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 (4,167m), 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.
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Day 1: Marrakech – Imlil (1,740m) to Mt Toubkal Base Camp (3,207m) | 6-7h
Morning private transfer from Marrakech to the village of Imlil (90km / 2h). 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. It 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 (dormitory; optional upgrade to a private room)
- Meals: Packed lunch and dinner; tea and coffee
- Walking distance: 6-7h
Day 2: Base Camp (3,207m) to Mount Toubkal (4,167m) | 9-11h
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 | 2-4 hrs
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 filming various movies and TV series, including Gladiator and Game of Thrones, remain in place. 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)
- Meals: Breakfast
- Walking distance: 2-4h; Driving time: 6h
Day 4: Dades Valley – Todra Gorge – Merzouga | 1.5-2h
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer from the Dades Valley to Todra Gorge – a massive fault dividing the High Atlas mountains, rising up 300m 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 one hour 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: 1.5-2h (camel ride)
Day 5: Merzouga – Marrakech | 3-4h
Wake up early and enjoy a camel ride at sunrise to explore the area further. After the camel ride (one hour), we will head back to Merzouga on our camels. When we reach Merzouga, you will have breakfast and the opportunity to have a shower. 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 (approx. 9h drive).
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 the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque.
- Accommodation: no overnights included (you can book an optional extra night in Marrakech)
- Meals: Breakfast
- Walking distance: 3-4h (camel riding)
What to expect
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 3,207m in height. Its 600m² area allows it to offer single and family rooms with separate showers, as well as seven dormitories. By default, you will be accommodated in a dormitory there; we can optionally try to accommodate you in a private room with en-suite facilities, but this depends on the availability and cannot be guaranteed.
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*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.
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.
Difficulty and terrain
This trip requires 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). Parts 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 in very good shape and have a good level of walking fitness to get the most from this walk.
When to go
This trip is available throughout the year. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
July is the hottest month in the Atlas Mountains with an average temperature of 29C and the coldest is January at 13C with the most daily sunshine hours at 11 in July. Some walks are above the snow line year-round.
Please note that during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha’s festival times, many restaurants and shops will be closed, which may affect your trip experience. Ramadan and Eid al-Adha change yearly. Ramadan 2024 is expected to begin 11 March and end 09 April (Eid al-Fitr). Eid al-Adha 2024 is expected to be from 16 June to 20 June.
Please note that there might be supplements for bookings over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
For more information on travelling to Morocco, see our blog on the Best time to go to Morocco.
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Our recommended airport for this tour is Marrakech Menara Airport (RAK).
- Private transfers from the airport to Marrakech on Day 1 and to the airport on the 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 Marrakech before and/or after the holiday – either booked through us or independently.
- 1 night in a comfortable 3-star grade hotel
- 1 night in a basic riad in the mountains
- 1 night in a mountain refuge (lodge), dormitory
- 1 night in a desert tent camp
- 4 breakfasts
- 2 dinners
- 2 packed lunches
- Bag transfers of one bag of up to 20kg 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 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and airport transfers
- Meals not listed in itinerary
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room. Please note that in mountain refuges single room accommodation cannot be guaranteed.
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as costs are not shared.
- One or two nights in Marrakech before or after the holiday (standard accommodation)
- One or two 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 in Marrakech, or just relax and stroll the streets of Marrakech.
Click here to view Ourika Valley full day guided tour
Ourika Valley, due to its many waterfalls and several attractions, is a very popular 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 3h.
Note: Overnight accommodation not included, please choose an extra night in Marrakech extension when booking.
Click here to view Fishing port of Essaouira full day guided tour
Your day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech will begin with a drive along the Haouz planes to Chichaoua village where you will stop for a cup of coffee before you continue to Sidi Mokhtar. On your way, you will cross the Argan trees forest, where you might spot some goats climbing the trees. To watch how the Argan oil (also called the liquid gold, or Moroccan oil) is extracted, you can visit a local ladies’ cooperative and learn how some fine cosmetic products are locally made out of the rich Argan oil. From here, we will carry on to Essaouira. Upon arrival, you can explore the beautiful city at leisure:
- 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 6km long sandy beach
Note: Overnight accommodation not included, please choose an “Extra night in Marrakech” extension when booking the guided tours (or book a hotel on your own).