Explore The Moroccan Draa Valley: A Saharan Oasis Adventure
Discover highlights, towns, attractions and things to do in Morocco’s stunning Draa Valley, a road-tripping route through palm oases, kasbahs, and Saharan landscapes.
Winding through southern Morocco like a lifeline of palm trees and kasbahs, the Draa Valley has enchanted travelers for centuries as a tranquil route to the Sahara Desert. This lush oasis corridor dotted with fortified villages provides the perfect road-tripping adventure.
Beginning at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains near Ouarzazate, the Draa River nourishes dense groves of date palm as it curves southward towards the sands of the Sahara. Each mudbrick village and ancient ruined fortification has its own lost-in-time charm. The valley culminates in frontier towns like Zagora and M’hamid, where rolling dunes extend as far as the eye can see.
This guide explores the highlights, sights, and experiences not to miss in the Draa Valley, the original gateway to the Sahara. Journey back in time in kasbahs, shop lively souks, traverse the great sand seas by camel, and unwind in riverside oasis camps under endless stars. Let this magical valley transport you into the Morocco of imagination and legend.
Ouarzazate – Hollywood of Morocco
Most trips through the Draa Valley begin in Ouarzazate, known as the “Hollywood of Morocco” for its Atlas film studios. Here you can:
- Tour the studios and learn about movie history with sets from Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and Lawrence of Arabia.
- Visit the ancient Taourirt Kasbah, nicknamed “House of Thousands” for its dungeon-like rooms.
- Ride a camel with stunning desert vistas surrounding the studios.
Don’t miss this cinema-centric pitstop before your oasis journey.
Agdz – Beginning the Oasis Route
About 60km south of Ouarzazate the oasis villages begin in Agdz, where you’ll find:
- Ruins of the 15th century Tamnougalt Kasbah overlooking the valley.
- A lively weekly souk, or market, selling traditional handicrafts and produce.
- The historic Caïd’s Kasbah, now a guesthouse, to peek into traditional life.
- A popular camel market trading the desert steeds.
Zagora – Gateway to the Sahara
The largest Draa Valley town, Zagora announces itself as the ‘Gateway to the Sahara’ with iconic signage. Highlights include:
- Trekking, 4×4, and camel trips to the towering orange Erg Chigaga Saharan dunes nearby.
- Visiting the ancient libraries at Tamegroute Zaouia, known for manuscript calligraphy.
- Experiencing a breathtaking desert sunset then camping under the Milky Way.
M’hamid – Saharan Dunes and Oases
At the valley’s end, M’hamid extends into the dunes where you can:
- Mount a camel for overnight treks deep into the harsh Sahara terrain.
- Explore the old Jewish mellah and Kasbah.
- Switch off completely with a stay at a palm oasis retreat.
Travel Tips and When to Visit
To make the most of the Draa Valley:
- Go by rental car for flexibility stopping in villages as desired.
- Visit during spring or fall when temperatures are milder. Summer can be brutally hot.
- Spend multiple days to absorb the slow pace and fully immerse in oasis life.
The Draa Valley offers an enchanting glimpse into Morocco’s Saharan frontier and oasis culture. As the original caravan route from the High Atlas to the dunes, this lush palm corridor transports you back centuries with its crumbling kasbahs and vast desert vistas.
Whether exploring Hollywood history in Ouarzazate, staying in riverside guesthouses, or conquering the great sand seas by camel, the Draa Valley satiates a thirst for adventure. The contrasts between the tranquil oases, where life moves in slow motion, and the harsh Sahara environs will reshape your concept of beauty. Let this journey unfold going with the flow of the Draa.
Get Inspired and Plan Your Trip Today!
- Check out our Morocco Private Tours to see all the fantastic places you can visit in Morocco.
- Customize your own tour using the form on our website to create a vacation that is perfect for you.
The Draa Valley is located in southern Morocco, south of the High Atlas Mountains, stretching from Ouarzazate to M’hamid near the Sahara Desert.
Most people drive themselves by rental car. You can also hire a private driver or tour company to take you. Public transit is very limited in the valley.
Top attractions include kasbahs, palm oases, sand dunes, camel trekking, visiting ancient libraries, exploring villages, and relaxing at a desert camp.
The best time is during the spring (March-May) or fall (September-November) when temperatures are mild. Summer can be extremely hot.
To experience the valley at a relaxed place, spend at least 2-3 days, ideally 4-5. It’s about 140km from Ouarzazate to M’hamid.
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