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High Atlas Traverse

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High Atlas Traverse

1-Join tour Marrakech
Our journey begins in Marrakech, Morocco’s fascinating and atmospheric ‘Red City’. Like many North African towns, Marrakech is divided into two distinct parts, the Gueliz (the modern French-built city) and the Medina (the Old City). For generations this enigmatic setting has been a meeting place for the mountain Berbers and the desert peoples of the south, who come to trade and barter amongst its colourful souks and labyrinthine alleyways. Boasting a staggering array of spectacular architecture and wonderful facades, the city’s beating heart is the spectacular Djemma-el-Fna.Drive to El Ksiba, then cycle to Ait Sidi Hsaine
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Room option available

2-Drive to El Ksiba, then cycle to Ait Sidi Hsaine
This morning we drive across the Haouz Plain to the charming village of El Ksiba, set high amongst the rugged landscapes of the Zaiane Highlands. After lunch we then begin our cycling, heading in the direction of Tizi n’Isly and the northern face of the High Atlas. Our journey takes us past several villages and through a landscape dominated by rolling valleys and wooded hills. Crossing a region that has traditionally been dominated by the Zaiane Berbers and nomadic herdsmen, we make our way towards the town of Ait Sidi Hsaine, where we spend this evening enjoying the hospitality of the local villagers.
Cycling distance approximately 15-20 kilometres. Ascent approximately 200 metres.
Overnight: Simple Village House

3-Cycle to Imilchil and Lake Tislit
Departing the town after breakfast we continue south-east, climbing higher and crossing through a pass that takes us on to the Imilchil Lake plateau and the beautiful setting of Lake Tislit. From here we have an opportunity to take a dirt road that heads north-east, towards the waters of Lake Isli, traversing a landscape that is home to nomadic herdsmen who water and graze their sheep and goats amongst these steppe-like high pastures. After our visit we retrace our steps back to the town of Imilchil, where we spend this evening in a local auberge.
Cycling distance approximately 45-55 kilometres. Ascent 1,000 metres/descent 380 metres.
Overnight: Simple Guesthouse

4-Cycle through the Melloul Valley and the Tizi n’Ouerz Pass to Ait Haddidou
Following a series of dirt roads we head for the hypnotic landscapes of the Melloul Valley, at the head of the Dades River. After negotiating the pass at Tizi n’Ouertz (2800 metres), we then descend into the Berber village of Ait Haddidou (2000 metres). The Ait Haddidou Berbers occupy the upper plateaux of the Assif Melloul, a land of deep gorges, arid limestone mountains and green river valleys. Renowned for one of the most famous Berber festivals in the Atlas (the ‘Moussem’), the menfolk bedeck themselves in long burnouses and turbans, whilst the women still wear the traditional ‘handiras’ – cloaks of blue with white stripes.
Cycling distance approximately 35-50 kilometres. Ascent 1,050 metres/descent 800 metres.
Overnight: Simple Village House

5-Cycle through the Dades Gorge to Ait Oudinar
Crossing the desert-like plateau we follow a dirt track this morning, passing through the village of Msemrir and continuing along a paved road into the dramatic vistas of the Dades Gorge, the upper section of the Dades Valley. Passing Kasbahs and kours (fortified villages) and fertile fields of almond and walnut trees, we take in the towering limestone cliffs and surreal shapes of the Dades Gorge, continuing into the valley and following a tarmac road towards our final destination for the day, the small Berber village of Ait Oudinar (1600 metres), lying at the end of the paved road.
Cycling distance approximately 35 kilometres. Ascent/descent 250 metres.
Overnight: Simple Guesthouse
Single Room option available

6-Cycle through the Valley of the Roses to El Kelaa Mgouna. Drive to Ouarzazate
Departing the Dades Gorge we follow the course of the river south, heading towards the small settlement of Ait Youl where we turn west, leaving the main road and taking a dirt track that leads us to the village of Bou Trarar. From Bou Trarar our journey continues south, through the beautiful landscapes of the Valley of the Roses, an area renowned for its glowing red cliffs and fields of abundant roses. We end the day’s ride in the town of El Kelaa Mgouna, from where we complete our journey to Ouarzazate by bus.
Cycling distance approximately 35 kilometres. Ascent/descent 150 metres.
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Room option available

7-Explore Ait Ben Haddou and the Ounila Valley. Drive to Marrakech
Cycling out of Ouarzazate this morning we head to the town of Ait Ben Haddou, to pay a short visit to its Ksar (fortified city), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been used as a backdrop for a number of films including ‘The Mummy’, ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Living Daylights’. From here we then head out along the picturesque Ounila Valley towards the village of Anmiter, where we leave our bikes for the last time and return to Marrakech by road, travelling back to the city via Telouet and the Tizi n’Tichka Pass.
Cycling distance approximately 40 kilometres. Ascent 700 metres/descent 350 metres.
Overnight: Standard Hotel
Single Room option available

8-Tour ends Marrakech
The tour ends in Marrakech this morning after breakfast.

Tour includes:

7 Breakfast
6 Lunch
4 Dinner
Bicycle, 4WD
3 nights Standard Hotel
2 nights Simple Village House
2 nights Simple Guesthouse
Tour Staff:
Driver(s), Local Guide(s), Explore Tour Leader / Cycle guide
Cycling Information:
On this tour we cycle 205 km over 6 days (an average of 34 km per day) with a further optional 35 km available. Over 50% of the cycling is off-road with a mixture of dirt roads and gravel tracks with some long fast descents on surfaces that require experience and care. The climbs include long ascents over both tarmac and off-road passes, up to 2900m altitude. 4WD support vehicles accompany the tour in full,
providing transfers between cycling points and carrying luggage.
Group Size:
Generally 10 – 16

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They are passionate about what they do, and above all, simply love nothing more than to travel. The founder directors ran overland trips through Asia, Africa and the Americas in the 1960s and 70s prior to setting up the company, and were determined that the spirit of adventure that was such an important part of those early pioneering days, should continue to play key role as part of the driving ethos of Explore.

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