Kevin_E, Jan. 2017
Enjoyed this tour, but the image used by Viator is pure marketing spin. Zagora desert dunes were about 2 metres high, not the huge dunes you see in the photo. But for all that, the Zagora desert camp was scenic and beautiful in it's own way. Be warned: this tour is a long drive with many hours spent in the minibus, but it was also an amazing trip over the Atlas and anti-Atlas Mountains, through Ouarzazate, the Draa Valley, and then a sunset camel trek to a desert camp among sand dunes.
First stop was a coffee shop/restaurant in the steep mountain valleys of the Atlas mountains below Tizi-n-Tichka pass, and then a little later a stop near the top of the pass to enjoy the snow on the ground and take photos. It is an amazing scenic road over the Atlas mountains.
Our guide in Ouarzazate took us through Taourirt Kasbah filling us in on some of the history and architecture. Saw none of the private rooms of this Kasbah, just walked through the maze of alleyways and the shops there in. Would have liked a more thorough tour given this Kasbah's history. The guide then steered us across the road to La Kasbah Etoile for lunch, rated 50 of 51 restaurants in Ouarzazate. Definitely below average, and there are 3 other restaurants in the vicinity. About the best aspect to this restaurant was the rooftop terrace views, forget the food. My advice: go somewhere else, it's your lunch money.
After Ouarzazate we travelled over the anti-Atlas mountains then along the length of the Draa Valley to Zagora. We stopped briefly late in the afternoon at a small grocery shop to buy bottled water and snacks for our overnight adventure.The desert camel trek was about 1.8km, a real experience, and ours was timed just right, at sunset. The Desert Camp tents were great with wonderful Berber hospitality. But the night I visited there was a campfire after dinner, but no music, songs or stories. mmm. Maybe they were a bit tired. The starry desert skies were truly magnificient and the twilight of dusk and dawn among the low sand dunes was breathtaking. After sunrise another camel trek of about 1.8km back to your tour bus.
Driving the Draa valley was spectacular with palmgroves along the river flanked by bare mountains on either side. There were quite a few people cycling, and donkeys were a means of transport and used for hauling dates from the Palm groves. It would have been nice to explore far more, although on this tour time was at a premium. In the morning of the second day of our journey back to Marrakech, we stopped at a cafe/restaurant next to Kasbah Oulad Othmane in the Draa Valley and enjoyed a coffee or fresh squeezed orange juice and bought snacks.
We then drove to Ben Haddou, a fortified village and world heritage site well worthwhile visiting. Lunch was in a hotel organised by tour guide in the new town over the river from Ben Haddou, but was fairly ordinary. Might have been better to find our own lunch.
Back in Ouarzazate we were taken to Labyrinthe du Sud and given the hard sell on carpets. My advice: do have a wander and look around this store full of antiquities, jewellery and carpets, but know the value of what you are bargaining for. Probably better to bargain in a Marrakech souk for what you want.
Last stop was at an Argan Women's co-operative in which the process of extracting the oils from the Argan nut were explained to us, with an opportunity to buy Argan oil and cosmetics. Worthwhile visiting and supporting one of these co-operatives.
We didn't get back to the Marrakech medina till well after 9pm. It was a long 2 days and different to my expectations, but I am glad I did this tour. Just watch out for the guide steering you to visit tourist traps for food and purchases when there are other options available.