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Morocco

Atlas to Desert

Guided Cycling Holiday

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

9 days

Prices from

£1,295 P.P.
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We love Morocco for its variety of landscapes - enchanting dune-filled deserts, rugged snow-capped mountains, and wild Atlantic shores that make the country a vast adventure playground. Peppered throughout the awe-inspiring landscape you’ll find evidence of Morocco’s rich cultural history just begging to be explored - ancient fortified kasbahs with their windowless high walls and the maze-like medinas with their colourful shops, fragrant restaurants, and bustling mosques that serve as the heart and soul of any city. Morocco wouldn't be Morocco without its people - warm, inviting, and famous for their hospitality, the Moroccans are always eager to share a mint tea along with a story or two. 
 
On this biking adventure, we explore a range of Morocco’s fantastic trails, including remote paths and dirt roads taking us from Marrakech to the Tichka Pass, the highest in the High Atlas, before descending along the Draa Valley to the fringes of the Sahara Desert. Here, mud-brick kasbahs appear to rise up out of the desert, sitting in tranquil palm oases and framed by dramatic backdrops of snow-capped mountains.
 
En route we pass through numerous traditional villages, including a visit to the ancient kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll also make plenty of mint tea stops to experience first-hand the legendary hospitality that has risen up from these remote desert outposts. As we descend from the High Atlas, we witness a gradual change in flora and fauna as the desert starts to make its imprint on the landscape. Following a route of palm oases that hide the occasional refreshing pool for a dip, we cycle alongside ruined villages and kasbahs which, in the early morning and late afternoon, are bathed in a sublime desert light.
 
As we arrive at the fringe of the Sahara Desert, not far from the town of Zagora, we take a break from the bikes and kasbah hotels and instead opt for camels and a night under the stars in a Berber desert tent, surrounded by pre-Saharan dunes. This is the ultimate trip for those who are looking for a mountain-biking adventure paired with memorable cultural experiences!

Holiday Highlights

  • Biking across the remote, beautiful, and untouched Jebel Sirwa mountains
  • Exploring crumbling remains of the past in Morocco’s many kasbahs
  • Riding a huge variety of rewarding tracks and trails
  • Sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert
  • Relaxing in one of Morocco’s most beautiful palm oases
  • Strolling through the spellbinding network of souks in Marrakech medina

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A fantastic holiday – one I will remember for a very long time. Fantastic riding, stunning scenery and excellent guides!

Joanna, St Albans

Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival: Marrakech
Non Riding Day

Today you’ll arrive at Marrakech Airport (RAK). Once you’ve collected your baggage (and bikes if bringing) you’ll be met by one of the Skedaddle guides who will transport you to our hotel accommodation in the centre of Marrakech.

Once checked-in, we’ll head out for a get-together dinner and trip briefing, leaving some time to size up the bikes for those who are renting, or for those who have brought their own, we will assist in re-assembling them.

Day 2
Telouet to Tamdaght
26 Miles / 42 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 500 Metres Approx.

After an early breakfast, we’ll hop in our Land Cruisers for a scenic transfer to the kasbah of Telouet. It’s a beautiful three hour drive up the Tichka Pass, one of North Africa’s highest paved roads. Once over the top, there’s a further 20 kilometres to the ruined kasbah.

Telouet is a photographer’s dream; a crumbling fortress of the Glaoui clan (who were influential during the French protectorate) set in a remote valley overlooking mud villages and fertile gardens. It’s totally uninhabited these days, but it’s a popular spot for storks which nest on its disintegrating ramparts. Here we take a guided tour and take a peek at its once magnificent interior.

After a good look round and picnic lunch we unload the bikes and start pedalling on a surfaced road. We’re at about 1800m above sea level – just enough altitude for the lungs to detect a slight thinness of air, so the first few kilometres (flat, then up and down) might feel a bit tougher than usual! After about 10km a rough descent will take us down to the start of a newly surfaced country lane which winds its way 32km through fantastic scenery to Tamdaght, set in a palm oasis near Ait Benhaddou.

Today is a great warm-up before the challenges of the week ahead. We aim to arrive well before sundown for some great photo opportunities from the terrace of our converted kasbah hotel.

Day 3
Tamdaght to Sirwa Mountains
24 Miles / 40 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 1,150 Metres Approx.

Today we’ll make another early start with a post-breakfast tour of the ksour or castle of Ait Benhaddou. This complex of adobe kasbahs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is still inhabited by a handful of families. It’s probably the best-preserved and certainly one of the most exotic villages in the south of Morocco. Ait Benhaddou looks just out of a movie set (which explains its appearance in the film “Gladiator” and ‘Game of Thrones‘) with its cluster of well-preserved kasbahs surrounded by date palms and framed by desolate mountain scenery. With the tour completed, we’ll set off for an hour or so in our support vehicles to the start of our three-day ride through the remote Jebel Sirwa region. With no hotels and few village lodgings available, we spend the first night under canvas and the second night in a very basic village house.

We’ll begin riding from the one-horse town of Agouim, taking a quiet country lane westwards into the heart of the Sirwa. The area is occasionally visited by trekking groups scaling the country’s highest peak (Toubkal) from the south side, but otherwise it’s well off the tourist trail. Today we’re in the northern Sirwa which forms a bridge between the volcanic southern Sirwa and the High Atlas mountains. The road we take is gently undulating with one significant climb up to our wild campsite. En route we’ll pass through some very remote villages and start to get a flavour for the area, although be prepared for constant changes in character and landscape throughout the three days we spend here!

After a lunch stop (possibly around the village of Sour) we’ll climb for several kilometres on a dramatic and challenging off-road route onto a vast plateau. Here, we’ll choose a suitable spot to pitch camp surrounded by panoramic views (weather permitting) to the dramatic peaks of the High Atlas to our north and the dark tabletop peaks of the Sirwa range to the south. We’re now at about 2100m above sea level, so wrap up warm for a chilly night of wilderness camping.

Day 4
Sirwa Mountains to Askaoun
32 Miles / 52 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 1,020 Metres Approx.

Today we’ll ride from camp, rejoining yesterday’s road. Riding on the plateau is a joy and we’ll often pass nomads with their flocks of sheep, goats, and horses. Crossing the first village of the day, we’ll descend along a dry riverbed which represents the settlement’s “main drag”.

Here the buildings are all traditional and bear virtually no evidence of the modern world. Women dress in bright garments and children are intrigued by the arrival of our group of visitors dressed in funny helmets. All of the villages in this area are inhabited by Berbers, an indigenous population which pre-dates the Arab conquest. As in other parts of Morocco, visitors are always struck by their superb hospitality and generosity despite their lack of material means.

Moving on, we’ll climb onto another plateau, an area strewn with volcanic boulders and stone houses. The scenery is wonderful and at this point we’ll reach the day’s highest point, meaning some great downhill to follow! As we cross the final pass, the land changes again and we can see we’ve crossed the north-south mountain divide. Much of the remainder of the ride is downhill through a pleasantly rolling landscape with some fast riding possible along great trails.

Arriving at the town of Askaoun, we’ll do one final descent to a nearby village where we’ll enjoy a typical Moroccan meal with tea made with saffron and spend the night in basic conditions in a small village house.

Day 5
Askaoun to Ouarzazate
36 Miles / 60 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 700 Metres Approx.

Today we’ll start with a short but very cheeky climb out of our mountain village before joining a superb tarmac road that takes us from the high plateau of the Sirwa down towards the desert. The road is undulating for the most part before a massive descent takes us down towards the town of Taliouine, Morocco’s main centre for saffron production and trading.

Along the route, a picnic lunch will be set up and when we arrive in Taliouine, we’ll load up the vehicles and transfer through remote and wild desert mountains to the town of Ouarzazate, home of the Moroccan film industry and gateway to the deep south. It’s a two hour drive across strikingly desolate landscapes to our comfortable hotel/converted kasbah overlooking the town’s palm groves. Here you can enjoy a hammam, a typical Moroccan steam bath, and a massage to relax those tired muscles.

Day 6
Ouarzazate to Agdz
16 Miles / 26 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 400 Metres Approx.

After breakfast, we’ll take a short transfer along the road to Zagora to the beginning of the day’s ride. There’s an easy start with a thrilling 8km descent on a piste which joins the valley of the River Draa, Morocco’s longest river. The Draa has a character all of its own, with lush palmeries lining the river, contrasting dramatically with the crumbling mud villages and stark angular mountains.

Today’s ride is varied and not too taxing with several short climbs and descents as we follow the upper reaches of the river valley and some good picnic spots. Some of the villages along the way are remarkable with their abandoned and disintegrating kasbahs. Our overnight stop is around the town of Agdz where, depending on the size of the group, we will either stay in a beautifully-renovated kasbah just south of Agdz or a French-run auberge in the palmery.

Day 7
Agdz to Sahara Camp
24 Miles / 40 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 340 Metres Approx.

Today we have an expedition to complete, both on bikes and by 4×4, in order to finish the day by sundown in the Sahara Desert! Riding out from our hotel after breakfast we’ll continue exploring the Draa Valley as we descend towards Zagora and the fringes of the Sahara desert. The Draa Valley is one giant oasis of date palms, fruit trees, and vegetables grown by local families. En route we’ll explore the intriguing passageways and ruined interiors of the extensive Kasbah Tamnougalte which overlooks the anvil-shaped mountain Jebel Kissane, a feature that stays in view for some time as we follow well-surfaced pistes southwards.

By early lunch, we aim to complete a brisk 40km on tarmac and then pack up the 4×4s as we continue into an increasingly sandy physical environment towards the gateway to one of the true wonders of the world: the mighty Sahara Desert. En route, camel rides may be possible (time permitting, paid for at the camp) but the real draw is our desert camp set up in the sand dunes – a star gazer’s dream with a campfire, good food, and a great place to reflect on an epic journey!

Day 8
Transfer to Marrakech
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch

After a desert breakfast we set off on our day-long journey back to Marrakech (7+ hours). The best way to put a positive spin on our seven-hour journey is that it serves as a sort of a potted review of all of the landscapes we have passed through on our journey from the High Atlas mountains to the Sahara!

Returning to Marrakech is a real highlight. Having arrived in the evening at the start of the trip we had little time to explore the Marrakech medina (old town). This is another UNESCO World Heritage Centre and said to be the second largest medieval complex in the world after Cairo.

Tonight there should be time to explore the main square – the Djemaa el Fna – to witness one of the world’s most animated night-time spectacles. At night the square is transformed into a giant open-air restaurant with men in white coats serving anything from sheep’s head stew to snails in hot sauce. The rest of the square is dedicated to other forms of entertainment such as snake charmers, story tellers, acrobats and dancers. Later we enjoy a farewell dinner in a traditional restaurant before exploring what Marrakech has to offer in the way of nightlife. Overnight in a 3-star hotel.

Day 9
Departure
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast

Today we transfer to the airport for homeward flights. Many flights depart in the afternoon so there may be time to explore the city and pick up a few last minute souvenirs.

Guides are available for those who wish to be guided but we recommend seeing the city at your own pace, taking time to wander through the beguiling labyrinth of tiny alleys and passageways in the ancient medina. You might like to visit the ancient Badi and Bahia Palaces, the museum of Marrakech, or a short taxi ride will take you to the Majorelle Botanical Garden, owned by Yves Saint Laurent. There are also the famous souks (markets) of Marrakech – ideal for devotees of ethnic fashion and decoration, but worth a look for the sights, sounds and smells of this most exotic of markets. But the real Marrakech experience is more about soaking up its unique atmosphere.

PLEASE NOTE

Morocco is one of the world’s most rapidly changing countries and at times one of the least predictable! Pistes become tarmac roads in the blink of an eye, hotels close down unexpectedly and new, often better, options appear just as fast. We try to move with the times and as a result there may be occasional deviations from the publicised itinerary/information. Similarly, weather conditions in the High Atlas and Sirwa mountains in autumn and spring are unpredictable. Heavy snow falls can block passes and flash floods can fill normally dry river beds, forcing on the spot adaptations to itineraries. We reserve the right to make such changes where appropriate, with the group’s safety a priority.

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The Cycling

Terrain

Riding on this trip takes place on vehicle width tracks, which vary from relatively smooth and well-maintained to rocky and sandy in places, and quiet, recently surfaced, tarmac roads. Although much of the riding is non-technical, good bike handling skills are required in order to cope with loose stones and sand, and for riding in a terrain which is very different from what many people will be used to. There are plenty of challenging climbs and fun descents which all levels of riders will enjoy. From time to time, there are some short optional singletrack sections with varying levels of technicality. A good level of fitness is required to cope with some very mountainous terrain, with ascents up to 600m/2000ft in height gain and 10km/6miles in length. If you are bringing your own bike we recommend you bring a bike with full suspension for your own comfort, or alternatively a good quality hardtail.

While non-technical, the routes reward riders with good bike handling and reasonable off-road fitness.

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Cycling Adventures Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grades 3 - 4: Moderate/ Active

Aspects of both our grade 3 and 4 holidays

Suitable for the leisure cyclist who rides frequently, and who’s comfortable with some moderately challenging climbs

Some of the terrain may vary, potentially including sections of uneven or unpaved ground

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

Holidays that are graded as a 3-4, will have aspects of both our grade 3 and 4 holidays. These tours are suitable for those who keep themselves relatively fit and maybe enjoy an afternoon out on the bikes at the weekend. Your preference may be for flatter terrain, but you don’t mind tackling some hills, the occasional steep climb and some varying terrain (forest tracks, gravel paths etc.). It might be however that on some days the distances will be longer than a standard grade 3 trip, or some of the climbs may be quite challenging. You may also require some previous experience of tackling some uneven / unpaved ground to comfortably and safely ride certain sections of the route.

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A brilliant holiday. Good level of communication and support from the team, guides were excellent with handling the holiday and their local knowledge.

Sam, Edinburgh

Dates & Prices

Private Departures

Private Departures

Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.

Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
19/03/2022
Return Date
27/03/2022
Duration
9 days
Price
£1,295.00
Start Date
01/10/2022
Return Date
09/10/2022
Duration
9 days
Price
£1,295.00

Whats Included Tick

A) All accommodation during the trip. (usually twin-shared rooms, except in family houses where you may be required to share with people from your group) and twin-share tents in good quality tents for your nights under canvas

B) All breakfasts whilst in Morocco, and other meals as specified in the itinerary. (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner).

C) Full tour service including guide(s) / support person and support vehicle.

D) Mint tea, bottled drinking water.

E) Airport transfers to and from Marrakech (RAK) on scheduled arrival and departure days.

What's not Included Cross

A) Personal clothing and equipment (you will need to bring a 4 season sleeping bag for the nights under canvas).

B) Travel to and from Morocco.

C) Alcoholic drinks.

D) Travel Insurance.

E) Evening meals/entertainment/city tours in Marrakech.

F) Bar bills, telephone calls, souvenirs, etc.

G) Bike hire (available if required).

H) Entrance fees to museums.

I) Bike carriage on flights (if applicable).

J) Tips for local guides/drivers/hotel staff

K) Airport transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days

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The Essentials

Travel Options

Group airport transfers are included in the cost of your holiday. To join the airport transfer on arrival, you’ll need to arrive into and depart from Marrakech (RAK). Due to the proximity to the airport of our accommodation in Marrakech we can accommodate arrivals and departures throughout the day.

Please contact us for more detailed information on the specific flight schedules available for your holiday and check with us before booking any flights, to make sure we have reached the minimum number required to guarantee your holiday and to ensure your flights fit with our scheduled transfers.

Please note If you make travel arrangements that fall outside of the designated arrival and departure days there may be an additional charge for individual transfers.

Accommodation

Accommodation is usually in a selection of 3* hotels, guesthouses and riads. It will usually be in twin-shared rooms, except in the villages houses where you may be required to share with people from your group and the nights spent in tents under the stars. For the first night camping you will be in good quality 2 man tents, the second night is at a permanent camp in the desert in camel hair nomad-style tents.

We have deliberately chosen a variety of different styles of accommodation with the emphasis sometimes on comfort, sometimes on character, sometimes necessity, where there are no other options given the remoteness of our location. Most, but not all, hotels, have private facilities. Please note that the average standard of accommodation in Morocco is not nearly as high as many of our other destinations.

Limited single rooms are available. They are not possible in the village houses on the night of day 4.

As Morocco is a Muslim country, alcohol is not always available in hotels although we make provision for this so you can enjoy a beer or two most nights if you choose!

Bike Hire

If you don’t own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have bikes available to hire. These bikes are typically very good full-suspension mountain bikes featuring disc brakes and good quality components.

We can include a helmet and all necessary spares for the trip. Please request helmets at the time of booking.

If you choose to rent a bike from us you are welcome to bring your own saddle with you, and if you would like to use SPD/clipless pedals you will need to bring these with you.

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