DADES GORGE ROAD
The Dades Gorge is located practically in the center of Morocco. The road that runs through it is ranked among the most dangerous in all of Africa. It consists of numerous serpentine, bumps in the road and outstanding by the lack of barriers and shoulders. Therefore, persons with weak nerves or suffering from motion sickness, advise against driving this road. However, for people who feel comfortable behind the wheel and are not scary by driving in unfavorable conditions, a reward will await in the form of magnificent views of Morocco’s Dades Gorge.
Millions of years ago, today’s gorge area was flooded by ocean waters. Eventually, tectonic plate movements led to the formation of the Atlas Mountains and the Dades/Wadi Dadis River. Streams of water carved a path in the soft sedimentary rock, contributing to the widening and deepening of the gorge. Today, the Dades River is nearly 350 kilometers long (about 220 miles), and its source is in the High Atlas Mountains. The river flows into the Sahara Desert, where it joins the Wadi Dara/Draa River. The walls of the gorge reach heights of nearly 500 meters (about 1,600 feet) in some places, and the local Berbers use the river to irrigate their rose fields, olive groves and almond trees. In the surrounding mountains, people still live in caves, leading a nomadic lifestyle and using the valley as a seasonal route to pasture in the High Atlas Mountains.
BRIEFLY ABOUT THE GORGE
The Dades Gorge is known for its amazing rock formations and kasbahs, erected several centuries ago along the gorge. It is one of the most scenic drives in the world. The Dades Valley is characterized by a wild landscape, with snow on the peaks of the Atlas Mountains and a semidesert landscape in the lower parts of the canyon. The Dades Gorge is also known as the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs, and it has less than 130 kilometers long (about 80 miles) from Boumalne Dades to Agoudal. If you want to drive the entire gorge, it is essential one should own or rent a vehicle with drive 4×4 or an off-road motorcycle because as you pass the village of Msemrir (driving from the town of Boumalne Dades), the road becomes gravel. The rock formations change to various colors in shades of brown, beige, gold, orange, red and dark purple. Many of the historic kasbahs and ksars, that are old Berbers strongholds, have been converted into hotels and restaurants.
DADES GORGE-WHERE IS IT?
The gorge is located in Tinghir province, in the Drâa-Tafilalet administrative region. The easiest to reach the Dades Gorge is from the small town of Boumalne Dades, located 122 km northeast of Warzazat and 53 km from Tinerhir. The road is marked R704 on maps. It is paved (not all), but full of sharp curves. There are many viewpoints along the way where you can take photos. The best time to visit the lower parts of the valley is from March to June, while the mountains are the best gain from May to August. The gorge begins just north of the quiet town of Boumalne Dades, from which the road leads to the canyon. Be sure to visit the Tisdrine restaurant at the top, as there is a great spot with a view at all the way.
HOW TO DRIVE IN MOROCCO
DON’T EXCEED THE SPEED LIMIT, NEITHER THE SOLID LINE
Police patrols are often view in larger cities and on roads with intensity traffic. Police most often stop drivers who exceed speed (probably like everywhere 😊) or cross the solid line. Speed limits in Morocco that 50 km/h in cities, 80 km/h outside cities and 100 km/h on highways. If someone flashes headlights before us, it usually means that police officers are behind the next corner.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE AND DON’T RELY ON TURN SIGNALS
Moroccans have a very relaxed approach to traffic laws. They are not overly attached to turn signals. Rather, they prefer to drive without signaling directions. So, when driving on Moroccan roads, it is better to keep a large distance ahead of the car in front of you. Moroccan drivers will not necessarily pay attention to our turn signals.
DON’T CARE THE HONKING
Moroccan roads are noisy, almost everyone honked. The reason is not only to warn of danger, but also the impatience of drivers at traffic lights, honk at pedestrians who walk all over the road, word of thanks for dropping into a lane or paying attention, that someone is letting someone on the roadway.
RENT THE RIGHT CAR
If you are going to Morocco not in your car or motorcycle, it is worth taking care of what kind of vehicle you rent. If you want to drive around cities or tourist regions, suffice an ordinary single-axle drive car. On the other hand, if you want to drive on the roads in the Atlas Mountains, then here you should to rent a vehicle with drive 4×4 or an off-road motorcycle. The reason is this, that in higher parts of the mountains there are few paved roads and there may be snow in the mountains even in summer.
DOWNLOAD MAPS ON YOUR PHONE BEFORE YOUR TRIP
It is important to keep in mind that Morocco is a poor country compared to, for example, European countries, whereby the Internet network is poorly developed. Therefore, it’s a good idea, that before traveling to this country to download maps of the regions where you will be driving and use offline navigation. It is also a good option is to buy paper maps.
AVOID WINTER IF YOU WANT TO DRIVE THROUGH MOUNTAIN PASSES
Snow in the Atlas Mountains falls annually. Although the main roads are open year-round, roads in the higher portion can be blocked for short periods after heavy precipitation. If you intend to drive through a pass such as Tizi-n’Tichka or Tiz-n’Test, be aware, that these roads may be closed from December to March due to heavy snowfall.
AVOID DRIVING AT NIGHT AND DON’T DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL
Roads in Morocco are poorly lit, even the main roads, therefore, when driving at night, special care must be taken. Sometimes you may pass donkeys, oxen or pedestrians without any reflections in the evening. Driving under the influence of alcohol is prohibited in Morocco, and for this violation you can get a ticket or go to jail.
HAVE ALL DOCUMENTATION WITH YOU
When picking up your rental car, make sure that you have your passport and a valid driver’s license with you Worth also own a credit card or extra cash, to pay the deposit for the rental car. Have all documentation with you when you drive, in case of a police check. The minimum age to drive in Morocco is 18, but many car rental companies require in order that the driver has at least 21-23 years old. It’s a good idea to have an app installed on your phone to translate texts, as the contract will often not be written in English. In the beginning, it is also a good idea to take a video of the car before renting, to “document” the condition of the vehicle, in case the owner wants to tell us that, for example, Somewhere we scratched the car after returning it.
If we want to book a car online in Morocco, we can do it, for example, on Rentalcars.com.
Due to the disobedience of traffic regulations on the issue of priority right by Moroccan drivers, it is better to rent a car with full insurance.
It is advisable to take food and plenty of drinks with you on the road, as stores are rare in the more remote areas.
It’s a good idea to print out a proof of reservation, in order that avoid unpleasantness, just before renting the car.
In Morocco, there is practically no exist something this as priority right, and you usually give way priority right to the more “aggressive” driver.
When driving in rural areas of Morocco, there will be many stalls and huts on the side of the road selling various goods. Often there are fruit, Moroccan tagine, argan oil, and jewelry – don’t forget to haggle!
Gas stations are not self-service. A service employee pumps fuel into the cars and then takes money. Many stations do not have the prospect to pay by card, so it is a good idea to carry cash in a wallet.
You can check current gasoline prices in Morocco here.
Moroccan signs are similar to the European signs. Often, unfortunately, lack street names.
Because of lack of sidewalks outside the cities in Morocco, you have to be careful and watching for pedestrians, especially driving on local and intercity roads.
WHERE CAN TO STAY?
There are many hotels and guesthouses to choose as well as in the Boumalne Dades and along the Thousand Kasb Road. Most often these are motels or 3-star hotels. One of the most prestigious places along the road is the Auberge Chez Pierre. It is a traditional kasbah, built into the hillside, transformed into a 4-star hotel, set among terraced gardens full of fruit trees. It also has a swimming pool, a bar and beautifully decorated at Arabian-style rooms and suites.
- If you don’t feel good to driving a car through the gorge, you can make use of the 4×4 tours that several hotels in the town of Boumalne Dades organize up the Dadès Gorge and along the dirt road to the nearby Todra Gorge.
- In place, it’s also worth exploring the canyon on foot. There are several dozen of hiking trails to choose, some lasting from a few hours to even a few days. For example, the route connecting the Dades and Todra gorges takes from two to three days. Most hotels have the option of hiring a guide, and some also offer mountain bike tours.
- Police unfortunately not infrequently catch drivers for trivial offenses, such as driving on a solid line. Of course, in the name of the law, but really reason it is extorting money from the driver. Often a “bribe” of $10 or $15 takes care of that.
- From the 19th century until 1956, that is, until the local population regained independence, Morocco was a French colony. For this reason, it is possible to communicate in French in many places in Morocco.
The Dades Gorge road is undoubtedly beautiful, but also dangerous. Measuring almost 130 kilometers in length, whence half of the road is not paved and is covered with gravel, it certainly requires composure and concentration from the driver. Due to the construction of many hotels and guesthouses in recent years, it certainly can’t be said, that it is a desolate place, despite the fact that the Dades Gorge is located among the Atlas Mountains. For a more comfortable drive, it’s best to drive this section early in the morning, when traffic is at its lowest, and you can take many pictures. Certainly, transiting this a route will provide an unforgettable experience.
jonl1973, source flickr (photo edited).
Nawfal Kharbach, source commons.wikimedia.org.
jonl1973, source flickr (photo edited).
Rigel, source Unsplash.
Frida Aguilar Estrada, source Unsplash.
Rigel, source Unsplash.
Nuno Silva, source Unsplash.
Rigel, source Unsplash.