Sahara Desert Experience

The ever-changing dunes of the Moroccan Sahara provides a wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand about desert environments. Our tour combines exotic Marrakech with the High Atlas Mountains before spending a night under the stars at an authentic Bedouin camp.

ait benhaddou

The Sahara Desert Experience

Our Moroccan Sahara Desert tour crosses the High Atlas Mountains from Marrakech to the fertile oases of the Draa Valley, passing the ancient kasbah of Ait Benhaddou. We travel to the town of Zagora on the fringes of the Sahara Desert where the wind blows sand dunes into ever changing shapes and, for the Tuareg traders of old, a sign proclaims 52 Days to Timbuktu.  The highlight of the tour is the chance to spend a night at a Bedouin Camp where we can sit under the stars and be entertained by traditional music and dance.

Suggested Itinerary

The itinerary featured here is intended to give you inspiration and an idea of what you could do on your tour. Your trip will be created individually by one of our travel advisors to match your requirements and budget.

Day 1

Flight to Marrakech. Explore the Medina and the Souk

Flight to Marrakech. On arrival you will be met by your guide and transfer to your central hotel. After lunch you explore the Medina and see the Koutoubia Mosque which dates from the 12th century. You then walk over to the main square of Marrakech, the Djemma al Fna. This huge square (often just called the main square) is a vibrant mix of food stalls, musicians, jugglers, snake charmers and other performers, all vying for your custom. Beyond the Djemma you can find the Souk, a cavernous and rambling maze of narrow alleyways with shop keepers and stalls selling every manner of products imaginable. You need your bargaining skills to be at their sharpest here! You also visit a traditional apothecary where, among other things, you can discover frankincense and myrrh.

Dinner: This evening you sample the Moroccan national dish of Tagine which is slow-cooked in heavy earthenware pots. Overnight at your hotel in Marrakech


Day 2

Tizi-n-Tichka Pass to Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate

Tizi-n-Tichka: This morning you depart from Marrakech by private coach and head across the plains where you may see camels by the side of the road. You head up into the High Atlas Mountains, following a spectacular road to reach the Tizi-n-Tichka pass at an altitude of 2260 metres.

Ait Benhaddou: You descend on the southern side of the mountains and continue towards the incredible Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, an ancient fortified city or ksar along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Ait Benhaddou is almost instantly recognizable as it has been used as a backdrop in many Hollywood films including Gladiator.

Ouarzazate: You continue to the desert city of Ouarzazate and your hotel where you have dinner and spend the night.

ait benhaddou

Day 3

El Mansour Reservoir and the Todra Gorge

El Mansour Eddahbi Reservoir: This morning you depart from Ouarzazate and visit the El Mansour Eddahbi Reservoir, created by the construction of a large dam on the Draa River, and where you can learn about multi-purpose water resource management. The hydraulic dam controls the flow of the river, regulating the water distribution and so improving the irrigation of farming land. This helps in the fight against desertification and improves the living standards of the local population, many of whom are farmers.

Ouarzazate Solar Power Plant: Subject to permissions, it may be possible to visit the enormous Ouarzazate solar power plant which produces 370 GWH per year using over half a million mirrors.

The Todra Gorge: You continue through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs to the Todra Gorge. Situated on the remote east side of the High Atlas Mountains the gorge was carved by a river many thousands of years ago. The canyon narrows to as little as 10 metres wide in some places with sheer, smooth rock walls up to 160 metres high on each side. It is a spectacular place at any time of day, but more so in the evening as the rock face changes colour with the waning light ranging from a rosy red to a dull tan.

Tinghir: This evening you spend the night at a hotel in the village of Tinghir.

todra gorge

Day 4

Draa Valley, Zagora Camel Ride and Bedouin Camp

Draa Valley: This morning you drive south through the Jbel Sarhro mountains to Alnif and then to the town of Nkob, surrounded by verdant oases. You then continue through the Drâa Valley, originally known as the Valley of Olives. When the 19th Century caravans passed through, date palms began to grow along the trails they travelled. The palms proved to be a better choice because not only do they bear dates which can be eaten, but the leaves can be used to make baskets, carpets and shade for the inhabitants.

Zagora Camel Ride: Lunch is taken along the way and you eventually reach the sprawling desert town of Zagora where you meet your camel drivers. Luggage is taken by 4×4 vehicle to the overnight desert camp, whilst you become acquainted with the camels and their habits. The ride to the Bedouin Camp takes about an hour and a half and the camels are led by their handlers, so you don’t need to worry about steering!

Bedouin Camp: At the Bedouin camp you stay in fixed desert tents and in the evening there will be dinner, a camp fire, music, singing and drumming played by local musicians. Everyone will be invited to join in! Sleeping in the desert is a fantastic experience and on a clear night the view of the stars and Milky Way can be incredible.

atlas mountains

Day 5

Sahara Desert and Atlas Film Studios

Sahara Desert: This morning you spend time in the Sahara to see sand dunes, and study sand dune encroachment and management. You also visit Tamangroute village with its unique underground housing area and traditional pottery. After lunch you head northwards back to Ouarzazate.

Atlas Film Studios: Upon arriving in the Ouarzazate area our final visit today is to the Atlas Film Studios where many famous Hollywood film units have come to make films with desert scenes. Films made here include Gladiator, The Mummy, Game of Thrones and Star Wars. You then continue to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

atlas film studios

Day 6

Return to Marrakech, Majorelle Gardens and Gueliz

Return to Marrakech: This morning you retrace your route back across the Atlas Mountains and return to Marrakech via the Tizi-n-Tikcha Pass.

Majorelle Gardens: In the afternoon you visit the famous Majorelle Gardens. These beautiful gardens were once owned by Yves St. Laurent and contain brightly painted buildings and many cactus and other unusual plants.

Gueliz: In the evening you can visit the modern, cosmopolitan side of Marrakech in the Gueliz district where there are many fashionable cafes and restaurants. Overnight in Marrakech

majorelle gardens

Day 7

Traditional Village Activities and Flight Home

Traditional Village: You spend a day amongst the villagers of Douar Oulad Elguern. This is a traditional and welcoming village where students can participate in some of the everyday village activities. These include food preparation including bread making, couscous making and vegetable preparation alongside some of the ladies of the village. There are also other tasks including fetching water from the village well, making traditional mud & straw bricks and making charcoal. These various hands-on activities show students the challenges and hardships of life without the everyday home comforts that we take for granted.

Flight Home: You return to Marrakech in the late afternoon for your flight home.

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