Of all the facets of the kingdom, the Moroccan desert is one of the most surprising. Discover the hustle and bustle of the imperial city of Marrakech, the adobe kasbahs of Ouarzazate, the oases of the Drâa Valley and the ramparts of Zagora on a road-trip that will shake up all your preconceived ideas. 


With its Mediterranean climate, Morocco can be explored under the sun almost all year round. Autumn is the best time to visit Marrakech and the Moroccan desert. Temperatures oscillate between 20 and 30 degrees and the sun shines for 10 hours a day. Rain falls only one or two days a month. 

You can also take the ferry to Morocco in winter or spring. Temperatures are milder, but the color of the December or April sky is unparalleled in its purity. 

Even if you like the heat, it’s best to avoid summer when visiting the Moroccan desert. With temperatures that can reach 50 degrees, July and August are not ideal for discovering southern Morocco and the Sahara Desert. 


If for you the desert is synonymous with dunes and vast stretches of sand, the Moroccan desert has more than enough to surprise you. Here, a mix of rocky areas, oases and palm groves awaits you. 

Marrakech, “City of the Seven Saints 

It’s impossible to discover Morocco without visiting Marrakech! After your Marseille-Tangier boat trip, set course for the ochre city. You’ll be greeted by a bustling medina, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The hustle and bustle culminates in Place Jemaa El-Fna, where snake charmers rub shoulders with craftsmen and their stalls. 

For a little peace and quiet, head to the Majorelle Gardens in the new town. Fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent made it his refuge. The old town also boasts a number of peaceful havens. A stone’s throw from the souk lies the Secret Garden. Behind this mysterious name lie an exotic garden, an Islamic garden, palaces and one of the city’s tallest towers. 

Lovers of arts and culture will find plenty to do in Marrakech. They can learn about Berber culture at the Musée de Marrakech and appreciate the Morocco of yesteryear at the Musée de Mouassine or the Maison de la Photographie. 

The Gateway to the South, like the rest of the kingdom, has been a source of inspiration for many foreign artists. The Musée des Orientalistes and the museum dedicated to Yves Saint-Laurent remind us how Marrakech fed the imagination of European painters and artists. 

Ouarzazate, “Gateway to the Desert 

At the crossroads of the Drâa and Dadès valleys, the gateway to the Moroccan desert is often overlooked by tourists. Yet Ouarzazate enjoys exceptional sunshine, making it the Hollywood of Morocco. 

Films such as Laurence d’Arabie, Gladiator and Kundun were shot here. You can admire the sets and costumes of these blockbusters at the city’s Cinema Museum. 

If you want to visit the authentic Ouarzazate, head for the Taourit kasbah. Behind the high adobe facades decorated with geometric motifs lies a maze of alleyways, stalls and grocery stores. 

Zagora, “the silent city 

Zagora is where the trail to the Sahara begins, as evidenced by the famous painted sign for Timbuktu, 52 days (by camel). 

Before taking your turn to visit the Moroccan desert, take advantage of the shade provided by a stroll along Avenue Mohamed V, or climb Jebel Zagora. Perched at an altitude of 200 meters, you’ll enjoy views of the Silent City, the cliffs and the surrounding dunes. 

Finally, if you have a little time left when you visit Zagora, plan a trip to the village of Amezrou or an excursion to the Tinfou dunes. 


Once past Zagora, the valleys of the Sahara desert open up to you. For nature lovers wondering what to visit in Morocco, the Drâa, Roses and Dades valleys are not to be missed. 

Drâa Valley 

South of the Atlas Mountains nestles one of Morocco’s largest oases. The Drâa Valley is an ancient caravan trail dotted with Berber villages, palm groves and fortifications. 

The landscape and the silhouettes of the ksour can be appreciated by car, while every stop in a village has its own surprises in store. In Agdz, for example, the descendants of caïd Ali open the doors of their ancestor’s home. It’s an opportunity to contemplate the riad and its orange trees, which were previously reserved for guests. 

Are you feeling hot from the road and would like to swim in the desert? You can do so at the Ouzoud waterfalls, or at those located just a few minutes from the village of Tizgui. These waterfalls give rise to a natural swimming pool, open for bathing when the weather is favorable. 

Rose Valley 

In the southern foothills of the Moroccan Atlas mountains, believe it or not, nature delivers a theater of beauty. As you follow the course of winding rivers, you’ll arrive at verdant jewels through steep ravines. You’ll come across life-saving oases that lend the “Land of the Distant Sunset” its exotic charm. Among these bits of Eden, the Valley of the Roses is a must-see, ideally in spring. 


In Morocco’s tourist guides, the “Valley of the Roses” is the nickname given to the Dades Valley, which lies at the foot of the High Atlas between the town of Kelâat M’Gouna and the village of Bou Tharar, in the south-east of the country. It is generally entered via Imassine, at the level of a jumble of large, rounded boulders that sometimes seem to balance on the ground. This is followed by a series of small farming communities with mud houses, who cultivate a variety of crops (corn, barley and other cereals, potatoes, etc.) away from the roads. 

The valley’s nickname comes from the rose hedges originally created to keep goats out of the fields. Pilgrims returning from Mecca are said to have brought the Damascus rose (Rosa Damascena) to the region in the 10th century. Today, the flower has become an emblem of the region. It is consumed locally in the form of rose water and exported to the perfume industry in the form of rose concretes.or gasoline. 

Discover the Valley of the Roses 

The Toudgha and Dades gorges are well known to travelers. Both are magnificent. The Valley of the Roses, on the other hand, remains little-visited. Yet here you’ll find landscapes straight out of a storybook. The Oued M’Goun was the sculptor on its way to the town of Kalaat M’Gouna. Along the river, a 30 km asphalt road offers splendid views of this world of red rocks and verdant valleys. 

Moroccan rose paradise 

What literally brings the Valley of the Roses to life are its flowers. Every April and May, thousands of tons of roses color the landscape. The spectacle is ephemeral, as local women are quick to pick them and send them to the processing plants in nearby Kalaat M’Gouna. Every spring morning, the scent of roses wafts over the paths and into the villages. This is your chance to discover the local Moroccan industry. You can also take a short walk around the oasis nestling at the bottom of the valley to refresh yourself. 

Visit Rosa Bio to find the best of local produce 

Once harvested and sorted, the petals are shipped to local factories for distillation. The essence is then used to make a whole range of products. Rose oil is said to have a number of beneficial properties for the skin: moisturizing, eliminating acne, slowing down the aging process, etc. It is also used to soothe the skin. It is also used to soothe anxiety and depression, and can even treat migraines. 

To produce one liter of rose oil, you need around 4 tons of flowers. So don’t be surprised if this elixir is very expensive (a liter sells for $7,000). Fortunately, a few milliliters are more than enough to perfume and pamper your skin. Visit the Rosa Bio store, located on the main road east of Kalaat M’Gouna, for a wide selection of rose products. The shopkeepers will give you invaluable advice on how to use rose oil, and if you’re feeling sympathetic, they’ll even show you around their distillery. 

Take part in the Rose Festival 

The Dades Valley Rose Moussem is held in the town of Kalaat M’Gouna after the harvest. Thousands of Moroccans from neighboring towns and even distant provinces flock here to feast and do small business with the locals. Dressed in their finest finery, the locals strut through the streets, showering each other with rose petals and water. Traditional dances enliven the parade, so let yourself be carried away by the whirlwind of the bee dance or the sword dance. Then it’s time to elect the “Miss of the Roses” from among the unmarried young women, and present her to the public on a magnificent flower-decorated float. 

The festivities usually last three days. Throughout the festival, stalls sell a wide range of perfumes, cosmetics and culinary products made from rose petals and essential oils. The Moussem des roses is one of the best eco-tourism events to be discovered in the Atlas region, a traditional annual gathering where you’ll feel like you’re in a real fairytale. 

Practical information 

How to get there 

The Valley of the Roses extends around the town of Kalaat M’Gouna. It is served by the main road between Tinghir and Ouarzazate, which is well graded and tarmacked, and can be reached by any type of car. Journey times are as follows: 

From Tinghir to Kalaat M’Gouna (75km), allow 1h15 travel time. 

From Ouarzazate to Kalaat M’Gouna (95km), allow around 1h30 

The journey from Kalaat M’Gouna to Bou Tharar (30km) takes 45 min. 

If you don’t have your own vehicle, there are buses and cabs on the main road from Ouarzazate to Tinghir, via Skoura, Kalaat M’Gouna and Boumaine Dadès. 

When to visit? 

Naturally, the Valley of the Roses is at its best in spring, when the flowers bloom and dot the valley floor and the plantations are verdant. So plan your trip between early April and late May, at best during the first week of May just before the Rose Festival. The period between mid-September and mid-October is also pleasant, after the summer season when temperatures can be oppressive.