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 coastal town of Agadir and from here begin out journey south, heading first to the former Spanish enclave of Sidi Ifni and the magical landscapes of the Draa Valley, encountering huge dunes and semi-nomadic people living in the desert.

Travelling south through endless horizons and stopping at small desert settlements along the way, the romance of the Sahara is ever closer. Our journey takes us to the remote town of Smara, once a centre of resistance against colonial occupation and fading gracefully into the sands.

We explore the disputed territory of the Western Sahara, a land of Saharawi nomads, rolling dunes and camel trains, exploring 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 before rejoining the coastal road south and heading 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

  • Remote deserts of the Western Sahara
  • The coastal town of Sidi Ifni
  • Exciting driving through sand dunes
  • Meet Reguibat nomads and their camels

Day 1 - Agadir

Arrive in Agadir and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight tourist class hotel.


Day 2 - Sidi Ifni

This morning visit the local souk, one of the largest in Morocco, before heading south to the quirky town of Sidi Ifni, along the Atlantic coast. On arrival explore the town with its Hispano-Moorish architecture. Overnight Hotel Safa or similar. (BLD)

Sidi Ifni is one of Morocco’s more unusual towns, and was Spanish territory until 1969. It was only relinquished when the Moroccan government closed the border, meaning that its inhabitants were unable to resupply themselves. The town has a strong Art Deco feel, with numerous buildings in the centre including an impressive lighthouse and unusually, an Art Deco mosque. Most unusual is the formal naval building – built in the shape of a ship but now housing a hotel.

Days 3-4 - 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 5 - Naila Lagoon

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. We take a local fishing boat out on the water, and camp on its shore line. Overnight camping. (BLD) Overnight Hotel Casamar or similar. (BLD)


Day 6 - Smara

Drive to the remote desert town of Smara, once an important stop on the Saharan caravan trade between Morocco and Mauritania. Visit the old sheikh’s palace and Spanish quarter, and in the evening we join the local Saharawi people as guests at a traditional feast. Overnight Hotel Sahariano or similar. (BLD)

Smara
Smara was founded in the late 19th century by a Mauritanian sheikh, rising in importance due to its strategic location on trade routes. In 1908 the sheikh declared the city a holy site and called for jihad against French and Spanish occupiers, with rebellions running on and off for several years, sometimes being quashed by the French camel battalions. During the Spanish occupation of the region it was never fully under European control, and Sheik Maa el Ainin – the ‘blue sultan’ – built up a powerful network of alliances in the region amongst Saharawi rebel tribes. In recent times Smara continued its tradition of political dissent, as it was here that the rebel front Polisario was formed in 1973, to oppose Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara.

Days 7-10 - 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 three nights under the stars, then on Day 10 reach Dakhla and stay overnight in a tourist class hotel. (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 11 - 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 12 - 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 -
11 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
09 December 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
26 December 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
03 February 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
03 March 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
21 April 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
10 November 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,799
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
26 December 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,799
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
Available