The Dadès, rambling east from Ouarzazate, is the harshest and most desolate of the southern valleys. Along much of its length, the river is barely visible above ground, and the road and plain are hemmed in between the parallel ranges of the High Atlas and Djebel Sarhro – broken, black-red volcanic rock and limestone pinnacles. This makes the oases, when they appear, all the more astonishing, and there are two here -Skoura and Tinerhir -among the most beautiful in the country. Each lies along the main bus route from Ouarzazate to Er Rachidia and to Erfoud, offering an easy and excellent opportunity for a close look at a working oasis and, in Skoura, a startling range of Kasbahs.

Impressive though these are, however, it is the two gorges that cut out from the valley into the High Atlas that steal the show. The Dadès itself forms the first gorge, carving up a fertile strip of land behind Boumalne du Dadès. To its east is the Todra Gorge, a classic, narrowing shaft of high rock walls, which you can trail by car or transit lorry from Tinerhir right into the heart of the Atlas. If you’re happy with the isolation and incertainties of the pistes beyond, it is possible, too, to continue across the mountains – a wonderful trip which emerges in the Middle Atlas, near Beni Mellal on the road from marrakesh to Fes.

To the south of the Dadès, the Djebel Sarhro also affers exciting options from october To April, either trekking on foot, or exploring its network of rough piste roads in a 4X4 vehicle. Tours and treks can be arranged through British trekking companies (see Basics) or in the “trailhead towns” of El Kelâa des Mgouna, Boumalne du Dadès and Tinerhir.

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