Fez-Marrakesh Desert Express
Fez – Midelt (x1) – Erg Chebbi Dunes (x1) – Ouarzazate (x1) – Marrakesh (4 days, 3 nights)
Don’t take a train from Fez to Marrakesh—take a camel (for 1 kilometer)! Don’t miss out on your once in a lifetime opportunity to gaze on the eternal sands of the Sahara Desert… oh, and monkeys!
Day 1 : Drive from Fez to Midelt
After picking you up in the morning at your accommodations in Fez, we will start our drive towards the Middle Atlas region, destination Midelt.
Our drive will first take us through the Sais plateau, Fez’s bountiful agricultural region full of olive grove, wheat fields, and fruit trees.
As we continue on, we will begin to see the first foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains.
Our first stop will be in the provincial town of Imouzer, which is famous for its Apple Festival in September.
Many of the inhabitants of Imouzer are of Amazigh descent and speak a language different than Arabic as their mother tongue.
The area around Imouzer is dotted with lakes that were carved out during a period of intense volcanic activity in the distant past.
Stopping at one of these lakes, Dayet Aoua, you will have the opportunity to go for a quick horse or donkey ride on the lakeshore.
Climbing higher up and passing through oak forests, the next stop on our drive will be in the famed ‘Switzerland of Morocco’, the town of Ifrane.
Thanks to its alpine climate, at 1,665m above sea level, Ifrane can’t escape getting large quantities of snow every winter.
As such, the roofs of its houses and businesses are sloped so not to be crushed under the weight of snow, earning Ifrane the cute nickname the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’.
During the summer, though, the temperature rises and Moroccan’s flock to Ifrane for its tidy parks, clean air, and beautiful scenery.
Ifrane is also famous for the world renowned Al-Akhawayn University, which attracts the best and brightest of Morocco each year.
We will also make a stop at the Ifrane National Park to admire the ancient cedar trees and try our luck at finding a colony of Barbary apes. In Ifrane, we will go to a great local restaurant for lunch.
Driving just a little further, our last stop of the day will be in the town of Azrou, the ancient capital of the Amazigh people in the Middle Atlas region.
Situated at 1,250m above sea level, Azrou finds itself nestled cozily in the surrounding hills of the Middle Atlas Mountains.
Famous for its cedar forests, butterflies, and Barbary ape population, Azrou is a perfect place to get back to nature.
During our time in Azrou, we will visit the old town center with the possibility of also taking a walk in the abundant nature.
Once finishing our tour of Azrou and the Middle Atlas Mountains, we’ll hit the road to Midelt where we’ll have dinner and spend the night.
N.B: at lunch time we advocate a meal by Ziada region next to Midelt.
Day 2 : from Midelt to the Erg Chebbi Dunes
After breakfast in Midelt, we’ll head towards the Erg Chebbi Dunes, visiting the beautiful scenery on the way.
Once over the Middle Atlas Mountains, the climate will become ever drier as we enter into the picturesque arid Ziz River Gorge at the tail end of the adjacent High Atlas Mountains.
Soon thereafter, we’ll find ourselves overlooking the Tafilalt Oasis, a stunning region of abundant palm groves, underground rivers, and traditional mudbrick architecture.
The Tafilalt Oasis is also a region rich in history from which the current Moroccan royal dynasty descends.
To explore this history, we’ll stop at the Moulay Ali Sherif Zaouia.
Driving through the Tafilalt, we’ll also stop in Rissani to explore the traditional souks and get some exotic Berber pizza for lunch. By late afternoon, we’ll arrive at our day’s destination: the Erg Chebbi Dunes.
As soon as we arrive at the cusp of the Sahara, we will leave the car behind and continue on camelback to our campsite in the middle of the desert.
Take amazing photos over the sand dunes as the sun sets in the background.
Once we arrive at our tents at the base of the sand dunes, your Berber hosts will cook traditional desert meals for you, while teaching you about their culture.
Spend the evening huddled around the campfire, venture out into the desert, or lie on a sand dune and gaze at the stars.
Day 3 : Drive from Erg Chebbi Dunes to Ouarzazate
Sleep in or take our advice and wake up early to catch the sunrise over the sand dunes.
If you’re feeling groggy, you can also ride over the sand dunes on camelback.
It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Following breakfast, we’ll get back on the road and make our way towards Ouarzazate, exploring traditional mudbrick towns and beautiful desert landscapes as we go.
Our day’s first stop will be in Tinerhir, an ancient Berber town built of traditional mudbrick architecture.
In Tinerhir, we’ll turn off the main road to make a stop in the amazing Todra Gorges, where climbers from around the world fight gravity and their fear as they scale vertical cliffs.
Don’t worry—we’ll be exploring this fascinating area horizontally on foot.
Driving a little further on, we’ll arrive at the Dades Valley, a region famous for its sprawling palm groves growing over an underground river.
Along our way, we’ll visit the famous little town of Kelaat Mgouna, known across Morocco for its traditional Rose Festival in May.
A little further down the road, we’ll discover Soukora, a traditional mudbrick town in heart of 25km² of lush palm groves.
We’ll finish this exciting day in Ouarzazate, where we’ll have dinner and spend the night.
Day 4 : Drive from Ouarzazate to Marrakesh
After breakfast, we’ll start our day exploring the sights in Ouarzazate before hitting the road to Marrakesh.
Ouarzazate, a clean, quiet, and sunny city, is the capital and biggest city of the surrounding province.
Even the etymology of the word ‘Ouarzazate’ comes from the Berber expression meaning ‘without noise’.
Also, recently the world largest solar power plant, valued at $9 billion, opened.
We’ll begin by visiting the old town with its large ancient Taourirt Kasbah.
Its noble founders have long since moved out, leaving its many towers to families of White storks.
We’ll move on to visit what modern Ouarzazate is most famous for: Morocco’s largest movie studios.
Over the years, thanks to their prime desert location, these studios have helped turn out classic film like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), and, most recently, certain episodes of Game of Thrones.
Leaving Ouarzazate, we’ll turn off the main road to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Benhaddou.
An ideal model of the many mudbrick villages and Kasbah’s that dot the south of Morocco, the ancient town of Ait Benhaddou enchants its thousands of visitors with its curious towers, surrounding desert scenery, and place in Morocco’s history.
Indeed, towns like Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou played an important role in Morocco’s past as key stops on the lucrative sub-Saharan trade routes, linking over vast deserts and mountain ranges towns like Timbuktu to the heart of Morocco.
Once done visiting Ait Benhaddou, we can get lunch at one of the numerous restaurants that overlook the picturesque town.
Starting our drive to Marrakesh, the environment will change as we climb higher into the High Atlas Mountains. The arid desert plains and hills will give way to forests, mountain streams, and, depending on the time of year, snowcapped mountains.
We’ll follow the road to the very top of these mountains where we’ll stop at the Tizi n’Tichka pass before heading down the other side.
First constructed by the French in 1936, but remodeled and modernized many times since, the Tizi n’Tichka pass is a true feat of civil engineering.
Once over the mountains, it will be a straight shot to the ochre city, Marrakesh, where we’ll drop you off wherever you like.