The Sahara and High Atlas

From $2502 per person

****# Based on 17 customer reviews
  • Explore the best bits of Morocco - one of the world's most exotic countries
  • Exciting mix of sightseeing and gentle rambles
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites of Marrakesh and Ait Benhaddou
  • Stunning Ouarzazate, magnificent views over the Sahara
  • Mountain passes, palm-fringed oases, the magnificent Dades Gorge
  • Traditional Berber villages, ancient medinas, ochre coloured kasbahs, bustling souks
  • 4-star and 5-star hotels, all with swimming pools

What's included?

  • Please call for departure dates
  • 10 nights, hotel-to-hotel
  • Continental breakfast and 8 evening meals
  • Managed by Headwater appointed agent
  • Sustainability rating: 75%
  • Led by experienced local guide
  • Marrakesh city guide included
  • Air-conditioned vehicle

Excellent for...

This holiday is available on a small-group basis, for parties of 2 or more. Please call for dates and prices.

The Sahara and High Atlas

This gentle guided walking and sightseeing holiday covers the best parts of central and southern Morocco. You'll explore the High Atlas, the edge of the Sahara and the oases, desert towns, and mountains inbetween.

We start our Moroccan discovery in exotic Marrakesh, home to arguably Africa's largest and most celebrated souk (market) and UNESCO-recognised medina (old town), before heading for the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains. We stop off in UNESCO Ait Benhaddou; this ancient kasbah (fortified citadel) is so well preserved and impossibly exotic that it is often used as a film set. Our journey takes us further south, via the Gorges du Dades, an area of incredible natural beauty with imposing rock formations and colourful kasbahs, to Ouarzazate, the gateway to the Sahara. We continue as far south as the Draa Valley; this amazingly varied landscape features rugged canyons and dune-filled desert, dotted with fortified villages and palm-fringed oases. Returning to the Red City of Marrakesh, we base ourselves here for five nights to explore the verdant foothills of the High Atlas Mountains and its traditional Berber villages. There is plenty of time for sightseeing in Marrakesh itself and our city guide will ensure you really do discover everything this vibrant city has to offer.

You will stay at traditional yet comfortable 4-star and 5-star hotels throughout, all with swimming pools and most with extensive gardens. These range from a 5-star hotel surrounded by orange trees and fragrant bougainvillea in Marrakesh to a superbly located 4-star hotel with stunning valley views in Ouarzazate.

This holiday is a mix of gentle walking and sightseeing; transfers provided throughout. There are no major ascents or descents, and a head for heights isn't necessary. Most of the walking is on off-road sandy tracks (occasionally stony paths). On the days when you are travelling to and from Marrakesh, we break the journey every 45 minutes or so, in order that you can enjoy short local strolls in the various places en route.

Typical day-by-day itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive in Marrakesh

We meet you at Marrakesh airport and take you (20 mins) to your hotel .

Day 2 - Marrakesh to Ouarzazate 6km/4mi/1.5hr

This morning we drive through the High Atlas, crossing the Tichka Pass (2,260m) to Ouarzazate stopping en route at the cream and chocolate kasbah of Ait Benhaddou.

Day 3 - Ouarzazate and Gorges du Dades 8km/5mi/3hr

Gentle pottering today as we set off in the minibus, via Skoura, to explore part of the 'Road of 1000 Kasbahs' and the rose-growing oases of the Dades Valley. In the afternoon we visit the magnificent Gorges du Dades around Boumalne before heading back to Ouarzazate.

Day 4 - Ouarzazate to Sahara Desert 10km/6mi/3hr

South-east today, through the extraordinary lunar landscape of the Draa valley. Our destination is Zagora, an oasis on the edge of the desert. From here camel caravans set off for Timbuktu (52 days). Walk up to the C11 fortress nearby for great views over the Sahara desert. We overnight in Zagora.

Day 5 - Sahara Desert to Ouarzazate

We descend to Tamegroute to see the C12 Vellum Scrolls then back along the Draa Valley stopping off at Agdz to see the kasbah tucked up against the cliff face of the Djebel Kissane. Back to Ouarzazate through the Tiz'n Tinififft Pass.

Day 6 - Ouarzazate to Marrakesh 3km/2mi/1hr

Back through the High Atlas for the Red City. En route a visit to Telouet, power base of the Glaoui, Lords of the Atlas. Nowadays it's occupied by former slaves, their families, and many nesting storks.

Day 7 - Exploring Marrakesh

In the morning we take a guided tour of Marrakesh and the Great Souk, one of Africa's busiest markets. The afternoon is free to explore the city's palaces and museums, or simply relax by the hotel pool.

Day 8 - Marrakesh / Asni / Marrakesh 8km/5mi/3hr

A short drive through Asni and up into the mountains. Then we spend the day walking the mule paths through the high valleys around Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak with an altitude of 4,176m. It's beautiful, verdant countryside with many magnificent views.

Day 9 - The Foothills of the High Atlas 12km/7.5mi/4hr

A drive to Guemassa or Amizmiz for a day's walking amongst the foothills of the High Atlas. En route we visit a Berber village and bustling market to select fresh local produce for lunch, which may be eaten on the escarpment, where there are breathtaking views over the plains and reservoir. We return to Marrakesh in time for dinner.

Day 10 - Free Day

A free day to wander around Marrakesh's atmospheric souks and stock up on local spices. For a complete contrast why not take a peaceful walk around the Majorelle Gardens (dedicated to its late owner, Yves St Laurent) and visit the Palmerie (palm plantation) for an hour or two of peace and tranquillity. You may also wish to simply relax around the hotel pool to round off your holiday.

Day 11 - Leave Marrakesh

Where you stay

During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking. You can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss accommodation options.

Hotel Es Saadi, Marrakesh   (5 star)

Hotel Es Saadi, Marrakesh

The 5-star Hotel Es Saadi, set in gardens bright with orange trees and bougainvillea, is located in a residential area, just a 10-minute taxi ride to the historic old town, the Medina. Still family-run, it prides itself on being a luxury hotel offering personal service.

All rooms offer ensuite facilities plus safe, hairdryer, minibar, direct dial phone, air conditioning and satellite television. The hotel also benefits from a large outdoor pool, gift shops and a tennis court.

The hotel offers a comfortable bar and lounge area, two restaurants (one international and one traditional Moroccan) and also has a currency exchange office (open daily).

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Shops
  • Banking / cheques cashed
  • Mastercard accepted
  • American Express accepted
  • Swimming pool
  • Hairdryer
  • Wifi hotspot
  • Television
  • Minibar
  • Air conditioning
  • Safe

Nearby facilities:

  • Market
  • ATM / Cash machine

Hotel Karam Palace, Ouarzazate   (4 star)

Hotel Karam Palace, Ouarzazate

Behind its traditional Moroccan exterior, the Karam Palace is a modern 4 star hotel with 150 ensuite rooms. Its other facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, hammam and bar; massages are also available on request.

The Karam Palace boasts a hill top location, affording fantastic views over Ouarzazate valley. The town itself is one of the most important southern towns in Morocco, located at a crossroads that joins the north to the south and the east to the west. It is quite a modern looking place with public squares, shops, a few restaurants and a state run craft centre. It is most famous for its 100 year old Taourirt Kasbah that stands on the eastern edge of town.

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Mastercard accepted
  • American Express accepted
  • Swimming pool
  • Hairdryer
  • Television
  • Minibar
  • Air conditioning

Nearby facilities:

  • Shops
  • Banking / cheques cashed

Hotel Palais Asmaa, Zagora   (4 star)

Hotel Palais Asmaa, Zagora

The 4 star Palais Asmaa hotel can be found surrounded by palm trees, just outside the city of Zagora. It is very much decorated in a traditional Moroccan style, with ornate, brightly coloured decoration on the exterior blending perfectly with the local ochre coloured stone. The hotel boasts a charming garden filled with palm trees and bougainvillea, with a lovely outside bar furnished with brightly coloured cushions and carpets.

Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.

Local facilities:

  • Mastercard accepted
  • American Express accepted
  • Swimming pool
  • Television
  • Minibar
  • Air conditioning

Nearby facilities:

  • Shops
  • Banking / cheques cashed

Travel options

Transfers included from Marrakesh Menara airport at 16:40 (Feb-Mar & Nov departures), 18:25 (Apr departure), 20:50 (Oct departure) and back to Marrakesh Menara airport at 14:45 (Feb & Nov departures), 16:30 (Mar & Apr departures), 18:30 (Oct departure).

Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email to arrange connecting flights.

Customer reviews

Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.

Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

Reviewed by Mr Smith on 19/11/2015

It was a very enjoyable holiday with a good mix of walking, culture, fantastic scenery and relaxation time.

Reviewed by Mr Kirby on 19/11/2015

The Es Saadi hotel was excellent but suffered from road noise if the room was at the front, the food was good but with poor portion sizes, the Karam Palace hotel was good, slightly noisy, the buffet dinner lacked variety, the Palais Asmaa hotel is in need of some renovation, the food OK but nothing special. The walks were as described except for the 7 1/2 mile from Amizmiz which started with a long up hill drag and finished with a steep down hill over very rough ground, not good with tired legs.

Reviewed by Mrs Henderson on 30/10/2014

A brilliantly planned holiday made even better by our exceptional guide, Rachid, who spoke excellent English, gave us just the right amount of information, answered all our questions and was genuinely friendly, kind, caring and had a very good sense of humour. We felt it was especially important in a country like Morocco to have the way smoothed by the guide in places such as markets, cafes and hotels. Abdul, our driver, was also excellent - very careful, cheerful and reassuring throughout. We were very lucky to have such a good group. By chance seven out of the eleven of us were involved in the visual arts!

Reviewed by Mr Grant on 24/03/2014

The hotels suffered from grade inflation - they were 4* (in Marrakech) and 3* for the others. At the El Saadi we had no cooling in our room even though the outside temperature was 32 degees C on arrival. At the Karam Palace one night we had no hot water and the loo leaked. All hotels had cool swimming pools only usable by the hardy. Breakfast was poor at the Karam Palace and at the Palais Asmaa (but there are probable no better alternative hotels to use in Ouarzazate or Zagora). Otherwise, our main guide Rasid was very helpful, but our half day guide to Marrakech was more interested in taking us to carpet or spice shops who would give him a pay off than in showing us the sites of Marrakech.

Reviewed by Mr Davidson on 20/03/2014

Over all very good. Hotel Es Saadi was disappointing re AC in the rooms;there was only heating!. We were told that it was still winter by the desk,then another story was that the management decided not to put the AC cooling on. The rooms at the front were very noisy from traffic and because of the heat we had to decide between noise and heat. Result was little sleep for the nights we were there. We therefore would hesitate before recommending the holiday for this reason.This is a shame because it was excellent apart from this. The licensed guide for Marrakesh was very poor. There should be another walk on the final day rather than a free day ,or the option at least..

Reviewed by Mr Cousins on 28/02/2014

I enjoyed seeing the authentic Morocco not just the main tourist sights, there was too much travelling in the minibus between destinations.

Reviewed by Mr Johnson on 22/11/2013

We thought the holiday was excellent: very interesting, well put together; good hotels, walking and sightseeing as described. We have already recommended it to friends. We have put a 'No' to future holidays with you only because we now know that we have discovered you too late. We are too old (75 & 73), or at least insufficiently fit and active, to properly take part in the walking tours without holding others back. A great pity, but that is where we are. Thanks for an excellent holiday. May I suggest you save advertising costs by deleting us from your mail shoots. Best Regards, Chris Johnson

Reviewed by Mrs Buckham on 22/11/2013

An amazing trip which took in so much but be prepared to spend a lot of time travelling.

Reviewed by Mr Causey on 11/08/2013

Good variety of different places and activities with an opportunity to meet local people in their varied environments. Our guide and driver were excellent, and this helped to make the trip an extremely positive experience.

Reviewed by Mrs Lewis on 09/03/2013

This was an excellent holiday. Well scheduled - guide was friendly,helpful and well organised. Driver was helpful and very safe. The guide that took us round Marrakesh was not so good - he was late and not as informative as he could have been. The hotels particularly the one in Marrakesh were excellent. One of the walks was a bit more than a one booter we thought, although it was a spectacular day and we loved it. We didn't seem to have any real notes for the holiday other than that in the brochure. We would have liked a more detailed itinerary - if nothing else to remind us of the names of places etc when looking at our photographs!

Reviewed by Ms Taylor on 02/03/2013

It was a good experience, seeing a lot of the country that other tours would miss. Walks were varied and suited to our abilities. The only problem I had was with one hotel room that had previously been used by a heavy smoker. I spoke to the domestic staff about it and they made an effort to improve things.

Reviewed by Mrs Wheeler on 30/10/2012

Please read the comments below with the knowledge that the holiday was an adventure and made enjoyable by my travelling companions. This holiday would have been better if we had had a rest day at the beginning of the holiday before leaving Marrakech, and one less rest day at the end. There is a great deal of mini-bus travel, and on poor roads, in this holiday. I feel that this should be spelt out in detail in the literature to give the potential traveller all the information before they book. Our driver, Lahsen, was a brilliant driver, taking great care of us in town and on country and mountainous roads. The whole group, all 7 of us one after the other, went down with some sort of bug which included fatigue, nausea and upset tummy. I would suggest that the holiday literature tells travellers to be extremely careful about hand hygiene and not eating salads - delicious though they were! In my experience of travelling in hot climates, activities are completed before about 12noon and resumed after about 3 -4pm. We oftern walked in the hottest part of the day.

Reviewed by Mrs Mitchell on 30/10/2012

The reason for the low enjoyment mark was the entire group went down one by one with 'La tourista' or a tummy bug. Not nearly enough is made of this risk in your brochure. It cost most of us 3-4 days of our holiday and no doubt you will be hearing from others about this. It was generally agreed that we will have caught it at one of our lunch stops on the way to and from Zagora. Even Rachid suffered and he reckoned it was likely to be the salads. Between Ouarzazate and Marrakech we stopped twice. A dirty village and we entered through a butcher's shop - flies everywhere and filthy. Every meal started with a finely chopped salad, delicious and we were all hungry. Just too tempting and we disobeyed all the rules.Follow that with a greasy tagine and it's a recipe for disaster!

Reviewed by Mr Stead on 05/04/2012

A superb holiday. only 2 problems were 1: that the guide seemed remote at times,and was very reluctant to impart information which made us ask lots of questions which he didn't seem to want to give more than a very basic answer.However, the driver more than made up for the introverted guide 2. I obviously hadn't read the brochure properly as I hadn't realised that it was expected of us to add on £100.00's worth of tips:ie £50 each for driver and guide at the end of the holiday.I would have preferred that this was included in the package price upfront instead ofit being put into brown envelopes at the end of the holiday. the amount suggested came from the guide as an accepted amount for the driver. it was brought up by a member of our group rather than by the guide himself. I would certainlt tell any future would be travellers with this holiday that this was an uncomfotable stealth tax.

Reviewed by Mr Fussey on 31/03/2012

Good introduction to Morocco

Reviewed by Mr Huddart on 26/03/2012

Well balanced taste of different aspects of Sothern Morocco.

Reviewed by Mr Whittaker on 18/02/2012

Excellent holiday.

Departure dates & prices

No on-line prices available

Unfortunately we do not have on-line prices available at this time. Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email for further details.

2015 departures Tour only 
Oct 16 $2582
Nov 6 $2502

Holiday details

Minimum group sizes

A minimum of 4 people (in total) are required for each departure.

Holiday type

Guided walking, hotel-to-hotel. Managed by Headwater appointed agent.


Please call for departure dates, for 11 days (10 nights).


Continental breakfast and 8 evening meals.

Other details

Please see our Planning your holiday and What's included in the price? pages for additional information. Please call us for single room supplements, room upgrade options and child prices.

Starting your tour

Transfers included from Marrakesh Menara airport at 16:40 (Feb-Mar & Nov departures), 18:25 (Apr departure), 20:50 (Oct departure) and back to Marrakesh Menara airport at 14:45 (Feb & Nov departures), 16:30 (Mar & Apr departures), 18:30 (Oct departure).

Enquire about this holiday

Simply complete the form below and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and additional information.

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We can call you when it's most convenient for you, or contact you by email if you'd prefer. Morning calls will be between 9:00-13:00, afternoon calls between 13:00-17:00, and evening calls after 17:00.
Let us know any queries you might have about departure dates, similar holidays or tailor-made options.


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