Desert and gorges

With their arid mountains and gentle oases, a volcanic massif and some splendid canyons, the great valleys south of the High Atlas have some of the finest scenery in Morocco. Whether heading south from Fès, via the crumbling ksar at Rissani, or east from Marrakech, many people's aim is Erg Chebbi, the cinematic sand dunes near Merzouga. Here you can sleep in nomad tents and ride out on camels into the sunset. To the west, the spectacular, winding valleys of Dadès and Todra become narrow gorges before they rise into the High Atlas, their red rocks glowing in the southern sun, and there are alternative tastes of desert life to be had from Zagora and the Draâ Valley.

Almost all travellers will pass through Ouarzazate, where the Tizi-n-Tichka route over the mountains from Marrakech meets the main east-west Er Rachidia to Agadir axis running parallel to the south side of the High Atlas. Ouarzazate is the centre of Morocco's film industry, the desert surroundings standing in as various parts of this and other planets. Nearby, Aït Ben Haddou is the biggest film star of all, a stunning sand castle of a kasbah.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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