Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour – 4 Days Overview
Our Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour started in the ancient town of Marrakech. We recommend you deserve a couple of days in Marrakech with plenty of free time. It is a beautiful city.
The trip outlined in this post is spread over four days. You can also do the same trip in 3 days, or even 2 days, if you cut out some of the smaller stops.
Additionally, this trip can be done in reverse, making it a Fes to Marrakech Desert Tour. It would cover the same exact stops and same amount of time.
Day 1 – High Atlas Mountains | Ait Ben Haddou | Kasbah Ouarzazate
Your first day of your Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour takes you partway to the dunes of Erch Chebbi. You will stop at an ancient Kasbah (fortified city) and the village of Ouarzazate.
High Atlas Mountains
The drive from Marrakech to Ourzazate takes you over the often snow-covered High Atlas Mountains. It takes about 3.5 hours with no stops. We preferred to explore along the way, so the drive took quite a bit longer.
As you leave Marrakech you begin winding through beautiful foothills full of farms. The road winds past picturesque old Kasbahs and villages. The elevation peaks out at about 2,300 meters above sea level in the Tizi n’Tichka pass, which is high enough to have plenty of snow in the winter.
Argun Oil Cooperative
About two hours after leaving Marrakech we stopped at a small shop in Tamguinguante, called Argan Tichka, that specializes in Argan Oil products. This stop is left off of most commercial 4-day tours.
Everyone has seen Argan Oil mentioned in beauty products, most notably Moroccanoil, which is sold throughout the US.
What most people do not realize is that this oil is produced from the kernal of a tree that is endemic to southwestern Morocco. It is a traditional Moroccan product and it makes a great souvenir or gift.
The best part about our stop was that there were local women demonstrating the oil extraction process. They soon had out kids sitting next to them turning the traditional stone grinders and magically turning nuts into oil!
Aït Benhaddou Kasbah
Our first real stop was the Aït Benhaddou, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was featured in may movies including Game of Thrones! It is an old city build of earthen buildings tucked into a hillside.
Historically it was an important stopping point for caravans before they attempted to cross the Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka pass. We had a wonderful Tagine lunch at a restaurant by the entrance and then had a short break to wander its ancient streets.
Ait Benhaddou hosts both Muslim and Jewish cemeteries, various shops, and a fortification at the top.
Atlas Film Studios
Atlas Studio is often called the Hollywood of Africa. It is home to film sets for many famous films, inlcuing Prince of Persia, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Alexander the Great, and Sahara with Penélope Cruz.
You can take a private tour around to view the movie sets.
Ouarzazate – The Door To the Desert
We finally arrived at our destination, Ouarzazate City, The Door to the Desert, in late afternoon. The town is primarily inhabited by the local Berber people and is the last stop before 9.2 million square kilometers of desert.
We made a quick stop at the Taourirt Kasbah for some pictures and then arrived at our hotel, Les Jardins de Ouarzazate. I’ll be honest, the hotel is a bit dated. We were only staying for one night and are not very picky when it comes to accommodations. If you do happen to prefer higher-end establishments, it might be worth looking around.
Some trips will continue on to Zagora Desert or or Boumalne Dades on Day 1. We skipped Zagora as Erg Chebbi is far better, and stayed in Ouarzazate to limit the length of our drive. We made the right decision.
Day 2 – Rose Valley | Togra Gorges | Erfoud | Merzouga Sahara
The second day of your Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour takes you from Oarzazate to the Merzouga dunes desert area, with a couple of beautiful stops along the way.
The Valley of Roses is a quick stop. As you’d expect, the area grows roses and hosts a Rose Festival in May. It is stunning to see when they are in bloom.
The town produces rose products like rose perfumes, rose water, and oil. This is a required stop if they are in bloom, optional if they are not.
Boumalne Dades – Valley of the Dates
Our first stop on the drive from Ourzazate to Merzouga was the town of Tinghir, which nestles up to the Boumalne Dades (Valley of the Dates).
The Draa river winds through the desert from Ouarzazate to the ocean. It is known for the many varieties of dates that are grown in its fertile and well irrigated soil. It is a great spot to buy some fresh dates and enjoy a nice meal.
A short drive from Valley of the Dates is Todra Gorges, sometimes called Todgha Gorge. It is a narrow river valley surrounded by sheer 500 ft limestone cliffs.
In the dry season, during which we traveled, you can walk to your hearts content. There is a small trickle of a stream flowing through, but nothing more.
During the rainy season the gorge is being carved by a torrent of water, so visiting is not always possible. For the more adventurous there are opportunities for rock climbing in the gorge with groups like Climb Morocco.
Hotel – Havel La Chance
Our trip was originally planned by Blue Men of Morocco, which owns Haven La Chance Desert Hotel in Merzouga on the edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes. It was the off season and the hotel was nearly empty (which is by far our favorite way to travel). We were put up in a nice room and had a wonderful home-cooked dinner.
Day 3 – Nomads | Khamlia | Desert Glamping
The third day of our 4-day Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour was all about the desert. Haven La Chance backs right up to the desert. All we had to do was exit our room, walk across the pool area and gardens, and exit through the back.
As far as the eye could see were beautiful rolling sand dunes. We spent a good hour or two just walking the ridges and letting the kids jump into the abyss. I think we are still finding sand in their nooks and crannies four year later…
There are many opportunities to visit a traditional Berber camp and learn about their livestile. You can exlore their handmade woven tent and dring traditional Berber tea.
Gnawa Music – Khamlia Village
The next stop was to the Village of Khamlia to listen to traditional Gnawa music. Gnawa (Gnaoua) is a genre of music that originates in the slaves that were brought to Morocco from the Sub-Saharan Africa countries of Niger, Mali, and Sudan.
The music is a mixture of pecussian, stringed instruments, and krakebs, which originally the banging of the chains and shackles world by the slaves. This was a unique and intimate cultural experience that I would recommend adding to every itinerary, especially if you are bringing young kids.
It is a fun and engaging way to experience a unique culture and there opportunities to sing, dance, and play the krakebs.
Our next stop was what we had all been waiting for, glamping in the desert! A 4×4 driver from Sahara Stars Desert Camp picked us up from our hotel and took us to our camels.
The camel ride takes about an hour and a half and offered beautiful views of the desert sunset.
Sahara Stars Desert Camp is a glamping experience in the desert. Each guest has a private tent with a shower and there are common areas with food and music.
One thing I cannot forget to mention are the stars. I have never seen the milky way as clear as I did that night. That image of the starry sky will be pressed into my mind for eternity.
Day 4 – Erfoud | Ziz Valley | Cedar Forest | Ifrane | Fes
Day four of your Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour takeys you from Merzouga to Fez.
The drive takes about 7 hours and is the longest day of driving on the trip. There are a number of great stops along the way that help to break up the drive. Along the drive you will pass many berber villages.
This part of Morocco is known for unique fossels and there are a number old mines where you can look for them. We chose to stop at the Fossiles d’Erfoud, which is a store and factory where fossils are sold and turned into other goods.
You can also stop in Rissani, the ancient capital of Talifalet. It is a major trading hub with a large souk that is lively on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Sundays. We did not pass through on those days so decided to pass.
Ziz River Valley
Our next stop was Ziz Valley, which provides breathtaking views. The Ziz River originates in the High Atlas Mountains and flows 175 miles in to the Sahara Desert in Algeria.
While not techncially a stop, Dades Gorges is an amazing mountain pass that leads from the Merzouga Desert to the Atlas Mountains. Get ready for a lot of switchbacks!
Cèdre Gouraud Forest and the Barbary Macaques
Cèdre Gouraud is a cedar forest on the outskirts of Ifrane and is sometimes called the Cedar Forest of Azrou. It is home to a quite tame population of Barbary Macaques.
You can walk up close to these barbary apes. Our kids thought it was hilarious, and a bit scary.
Ifrane – The Moroccan Switzerland
Ifrane is known as the Switzerland of Morocco. After five days of deserts and famous Kasbah, the cool temperatures and alpine-style houses were a treat.
The town has a nice downtown area with plenty of restaurants and a nice park. There is a ski resort nearby.
The last stop on your Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour is your hotel in Fes. You will likely arrive quite late and will not have any daylight to explore, so be sure to include an extra layover day or two in Fes. It is a wonderful city.
And remember, this tour can be shortened to 2 or 3 days and can be reversed into a Fes to Marrakech Desert Tour!
Fes to Morrocco Desert Tour FAQs
What is the best way to get form Marrakech to Fes, Morocco?
The best way to get form Marrakech to Fes is to drive. It is the fastest and most reliable method. You can either rent a car or hire a driver. The drive takes 5 hrs and 51 minutes and drivers are relatively inexpensive.
The second best option is to take the train. The train takes 6 hrs 30 minutes.
The final option is to fly. There are no direct flights. The only option is to take a Royal Air Maroc flight with a stop in Casablanca. The total flight time ranges from 11 hrs to 18 hrs with the layover in Casablanca.