Do you have a travel bucket list? Mine seems to get longer and longer as I discover new destinations. The Sahara Desert is one of those destinations that I’ve always wished to go to but didn’t know how to make it a reality. Morocco Holiday Packages made my bucket list trip come true with their 4 day Sahara Desert tour.
I have to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of organized tours. The thought of a tourist bus makes me cringe but Morocco Holiday Packages is different. They offer customized private tours to Morocco’s world famous sites. They work with your budget and time frame to create a unique experience. They work with boutique hotels and local businesses to give you an authentic experience unlike any other.
Before my journey to the Sahara Desert, Morocco Holiday booked my stay at the Riad Anabel, a boutique accommodation located in the medina of Marrakech. I loved my cozy and quaint room, lounging on the rooftop, and I even got to taste Habiba’s famous cabbage salad. The riad was conveniently located within a 5 minute walk to the Souk and a short distance to all the sites. They made my stay in Marrakech so wonderful and easy.
With Othman and Mohamed as our guides, Jordyn and I went on a 4 day road trip to the Sahara Desert. Like any traditional road trip, there were pit-stops, sing-a-longs, car snacks, and lots of “are we there yet?”…Just Moroccan style. This is part I of our Sahara Desert road trip.
DAY 1: MARRAKECH – HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS – DADES GORGE
We had to depart early because we had an 8 hour drive ahead of us. We departed Marrakech and drove through Tizi N’Tichka, a scenic drive through the Atlas Mountains and is the gateway to the Sahara Desert. Along the drive, we saw farms and traditional Berber Villages. Just a word of caution, the roads are very winding. We stopped at Ouarzazate to have lunch. A typical meal in Morocco consists of either tagine or couscous. Ouarzazate is the film capital of Morocco. Lawrence of Arabia, the Mummy and Game of Thrones were all filmed here. The road from Ouarzazate is also known as the route of a thousand Kasbahs. You cannot leave this area of Morocco without visiting an old Kasbah! We listened to Toto’s Africa and Rock the Kasbah on repeat while enjoying the views of the changing landscapes.
We drove through the Dades Gorge after sunset so we didn’t get to see the hotel facade. We arrived at Chez Pierre, a small luxury hotel, that was converted from an old Kasbah. We were welcomed the traditional Moroccan way, with sweet tea and a roaring fire. The whole place was warm and magical. My favorite part of staying here was the dinner which was a 4 course modern interpretation of Moroccan cuisine. The owner of the hotel, Ismael and some of his staff, played traditional Berber music for us. I went to bed excited to wake up and see the hotel and the landscape during the daylight.
Day 2: DADES GORGE – SAHARA DESERT MERZOUGA
I woke up early because I had to see the view from my room’s balcony. I was immediately awe struck by the beauty of the property. The hotel is set along the cliff of the Dades Gorge. If you didn’t know you were in Morocco, you would think you were somewhere in the Southwest of the U.S. The food alone is worth the trip to this hotel because breakfast was a beautiful array of fresh made breads, spreads, jams and eggs. It was the best breakfast I’ve had at a hotel!
After breakfast, we hit the road to do some more exploring. We made a stop at the Todra Gorge and walked through. We met a woman who is a real nomad with a baby. She told us that she walked 5 hours to the gorge to find water. This is one of my favorite aspects of travel, I love meeting the local people and learning about how they live.
On the way to the desert, Mohamed and Othman bought us traditional Berber dresses and turbans for photos. It was such a fun experience getting to pick out the color of my dress and learning how to wrap the turban around my head. With our new Berber outfits on, we were ready for the desert.
When we arrived at the desert, Omar who manages Luxury Camp Chebbi, met us and took us on a wild ride through the sand to our campsite. It felt like a roller coaster ride! We made it to the desert just in time for the sunset. I’ve never been to Mars but the desert looked like another planet. The sunset reflected a bright orange color on the sand and there was nothing to be seen for miles except for the sunset on the horizon.
I’ve been camping before but I’ve never been glamping before so I didn’t have a basis for comparison. I do know for sure that if all camping was this glamorous, everyone would love camping. Besides the fact that our tent had a queen size bed, it also had a real bathroom with shower and toilet! After a wonderful dinner, we huddled around a campfire while listening to Berber music played by the staff. They even tried to teach me how to play one of the instruments and didn’t make fun of me when I wasn’t getting it. We all slept like babies under a sky full of stars. Stay tuned for Part II and find out how this bucket list trip was affordable. I promise!