A destination for film makers, the oasis of Erfoud, with its fine hotels, restaurants and vibrant souk, is an ideal base for trips into the Sahara desert. Built by the river Ziz, the red sand buildings of Erfoud make for an impressive contrast against the surrounding desert. One of the main manifestations of Berber architecture, fort-like settlements known as ksour are widespread among the oasis populations of North Africa. With tightly packed houses and intricate paths and alleyways, ksour are surrounded by large palm groves which have sustained these communities for thousands of years. An annual date festival held in October celebrates the significance of the dates in this region.
Merzouga, a 30 minute drive from Erfoud, is a village in the Sahara Desert, on the edge of Erg Chebbi, a 50km long and 5km wide set of sand dunes which stretch up to 350m. Most people visit Merzouga to take a camel trek into the dunes and experience a taste of remote Berber life. Take an early morning excursion to watch a spectacular sunrise over the majestic Sahara sand dunes. Immersed in a sea of sand, this is an unforgettable experience, as you bear witness to the absorption of sunlight within the sand, casting ever-changing shadows and tonal ranges around you.
From Merzouga you can continue to Ouarzazate, stopping in Risssani, the holy city where Moulay Ali Cherif, ancestor of the Alaouite dynasty is buried. Visit 17th century kasbah and the Ksar Abbar ruins, and continue to Tinghir via the magnificently sculpted Todra gorges, where the towering canyons reach heights of 250 metres. Relax over lunch at a restaurant situated at the foot of the canyons.
Continue to Ouarzazate via the Valley of the Thousand Kasbahs and the Dades Valley, famous for its roses and annual Moussem (Rose Festival). Visit the Kasbah de Taourirt, the museum of arts and crafts, and carpet weavers. Driving through the High Atlas Mountains feels like you are navigating a geological treasure trove. Colourful layers of rock curve with the face of the mountain. Every stark mountain range in the High Atlas is cut by a long green ribbon of farmland and Berber villages built in the traditional way, using the earth of the region. From afar, the villages blend into the face of the mountains. Snaking road lines, remarkable rock formations, small cultivated fields, palm groves, and 17th century red mud kasbahs await you on this journey.
Continue to Marrakech via the kasbahs of Taouirt Tiffeltout and Ait Ben Haddou. Tucked away in the High Atlas Mountains, Ait Ben Haddou is the most spectacular fortress in the south of Morocco. This setting has been used for many films including, Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, and The Gladiator. Relax over lunch on a terrace facing the magnificent kasbah. Continue to Marrakech, via the Tichka Pass (2260m) which offers dramatic panoramic views in the heart of the Atlas Mountain chain. Sit back and enjoy the extraordinary vista which unfolds before your eyes at every bend.