Have you really been to Morocco if you didn’t walk on the dunes in the Sahara or take a selfie with a camel? Well let me tell you, we didn’t make the long 9-hour drive to the Sahara but we had quite an adventure riding the ATVs on the moon-like landscape on the Agafay desert near Marrakech! Even if we didn’t ride them for long we even managed a selfie with a camel. And it was one of our best days in Morocco!
Located just 40 kilometers away from Marrakech, southwest on Route d’Amizmiz is a rough and rocky desert landscape sitting in the shadows of the Atlas Mountains. A morning riding the Quad bikes is a fun way to spend some time while visiting the red city – it makes for a great day trip from Marrakech. For those of us who have time constraints and can’t make it to the Sahara desert this a nice alternative to experience some desert adventures.
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Drive to Agafay Desert near Marrakech
On the drive from Marrakech, we saw a few palm trees and olive groves. After about 30 minutes we turned onto an unpaved road. The ride got a little bumpy at this point and the landscape changed. It seemed barren with dune like structures that on closer look were made of rocks and not sand.
We arrived at the rendezvous point to meet our guide. There was a row of shiny Yamaha Grizzly 350cc waiting for us. He set us up with all the appropriate gear and gave us some basic instructions on how to operate the Quad bikes. We had driven Snowmobiles in Iceland and ATVs in Moorea in French Polynesia but never driven in a desert and were looking forward to it. Our guide had planned a route to cover as much land as possible.
Riding ATVs on the moon-like landscape of Agafay Desert
We started with the rolling greenery of the Kik Plateau at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains and down into the Agafay Desert with its oases and dry river beds.
We drove through an ancient Berber village nestled between some trees and even ran into some goats on the way. On some part of the ride, we were on old caravan trails traversing the mountain passes.
As we got used to cruising the landscape on our quad bike we drove up to higher into the mountains. Once we reached a higher elevation, we could see the looming Atlas mountains with its snow-covered peaks. This was December so there was quite a bit of snow! We could even see Marrakech in the distance.
In spring you will find wheat and wildflowers while summer and autumn, it gets pretty hot and really does look like the desert and it best to go early.
Luxury camps on the Agafay desert
There are a few camps in the Agafay desert where you can stay overnight. Can you imagine catching a sunset and spending the night in a luxury tent watching the stars? Agafay Desert is a favorite playground for Marrakshis during the weekends. They come here for horse-riding, dune-gazing, riding quad bikes on the stone desert and canoeing on Lake Lalla Takerkoust, a man-made reservoir.
We didn’t stay the night but enjoyed the picnic lunch that our Hotel had packed for us in the adobe style house. There are tours that offer authentic tajine lunch will be served under a tent at mid-day.
After lunch, we watched as the farmers were herding the goats back into the house for the evening and enjoyed some sweet mint tea. We took a ride in their camel for a few minutes. We didn’t want to miss the opportunity to take a selfie with the camel!
While I was not exactly dressed for adventure, I loved the wind in my hair, cool cotton kurta on my skin and desert sand between my toes… it was exhilarating! It was our last day, we had spent 5 days in Marrakech. After the Quad bike adventure in Agafay, we hurried to Menara airport to catch Tap Airlines to Porto. We caught a beautiful sunset over the Red City as our plane took off.
Follow the link for other outdoor adventures at the Agafay desert – to read reviews, and book your desert adventure. Agafay Desert is great a place to check out during your stay in Marrakech.
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A trek in the Atlas Mountains at Toubkal National Park
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