Getting Oriented

The Great Oasis Valleys cover a huge area, in a sort of lopsided horseshoe from Ouarzazate (the largest town in the northwest corner), east past the magnificent Dadès and Todra gorges on the northern road, south to the dunes at Merzouga, and looping back west on the southern road through the Drâa Valley to Zagora, M'hamid, and the great expanse of desert that reaches all the way across Erg Chigaga to Foum Zguid. To miss any of these roads would be to miss some of Morocco's most characteristic immensity—wide-open spaces and tundra-like desolation.

  • Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate (pronounced wah-zaz-zatt) is a natural crossroads for exploring southern Morocco. The town has a wide range of accommodations as well as a few sights that can fill up a day. Most important, Ouarzazate has excellent road connections, putting the entire region within reach.
  • The Dadès and Todra Gorges. These sister canyons, located within about two hours' drive from each other northeast of Ouarzazate, have been carved into the rocks over millennia by the snowmelt waters of the High Atlas. Trekking and mountain biking are favorite activities for tourists.
  • To Merzouga and the Dunes. If you opt to visit the south of Morocco, then it’s almost criminal not to at least spend a night in the Sahara. The village of Merzouga is readily accessible by road, and the dunes of Erg Chebbi can be reached on foot or by camel.
  • The Drâa Valley. This fertile valley—extending along the shores of Morocco’s longest river from Agdz, through Zagora as far as M’hamid—offers one of the most colorful and diverse landscapes in the kingdom. For those heading into the dunes at Erg Chigaga, Zagora is your last contact with modern services such as banks, pharmacies, and gas stations.

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