Just the sky above us – Dromedary Trekking in the Saharan Desert

Highlights

  • explore Marrakesh
  • travel across the Atlas Mountains and the palm tree oasis of the Draa Valley
  • go Dromedary Trekking in the Saharan Desert (4-6 hours per day)
  • cross the Chegaga Desert with Beduins and dromedaries
  • experience Saharan sunsets from one of the tallest sand dunes

“To desert” … the dictionary explains that it means “to abandon, to let down”. However, the desert in Morocco will by no means let us down. It is a place that is hard to describe – wide-open spaces, calming silence, never heard before sounds, surreal beauty. This desert will charm you with its fantastic light and warmth, with its plentiful colors and shapes. The Saharan Desert is the largest dry desert on our planet, covering almost all of the Northern part of the African continent. There is no “maybe” here – only yes or no. Here you can be a wholesome human being. Saying yes to this desert experience will hook you forever and you will be drawn back to this magical place again and again.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1: Air travel to Marrakesh and Arrival

You will arrive in Marrakesh according to your individual travel arrangements or by flight from Germany. If you have booked air travel with us, our German-speaking Moroccan guide will pick you up at the airport and will take you to the city center by bus. Accommodation will be provided in a Riad in the old part of Marrakesh.

A Riad is a traditional Moroccan mansion with a very individualistic character. As soon as you leave the Riad and venture into the streets, you will find yourself in the middle of bustling life in the pink city of Marrakesh.
In the evening there will be a shared meal of all participants to get to know each other.
accommodation: Riad – included meal: dinner

Day 2: Trip into the Desert

This is going to be a long and eventful day – from Marrakesh past Quarzazate to M`hamid Oasis.

Our journey will lead us into the Atlas Mountains. We will travel across the Tichka Pass (2260 m) and we will marvel at the sand-colored villages with their clay houses. On the way we will stop for lunch in Agdez and will stock up on water for the week in the Saharan Desert. This will be our last chance to shop for our personal needs. What we don’t get there, we won’t have for the coming days. It is time to think carefully about any tiny and seemingly unimportant item that we would miss in the desert. Later we will continue our journey through the fertile valley of Draa to Zagora. Our journey will follow the ancient caravan route that once linked Timbuktu and Fes. In the evening we will arrive at M´Hamid, the southern desert oasis of the Draa Valley, a place which is also known as “the great gate to the sand desert”. Not far from the village we will meet our Beduin companions and their dromedaries and start our desert trekking adventure.
We will acquaint ourselves with our team and the dromedaries. We will ride or hike for about one hour to reach a sand dune at the exit of a palm oasis. There we will put up our first desert camp. With expert help and detailed instructions we will learn how to erect our tents in a team effort.

  • Walking: about 1 hour / Travel Distance: 450 km / accommodation: tent / meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Rass N’dhkal Oasis in M´Hamid to the Sidi Naji Dunes (our first desert adventure)

After breakfast we will meet our team and stow our bags. There will be a short introduction into camel riding, especially how to get on and off the animal. Riding experience is not a prerequisite – our “chameliers”, our Beduin companions, will always be willing to help us. One “chamelier” will look after and lead 2-4 animals. The dromedaries are mostly personally owned by the “chamelier” and therefore treated with great care and respect.
Once the animals are ready, we will venture out into the desert in southern direction. There will be a lunch break in a shady place and later we will arrive at our destination next to some small dunes and will set up camp together.

  • travel time: about 6 hours / accommodation: tent / meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Sidi Naji to Erg Ezzhar (the sand dunes are growing)

Slowly we are getting a grasp of how vast the desert is and how tall the sand dunes can become. On our way to today’s destination, we will pass sandy paths, stony plateaus and areas with small dunes. At a beautiful Erg (which is a large area with sand dunes) we will suddenly be surrounded only by sand in warm colors and harmonious shapes.
It is very rewarding to climb one of the sand dunes to watch the sunset and enjoy the fantastic mood of colors and lights. The Beduins call it the “Dunes of Happiness”. Here the view is truly overwhelming and our eyes wander across the endless sea of dunes. A great place to camp. Depending on the temperature it is a good idea to sleep outside, with only the sky and the stars above us.

  • travel time: about 4 ½ hours / accommodation: tent / meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Erg Ezzhar – Erg Essmar (camel trekking from Erg to Ert)

Light Trekking on an easy path through the golden dunes will lead us through the dried riverbed of “Wadi Dräa” river. This is the longest river in Morocco with its 1.100 km, but during normal years it doesn’t carry any water from Zagora onwards.

With a bit of luck we will find a well to water our dromedaries. This will be the first and last watering place for a long time and will give us the chance for a little refreshment, too.
In the afternoon we will reach an entirely flat, mostly dried out clay plateau where tamarisks can be found. We will collect firewood for the evening. Later we will relax and sit around our warming campfire, bake bread in the sand and let our cook indulge us with a tasty Moroccan dinner.

  • travel time: about 4 ½ hours / accommodation: tent / meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Erg Smar – Erg Chegaga (camel trekking to the tallest sand dunes of Erg Chegaga)

At the calm but constant pace of our caravan we will trek to the extended field of dunes at Erg Chegaga. Our journey will lead us through sand deserts, but also clay plateaus and stony deserts. Before we reach our destination, we will cross a plain that is sometimes full of grazing camels given there are some greens. Right at the banks of River Erg we will spend our last night in the desert, and you can climb the dunes to experience your last spectacular sunset in the desert.

  • travel time: 5 hours / accommodation: tent / meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Erg Chegaga – Ait Ben Haddou (Trip past Foum Zguid to Ait Ben Haddou Village)

Today we will say goodbye to our Beduin trekking hosts and our dromedaries. Early in the morning our off-road vehicles will arrive and take us across the dry dip of Lake Iriki. After days in the desert we will reach Zguid, a small town. From here we will continue our journey on tarmac roads through an oasis valley and across a couple of mountain passes. We will stop for lunch at a simple restaurant in the town of Taznakht, which is very famous for its artistic Berber carpets and weaving products.

In the evening we will reach the fortress village of Ait Benhaddou for some sight-seeing. UNESCO was spot-on to label it a “World Heritage Site” and it is a well-known sight from movies like “Lawrence of Arabia” and series like “Game of Thrones”.
After a refreshing first shower after days in the desert, we will meet for a last meal together.

  • driving time: 5 ½ hours / accommodation: hotel / meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Driving to Marrakesh

At daybreak we will start on our last stage back to Marrakesh. There will be plenty of time for you to explore the city on your own or to go on a guided tour that you can book locally. Immerse yourself in this bustling city – the perfect opposite to the desert. Alternatively, you can choose to spend the last few hours in peace and quiet in your Riad.

  • driving time: 4 hours / accommodation: Riad / meal: breakfast

Day 9: Departure

Today it’s time to say goodbye to a country full of life and contrast. If you have booked the travel package that includes the flights, we will take you to Marrakesh airport for your flight after breakfast. Alternatively, your trip will end after breakfast with your individually arranged departure from the hotel.

  • meal: breakfast

Important notice: Due to unforeseen circumstances and local events, this itinerary may have to be changed on short notice

General information: The Saharan Desert consists solely of sand and stone – therefore water is a very scarce commodity and the most precious element. It can only be found deep underground and people have to drill wells to get to it. Sometimes these wells are surrounded by an oasis. We hope to find such a well, which – however – does not hold any potable water for us. It is meant to provide water for our animals. We would like to advise you to be responsible and economical in your use of water in any form during our trekking tour.

On our tour we will be accompanied by a cook and Beduin dromedary guides. Our wellbeing is their foremost responsibility. They will welcome any help we give them. In the evening we will put up our tents (for 2 people each) every night and will stow them away in the mornings. Of course our team of guides will help us with the tents, just as much as we will help them with packing the animals. Active contribution by all members is an integral part of our tour concept.

Climate: We offer our desert tours from November to March. During the day temperatures rise gradually to 20-25 degrees Celsius. It is advisable to dress in layers. During the night temperatures can fall significantly, sometimes even to freezing conditions. It is essential to pack warm clothes for the night.

(B/L/D) = included meals breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Minimum number of people per tour: 4 persons

Price not including flight:

EUR 899,- per person

Surcharge for single occupancy of hotel room and tent: EUR 150,-
Surcharge for exclusive tour starting from 2 persons: EUR 200,- per person
Can be booked as a “half-double”. Sharing a room/tent with another member of the group is possible (only single-sex). If there is no suitable roommate in the group, a surcharge for single occupancy is mandatory.

This tour can also be booked from Quarzazate to Marrakesh only. Please inquire for rates.

Two persons will share one dromedary. surcharge for single occupancy of a dromedary EUR 80,-

Included in the price:

all hotel accommodation as stated in the program, all meals as stated, tents, sleeping mats and camping gear, drinking water during the trek, (airport transfers if booked package includes air travel)

Not included in the price:

sleeping bag, drinks (except water during the trek), airport transfers in Marrakesh, tips (approximately EUR 100,- per adult)

Optional (please book locally): private guided walking tour of Marrakesh with a licensed German-speaking guide. Duration: approx. 3 hours – EUR 90,- for 1-6 persons.

Additional stay in Marrakesh: added days before and after possible, please inquire for rates.

Level of difficulty: easy. Surefootedness, as well as an appropriate level of fitness for hiking are essential.