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Morocco

Atlas to Desert

Guided Mountain Bike Tour

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

9 days

Prices from

$1,685 P.P.
Morocco

Atlas to Desert

Guided Mountain Bike Tour

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

9 days

Prices from

$1,685 P.P.
BOOK NOW
This superb mountain bike vacation in Morocco explores a land of big skies and stark mountain ranges. 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, and then descending along the Draa Valley to the fringes of the Sahara Desert. 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.
While non-technical the routes reward riders with good bike handling and reasonable off-road fitness. There are plenty of challenging climbs and fun descents which all levels of riders will enjoy. For more experienced riders we will seek out the singletrack where it is available for a few extra thrills. The riding is along largely hard-packed trails which are normally in good condition, although they can be rough and bumpy at times.
En route we pass through numerous traditional villages, on the way visiting the ancient Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou and making plenty of mint tea stops to experience close-up the legendary hospitality that has risen up from the remote outposts of the desert. As we descend from the High Atlas we see a gradual change in flora and fauna as the desert starts to make its imprint on the landscape. We follow a route of palm oases, finding the occasional refreshing pool for a dip, cycling 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.
Click here to read a customer story from this trip, which won our January competition.

Highlights

  • Biking across the remote, beautiful & untouched Jebel Sirwa mountains
  • Riding a huge variety of rewarding tracks and trails
  • Exploring crumbling remains of the past in Morocco’s many Kasbahs
  • Camping with nomads overlooked by N. Africa’s highest peaks
  • Sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert
  • Camel riding in the heart of one of Morocco’s most beautiful palm oases

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

Joanna, UK

Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival Marrakech

Arrive at Marrakech Airport (RAK). Once you have collected your baggage and/or bikes you will 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 head out for a get-together dinner and trip briefing, leaving some time to size up the bikes for those who are hiring, or for those who have brought their own, we will assist in re-assembling them.

Day 2
Telouet - Tamdaght
26 Miles / 42 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 500m

After an early breakfast, we 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 roughly 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 takes 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.

The recently surfaced road replaces the old rough off-road route, but the majestic views continue to merit the route’s inclusion in your trip, and 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 - Sirwa Mountains
24 Miles / 40 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 1150m

Today we make another early start with a post-breakfast tour of the Ksour 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 is a film-set spectacular (which explains its appearance in the film “Gladiator”), a cluster of well-preserved kasbahs surrounded by date palms and framed by desolate mountain scenery. With the tour completed, we set off for an hour or so in our support vehicles to the start of our 3 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 begin riding from the one-horse town of Agouim, taking a well-maintained piste 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 piste we take is gently undulating with one significant climb up to our wild campsite. En route we 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 climb for several kilometres onto a vast plateau where we choose a suitable spot to pitch camp, with 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 – Askaoun
32 Miles / 52 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 1020m

Today we ride from camp, rejoining yesterday’s piste. Riding on the plateau is a joy and we often pass nomads with their flocks of sheep, goats and horses. Crossing the first village of the day we 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 costume and children are intrigued by the arrival of our group of space-age visitors dressed in funny helmets. All of the villages in this area are inhabited by Berbers, an indigenous race 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 climb onto another plateau, an area strewn with volcanic boulders and stone houses. The scenery is wonderful and at this point we 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 do one final descent to a nearby village where we will 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 - Ouarzazate
36 Miles / 60 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 695m

Those who feel energetic can make an early start from the village for an optional gradual 24km climb (very rough in places). The scenery is wild and volcanic with some rocky passages as well as some smoother undulating tracks. Those craving a rest can take a transfer in our support vehicle up to the top of the pass – the top of one of Morocco’s best descents down towards the plains of Ouarzazate. From the top of the pass there’s about 35km of jeep track to our finishing point – that’s over 30km of descent and just one cheeky 3km climb after our lunch spot at Tachocht, an authentic village perched above a fertile valley of cultivated terraces. In much of Morocco, and even more so in the fertile soils of the Sirwa, the people have made an art form of subsistence farming. Such care is taken in planting and irrigating and here we learn a little about the systems they have been using for centuries.

After our picnic lunch, a quick climb and some more downhill, we transfer out of the Sirwa back to civilisation and the town of Ouarzazate, home of the Moroccan film industry and gateway to the deep south. It’s an hours drive across strikingly desolate landscapes to our comfortable hotel/converted Kasbah overlooking the town’s palm groves. Here you can enjoy a hammam, which is a typical Moroccan steam bath, and massage to relax those tired muscles.

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

After breakfast we take a short transfer along the road to Zagora to the start of the day’s ride. There’s an easy start with a thrilling 8 km 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 and contrasting dramatically with crumbling mud villages and stark angular mountains. Today’s ride is nice, 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 startling, their Kasbahs abandoned and disintegrating. 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 - Sahara Camp
24 Miles / 40 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: 335m

Today we have an expedition to complete, both on bikes and by 4×4 to finish the day by sundown in the Sahara Desert! Riding out from our hotel after breakfast we continue to explore 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 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.

We aim to complete a brisk 40km by early lunch 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) but the real draw is our desert camp, set up in the sand dunes… a star gazers dream, with a camp fire, good food and a great place to reflect on an epic journey!

Day 8
Transfer to Marrakech
Transfer 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!

Arriving back in 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 Heritage Site 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 will enjoy a farewell dinner in a restaurant before exploring what Marrakech has to offer in the way of nightlife. Overnight in a 3 star hotel.

Day 9
Departure
  • Meals: Breakfast

Transfer to the airport for homeward flights. Many flights depart in the afternoon so there may 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 (old town). 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 souqs (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

The majority of the riding on this trip takes place on vehicle width tracks, which vary from relatively smooth and well-maintained to rocky and sandy in places. 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 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 /6 miles in length. We recommend you bring a bike with full suspension for your own comfort, or alternatively a good quality hardtail.

Mountain Biking Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 3 - 4: Moderate/ Challenging

25-50 miles / 40-80 kms per day

Aspects of both our grade 3 and 4 trips

For mountain bikers with some experience of singletrack and steeper terrain

May include rocky features and switchbacks

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?

Trips that are graded as a 3-4, will have aspects of both our grade 3 and 4 trips. If you have experience of off road riding on a variety of terrain, and would like a taste of more challenging terrain, a grade 3-4 trip could be for you. Terrain will include singletrack and steep sections (both up and down) which require more bike handling ability. Shorter technical and demanding features suchs as rocks, roots and tricky climbs will be encountered on occasion on most days. A day’s ride can see you on the trails for around 8 hours (with breaks) and covering between 25-50 miles depending on the terrain. If you’re generally fit and manage to ride frequently this could be the level for you.

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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, UK

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
20/03/2021
Return Date
28/03/2021
Duration
9 days
Price
$1,685.00
Start Date
02/10/2021
Return Date
10/10/2021
Duration
9 days
Price
$1,685.00

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 mountain tents for your one night 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 (including a 4 season sleeping bag).

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. Please 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 above time windows 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 family houses where you may be required to share with people from your group and one night spent in tents or under the stars. 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.

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!

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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News, Reviews & Stories

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