Overview for Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert Trek
Our Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert Trek walking and discovery holiday in Morocco combines the challenge of summitting Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak (4,167 m), with some light trekking in the High Atlas Mountains and camel riding in the Sahara Desert (the dunes of Erg Chebbi). This is a privately guided holiday, you will not be part of a group and your party will be accompanied by a personal guide, a cook and a muleteer.
Itinerary for Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert TrekGo to top of page
Day 1: Marrakech – Imlil (1,740m) to Mt Toubkal Base Camp (3,207m)
Morning private transfer from Marrakech to the village of Imlil (90 km / 2 hours). There you will leave the vehicle and, in the company of your mountain guide, begin your trek, heading along the Mizane Valley, first towards the village of Aremd and then onto the shrine of Sidi Chamarouch.
Built on a moraine spur overlooking the valley floor, Aremd is the largest village in the valley and provides an exciting mix of traditional terraced farming and streets that seem to be permanently gridlocked by goats and cattle. Continuing east and crossing the floodplain your route takes you along mule tracks and up into the high rocky cliffs above the valley.
Crossing the river you eventually come to the pastoral shrine of Sidi Chamarouch, which attracts tourists and pilgrims alike (although only Muslims are allowed to cross the stone bridge to visit the shrine itself). From here the trail continues to ascend steadily, snaking and zigzagging its way up to the snowline and the Mouflons Toubkal Refuge (3,207m), your stop for the night.
Accommodation: Refuge LeMouflons
Meals: packed lunch and dinner; tea and coffee
Walking distance: 6-7 hours
Day 2: Base Camp (3,207m) to Mount Toubkal (4,167m)
Early in the morning, you will make your attempt on the summit of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in Northern Africa. The route takes you up the south cirque, crossing the stream above the refuge and then heading across one of the numerous scree fields, where you will have to negotiate a seemingly endless carpet of boulders and rocks. The walking is relatively straightforward, but the scree and the altitude will make it difficult, however, the views along the way make the walk more than worthwhile.
Cresting the ridgeline, you will reach the plateau, from where it is a short walk to the summit and the vistas are quite breathtaking. From the peak there are unrestricted views in every direction, from the Marrakesh Plain to the High Atlas in the north and as far south as the Anti-Atlas and the Sahara.
Retracing your steps you then return down the mountain and head back towards Imlil, where you will spend the night.
Day 3: Imlil – Dades Valley
You will be picked up from your accommodation in Imlil at 9.00 am and head through the Atlas Mountains, driving over the stunning Tizi-n-Tichka mountain pass. You’ll pass through lots of Berber villages, and once you’re in the desert, you’ll see riverside oases and barren hillsides dotted with kasbahs (fortified dwellings that house families and their livestock).
Along the way, you will have the option to take a break and visit the Ouarzazate Film Studios. Measured by acreage, it is the world’s largest film studio. Many sets from the filming of various movies and TV series including Gladiator and Game of Thrones remain in place and, because of this, the studio also operates with guided tours and has become a popular tourist destination.
A side trip is also possible to Ait Benhaddou. This is an ancient fortified city containing countless kasbahs and has been filmed in numerous Hollywood movies (The Mummy, Gladiator, Alexander, Lawrence of Arabia). You will have the chance to walk around the buildings and explore with your guide. Once you reach Dades Gorge, you have the option of going for a short hike, or relaxing at your hotel. Overnight in Dades.
Accommodation: Hotel in Dades (Babylon or similar)
Walking distance: 2 – 4 hours; driving time: 6 hours
Day 4: Dades Valley – Todra Gorge – Merzouga
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer from the Dades Valley to Todra Gorge – a massive fault dividing the High Atlas mountains, rising up 300 metres in a narrow valley with palmeries and Berber villages. Here, you can go for a hike to explore the palmery, a green oasis full of large date palms.
After lunch, you’ll head further into the desert to the desert gateway town of Merzouga to pick up supplies for your desert trip. You will then drive on to a kasbah to pick up your camel.
At sunset, you’ll trek for about 1.5 hours by camel to a Berber camp where you will enjoy a traditional Moroccan dinner, and sleep under the stars or in tents at a desert camp.
Accommodation: tent camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi
Meals: half board (breakfast and dinner)
Walking distance: 1.5-2 hours (camel ride)
Day 5: Merzouga – Marrakech
Wake up early and enjoy a camel ride at sunrise to explore the area further. After the camel ride (1.5 hours) we will head back to Merzouga on our camels. When we reach Merzouga, you will have breakfast and the opportunity to have a shower and then we begin our journey through the stony desert and over the Atlas mountains, with plenty of stops for photos, exploring and lunch as we return to Marrakech. The usual arrival time in Marrakech is between 5 and 6 pm.
Vibrant Marrakech is a fascinating city, home to numerous mosques, palaces and gardens. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city dating to the Berber Empire, with mazelike alleys where thriving souks (marketplaces) sell traditional textiles, pottery and jewellery. A symbol of the city, and visible for miles, is the Moorish minaret of 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque.
Accommodation: no overnights included (you can book an optional extra night in Marrakech)
Walking distance: 3-4 hours (camel riding)
Hotels for Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert TrekGo to top of page
Accommodation is in a tent camp in the desert, a hand-picked hotel in Dadas Valley, a riad in Imlil, a mountain refuge at Mt Toubkal base camp. The Toubkal refuge Les Mouflons is located at 3,207 meters height. Its 600 m² area allows it to offer single and family rooms with separate showers, as well as seven dormitories. We will try to accommodate you there in a private room with en-suite facilities, but this depends on availability and cannot be guaranteed.
All breakfasts are included, as well as all lunches and dinners in the mountains (picnic lunches are included when out on walks) and dinners only in the desert. During your mountain walks, you will be accompanied by a local guide, a cook and a muleteer.
*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide to you exact accommodation details upon booking confirmation.
Travel for Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert TrekGo to top of page
Marrakech Menara Airport is served by numerous airlines from the UK, European and international destinations.
Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
Transfers to/from Airport
Private transfer from the airport to Marackech on Day 1 and from the hotel to the airport on last day are not included in our arrangements, but can be organised at an extra charge. This is because most of our clients usually take a few days in Marrackech before and/or after the holiday – either booked through us or independently.
During the tour, your luggage is transferred to your following night’s accommodation either by car or by a mule or a camel.
Morocco is considered safe. For up to date travel advice and country info, please check here.
Trip Info for Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert TrekGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous
This trip requires an excellent physical condition and some trekking experience. No mountaineering or climbing experience required. There are some longer (strenuous) walks on Days 1 and 2, especially the climb to Mt Toubkal, which is non-technical but demanding.
The terrain varies, and the trails are often exposed to the sun. In the mountains, the route follows ancient Berber tracks, which can be high, steep, narrow, uneven and rough underfoot (read more about difficulty grades). Part of the walks are above the snow line. We will provide crampons if needed, which might be the case if doing the trip in winter months.
Due to the lack of signposted trails, you will be supported by a local qualified mountain guide. This is a very remote area. You should be a regular walker and have a good level of walking fitness to get the most from this walk.
When to Go
This trip is available to start on any date between 6th of January and 20th of December. July is the hottest month in the Atlas Mountains with an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) and the coldest is January at 13°C (55°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 11 in July. Some walks are above the snow line year-round.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired starting date when booking.
Please note that during the festival times of Ramadan and Eid Al Adha many restaurants and shops will be closed and this may affect your trip experience. The dates for Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr change on a yearly basis.
In 2018, Ramadan is from 15th of May until the 14th of June. End of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr 2018 will begin on the evening of Thursday, June 14th and ends on the night of Friday, June 15th. Eid Al Adha (Festival of Sacrifice of Sheep) is from the 21st until the 25th of August.
In 2019, Ramadan is from 5th of May until the 4th of June. End of Ramadan Eid al-Fitr 2019 will begin on the evening of June 4th and ends on the night of June 5th. Eid Al Adha is from the 11th until the 15th of August.
What to Bring
Having the correct personal equipment will make your walking holiday more enjoyable and comfortable. We hope that you find the following suggestions useful when considering what to take on your trip. They are based on personal experiences, and we are confident that you may find other solutions working equally well.
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited (and please note that on some days your luggage is carried by a mule!). Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing not more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.).
Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.
- Good hiking boots (not shoes!), which can fit crampons (obligatory if you are doing the trip between December and March!
- Hiking socks
- Thermal socks and thermal base layer
- Sleeping bag (night temperatures can drop significantly!)
- Several t-shirts (cotton or preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat/Baseball cap and winter (woollen) beenie if going in December-March
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
- Water bottle or (recommended) hydration pack (camelback)
Note: if doing the trip in winter months, you may need crampons and a snow axe; these will be provided by our guide locally.
Included for Mount Toubkal and Sahara Desert TrekGo to top of page
- 1night in a comfortable 3-star grade hotel
- 1 nights in a basic riad in the mountains
- 1 night in a mountain refuge (lodge)
- 1 night in a desert tent camp
- 4 breakfasts
- 2 dinners
- 2 packed lunches
- Bag transfers of one bag of up to 20 kg per person between accommodations
- Services of a qualified mountain guide, a muleteer and a cook as appropriate in the mountains
- Detailed holiday information pack
- 24/7 emergency assistance by our local office in Morocco
Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements
- Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable. Please note that in mountain refuges single room accommodation cannot be guaranteed.
- This holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared, a supplement is payable on the standard trip cost
- Flights and airport transfers
- Lunches and dinners not listed in itinerary
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses such as drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not explicitly mentioned in the program.
(please choose when booking)
- One or two extra nights in Marrakech before or after the holiday (standard accommodation)
- One or two extra nights in Marrakech before or after the holiday (luxury accommodation)
(You can also book one of our guided day tour extensions – listed below – for these extra days, or just relax and stroll the streets of Marrakech.)
- Ourika Valley full day guided tour after the holiday
Ourika Valley, due to its many waterfalls and several attractions, is a very popular Ourika day trip from Marrakech. This valley is the sole location within the High Atlas Range where the endangered primate Barbary macaque, Macaca sylvanus is known to occur; this primate is found in the Middle Atlas and a few disjunctive populations in Algeria and Gibraltar. The region is inhabited by Berber people who practice a traditional way of life. You can picnic in the oasis or hike up to the famous seven waterfalls. It is an easy hike, accompanied by an official guide, and it can take between 1 and 3 hours.
Note: Overnight accommodation not included, please choose an extra night in Marrakech extension when booking.
- Fishing port of Essaouira full day guided tour after the holiday
- Visit the fishing port of Essaouira and watch the local fishermen returning inland with their catch
- See Skala Kasbah, which was a citadel in the times of war
- Visit some of the beautiful Essaouira art galleries scattered in the Medina
- Stroll in the Medina of Essaouira, which can be explored easily as the streets are aligned opposite to every other Medina streets in Morocco, which look like a maze.
- Shop at leisure for some local souvenirs
- Have a seafood lunch in the harbour stalls or at a local café terrace
- Walk down the beach and watch local boys playing football
- Sunbathe at the 6 km long sandy beach
Note: Overnight accommodation not included, please choose an “Extra night in Marrakech” extension when booking the guided tours.