Morocco & Western Sahara

Discover the wild and untamed lands of southern Morocco and the Western Sahara, where nomadic traditions, picturesque kasbahs and the raw beauty of the desert combine.

We start in the exotic city of Marrakech, the endpoint of the historic Saharan camel caravans. Then we journey through the lands of the Berbers and across the mighty High Atlas Mountains, to the magical landscapes of the Draa Valley. Along the way, we encounter huge dunes and semi-nomadic people living in the desert.

From here our journey into the arid lands south begins. We travel south through endless horizons and stop at small desert towns along the way. The romance of the Sahara grows ever closer.

From Tarfaya we enter the disputed territory of the Western Sahara, a land of Saharawi nomads, rolling dunes and camel trains. We encounter a land that has almost been forgotten, where traditions are strong and the scenery awe-inspiring. Stopping at wells and to meet local people, we spend a few days exploring here. We then rejoin the coastal road heading south to Dakhla, the last outpost before West Africa.

Morocco is familiar to many, but the deep south is world apart that has changed little in centuries. Our Western Sahara holidays are a journey into the unknown.

Morocco and Western Sahara

Highlights

  • The kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou
  • Remote deserts of the Western Sahara
  • Cross the Atlas Mountains
  • Exciting driving through sand dunes
  • Meet Reguibat nomads and their camels

Day 1 - Marrakech

Arrive in Marrakech and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore Morocco’s most enigmatic city. Overnight Kenzi Farah Hotel or similar.

Marrakech

Charming, chaotic and charismatic, Marrakech has a truly unique atmosphere. Heaving with activity, Djemaa el Fna, the central square, has been a meeting point for centuries. Packed full of traders, Berber musicians, acrobats, snake charmers, wise men, acrobats and tooth pullers, the square’s hypnotic charm will soon rub off on you. There’s no better way to experience Djemaa el Fna than to sample the local specialities on offer at the night time food stalls. With lights flickering and smoke rising, watching the hive of activity from a café is the ideal way to capture the mystical atmosphere.

Marrakech has lots more to offer with souqs bursting with Moroccan crafts, the immense Koutoubia Mosque, and countless museums, palaces, gardens and cultural sites. After a hectic day, the haven of the Marjorelle Gardens, full of cacti and vivid blue buildings, or a sunset drink in the gardens of La Mamounia Hotel, is the perfect way to unwind.

Day 2 - Ait Ben Haddou

Cross the High Atlas via the stunning Tizi n Tichka pass, with superb views of the mountains along the way. Driving through the Berber heartlands we continue to the striking collection of kasbahs at Ait Ben Haddou, then drive to nearby Ouarzazate for the night. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BLD)


Day 3 - Draa Valley

Exploring this landscape of arid mountains, we meet isolated communities and some of the most traditional people in Morocco, some of whom still live in caves. Make our way towards the lush Draa Valley where we spend the night. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BLD)


Days 4-5 - Erg Chegaga – Iriqui

Enter the Sahara and drive to the dunes of Erg Chegaga, much less known than the famous Erg Chebbi but equally impressive, then continue to the dry salt lake of Iriqui. Overnight tented camps. (BLD)


Days 6-7 - Guelmime – Ksar Tafnidilt

Continue to Guelmime, the last major town of Morocco proper and a former trading centre for the Saharan camel caravans. From here we head off on rough tracks along the beach, sandwiched between the dunes. Explore the remote region surrounding the Draa estuary, with tiny settlements and abandoned military posts. Overnights at Ksar Tafnidilt, a traditional style kasbah close to Tan Tan. (BLD)


Day 8 - Tarfaya

Travel south, our route taking us between the desert and the Atlantic Ocean, passing small caves inhabited by fishermen as well as the impressive Naila lagoon, an inland sea separated from the ocean by rows of dunes. In the afternoon we arrive at the small town of Tarfaya. Overnight Hotel Casamar or similar. (BLD)


Days 9-11 - Laayoune – Western Sahara

Drive to Laayoune, the main town of Western Sahara. From here we meet our local Saharawi guide and embark on an expedition into this largely unknown area. We venture into an untamed landscape of dunes and desert, stopping at wells to meet the Reguibat nomads and their herds of camels that eke a living from this unforgiving habitat. We camp for two nights, then on Day 11 reach Dakhla and stay overnight in Buena Vista Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a political oddity, distinct from the rest of Morocco. Colonised by Spain and forming part of the Spanish Sahara territory, it was relinquished in 1975 and promptly claimed by both Morocco and Mauritania; in the end, Morocco won out, organising a mass march of Moroccans into the territory and forcing Mauritania to bow out. However, this is just part of the story; Western Sahara’s indigenous population is made up of Saharawi and Reguibat tribes who seek independence. A referendum on this was promised (but never held) and the independence movement Polisario was established in the 1970s, fighting against Moroccan forces to claim the land for themselves. The fighting is long over now, with Morocco a dominant presence in Western Sahara.

This is a largely unexplored land. Undeveloped by the Spanish there are few towns and almost all of the land consists of wild desert, traversed by nomadic tribes with their camels and livestock, following traditional lives much as their ancestors did, although inevitably modernity has crept in. Travelling here is an opportunity to get about as far off the beaten track as is possible, and tourism is almost unknown, the few visitors being those making the long journey along the coast to West Africa. We aim to explore as much as possible while here, and spend our nights camping under the stars far from any kind of ‘civilisation’.

Day 12 - Dakhla

Spend the day exploring Dakhla and surrounds, with its superb beaches and opportunities to fish in the Atlantic. Overnight in Buena Vista Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 13 - Dakhla

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Please note that we sell this trip in conjunction with our local partner and therefore you should expect people of different nationalities and a maximum group size of 16 on this tour.

Camels in southern Morocco
Kasbah in southern Morocco
Desert driving - Western Sahara holidays

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.

    Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    Accompanied by Alberto Nicheli. Alberto has a wealth of experience and understanding of this area. He has lead more than 60 Saharan expeditions, including ethnological research on the Tuareg and rock art. He has organised field researches and logistics for documentary films with Discovery Channel on the salt caravans of Niger and has coordinated photographic projects on West Africa with renowned photographers Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith from National Geographic, as well as collaborating on different television programmes. Alberto has completed solo Sahara crossings, as well as some exploratory missions. Resident in West Africa in the last 32 years, his expertise ranges from African history to tribal art.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Most travellers, including UK, US and EU citizens will not need a visa for Morocco.

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency here is the dirham. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes, but UK pounds are increasingly accepted.

You will be able to change money into dirhams on arrival in Marrakech. Your guide will be able to advise on this.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

This is particularly relevant to this trip – it travels through some remote regions, some of which are largely isolated from the outside world and have very little experience of tourism whatsoever. We will be camping for some of the time, with no real facilities, and it is essential that you bear this in mind before joining this trip.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Morocco proper, nor to the parts of Western Sahara which we visit.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Camels in southern Morocco
Kasbah in southern Morocco
Desert driving - Western Sahara holidays
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
20 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,999
Single Supplement -
£280
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
19 November 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,999
Single Supplement -
£280
Trip Status -
Available