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The Great Oasis Valleys Travel Guide

Plan Your Great Oasis Valleys Vacation

Morocco without the Sahara is like Switzerland without the Alps, and a desert sojourn is fundamental to an understanding of the country. After you've seen the Atlas Mountains, followed by palmeries and kasbahs, a trip down to the desert may seem a long way to go to reach nothing, and some Moroccans and travelers will warn you against it. Don't listen to them.

The void you encounter in

the Sahara will remind you why prophets and sages sought the desert to purge and purify themselves. Unless you have oodles of time, though, you'll have to choose between the dunes of Erg Chebbi at Merzouga and Erg Chigaga beyond M'Hamid, which are separated by 450 km (279 miles) of hard driving.

Of course, a vacation in the valleys isn’t just about sublime Saharan sand. The asphalt might end and the desert begin at Merzouga and M'Hamid, but in between are the oases flanked by the Todra and Dadès gorges—sister grand canyons separating the High Atlas from the Djebel Sarhro Massif. Both of these dramatic gorges appeal to hikers, and the Todra is a hot spot for climbers as well.

Permeating it all is a palpable sense of history. Once, the caravan routes from the Sudan, Timbuktu, and Niger to Marrakesh and Fez passed through Morocco's Great Oasis Valleys, and these played a crucial role in the region's past. From the Drâa Valley came the Saadian royal dynasty that ruled from the mid-12th to mid-17th century, and from the Ziz Valley and the Tafilalt oasis rose the Alaouite dynasty, which relieved the Saadians in 1669 and which still rules (in the person of King Mohammed VI) in 21st-century Morocco.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Desert dreams Live out those Lawrence of Arabia fantasies by sleeping on dunes under the stars.
  2. Dadès Gorge Follow mountain trails through some of Morocco's most beautiful scenery.
  3. Kasbah trail Marvel at and stay in ancient strongholds that dot the landscape.
  4. Morocco's Hollywood Spot celebs in Ouarzazate, home to visiting film crews.
  5. Flower power Visit the Valley of Roses in spring to see endless specimens in the wild.

When To Go

When to Go

You’ll pay lower off-season rates and encounter fewer convoys of tourists if you travel the oasis routes in early December or mid-January through...

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Travel Tips

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