For many travellers the real Moroccan experience starts in the deep south: an ancient land of fortified villages (ksour), crumbling castles (kasbahs) and sun-baked oases.
...continued from South & Sahara page.
The road south from Marrakech winds up through the oleander and pine forests of the Atlas mountains to the 7,400-foot Col de Tichka. From here you can make side-trips to Telouet, to visit the kasbah of the Glaoui (immortalized in Gavin Maxwell’s Lords of the Atlas) and to the even more picturesque Kasbah Aït Benhaddou, famous from the film Gladiator. Finally the road descends onto the plain of Ouarzazate - the gateway to the south.
The difference in landscape, vegetation and architecture is immediately apparent. To the north, the Dades river follows a ribbon of walnut, silver birch, fig and almond trees, past mud-brick fortresses and eerie rock formations, to the Dades Gorge. Near Tineghir, the even higher Todra Gorge has opportunities for birdwatching, trekking, rock-climbing and wildlife-spotting. The road peters out at Merzouga and the spectacular sand dunes of Erg Chebbi.
South-east of Ouarzazate is the Draa Valley, dotted with watchtowers, forbidding gorges and lush oases. For centuries, the valley was a stopping place for caravans returning with gold, slaves and salt from the great trading capitals of the Sahara. After several miles of scrubby landscape the road takes you to M'hamid and the isolated dunes of Erg Chigaga.
A desert expedition can be the trip of a lifetime. Many people opt for a camel trek: romantic, but guaranteed to result in a sore bottom. An alternative is a 4x4 safari. You don’t have to rough it, either. Sleeping under the desert stars is now available as a 5-star experience, complete with bed-linen and showers.
The real Moroccan experience starts in the deep south.