Lands of Wild Beauty: Scorched Earth, Red Rock, Golden Dunes

Trip Highlights

. "red" city of Marrakech, gateway to the South: High Atlas, kasbah country, the Sahara

. Telouet, off the Tizi n'Tichka pass, great kasbah of the Glaoui with elaborate Andalusian-style decoration

. 3 days of remote trekking in the wilderness of Sarhro: incredible rock formations, mineral-rich ridges, volcanic plateaus, and home of the proud Ait Atta tribe

. Valley of the Roses, land of rose cliffs cut by the M'Goun River, and rich-green orchards tended by friendly Berber

. 3 days in the desert, undulating dunes surrounded by volcanic explosions of molten rock, considered one of the most isolated, beautiful, and mystical spots in the Sahara; meet nomads in their temporary settlements; explore Neolithic rock carvings and burial chambers discovered 50 years ago in the valley of the Black Rock

. Southern Tafilalt, birthplace of the royal dynasty; ruins of Sijimassa, founded in the 8th century as an outpost for the trans-Sahara caravans which traded in gold, ivory, black slaves, indigo, and salt, and Rissani, the most African of Southern Moroccan towns in its markets, people, and customs.

Trip Detail

. 13 days, begins in Marrakech and ends in Ouarzazate

. 5 nights in maison d'hotes/auberges; 6 nights in the field

. all meals included

. moderate to some challenges: 5-6 hours a day hiking with gradual ascent

. Land Rovers, mules, and camels for portage and transport


Days 1-3 Transfer in Casablanca to Marrakech where we focus on the more interesting historic places secreted in the medina: caravansary, the souks for charms, magic, spices; metalwork and leather; Ben Youssef Medersa, and the massive gateways into the city as well as the most famous square, Jemaa El Fnaa.

Days 4-7 Heading south to Sarhro, we stop at Telouet, off the Tizi n' Tichka pass which offers breathtaking vistas of the High Atlas. When we reach Handour, where we camp and pick up our mules, we explore this perfect stone village that takes us back centuries. Next days we trek through one of the most dramatic and varied landscapes in Morocco: Bab n' Ali, a massive stone rise seen from miles around, camp near a natural pool surrounded by oleander; move on to a sweeping plateau crowned by giant rock masses with incredible views of distant painted canyons. On the trail, we might encounter shepherds with flocks of sheep and goat, and farmers on donkey taking their produce to market. Leaving this incredible region, untouched by modernity, we venture into a fortified village of several old kasbahs on our way to our lodgings, a contemporary kasbah, where we enjoy warm Berber hospitality, stylish Moroccan decor, with modern comforts in this family-run auberge. A visit to the local hammam (steam bath) refreshes our bodies and spirits.

Day 8 Hiking north up the Valley of the Roses, we discover another environment: vivid reds, greens, and blue alive with the sounds of birdsong and rushing water against a backdrop of snow-peaked mountains. We visit an agrarian hamlet and a local family's three-level castle where we take tea. That evening, we might have the pleasure of Berber music/dance celebration at our kasbah.

Days 9-12 Driving southeast along an ancient route of the trans-Sahara caravans, we pass kasbahs with characteristic crenellated towers decorated with geometric glyphs, dried riverbeds, palmeries, and scattering of camel, and land in the Daya Maider, off the tourist map, where we meet up with our camels and the Tuareg driving them. We spend two and a half tranquil days journeying into the desert on camel or foot: experiencing the wondrous changes of light, the vast horizon of sand dunes, timeless movement, nights of shooting stars, and if we are lucky, uncover fossils and happen upon remote nomadic settlements. Leaving the Sahara, we search for Neolithic rock carvings, and make a stop at Rissani, an interesting town once the important trading outpost on the trans-Sahara route, and return by an alternative way, leaving behind crumbling Foreign Legion sentinels and border hamlets. Last night spent at a new lodge, a replica of an ancient Skoura kasbah.

Day 13 Ouarzazate/Casablanca/ US

Click here to close this window