The drive from Merzouga to the Dades Gorge should take about five hours non-stop through the Valley of Kasbahs. The road to the Dades Gorges crosses Erfoud and then turns left into the Valley of the Thousand Kasbahs on route N10. It is a nice drive with spectacular scenery, although much more congested than route N13 through the Atlas Mountains. If you don’t want to rush it I would recommend a full day, including stop overs at tourist spots, leaving early in the morning.
If it is business that’s brought you to Marrakesh, then try and extend your trip by a couple of days and visit the Erg Chebbi Desert at Merzouga. If you don’t want to drive alone, you can hire a private driver or arrange a tour at your hotel in Marrakesh. Leaving early in the morning you will catch the camel ride out to the desert in the after. For more details read my article about the Erg Chebbi Desert Tour.
How to Get to the Dades Gorge in Morocco
If you are coming from the direction of Marrakech, drive along Road N10 until you start seeing signs to turn left toward the Dades Gorge. Once you’ve turned left it will be a direct road to the gorge. Do the reverse if you are driving from Merzouga, Morocco’s desert.
Road Trip From Merzouga to the Dades Gorge
My plan was to leave early but unfortunately I messed up. Stupidly I took the car keys with me on the camel track into the desert and I left them in the tent! They slipped out of my pocket and didn’t think of checking under the mattress when we left. So as I was about to check out from Riad Aicha I realised that I couldn’t open the car!
Thankfully Ibrahim offered to walk me back to the campsite and we found the keys there! The weather was still very stormy and the walk took about three hours return! I was so tired by then that I nearly decided to stay another night but I had to head back to the airport.
Delayed by Losing the Keys to the Car
I finally left Riad Aicha and Hassi Labied around lunchtime and it meant I couldn’t stop anywhere on the way. It was also raining almost all day so I was a bit annoyed. The sun sets around 6PM in Morocco at the end of September and I wanted to check in before and walk to the Dades Gorge. The problem was that there were road closures along the route because of the torrential rains the day before and overnight. It meant that instead of five hours it took me nearly seven hours to get to the Dades Gorge.
Related: Read my other post about the full road trip itinerary for Morocco
Ibrahim recommended I stay in the Five Moons hotel, which belongs to his Berber friends. The Five Moons hotel is a stunning place, on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the river. My room was on the quiet side, so I could listen to the river rushing by. The rooms were clean and the landlady cooked dinner for me and the other guests.
The Hungarians at the Dades Gorge
As it turned out the other guests were also Hungarian! What a small world. They came from the capital city, but the man was originally from Marosvasarhely where some of my relatives currently live. We even had some mutual acquaintances. And of all places we met in the Atlas Mountains near the Dades Gorge!
They paid a tour operator for the trip, flying to Marrakesh return from Budapest. Their guide was driving them everywhere and also made all the bookings. They went trekking in the mountains and then off to Merzouga to the desert.
The cost of their trip was actually slightly cheaper than mine, but I would still only go self-driving if I went again. I like my independence and I would be frustrated if I had to follow some tour guide’s orders. The pros are that you don’t get bothered by people trying to sell you hotel rooms and everything else. The next morning I drove up to the Dades Gorge and then turned around to drive to Ait ben Haddou where I planned to stay for the night. Watch the video and click the images to enlarge.
Driving to Ait ben Haddou
Route N10 is what every tourist takes and this is the main road between Marrakesh and the desert. Understandably, it is full of cars and tour buses and it makes for a slow journey! By lunchtime I was becoming frustrated at my slow progress but there wasn’t much I could do. Finally I got to Ait ben Haddou but I couldn’t be bothered to stay.
It is a super small place and except for the one historic site there isn’t much to do. If you go the entry to the kasbah is 20 riad but to enter each apartment there is a surcharge. And it is full of small shops selling tourist junk and some drawings of the place.
My flight was scheduled for the following evening and I still had several hours to drive to instead of stopping off in Ait ben Haddou I drove on to Telouet on Route P1506. Thanks to the King’s road building projects most of the roads have been upgraded and there were road works here too. This meant that part of the road had no tarmac, slowing me down to 20 kilometers/hour in some parts. By the time I got to Telouet it was dark and I drove for a further three hours before I got back to the main road! I do not recommend you do this! I was so exhausted – it was nearly 10 o’clock by then – so I pulled over at the first roadside hotel and slept there overnight.