For those looking for escapism within easy reach the Sahara Desert can be reached relatively easily from Marrakech and Fez. Many head to Ouarzazate in the deep south of Morocco, just 4-5 hours drive from Marrakech before continuing their onward journey in search of the sand and the land that time forgot. Ouarzazate itself is a modest town with the main attraction being the fairly impressive film studios, worth a stop for a visit if you have time.
Although there are various means of getting to the desert including flights with Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca, private charter flights and indeed helicopter, we recommend having a car and driver at least one way as the drive is spectacular and the Tizi-n-Tichka pass being reputedly one of the most scenic drives in the world.
En-route there are many things to see including Ait Benhaddou – a World Heritage Site. This is an ancient village (known locally as a Ksar) with traditional earthen buildings with high defensive walls and a distinctive colour making this a great stop for a picnic and a photo opportunity too.
After Ouarzazate one can take several different routes to lodges located on the edge of the desert where the adventure begins. One of our favourites is Dar Ahlam, an incredibly peaceful retreat near the town of Skoura. This Relais and Chateaux property is renowned for its cuisine (well it is French -owned) and another French-owned property which is also beautiful and more rustic is Les Jardins de Skoura.
Since the onward journey to the desert is around four hours by 4WD vehicle one spends at least one night at a chosen lodge or hotel before venturing out to a private camp set up just for you.
A similar experience is available further north where you will access the desert via a small town called Midelt. Here you can go off in to the desert by camel where a private camp awaits you.
Another good option is Zagora and the Azalai Desert Lodge - again a remote and delightful place to stay where you can choose to stay with other guests in the desert camp.
The camps are set up both privately and with others – depending on the location and request - and offer Berber tents, comfortable mattresses, bed linen and shower and toilet facilities in camp. It is truly something else to enjoy the incredible silence and stillness that falls upon the desert at night.
A night spent in front of a camp fire in the Sahara will be an unforgettable experience. Whichever option you choose will leave you with memories of a night where you feel like the only people in the world - a truly incredible experience.
Aside from the Sahara Desert itself, which is the main attraction of course, there are the dramatic valleys to explore in the deep south including the Dades Gorge, Todra Gorge and the Draa Valley and the Skoura Valley. One can explore this area by vehicle, quad bike, horseback or on foot and we or your lodge will provide a guide or driver at your request and a picnic to enjoy wherever you choose. The scenery is spectacular and there are waterfalls and Kasbahs to see. This really is hidden Morocco, away from the swathes of tourists in Marrakech.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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