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Sahara, Souks and Mountains Explorer

Morocco, just a short hop from the UK, has something for everyone; imperial cities, bustling souks, North Africa's highest mountain and the magnificent Sahara Desert. This holiday combines the highlights of each, giving you camel treks, desert camping, Atlas mountain trekking and the wonderful city of Marrakech to explore, whilst staying in a boutique riad.

Tailor-made Adventure 2 weeks

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

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Itinerary

Overview

Morocco, in North Africa, has long been a favourite with travellers. Back in the 1960's Marrakech was the ultimate destination on the hippy trail. Few travellers ventured out of the major cities, however, with the naturally formed Saharan Erg Chegaga dunes, the gorges of the rocky desert and the stunning vistas of the Atlas Mountains remaining off the tourist track. These days, Morocco has become much more of a mainstream destination. Serviced by many budget airlines, the country welcomes thousands of international visitors. Despite this influx of tourists, the country has retained its culture and traditions, so the minute you step off the plane, you are undeniably in a completely new culture and continent. Life in the desert and the mountains is boosted by tourism, but remains an authentic place to visit and Marrakech is a bustling centre, which despite the souks and the square, feels less on the tourist treadmill than many European cities.

This Morocco holiday has been designed to give you a taste of the desert, the Atlas mountains and the intriguing city of Marrakech.

Your holiday begins in the beautiful High Atlas Mountains where you will go on a 3 day guided trek through the Imlil and Azaadene valleys. Trekking through Berber villages, crossing mountain passes and enjoying delicious food, this takes you far away from modern life. Staying over night in local accommodation, you will get a chance to savour life in the mountains, try local food and, of course, see some amazing views.

After your trek, you will head back for some leisure time in Marrakech. The medina, or old quarter, is brimming with sights and places of interest. The chaotic, but alluring souks, the crumbling palaces and peaceful gardens offer something for everyone, but the highlight has to be dusk in the Djemma El Fna. As the sun sets, the city's main square comes to life with jugglers, dancers and acrobats all to the backdrop of traditional Berber musicians beating hypnotic rhythms on their drums.

You will then meet your driver and be transported out to the Sahara. The highlight of the desert trip is undoubtedly the camel trek across the dunes to set up a wild camp to sleep under the stars. Watching the sun set behind these huge dunes is a once in a life time experience. Away from the sand, you also spend some time exploring the UNESCO World heritage site of Ait Benhaddou as well as the palmery town of Agdz.

Day-by-day

Please note itineraries are provided for guidance only. This is a tailor-made holiday, so please feel free to build on the ideas you see here and mention any special requests to your travel consultant.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL
You will be picked up from Marrakech airport and transferred to the small town of Imlil in the Atlas Mountains. Your first night is spent in a friendly family run guest house where you will enjoy a traditional Moroccan dinner on the roof terrace (weather permitting)
Meals Included: Dinner
Accommodation: Dar Adrar
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 2: TREK DAY 1
Imlil – Tizi n Mzik –Tizi Oussem After breakfast, you will meet your guide and muleteer. Once you have loaded up your bags, the mule and cook set off together, taking a head-start to pick a perfect picnic spot and start cooking your lunch. Your walk starts with a fairly stiff climb up towards the pass at Tizi n Mzik (2489m), which offers dramatic mountain views. From here, the trail descends down into the spectacular Azzadene valley, known locally as the valley of colour. Your day of walking ends in the small Berber village of Tizi Oussem where you will spend the night in a gite. If you’re feeling energetic, you can take a slight route detour to include the D’Irhoulidene waterfalls, this adds a couple of extra hours walking but is worth the effort. Approx. 4-5 hours walking, 6-7 hours walking including the waterfalls. (749m ascent & 649m descent)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Village Gite
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 3: TREK DAY 2
Tizi Oussem – Tinzert After breakfast you will set off walking through the Azzadene valley, passing traditional Berber mountain villages. The view behind you is of the peaks of the High Atlas, whilst the valley ahead offers beautiful scenery with a rushing mountain stream surrounded by lush walnut groves. As you descend you will eventually enter the Ouirgane National Park, a protected area of natural beauty. Tonight you stay in Tinzert, a rustic Berber village. Approx. 5-6 hours walking (640m descent)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Village Gite
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 4: TREK DAY 3
Tinzert – Imi Oughlad – Imlil Today is the gentlest day of walking; there are fewer steep inclines and descents so you can really enjoy the Mediterranean-esque scenery. Shepherds tend to their goats amongst the pretty valleys dotted with juniper trees, rosemary and thyme. You will be walking towards Imi Oughlad where you will have lunch before saying goodbye to your cook, guide (and mule). After lunch, you will be picked up and driven to your accommodation in Imlil where you can enjoy a hot shower followed by an afternoon of relaxation. Approx. 4 hours walking (200m ascent)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Dar Adrar
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 5: TRANSFER TO MARRAKECH
You will be transferred back to Marrakech after breakfast. (approx. 1 ½ hour drive) Once you have settled into your riad, we suggest you set off and explore Marrakech's medina. You can spend all day pounding the souks and taking in the atmosphere or you could relax on the roof terrace on one of the sun loungers. In the evening, be sure to head down to the main square here food stalls, acrobats, snake charmers and story tellers congregate creating an unforgettable atmosphere.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Dar Hanane / Riad Tzarra
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 6: MARRAKECH
Today you might want to see some of the main cultural sights of Marrakech, including the Medersa Ben Youssef, Palais el Badi and the Bahia Palace, interspersed with a leisurely lunch watching the storks nesting on the ramparts of the ancient city or perhaps some people watching at a cafe in the Spice market. In the evening, you might want to enjoy dinner in one of the restaurants over-looking the main square, or perhaps ask your host to book you a table at the atmospheric Foundouk restaurant, serving up delicious French & Moroccan fusion food.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Dar Hanane / Riad Tzarra
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 7: MARRAKECH
Today is your final day in Marrakech, you might want to catch a petit taxi out to the Majorelle Gardens, designed by Yves Saint Laurent. The gardens are beautifully laid out and offer a welcome respite to the chaos of the medina. (There is also a lovely cafe there)
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Dar Hanane / Riad Tzarra
Transport (where relevant): n/a

DAY 8: MARRAKECH - KASBAH TELOUET - AIT BEN HADDOU
Leaving the pink city behind, you will head out over the spectacular Tizi n' Tichka mountain pass snaking its way over the High Atlas mountains. Watching the terrain changing shape in the space of a few hours is incredible. Donkeys carrying huge loads, women working in the fields and shops with large meat carcasses being hung out to dry - not to mention the cacti, almond trees and deep mountain valleys.

You will stop for lunch in the small town of Telouet, before visiting the town's main attraction, the kasbah. Built in the 1800's by the Glaoui family, the kasbah enjoyed a prosperous strategic position on the trans-Saharan trading route and close proximity to the area's salt mining industry. After Morocco's independence in 1953, the Glaoui family was evicted and the kasbah was left to ruin. Visitors catch their first glimpse of the kasbah as they drive into Telouet; an imposing building standing proud on top of a small hill. On closer inspection, the walls are crumbling and close to collapsing. The entrance to the building is no less dilapidated, with incomplete walls and rubble. As you walk through the corridor, it is unclear what makes the building so remarkable, with its bare, neglected walls. It is only when you reach the heart of the building that you can understand the significance and fallen wealth of the kasbah. Stunning mosaics and intricate wood carvings adorn the walls, reminiscent of the Bahia Palace in Marrakech. The attention to detail is most incredible and the work and money spent on building it is unfathomable. After being astounded by the mosaics on the first floor, more treats await you, with far-reaching views of the valley and mountains beyond from the roof terrace.
After your visit, you will continue your journey by car to your accommodation, close to Ait Ben Haddou.
Total Driving Time: 4 - 4 1/2 hours
Meals Included: Breakfast & Dinner
Accommodation: Kasbah Ellouze
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 9: AIT BEN HADDOU
Today is a day at leisure for you to explore the area. After a relaxing morning, you will almost certainly want to go and visit Ait Ben haddou. Best enjoyed after lunch, after the day trippers have left, you can either visit by car or on foot, depending on how active you are feeling. The walk takes about 2 1/2 hours and you follow the river through the valley.

Ait Ben Haddou itself is essentially a small, fortified town. Designated by Unesco as a World Heritage site, it has been well preserved and restored, thanks to the film industry who have used it as the set for several Hollywood films, including Gladiator. You can climb on the crumbling buildings and see up close how they have been constructed out of mud and straw and get a real insight into local architecture. Then, you can climb to the top, for far-reaching views of the wild desert and mountains. There is a small tea house along the way where you can stop for a refreshing mint tea.
Meals Included: Breakfast & Dinner
Accommodation: Kasbah Ellouze
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 10: AIT BEN HADDOU - M'HAMID
Today is another quite long drive. Fortunately, it is through some spectacular scenery and there are plenty of places along the way to stretch your legs and take photos. Leaving Ait Ben Haddou, you will drive over the mountains before descending into the Draa Valley, which you will follow for the rest of the day. Passing palmeries and hundreds of kasbahs, you will eventually reach Zagora, where you can stop for lunch. Famed as the gateway to the Sahara, this town was seen as the start of the trans-Saharan trading route and you can see the famous sign in the town, depicting the length of time taken to reach Timbuctu (52 days) After leaving Zagora, you head further into the barren desert, leaving the palmeries behind. You will pass some smaller dunes, a teaser as to what lies ahead. Once you arrive in M'hamid, you will receive a warm welcome at your accommodation. Many of the staff working here are fantastic drummers and they will be more than happy to demonstrate their skills (and encourage you to have a go as well.)
Total Driving Time- around 4 - 4 1/2 hours
Meals Included: Breakfast & Dinner
Accommodation: M'hamid
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 11: M'HAMID
This morning, you will have the chance to have a slow morning, perhaps sitting in the shade of the palms and reading. After lunch, you will saddle up the camels and head off through the valley, towards some deserted dunes. Because most people head to the larger dunes at Erg Chegaga, you will find that you have this piece of the desert to yourselves. As your guide walks you along, you can sit back and enjoy the scenery (from your bumpy vantage point) You will arrive well in time for sunset and you can clamber up the dunes (and run down them again) to your heart's content. As night falls, your guide will light a camp fire and you can enjoy dinner al fresco in this very special, private camp.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Accommodation: Desert Camping
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 12: M'HAMID - AGDZ
After breakfast, you will get back on your camels and head back to the guest house. Once you are back, you will have a chance to have a shower and freshen up before getting in the car and driving to Agdz.
Total Driving Time- around 3 hours
Meals Included: Breakfast & Lunch
Accommodation: Kabah Azul
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 13: AGDZ
After yesterday's drive & camel riding, today is a day at leisure. You can spend the morning relaxing around the pool and then in the afternoon, you might want to take a stroll through the palmery. Walk through the towering date palms, past large cacti and then through lush farmland, with beautifully maintained plots. If you're lucky, a local farmer might invite you to take a look at his land and point out the different vegetables and plant that he's growing.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Kabah Azul
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 14: AGDZ- MARRAKECH
You will leave Agdz after breakfast and start the journey back to Marrakech. Driving back over the spectacular mountain pass, you will stop for lunch with panoramic views of the High Atlas Mountains. You will arrive back in Marrakech in the afternoon.
Total Driving Time - around 5 hours
Meals Included: Breakfast
Accommodation: Dar Hanane / Riad Tzarra
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

DAY 15: DEPARTURE
You will be transferred to the airport to catch your flight home.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Transport (where relevant): Private Transfer

Accommodation


Guide price is based on recommended accommodations. Alternative accommodations and upgrades are available. Please get in touch or click on 'alternatives' below for alternatives and upgrade options.

Our rating

9/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Traditional chic riad
- Beautiful rooftop terrace
- Individually and tastefully designed
- Gorgeous communal areas

Kasbah Ellouze

Sahara Desert

Our rating

8/10

Price guide

Price rating 3

- Terraces & Pool
- Beautiful location
- Lovely ambience
- Warm hosts

M'Hamid Guesthouse

Sahara Desert

Our rating

NA

Price guide

Price rating

Our rating

4/10

Price guide

Price rating 1

- Traditional villages
- Private rooms
- Very basic
- Shared bathroom
- Camping in summer

Kasbah Azul

Sahara Desert

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Price rating 4

- Boutique Palmeraie Retreat
- Beautiful Gardens
- Heated Pool
- Walks in the nearby Palmeraie

Details

Getting there

Flying from the UK... Marrakech has an international airport (RAK) which is serviced by several airlines flying direct from the UK. The flight time is around 3.5hours. On average it takes around an hour to clear airport security and then around 15 – 20 minutes to drive to the Medina or 1 – 1.5 hours to reach the Atlas Mountains.

From the South East:
Gatwick: Easy Jet, British Airways, Royal Air Maroc &Thomson
Luton: Ryanair
Stansted: Ryanair & Easy Jet

From the South West:
Bristol: Easy Jet

From the Midlands:
Birmingham: Thomson

From the North:
Manchester: Easy Jet and Thomson

From Ireland:
Dublin: Ryanair

Price includes

All transfers are included.

Desert Trek: Guide, accommodation, transport in an air con car / van, breakfasts and dinners. (Lunch at own expense)

In Marrakech: Accommodation with breakfast

Whilst trekking: tour guide, cook, all meals, mules to carry your bags, spare mule for the children and accommodation in a Berber village or camping.

When is best?

This holiday can be enjoyed from September - May. In the winter months, the mountains are usually fine as you will be trekking below the snow-line, it tends to be mild during the day, but the evenings are cold. The same applies for Marrakech, where you can expect warm days, but chilly evenings.

Is it for me?

This tour is perfect for those who want to explore the Kasbahs and countryside of Morocco, as well as visit the the Saharan dunes and experience camping under the stars. There is no heavy trekking involved so it is very much accessible to all. Accommodation is simple and local - and when you are in the desert it is down right basic.t (no toilet).

You don't need any prior riding experience for the camel riding. Camels are lead by a guide, so you just need to hold on. Rides are timed for afternoons and mornings so that you are not riding at the hottest time of the day.

The dunes themselves are around a 10 hour drive from Marrakech, so there are some long car journeys involved. This trip reduces the car journeys into more bite sized chunks, but you will still be in the car for several hours on some days.The car will have air conditioning.

The Atlas Mountains Valleys treks are designed to be suitable for those who’d rather see more of the villages and valleys than tackle the high peaks. Because they avoid the higher altitude passes, they are also suitable all year round and offer a great winter alternative to climbing Toubkal. The treks are suitable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and children are welcome (assuming they are used to walking). Please note that the accommodation used is simple, with shared bathroom facilities.

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 605 reviews

(4.93/5)

  • Tourdust, on the whole, gave us a good service. We had one hitch - we were expecting one hotel as per our itinerary and were taken to another, clearly inferior one, with no notice of the change. Also the vehicle we were driven in was a van, we were in the back without much of a view and no way to open a window for a photo. The van was being driven by a very nice and fairly competent driver with a guide in the best front seat who between the two spoke to each other constantly in Arabic. We were only offered information when we interrupted their conversation with a question of our own. Also the choice of lunch/break stops were not the greatest - probably based more on commissions than on suitability to the guests and we were not able to persuade them to change the venue. Twice we had to lunch at a restaurant in the middle of ongoing road construction, even when we complained about the venue the first time. However the Atlas Mountains were great - venue, guide and cook (Yusuf was excellent on the mountain) although I would also suggest that a more suitable lunch spot be found than the one we had on the first day - the dirtiest village we went through, someone's patio with no view at all. The Riad in Marrakech was very comfortable and the staff there very helpful although the breakfasts could easily have been better. 5 nights in Marrakech were way too many and an extra day somewhere on route to the desert would have been more fun. The desert trip was brilliant although we wish we had gone for the 'luxury' one. Yusuf is lovely and did his best throughout, on his own, out of the van, he was very informative and helpful.

    Ben feefo reviewer verified review for Sahara, Souks and Mountains Explorer on 03 May 2016

  • It was totally awesome!! Climbing the Toubkal summit by moonlight is just breathtaking!!! Yes it was absolutely freezing and so glad I took layers of thermals and hat and gloves!!

    The Riads you booked were great, we both loved them, although we preferred the second Kasbah in Imlil we stayed in to the Kasbah Toubkal on our first night, our room was great especially after being in hostels for several nights!! Boy were they cold!!!!

    El Fenn is fabulous, Lilly Allen had been staying with her band that week and left the day we arrived! Love that place, we are planning to go back next year! Caravanne was like walking into a little boutique hotel, loved that place as well.

    There's something special about the mountains, loved it!

    The desert camp was really well organised, although to be honest I think two nights are enough as there is not a lot to do and it is blisteringly hot by 9.00!! But we were looked after really well and had my first glass of wine for two weeks, went down very well!!! The sundowners were so much fun, especially trying to walk through the dunes after a couple of wines!!

    Really great adventure and thank you so much for putting such a fab trip together for us!

    MissingLiz Rowsell reviewing Sahara, Souks and Mountains Explorer on 14 October 2015

  • We had a a wonderful time in Morocco. We were delighted with our guide Mustapha. He was a brilliant pairing for us as he tuned into what we liked and didn't, taught us lots about history, culture and geology and really looked after us at all times. I would recommend him to anyone in the future. Hamid our muleteer and Sayed our driver were also excellent.

    We loved the itinerary that Rebecca put together for us. She was right about how much we could fit in and so we will have to return another time to try Essaouria!

    Apart from the additional bed-fellows during the trekking (which was in itself a learning experience!), we were really happy with all our accommodation. We loved the fact they were small, often family run and that the staff would look after you completely. It was so reassuring to see the clear process of quality assurance by Tourdust. It was great to meet Anna at Riad Adore and to know that the company really is passionate about its customers having a great time and the lengths they go to test that for themselves.

    We were really happy with the service we got from Tourdust which can be best described as friendly, efficient and expert. The team showed genuine interest in us and our trip and I felt that Rebecca was almost as excited as we were by the time all arrangements were in place. The information pack provided was invaluable too and I must admit I printed the lot because it turned out to be more useful than guidebooks. We usually travel independently and like to do so. We'd forgotten how relaxing it can be to have someone do all the hard work of planning and scheduling and even making a decision of where to stop for lunch. I'm certain that these things made the holiday the special experience that it was.

    I am struggling to think of just one thing which could have been improved. The only thing I can think of is to add 'hat and gloves' to the itinerary for the Toubkal summit. Although I think this is included in the winter trekking advice, I don't think its listed otherwise. It was darn cold up there due to the wind chill, but Mustapha had a spare pair so I was ok. If I missed it on the list then apologies.

    We will definitely be using Tourdust again and look forward to hearing about any new destinations that you add (we are interested in Cuba next!!)

    MissingMatthew McSweeney reviewing Sahara, Souks and Mountains Explorer on 10 November 2014

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Alternative Itineraries

Our itineraries are carefully designed by our experienced travel designers based on years of experience and customer feedback. For a custom itinerary tailored to you, please enquire giving as much detail as possible on your brief.

Make a week of it with a fantastic four day Atlas Valleys and Villages trek combined with three nights in a beautiful riad in Marrakech's atmospheric medina.

Tailor-made Adventure 1 week

Adults from $677 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $126 per person economy class from London

Combine a stay in a boutique Marrakech riad with three nights in stunning Douar Samra in the Atlas Mountains. One guided day walk with picnic included.

Tailor-made Luxury 1 week

Adults from $654 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

Flights are typically an additional $126 per person economy class from London

A tailor-made holiday taking in the highlights of Morocco; Marrakech, Essaouira & a 3 day trek in the Atlas Mountains.

Tailor-made Classic 10 days

Adults from $988 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average per person price for ground arrangements for two people sharing.

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