Cycle Morocco – Atlas to the Sahara
|Resort:||Cycle Morocco - Atlas to the Sahara|
Discover the kasbahs, tribal villages and cool oases of the Draa Valley on this cycling holiday in Morocco. Cycle through the remote hamada desert of the Sahara and enjoy an exhilarating High Atlas descent through the Berber heartland.
Overnight Sahara camp – Ride camels through Saharan sand dunes and camp overnight in a desert wilderness
Thrilling descent – Enjoy a scenic descent from the stunning High Atlas mountain pass of Tizi N’Fedrhate Pass
Marrakech – Discover Morocco’s vibrant Red City, with its atmospheric medina and lively Djemma-el-Fna Square.
Day 1 Join trip in Marrakech
Arrive in Marrakech. Morocco’s famous Red City, Marrakech is the spiritual heart of the country, a cultural melting pot of the mountain Berbers and the desert peoples of the south. Blessed with some of the most stunning architecture in Morocco, its mix of tradition, colour and history makes it the ideal starting point.
Day 2 Explore Marrakech; drive High Atlas pass to Ouarzazate
This morning, we have some time to visit the souks and sites of the medina before our drive to the garrison town of Ouarzazate – gateway to the Sahara Desert. Our journey takes us over the dramatic High Atlas pass of Tizi n’ Tichka, at an altitude of 2,260 metres. En route, we plan to visit the spectacular fortified city of Ait Benhaddou – classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered by many as one of Morocco’s most picturesque settings. Richly decorated and studded with crenelated towers, the town’s spectacular kasbah may be recognised from scenes in Jesus of Nazareth, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and, most recently, Game of Thrones. The drive to Ouarzazate takes about 4 hours.
We spend the night in Ouarzazate and prepare for tomorrow’s cycling journey.
Day 3 Cycling in the Draa Valley, then drive to Alnif
Leaving Ouarzazate by bus, we drive over the dramatic Tizi n’Tinififft mountain pass, rising to an altitude of 1,800 metres amid the lunar landscape of the Anti-Atlas. We continue down into one of the most stunning natural wonders of Morocco – the Draa Valley, where we have the opportunity to enjoy an exhilarating cycle ride. Littered with kasbahs and ksours (fortified villages), the Draa Valley is the largest date palm oasis in Morocco. We begin cycling before the small town of Agdz and head south on descending terrain though lush oases. We will get back into our vehicle for the last part of our journey to our overnight stop at Alnif which takes about 3 hours.
Our total cycling distance is approximately 45 kilometers (120 meters total accumulated ascent and 342 meters descent).
Day 4 Cycle the foothills of Jebel Sahro; camel trek to camp
This morning, we cycle from our hotel along the southern foothills of the Jebel Sahro mountain range, against the spectacular backdrop of the 2,712 metre Amalou n’Mansour peak. This is a very remote part of Morocco and few cars pass through this vast area of stony hammada desert. Later we drive to Merzouga (approximately 2 1/2 hours), from where we will go on an exciting camel trek to explore the contrasting and more stereotypical desert landscape of Erg Chebbi. This spectacular natural wonder is home to the largest expanse of sand in Morocco, with giant dunes peaking at an impressive 150 metres. In actual fact, landscapes like this only cover about one fifth of the Sahara’s surface, the rest is made up of vast rock and gravel plains. Our camel trek takes us to our desert camp where we will spend the night. This ultimate ‘Arabian Nights’ experience allows us to experience the unrivalled tranquillity of this desert setting. Mattresses, blankets and pillows are provided and washing facilities, including flushing toilets, are available.
Our total cycling distance is approximately 50 kilometers (92 meters total accumulated ascent and 210 meters descent).
Day 5 Enjoy Sunrise in the sand dunes then pedal to Erfoud
This morning, we recommend rising early to watch the spectacular desert sunrise as it casts shadows across the rolling dunes. After breakfast, we return to Merzouga by camel. A short drive takes us to the start of today’s cycle ride in the Rissani region- homeland of the Alaouite dynasty, which reigned in this area for 300 years. Cycling through an expansive desert landscape on mostly flat terrain, we pass palmeries and ksours on our journey to Erfoud – our base for the night.
Our total cycling distance is approximately 38 kilometers ( 56 meters total accumulated ascent and 17 meters descent).
Day 6 Bike though local villages en route to El Kelaa Mgouna
This morning, we set off on our bikes towards Tinerhir in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Passing alongside the ancient ‘Fogaras’ subterranean irrigation system, our route takes us through a lush oasis, abundant with date palms and olive groves, fruit orchards and almonds trees, all littered amongst a fertile landscape of grain and vegetables. Our bus will pick us up for the last part of our journey to Todra Gorge – renowned as one of the most spectacular canyons in the world. Here, ochre-coloured rock walls rise vertically to a height of 160 meters, leaving just a narrow pass through which the track and river struggle for right of way. We have time to explore these deep, narrow mountain chasms on foot and are likely to see the Berber women drive their goats through the gorge to the better grazing land higher up. We continue our journey by vehicle along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech to reach our overnight stop in El Kelaa des M’Gouna. Our driving time is about 4 1/2 hours. Known as the ‘town of the roses’, it is surrounded by a landscape of scented blooms each spring. These are harvested in May during the famous Festival of the Roses, before being processed into rosewater and sold throughout the Islamic world.
Our total cycling distance is approximately 40 kilometers ( 100 meters total accumulated ascent and 19 meters descent).
Day 7 Ride down the Atlas Mountains and return to Marrakech
After an early breakfast, we drive into the High Atlas to the Tizi n’Fedrhate Pass at an altitude of 2,150 metres. From here, we start cycling down into the northern foothills of the Atlas Mountains, through some of the most dramatic scenery of this entire trip. Amid the silence of the mountain valleys, the hardy Berbers cultivate fields of barley, wheat, olives, figs, beans, peas and almond groves. Here, tradition is strong and social organisation remains uncompromisingly tribal. These ‘Lords of the Atlas’ present us with a unique view of a way of life lost to the rest of North Africa, where music and dance, even language and religion, are far removed from their Arab neighbours. Later, we get back into our vehicle, returning to Marrakech late in the afternoon.
Our total cycling distance is approximately 50 kilometers ( 170 meters total accumulated ascent and 1574 meters descent).
Please note: Today’s cycling route may have to be altered in adverse weather conditions.
Day 8 Trip ends Marrakech
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Marrakech.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Marrakech at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to depart from Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK), which is a 20 minute drive from the hotel depending on traffic.
Depending on the time of your flight, you might be able to spend some additional time exploring the city independently.