Return to Morocco
Having spent time in Marrakesh last year we had been keen to return to Morocco and discover more of this diverse country. We have visited this wonderful city several times but never explored beyond it so spending ten days in the sun over New Year seemed like the perfect time again to venture wider afield and explore destinations outside of Marrakesh.
Choosing the Right Itinerary
Finding an itinerary for our trip that would suit us as a family and not involve too much driving was a bit of a challenge at first. Chris was keen to visit the Atlantic coast, while I originally would have loved to drift through the dreamy, blue streets of Chefchaouen but also find time to sleep a night in a luxurious desert camp in the Sahara. Jerome on the other hand had no preference at all, he was just happy to spend time with us abroad although the desert was attracting him too.
Keep in Mind the Large Distances
The distances in Morocco are large enough that you need to focus on the trip when choosing a driving route and probably choose between the coast or the mountains, and also between the eastern end of the country towards Fez and Casablanca, or the south over the Atlas Mountains, or perhaps the western coast in the direction of Essaouira and Agadir. It would be hard to make all those places in just over a week, if you did – and some coach parties do – you would have no time in each place and spend hours on the road each day.
In the end I decided on just four places for our itinerary, we all agree that less is more, and is a huge advantage of independent travel unlike the packaged itineraries of most tour groups. When travelling with kids on a driving holiday, it is important to take time, rather than cramming to much into a day and have cranky and tired kids, that will spoil any family holiday. We also firmly believe that travel must include time to absorb each location and have places for unplanned wanders to sights that are discovered en-route.
Ten Days in Morocco
This post aims highlight the places we explored on our ten day visit to Morocco and hopefully inspire you to head to this amazing country and discover the many ancient sights, stunning landscapes and idyllic villages, with a chance of meeting the sometimes shy, sometimes brash, yet always kind and helpful locals.
In order to achieve our goals we decided to hire a car and drive from Marrakesh over the majestic Atlas Mountains. Our route went south over the mountains via Ouarzazate all the way to the edge of the Sahara and included an overnight stay in a desert camp. Before our return we stayed on the largest oasis in the world in Agdz and nearly missed our flight back to London due to heavy snow in the mountains and the desert!
Between Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains:
Our late arrival in Marrakesh meant that we did not have enough time to drive across the Atlas Mountains and reach our first ideal destination in daylight. I therefore booked us rooms in a small hotel – Villa Touka – between Marrakesh and the edge of the mountain range on the outskirts of a small village. It turned out to be our weirdest hotel stay to date, despite the raving reviews online, and we were glad to move on the next morning. I am sure you will enjoy my detailed post on that experience!
Tizi N Tichka Pass in the Atlas Mountains
The drive across the Atlas Mountains to Telouet used to be a dangerous adventure that only few tourists would embark on. These days the Tizi N’ Tichka Pass can easily be reached from Marrakesh, the road is reasonably well repaired and the drive offers breath taking views of the changing landscape. We were glad to have planned in plenty of time to enjoy the vistas and stop for lunch just after crossing Tizi N Tichka pass.
Anguelz near Telouet
The little Berber village of Anguelz near Telouet was our simple home for our next few days and we experienced life in a traditional village, surrounded by the splendid Atlas mountains. A visit to a disused salt mine deep in the mountains sparked Jerome’s interest in geology. We also came up close with residents of Anguelez during our first ride in a local shared taxi to nearby Telouet, where we were able to explore the hidden beauty of the glorious Glaoui Kasbah (castle) and nearly got lost on our hike back to the Berber village.
Leaving the Atlas Mountains behind we drove to Ouarzazate following the Ounilla Valley along the old caravan route from the desert and made a brief stop at Ait Benhaddou. This red mud brick ksar has received fame thanks to appearances in Hollywood movies. Visiting the caravanserai was like stepping back in time, but sadly the masses of tourists and annoying hagglers spoilt the experience slightly.
We started the New Year in the uniquely designed Cote Sud hotel. The location outside of Ouarzazate gave us a great starting point to explore sights in and around Ouarzazate, an under rated area which perhaps warrants the time to get to know. An abandoned film studio gave us an unusual insight into the Moroccan film industry and showed Jerome how film sets are built especially for specific movies. We enjoyed some exotic dishes at a restaurant next to the time worn Kasbah and learned about daily life in the picturesque Fint Oasis.
Sahara, Erg Chigaga Dunes
The undisputed highlight of our trip was the mesmerising stay in a luxurious tent at Camp La Kahena. Getting there across the stoney and sandy dessert is an amazing experience. Jerome enjoyed racing down the sandy dunes on a sand board, the sunset over the wavy mounds was spectacular and the starry sky at night was unlike anything we had ever witnessed before. It also was a novelty for Jerome to sleep in a tent, although a rather comfortable one compared to the camping adventures of Chris and my youth. Waking up to the sun rising, with the moon lurking above us in the sky and a delicious breakfast outside in the fresh open air was the perfect finish to our short stay in the Sahara desert at the Erg Chigaga dunes. Not sure how to find the right desert camp for you, read our guide for tips and hints before booking a stay.
Our last few days in Morocco we spent surrounded by the largest palm oasis in the world. Lodge Hara Oasis is set in a idyllic location next to the Draa River and its friendly owner provided us with recommendations for walks through the calm palmeraie to one of the last inhabited kasbahs in Morocco. Agdz itself is mostly overlooked by tourists speeding by on their way to the desert and its centre and souk seemed a world away from busy Marrakesh, giving us a taster for what Moroccan towns looked like before tourism started to increase.
Saying Goodbye to Morocco
Our trip back was an experience in itself and that adventure will be an interesting read when I post it! Ten days in Morocco went by too fast and we were sad to leave this country once again. There are many more places that we would like to explore so without a doubt it will not be long before we return. I hope this itinerary might give you ideas and inspiration for a visit to Morocco. The detailed accounts will be posted over the next few weeks and I hope you enjoy discovering Morocco through our eyes, my pictures and posts. In case you need help and information about travelling with kids and babies to Morocco read my tips here
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12 thoughts on “Morocco | 10 Day Itinerary for Independent Tour Through the Atlas Mountains, Draa Valley and Glamping in the Sahara Desert”
What an amazing adventure! You covered so much ground and had spectacular weather. Did you find the locals friendly? My experience was that people in Fez and surroundings (including Chefchaouen which you must visit) was that people were much friendlier there than in the Atlas Mountains and Marrakesh. That being said, I will definitely return and I am glad to have your references and recommendations. Maggie
It was an incredible adventure, for sure and we definitely want to return to explore other parts of this beautiful country. We found the people in general friendly if sometimes a bit brash and almost always reserved, at least initially, especially women. I do hope you will get a chance to visit Morocco again and maybe see some of the places we went to and of course we would be happy to find you took our travels as an inspiration!
Thank you Anne! Sorry for the late reply it’s been a bit crazy lately, hope you are well?
This looks and sounds like an incredible adventure.
It truly was! Have you been to Morocco?
Unfortunately not… There are so many places on my list though.
I didn’t love Marrakech as it was so touristy. This seems like such a different side to Morocco.
We totally can see why you didn’t enjoy Marrakesh. When we first visited the city 13 years ago it was still a charming town without too many tourist crowds and groups. Our tip get away from the main sightseeing spots an insight into real Morocco.
Great read, nice to hear about places other than the usual such as Marrakech. Very much a country I’m hoping to visit soon 🙂
Thank you! There is so much more to Morocco than Marrakesh, although we do recommend a stay there to see some of the amazing sights. You should definitely plan a trip to this beautiful country and try to discover some of the lesser explored areas. We could spend many more holidays there to see some of the other places we missed out on so far…