WHY LEAVE MARRAKECH?
If you are travelling to Morocco, chances are, sooner or later, you will visit Marrakech. If so, carve out at least one day to explore the footsteps of the Atlas Mountains. Appreciate the contrast between the hectic city and the serene countryside and get a glimpse into rural Berber life.
Just within an hour’s drive from Marrakech, you can hike, cycle, horse trek, paraglide or fly in a hot air balloon. If you have less than a day to spare, a quad or a buggy tour is a great option. It is exciting, it’s fun, and you get to explore the High Atlas in a short time!
WHAT TO EXPECT?
You have an option to arrange pick up at your hotel or head to the countryside on your own. Counter-intuitively, rates tend be better if you get picked up, probably due to tough competition between quad agencies in Marrakech. A pre-negotiated tour gets you more time on the road, provides a ride to and from the hotel, and often includes a snack.
Most agencies propose morning and afternoon tours and offer a choice of quads (smaller, lighter and easier to maneuver one-person vehicles) and buggies (bigger, heavier and safer, typically for 2 people). Once at the base, the “buggy team” should give you a safety briefing and hand you the gear (goggles, helmets and possibly gloves). Make sure your helmet fits snuggly – mine didn’t, wobbling the whole time on the bumpy roads. Avoid wearing flip-flops – closed shoes are best. Get your camera ready and enjoy the journey!
WHERE TO GO?
On a two-hour tour, head to Lake Lalla Takerkoust or drive to Turtle Valley and Agafay Desert. Drive through eucalyptus forests, fruit groves and Berber villages. Take a tea break at a typical Berber house and enjoy the views of the snow-covered Atlas mountains.
On a half-day tour, do all of the above. Stop for a picnic on a high plateau overlooking Takerkoust or grab lunch in one of the lake-shore restaurants. On the way back, drive through oases and ravines at the foothills of the Atlas.
Another alternative is to start your tour in Marrakech. Drive through the scenic palm groves (La Palmerie) on the outskirts of the city, cross rock deserts and dry riverbeds. Stop for tea and Moroccan crepes at a traditional Berber village. Camel + quad combos are also popular at this location.
A full-day tour will give you more driving time and a chance to explore the villages at a leisurely pace. Visit local markets, picnic by the lake, chat with local people over tea and stop for photo shoots at scenic locations.
Several agencies offer overnight tours with a stay in Agafay Desert. Spend the day exploring the area, then dine under the starry sky and spend the night in a Bedouin tent or nomadic bivouac.
Extraordinary weeklong adventures from Marrakech are designed for hard-core bikers and explorers. They take you on an old caravan route all the way to the Algerian border. On the journey, you discover the southern towns of Ourzazate, Agdz and Zagoga, drive past striking red canyons and green oases, and cross the vast desert plateau before arriving to Erg Chegaga – the largest and most striking dunes in Morocco.
WHO TO RIDE WITH?
When it comes to choosing a tour, there is no lack of options. Here is a non-exhaustive list of Marrakech-based agencies.
* Good Value
** Overnight Trips