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Sahara Desert Trails

Overview

The Sahara desert is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. It stretches from the Atlas mountains in North Africa to the Sahel in the south and has a combined surface area of 3,600,000 square miles - a size comparable to China or the USA. T…

Highlights

  • Ride through the dunes of the Sahara desert
  • Canter across wide open desert on an Arab/Barb Arabian
  • Camp in remote locations or stay in comfortable Riads
  • Discover fortified villages and palm-enclosed oases
  • Dine on delicious traditional Moroccan fare

Essential Facts

  • 2 itineraries available
  • Max 10 riders per group
  • Average of 4 - 5 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 90kg / 198 lbs/ 14 st 2lbs

Description

The Sahara desert is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. It stretches from the Atlas mountains in North Africa to the Sahel in the south and has a combined surface area of 3,600,000 square miles - a size comparable to China or the USA. The area you ride through is in the south-central part of Morocco and you depart from the town of Ouarzazate, also known as the 'door to the desert'. To the south of Ouarzazate lies only the desert, but that desert holds a multitude of landscapes and terrains, from open plateaus to high dunes and the oasis-filled Draa Valley.

These rides are for experienced riders who can enjoy riding a forward-going Arab or Barb Arabian across the wide-open desert. There are many canters and gallops on offer, whichever itinerary you choose.

Rides do not run in the summer months as it is too hot. Oct/Nov and Feb-Apr temperatures are generally warm and pleasant (c. 20-35C), whilst Nov-Feb is cooler (12-25C). Mid-winter, the mornings and evenings can be cold, often dropping below 0C overnight, but temperatures are warm during the day.

For those who wish for a remote camping ride, the Desert Ride takes you through the oasis-filled Draa Valley, camping each night amongst the dunes or palm groves. If you prefer a comfortable bed and shower each night, then the Horses, Dunes and Nomads ride offers just that.

This destination has been visited by Far & Ride team member Natalie who will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Horses & Riding

Tack

English-style leather saddles are used for all the horses, along with practical saddle bags for your small items (camera etc). bridles are simple leather ones with either a snaffle or pelham bit. Each horse is also ridden in a martingale which can be attached to the front of your saddle to prevent slipping on climbs.

You will be asked to tack and untack your own horse at the beginning and end of each day. Help is on hand if required, but you should be fairly comfortable doing this yourself.

Horses

The horses are predominantly Barbs or Arab-barb crosses (with one Appaloosa). They are mainly stallions although some have been gelded. The horses are forward-going, fit and eager to please, but their behaviour, especially when handled on the ground, may differ from what you are used to at home or on other trails. Your guides will be able to show you the correct way to handle the horses and provide help if you require it.

Riding

There are 2 itineraries:

  • Horses, Dunes and Nomads is a trail ride
  • Desert Ride (camping) is a trail ride

Ages

None within reason - young riders are able to join this trail accompanied by a parent or guardian, provided they are fit, experienced riders who are confident handling a forward going horse (there are no ponies)

Health

You need to be physically fit and riding fit. If you are not riding regularly then you must get back in the saddle before joining the trails.

Weight

90kg / 198 lbs/ 14 st 2lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

All meals are included during the riding tours, from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your day of departure.

Dinners will be typical and traditional Moroccan fare featuring plenty of vegetables, chicken, beef, and lamb in the form of tagine, soups, stews and couscous. These are typically 3 courses, with soup to start, tagine or stew to follow and fresh fruit to finish. Lunch is usually lighter - prepared for you by the support crew on the trail - with fresh salad, pasta, rice or couscous and a selection of protein such as cheese or tinned fish. Breakfast will vary depending on the ride you are on but usually consists of a selection of bread, preserves, cakes, fresh fruit, eggs, tea, coffee and juice.

Traditional Moroccan tea will be served at breakfast, lunch and at the end of the riding day together with a selection of sweet and salted snacks. Water is provided but other drinks are payable locally. Some of the more touristic guesthouses will serve a selection of alcoholic drinks (beer and wine) for you to buy, but most will only offer soft drinks.

Accommodation

Depending on the ride you have chosen, you will either stay in the comfort of a guesthouse or riad each night or have more adventurous mobile tented camps set up each night in the desert.

Both trails begin with a night of accommodation in a high-standard tourist Riad in Ouarzazate. The riad offers single, double and triple room options for guests, all with en-suite bathrooms and hot water too. There is a restaurant on-site for included meals and a swimming pool available for those who wish to use it.

During the guesthouse trail, you will spend each night in a different riad or guesthouse and these vary in standard from very traditional to more tourists. All have twin, double, single and triple rooms as well as en-suite bathrooms with hot running water, however.

For the camping trail, besides the first and final nights, you will stay each night in tents which will be carried with you by the support team. At the end of each riding day, you will help to set up camp. This will include; erecting the tents, setting up the cooking area, helping to secure the horses and preparing the meals. Again, in the morning, you will aid the support team in dismantling the camp ready to be transported to the next night's location.

Itineraries

Horses, Dunes and Nomads Standard accommodation.

Desert Ride (camping) Tented accommodation.

Other Activities

These riding trails are not suitable for purely non-riding guests. The riding days are long so there are also few opportunities to fit in other activities. There may be some free time in the evenings to walk amongst the dunes, listen to traditional music after dinner or swim in the pool if you are on the guesthouse ride (and there is one available).

For those wishing to extend their stay in Morocco, it is well worth taking some time to explore Ouarzazate; famed as the gateway to the desert, its Berber and nomadic culture as well as its film and television studios which have featured as a location for titles such as Gladiator, Ben Hur, The Mummy films, Game of Thrones, Cleopatra, Jewel of the Nile and many others.

Travel

Airport transfers are included from Ouarzazate airport if you arrive/depart on the set days. If you spend an extra night before/after the ride, then transfers from/to can be arranged at extra cost.

If you cannot find suitable flights to Ouarzazate, then transfers can be arranged from Marrakech airport at an additional cost and most guests take this option as there are a lot more flights available. You need to land in Marrakech by 15:30 on arrival day and departing flights should leave at 16:00 or later - this is because everyone goes together in one group transfer and the journey is several hours.

Testimonials

Sara S., Dec. 4, 2023

The long, exhilarating canters, the ever changing terrain and scenery, the amazingly fit and responsive horses, and our guide Abder made this trip one to remember :) I was thrilled with the opportunity to spread out and ride as a group rather than single file, as the terrain definitely allowed for it. And especially thankful for Adber's confidence in us to give us a bit of independence while riding. The desert hotels actually exceeded my expectations; they were clean with lots of nice character. This holiday was more aligned with the type of rides I look for. I had a great time!


Chantal S., Jan. 26, 2023

What a fabulous trip. Loved it all. Excellent horses and comfy tack, tasty, fresh healthy food, comfortable accommodation and a great support team. We met lovely people just as you said we would. The terrain and scenery were so much more varied than I expected. We only needed a coat on the last day, the rest of the week was fleece and t-shirt weather. The outfitter was a real pro. Included everyone, good communications, organised and punctual, patient and polite and a good sense of humour. His team evidently love what they do, his horses too - how they love to run!


Pam W., Jan. 10, 2023

Excellent. A great way to spend Christmas/New Year with friends - riding lovely horses through amazing scenery.


Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1 - Arrival

Riding: No riding.

You'll be transferred from Ouarzazate airport to your hotel where dinner is included.

Day 2 - Ouarzazate - Imi N'Chaabte - Tafraout

Riding: 2 hours

At 7 am you meet in the foyer of the hotel to transfer by road to Zagora. Your journey takes you through the Draa Valley to Tansikht and then along the Jebel Sagho mountain chain to cross Nkob and Tazzarine. Leave the asphalt road behind and continue to Mcissi (about a 6-hour drive of which 420km is road and 60km is dirt track). Lunch is taken en route, either as a picnic or at a local restaurant. On arrival, you meet your team and horses for your first ride across the sandy wadis and dune fields. Overnight in a cosy inn.

Day 3 - Tafraout - Foum March

Riding: 5 hours

Ride across the village of Tafrout and out onto the plateau of Ahbouche Ntkouyte (Lake Tafraout) which is perfect terrain for good canters and gallops. Pass through Tattihate between Jebel Mohre on your right and Jebel Zireg on your left. The splendour of the Sahara is laid before you with infinite dunes alternating with cliffs in the background. Overnight in a beautiful desert inn in the valley of Mharech.

Day 4 - Foum March - Remlia - Dunes of Ouzina

Riding: 6 hours

Set out in a southerly direction between sand dunes. Today you may meet nomads as you cross the Chouiref plateau and pass Tizi N'Guidou before dropping past the abandoned village of N'Oubahllou and the orange dunes of Remlia. Continue riding between mountains, dunes and small sand dunes in the direction of the Tagine mountain which is famous for Cretaceous fossils. Overnight in a cozy inn and watch the sun set over the dunes.

Day 5 - Ouzina Dunes - Jdaid

Riding: 5 hours

Ride amongst the beautiful dunes of Ouzina, alternating between being within the dunes themselves or between the sands and the mountains. Your whole day is riding in these open sands until reaching the village of Taghaoucht-n-Jdaid and your hostel for the night.

Day 6 - Jdaid - Merzouga

Riding: 4 hours

In the morning you continue riding through the sands and mountains until reaching Tamaris with the highest dunes of Morocco - Erg Chebbi. Marvel at these magnificent landscapes as your horse takes you through the vast sands. Overnight in a hostel near the foot of the dunes.

Day 7 - Merzouga - Ouarzazate

Riding: 3 hours

A final morning ride around the dunes before saying a fond farewell to your horse. After lunch you transfer back to Ouarzazate (c. 5 hours drive) and check into the same hotel as the first night. Final dinner at the restaurant.

Day 8 - Departure

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast, you are transferred to the airport for your flight home.

* Please note that some weeks this route will run in reverse.

Accommodation

Each night is spent in a comfortable desert hotel, in twin/double or triple rooms. Bathrooms may be shared.
In Ouarzazate you stay in a 3* hotel in double/twin rooms.
Single rooms are not always possible in the desert hotels so please check with us.

Experience Experienced

You should be competent in all paces across open terrain, rising to the trot and cantering in a forward seat. You must be able to control your horse with a light hand whilst galloping in a group. At the start of the week, canters are taken single file, but the pace is varied and includes lots of canters and gallops.

Minimum group size 3
Maximum group size 10
Departure windows

Jan. 14, 2024 - Jan. 21, 2024  (* low season)

Jan. 21, 2024 - Jan. 28, 2024  (* low season)

Feb. 18, 2024 - Feb. 25, 2024

Feb. 25, 2024 - March 3, 2024

March 3, 2024 - March 10, 2024

March 10, 2024 - March 17, 2024

March 17, 2024 - March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024 - March 31, 2024  (* high season)

March 31, 2024 - April 7, 2024  (* high season)

April 7, 2024 - April 14, 2024  (* high season)

Oct. 6, 2024 - Oct. 13, 2024

Oct. 13, 2024 - Oct. 20, 2024  (* high season)

Oct. 20, 2024 - Oct. 27, 2024  (* high season)

Oct. 27, 2024 - Nov. 3, 2024  (* high season)

Nov. 3, 2024 - Nov. 10, 2024  (* low season)

Nov. 10, 2024 - Nov. 17, 2024  (* low season)

Nov. 17, 2024 - Nov. 24, 2024  (* low season)

Nov. 24, 2024 - Dec. 1, 2024  (* low season)

Dec. 1, 2024 - Dec. 8, 2024  (* low season)

Dec. 8, 2024 - Dec. 15, 2024  (* low season)

Dec. 15, 2024 - Dec. 22, 2024  (* low season)

Dec. 22, 2024 - Dec. 29, 2024

Pricing

2024
Low Season; Sharing
£1335 $1665 €1560
2024
High Season; Sharing
£1420 $1770 €1660
2024
Standard Season; Sharing
£1390 $1730 €1625
Included 7 nights accommodation, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day, drinking water, transfers from Ouarzazate airport, 6 days riding.
Not included Flights, personal travel insurance, drinks, tips and other personal expenses.

Extras

2024 - Marrakech Airport Transfer €150
Paid locally
Price is per vehicle, each way, and will be split between all passengers requiring transfers from Marrakech.
2024 - Single Supplement (all nights) £210 $265 €250
Paid to Far and Ride
Cost applicable for all nights. Subject to availability and refunded if a sharer found.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1 - Arrival

Riding: No riding.

You'll be transferred from Ouarzazate airport to your three star hotel for the night. Dinner at your hotel.

Day 2 - Ouarzazate - Zagora - Djebel Rani

Riding: 5 hours

At 7am you depart your hotel and transfer by road to Zagora, passing through the Draa Valley (c. 3.5hr drive). On arrival you meet the team and your horses. Set off in a south-westerly direction crossing the great Feija range and eventually the last mountain range that separates you from the Sahara - Jebel Bani. Follow a narrow path to the top for magnificent views across the plateau of Feija and beyond to Jebel Saghro. Descend by another narrow path to reach you camp in a small oasis frequented by nomads.

Day 3 - Djebel Bani - Oued Naam

Riding: 5 hours

Ride to a new desert plateau where only a few parasol acacias seem to withstand the drought. Here you'll tackle your first dunes of the Moroccan Sahara whose size increases as you progress further south. The horizon is limitless and this area is being repopulated with gazelles and ostrich as a nature reserve.

Day 4 - Oued Naam - Ouled Driss

Riding: 5 hours

Continue riding through dune fields dotted with tamarisk plants and nomadic camps consisting of kheimas - low tents made of camel and goat skins which are typical of southern Morocco). You head towards the end of the Draa valley and some houses appear in the midst of palm trees - this is Bounou ksar (fortified village) and is one of the most beautiful in the valley. Continue into the village of Ouled Driss and your campsite.

Day 5 - Ouled Driss - Nesrate

Riding: 5 hours

Ride through the Draa valley, crossing more dunes to reach a plateau which you cross at a fast pace to reach Jebel Selmane pass. Here you'll cross more dune fields to arrive at the oasis of Tagounit where there are fields and small villages with decorated walls. Your route joins an old palm grove near the village of Nesrate and you camp amongst the dunes.

Day 6 - Nesrate - Oued Draa

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Todays ride takes you through the villages in the valley - a successions of ksours and gardens amongst the palm groves which provide refreshing shade. The palm groves continue to the wide pass of Wadi Draa between Jebel Bani and Jebel Tadrart. Follow this wide pass until reaching another oasis where you set up camp.

Day 7 - Oued Draa - Tinfou Dunes - Ouarzazate

Riding: 2 hours

Head north along trails between ksours and cultivated fields of palm groves until reaching the village of Tinfou where the impressive dunes threaten to engulf the houses and crops. Dune stabilisation measures are being taken but their effectiveness is uncertain. Here you say a fond farewell to your horse and riding team before transferring to Ouarzazate (c. 4 hour drive). You'll arrive in the afternoon to your hotel which faces the medina. Dinner in town with your guide.

Day 8 - Departure

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast, you are transferred to the airport for your flight home.

*please note that this ride may run in reverse.

Accommodation

In Ouarzazate on the first and last night you stay in a 3* hotel in double or triple room.

Whilst on the trail you are camping. Two man tents are provided along with mattresses. There is also a dining tent, a washing tent (with hot and cold water) and a toilet tent. You need to bring your own sleeping bag

Experience Experienced

You should be a capable rider who is confident in all paces across varied terrain. You must be able to rise to the trot and canter in a forward seat with light hands. There are good trots and canters every day as well as some gallops.

Minimum group size 3
Maximum group size 10
Departure windows

Jan. 7, 2024 - Jan. 14, 2024  (* Low Season)

Jan. 14, 2024 - Jan. 21, 2024  (* Low Season)

Feb. 4, 2024 - Feb. 11, 2024  (* Low Season)

Feb. 11, 2024 - Feb. 18, 2024

Feb. 18, 2024 - Feb. 25, 2024

Feb. 25, 2024 - March 3, 2024

March 10, 2024 - March 17, 2024

March 17, 2024 - March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024 - March 31, 2024  (* High Season)

March 31, 2024 - April 7, 2024  (* High Season)

Oct. 6, 2024 - Oct. 13, 2024

Oct. 13, 2024 - Oct. 20, 2024  (* High Season)

Oct. 27, 2024 - Nov. 3, 2024  (* High Season)

Nov. 3, 2024 - Nov. 10, 2024  (* Low Season)

Nov. 10, 2024 - Nov. 17, 2024  (* Low Season)

Nov. 17, 2024 - Nov. 24, 2024  (*Low Season)

Nov. 24, 2024 - Dec. 1, 2024  (*Low Season)

Dec. 1, 2024 - Dec. 8, 2024  (* Low Season)

Dec. 8, 2024 - Dec. 15, 2024  (*Low Season)

Dec. 22, 2024 - Dec. 29, 2024

Pricing

2024
Low Season; Sharing
£1005 $1250 €1175
2024
High Season; Sharing
£1090 $1360 €1275
2024
Standard Season; Sharing
£1060 $1320 €1235
Included 7 nights accommodation, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day, drinking water, transfers from Ouarzazate airport, 6 days riding.
Not included Flights, personal travel insurance, drinks, sleeping bag, tips and other personal expenses.

Extras

2024 - Marrakech Airport Transfer €140
Paid locally
Costs are per vehicle, each way.
2024 - Single Supplement £103 $128 €120
Paid to Far and Ride
Payable by anyone in a single room/tent.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.