Winter in the Draa Valley and Jebel Sahro – Cycling in Morocco

Great winter biking in the spectacular oasis of the Draa Valley and the Jebel Sahro on the edge of the Sahara.

  • Intro
  • Itinerary
  • Dates
  • Price and What's Included

The lush Atlas Mountains that run South West through Morocco is in stark contrast to the desert fringe in the south and east of the country. The ancient city of Marrakech, where we start this adventure, with its labyrinthine streets boasts some of the most intriguing souqs (markets) in Morocco.

From Marrakech our route heads south towards the northern fringes of the Sahara Desert and the town of Zagora. The lushness of the Draa Valley belies the desolate sea of sand that lies beyond, stretching to the horizon in line after line of dunes. The fascinating area of the Jebel Sahro is situated north of Zagora and we cycle this wild landscape before exploring the Dades Gorge and the southern flanks of the main High Atlas chain, before returning to Marrakech.

We explore snow-capped peaks but the average daily temperature is still 20ºC. Cycling in Morocco, this beautiful and remote region of the country is very varied with superb dirt track descents and challenging climbs.

Cycling in Morocco we encounter the ‘real’ Morocco, share mint tea with local people in small villages and also travel through the spectacular Todra and Dades gorges.

Winter in the Draa Valley and Jebel Sahro – Cycling in Morocco itinerary










View Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Marrakech
Arrive in Marrakech. Transfer to hotel, where once you have had a shower and time to relax a bit, your tour leader will brief you about the tour together with our local guide. Then we will have to see if we can find a great restaurant.

Day 2: In Marrakech
The first day is spent exploring the fascinating city of Marrakech. This ancient walled city has a souq surpassed by none in Morocco. Snake charmers, storytellers, wondrous food stalls and bustling streets make it a great way to start our adventure. In the evening we put the bikes together so we are ready to head out of town in the morning. We then we head to the Jmaa el Fnaa Square for our evening meal.

Day 3: Ride to Ait Benhaddou
We start early and head south into the High Atlas Mountains. The two-hour drive takes us out of the bustling city to the top of the spectacular Tizi-n-Tichka pass at 2100m. We begin our cycle on a small tarmac road descending the southern slopes of the High Atlas after the little village of Telouet. After a short lunch break and a mint tea, we continue on tracks and dirt roads through the spectacular Asif Ounila valley towards the incredible Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou. The tracks are fast and fun with some great descents. We spend the night in a small gîte near a ruined kasbah used in the filming of the movie Gladiator.
Cycling distance: 43km

Day 4: Ride to Agdz
We begin the day with a transfer (approx. 60 minutes) to the Tizi-n-Tinnififft, altitude 1700m. This is the start point for the cycling, beginning with an 8km tarmac descent! The views are magnificent, though just after we hit the piste (unsealed tracks) there is a very rough section for approximately 3km, which might require some walking. Thereafter, we hit a fantastic smooth and fast piste (unsealed tracks) that takes us through palmeries and isolated villages – an excellent introduction to the remote Berber lifestyle. Just before we arrive at the hotel in Agdz it is possible to ride up to the viewpoint to look across Jebel Kissane (1,531m) and the Draa Valley.
Cycling distance: 45km

Day 5: Ride to Zagora
We ride straight from the front door of the hotel, covering the first few kilometres on tarmac before taking to an undulating track that leads through the valley’s shady palmeraies. All along the valley, kasbahs rise from the fertile ground and the green of the gardens contrasts dramatically with the brown of the near-vertical valley walls. After a 45km ride we transfer the last 60km by road, following the river into the desert gateway town of Zagora – the very fit might like to ride some of this section on road. You are now 52 days by camel from Timbuktu!
Cycling distance: 45km

Day 6: In Sahara
Today we can visit the real Sahara Desert by Landrover, or you are free to relax by the pool or in and around Zagora. The drive to Mhamid, where the sand dunes start and the road ends takes about an hour and a half. Once there, there will be plenty of time to walk in the dunes or try your luck on the back of a camel (optional – clients pay locally) before taking our picnic in the shady grounds of a kasbah. Anyone who feels they simply have to keep cycling can explore the Jebel Zagora and around the palmeraies at their pace.

Day 7: Ride N’kob
Today’s route takes us into the heart of the Jebel Sahro. After a 15km scenic drive back through the Draa Valley we take to our bikes and follow the piste as it rolls along the valley floor. The scenery gradually changes, becoming drier and rockier as we follow the escarpment wall. Many Berber villages – we will have lunch and Berber mint tea in one of these – and kasbahs line the route and there are a number of exciting river crossings along the way – during the winter months nomads can also be seen tending their flocks among the hills. The ride offers up to 65km off-road after which we will load the bikes onto the Landrovers and transfer the last 40km to the small town of N’kob, where we stay in Berber tents in the grounds of a spectacularly converted traditional kasbah.
Cycling distance: 65km

Day 8: Ride to Boumalne Dades
This is the hardest day of the trip, but the effort is well rewarded, with stunning views, an excellent descent and a visit to the amazing rock formations at Bab n’ Ali. For those who really want to work there is also an optional 15km hill climb! The fit can start in N’kob, though this makes the day’s ride a tough 96km door-to-door. Those preferring a more leisurely day can start after an hour’s transfer to the Bab n’Ali. The Bab n’Ali are two spectacular rock pillars set in the heart of the wild and rugged Jebel Sahro, from here there is a tough and unrelenting 15km climb to the top of the 2,200m Tizi n’ Tazzazert. This climb is of course also optional, though the reward in terms of both the views and the achievement is well worthwhile. Those transferring to the top of the climb are still left with 43km of piste, which is mostly downhill, meaning there is plenty of riding for all. At the end of the piste 11km of road brings us to our hotel in Boumalne Dades at the head of the amazing Dades Gorge.
Cycling distance: 96km

Day 9: Back to Marrakech
From the front door of the hotel we ride into town and then turn off down a bumpy piste to begin the last day’s exploration of this extraordinary region. After an undulating ride to the village of Bou Thrar, there is a last 5km (400m) climb to a 2,000m pass from where it is possible to overlook both the High Atlas to the north and the Jebel Sahro to the south. A last 20km blast downhill and across the plains will build up an appetite for a final tajine (Moroccan stew) in the village of Qualaa’t Mgouna, from here we transfer back to Marrakech for well-earned cold beers and hot showers. We pack up the bikes then head out for dinner…and that bar.
Cycling distance: 41km

Day 10: Farewell
A final morning to do the last shopping and practice telling tall tales of the great ride we have just done and then we are off to the airport. Where your tour leader will say goodbye there and see you again!

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Seasons

Winter On the plains, the days are usually warm (above 20°C) and the nights cool to cold. High up the days are clear with sunny skies, but the nights are often below freezing, and a good warm jacket is necessary. Some cold winds are likely. Very occasionally snow has been known at lower altitudes but it does not lie for long.
Spring and autumn The days should be warm to hot (18 – 28°C) with clear skies and the sun strong; the nights will be cool (8 – 18°C).
Mountain weather is always unpredictable and as a result we may very occasionally be forced to amend the itinerary for part of the trip, particularly if there has been recent heavy rain, or heavy melt-water from the High Atlas. Days 6 & 7 are the only days likely to be affected adversely and in the event that this is the case an alternative route will be taken, which might entail a long transfer or a road ride in place of the intended off-road route.

Best time to go

January

February

March

April

May

September

October

November

December

Base price per person €930

Price is based on a minimum 5 pax. Please contact us for pricing for smaller or individual groups.
Note the price is in Euros.

Services

Most of the tracks are vehicle width, and the Landrover support vehicles can follow us throughout the trip so you can ride as much or as little as you like and avoid the 2 or 3 major climbs! Accommodation is in 2- to 3-star hotels (so we avoid the cold winter nights), with one night spent in Berber tents.
It is a good idea to have a small daypack for those items you will need during the day, this can be stored in the Land Rover and will be easily accessible. It is also handy to bring your camel, not for riding on Laurence of Arabia style, but for drinking from!

What is included

  • Arrival and departure transfer Marrakech airport
  • 3 hotel nights (B&B, 2 star) in Marrakech
  • 1 hotel night (1/2 board, 2 star) in Ait Ben Haddou
  • 1 hotel night (1/2 board, 2 star) in Agdez
  • 2 hotel nights (1/2 board, 3 star) in Zagora
  • 1 night on half board at Kasbah Baha Baha or similar under nomadic tents in N’kob
  • Land Rover at our disposal whole MTB trip (7 days)
  • Western leader and guide throughout trip

What is not included

  • International flight to and from Marrakech
  • Morocco Visa fees
  • Sleeping bags
  • Travel insurance (We insist you have one)
  • Soft/alcoholic drinks
  • Dinners in Marrakech
  • Lunches throughout the trip
  • Bar bills and laundry
  • Airport taxes
  • Optional trips and sightseeing tours – sightseeing of Marrakech city on day 2 (optional)
  • Additional nights at the beginning or end of trip
  • Tips
  • Excess baggage charges

Eye Candy

More Mountain Biking in Morocco

A truly epic journey! The Roof of the World on a bike – what better way to explore Tibet and Nepal, meet the locals, experience the amazing culture and stunning scenery!
Felix Haslimeier Edinburgh, New Zealand