to play a symphony of color, moving harmoniously with each new chord from sands of gold to burnt orange, and skies of yellow to vibrant pink. Its majesty is spellbinding and will dazzle the mind.
Once the moon has taken stage on the dark skies above, enjoy a scrumptious meal of roasted chicken, lamb, seasoned vegetables and Moroccan salads. Post dinner, guests will be escorted from their Berber camp to a bonfire for an evening of music and dancing under the stars. Here you can sit back and marvel at the clear skies and twinkling stars above with the silhouette of the sleeping dunes behind. Shooting stars will graze the night skies as the Milky Way cradles the Sahara below. It’s a night to remember that you won’t want to end.
DAY 3 - Berber Camp – Ziz Valley – Middle Atlas – Ifrane – Fes :
If the sunset from the previous night wowed you, wait for the sunrise; Ours was phenomenally mesmerizing. You’ll wake up at 6:30 am for a quick breakfast before jetting out to the dunes. Climbing the tallest nearby peak once again, you patiently await the sun’s arrival. Before you know it, the sun begins to peak its head above the horizon as is slowly awakens the dreaming dunes before you, bringing its warmth to the world below.
Making your way back to your Berber camp you’ll gather your things and mount your noble steeds once more as you make your way through the dry sands of the Sahara to depart. With the camel’s steady pace and the soft morning light, there’s a calmness in the air that fills you whole … as you listen to the rhythm of the wind, the movement of sand, and the panting camels below … the realization that life is good can’t help but overcome you.
The remainder of the day is focused on the last leg of your journey. You’ll take your SUV once more through Ziz Valley and the Middle Atlas Mountains, past sand stone sculpted mountainsides and reservoirs that are vividly blue. Stopping for lunch, you’ll set out once more with a short break to play with the Barbary macaques nestled amidst the dense cedar forests. You will make a final stop in Ifrane, a charming mountain town known as the “Switzerland of Morocco”, due to its alpine-style architecture and natural terrain. From there it’s only a short ride to complete your Marrakech to Fes journey.
With so many competing Morocco Private Tours, it’s hard to determine which to choose, but as you can see this particular tour left us in awe. What we saw … what we did … what we accomplished… will never be forgotten and we have Morocco Trips 4 You to thank for that.