An Incredible 4×4 Trip Across Morocco
An incredible culture, never-ending sandy coastline, and many historical locations make Morocco an amazing place to visit. Morocco is also the destination of choice if you want to appreciate nature in its purest form, perhaps, with a 4×4 vehicle.
The rocky, mountainous landscape, great views of the Atlantic Ocean, and that extensive sandy coastline hold the promise of a road trip in your overlanding rig that is both memorable and fulfilling.
Adding the expansive Sahara desert to the mix, makes Morocco the ultimate destination for discerning overlanders to discover an incredible driving experience.
What experience can beat driving over the sand of the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean? Majestic dunes will invite you to relish in their Saharan wonder. Morocco offers great and safe camping grounds to pitch your tent and enjoy the outdoors in the true overlander style.
For those nights you wish to spend in a hotel, decent accommodation and meals are available. The rich Moroccan culture is incredibly hospitable, and you will be spoilt for the choice of cultural souvenirs to take back home.
Morocco is located on the North-Western
edge of the vast African Continent.
The country spans across 710,850 square kilometers and has a population of about thirty-six million. The region has a mostly mild climate, though the winters can be unforgiving.
The country borders two oceans: The Atlantic Ocean and the Medittarenean Sea. Driving alongside the Atlantic Coastline is one of the best overlander experiences, and one you should most definitely add to your bucket list.
An interesting fact about Morocco is that it’s one of only three countries that share the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines – the two other countries being France and Spain.
Your wanderlust will get a deep quenching in Morocco more than any other destination.
Morocco is one of the top overlanding destinations.
If you’re wondering “What is overlanding?” you can read our post by clicking on the link.
Arriving from Europe, a great place to cross the Mediterranean is at Almeria, where you can take an overnight ferry to arrive at the Spanish enclave, Melilla. Arriving here is a unique experience as you’re still in Spain, however, already on the African continent.
From this autonomous city, you can cross its land border into the Moroccon city of Nador.
There are many volunteers (paid, of course) ready to help your crossing, but the good news is that the process is quite simple.
At the border, you will be required to complete two forms. The first one is the D16-TER, which gives the details of your car. You can fill this form online before getting to Morocco to make the process faster.
The form is also available on-site at the border as D16-bis, with the same details as the online version. Passenger details go to the second form.
A quick reminder is that you must keep copies of the D16, as you will need them when bidding Morocco goodbye.
Crossing the border gets you ready for the ride of a lifetime, within the Moroccan landscape.
The Incredible Route at a Glance
Your Moroccan experience will be enhanced by visiting several outstanding destinations during this trip of a lifetime.
The epic drive through the Atlas Mountains from Nador will get you to Midelt, after which you will find yourself in Ouarzazate then in Tazenakht. The rest of the route will include Tata, Icht, Plage Blanche, Laayoune, and Dakhla.
This itinerary will give you a marvelous experience through the best of Morocco’s scenery, making you want to come back for more.
Nador to Midelt
From Nador, a drive to Midelt takes you through a section of the majestic Atlas Mountains dotted with mountain passes and local villages.
The breathtaking view is just a taste of the amazing experience Morocco holds for you. You can choose to spend the night in Midlet to refresh from the long journey ahead into Morocco.
While at it, do not forget to plan for the visit to ski resorts in the High Atlas’ and the impressive Moroccan Alps during your adventure.
Midelt to Ouarzazate
The drive takes you through the incredible scenery donned with sharp rocks, steep mountain drops, and river beds that make your experience unforgettable. The vast oases at the edge of the Sahara desert and the impressive Atlas mountains stimulate your eyes and mind beyond words.
You might encounter obstacles on the road due to landslides that force you to take alternative routes along the dry riverbeds.
Whichever way you choose, the experience is unforgettable for any serious overlander. The off-road sections can be the ultimate test for your 4×4 vehicle.
You are advised to make the necessary adjustments to your vehicle in preparation for the truly off-road experience, before you arrive in Morocco.
The effort will be worth it and will make your road trip quite a smooth and exciting adventure. The Morrocan countryside is such a scenic and rich landscape that you will want to take many photos to capture the magical scenery.
On arrival at Ouarzazate, you can choose to set up a tent at the Atlas Film Studio for that well-deserved rest.
Exploring the Atlas Studio helps you understand this choice of location for shooting big movies like Gladiator, Spy Game, Babel, and others.
The view is majestical and unsurpassed in pure beauty. From Ouarzazate to Tazenakht, sharp gravel on the road might make you want to reduce the tire pressure of your vehicle.
Also, there is an alternative road to Ouarzazate around Tata, especially if you find too much traffic on your main route. The diversion only adds to your appreciation of Morocco’s gorgeous natural reality.
Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara, is about 360 miles from Icht. Driving west takes you to Plage Blanche, where the forty-mile stretch of white sandy beach gives you the most spectacular set of views on ground level.
The beach is between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sahara Desert, and you know what? You are allowed to drive your 4×4 over it along the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is broken at intervals by pebbles and dunes, which make the scenic experience that much more incredible.
However, you will be well-advised not to get too close to the ocean to avoid losing traction, as the water sweeps sand from under the tires.
As you head to the beach, some company is also a good idea if you need help after getting stuck in the sand. The beach offers no way back to the main road. Therefore, you will need to find your way out as you depart from the Atlantic.
It is important to return to the rocky path that leads to the highway before the tide comes in. Driving south from Plage Blanche will have you going over very bumpy sections, but you might be rewarded with graceful camels going about their business as compensation.
Before getting to Laayoune, you will have to cross into Western Sahara, as you will see on your map – south of Morocco. You might expect a border check, but these days Western Sahara is treated as a province of Morocco, so you can find yourself in this region without any hurdles.
A sudden drop in fuel prices and newly constructed buildings in the low populated upcoming towns will signal that you have arrived. The government encourages people to settle through offering tax reliefs on various goods, including fuel.
Though the population is still low, Western Sahara is an exciting place to visit.
Laayoune itself is the largest city in Western Sahara, with roughly 220 000 people. It is a new city, as some say it was actually founded by the Spanish in the late 1930s.
Although situated in the volatile region of Western Sahara, like Morocco, Laayoune is rich in history and culture. Its African location and supposed Spanish origins, provide the Western Saharan city with North African and Spanish flavour!
The city has the Mosque of Moulay Abd el Azziz and an old Spanish Cathedral named after Saint Francis of Assissi.
Additionally, the city features a grandiose arch as you travel to and from the airport, delivering an epic welcome to an already energetic region.
Due to the volatile nature of Western Sahara’s politics surrounding cultural and political authority, the land is rigged with landmines, especially on the eastern side.
However, it is worth noting that close to the eastern side exists the mud wall built by Morocco for defense. Due to landmines, no meaningful off-road experience is possible.
Nevertheless, it would help if you had Tarfaya as one of your destinations in Western Sahara. The jaw-dropping cliffs will leave you awestruck for a lifetime. Sample the delightful camel tagines, a Moroccan dish, before you head further south towards Dakhla.
Road to Dakhla
Driving to Dakhla on the well-maintained highway gives you a scenic view of the landscape and the Atlantic Ocean, which lies next to it.
The roads leading south give you a view of the spectacular cliffs just next to the Atlantic Ocean. The shipwrecks on the beach also provide you with great chance for adventure.
Dakhla is situated at the end of a long headland. The peninsula is loved by kitesurfers, especially because the area can get quite windy.
The peninsula also offers great opportunities to camp next to the Atlantic.
A bit further south from Dakhla is the Tropic of Cancer, where you can take some time for yet another photo opportunity.
You can choose to drive even further to the Mauritanian border and extend your Moroccan adventure. The drive will take you across the majestic Sahara Desert. The desert dunes are an awe-inspiring marvel of nature.
The shadows that the dunes cast at sunrise are simply amazing. Viewing them will give you the feeling of being on a movie set. The dune’s experience is out of this world, but again, be aware of the land mines that cover the region.
Before returning to the peninsula of Dakhla, visit the large canyon that extends to the beach and enjoy the scenery. You can even choose to cook a meal over the breathtaking sunset in real Overlanding spirit. Cool campsites that have you camping in nature will add some flavor to the expedition.
Dakhla gives an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean. The Muslim religion does not advocate for drinking alcohol. Therefore, alcohol is not consumed by most people and is not freely available in Morocco. But while at Dakhla, you can enjoy an alcoholic drink at Restaurant Bahia.
Do not forget to sample the sweet tea! But ensure it is served in its appropriate fashion.
Heading Back North
Unless you actually decide to drive to Mauritania and further south into West African countries, you will head back north, temporarily leaving the Sahara Desert behind.
But before you do so, as a last stop in Western Sahara, you can stop at the Bedouin Camp and enjoy a camel tagine and a salt water shower.
Enroute Tafraoute is the Valley of Vans, a delightful outdoor extravaganza in the Anti-Atlas. The Valley of Vans is a campsite that gives yet another fantastic experience in nature.
The trees and scenic views are especially inviting for relaxation. You can also walk around Tafraoute and collect some great Moroccan memorabilia.
Those who like hiking, lace up your boots, for there are great guided routes to choose from.
East of Tafraoute is Mhamid, which is rich in the history of the land. Mhamid town is an oasis at the edge of the Sahara Desert.
Your mind will wander in the beautiful ancient architectural style of the town buildings. The local cuisine is also a great way to sample the rich Moroccan culture. Mhamid offers you the chance to see the majestic dunes of Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi would be an alternative, and similarly gorgeous place to visit.
They are some of the most impressive dunes, reaching heights of up over 900 feet. You can further enrich your desert experience by camping next to the dunes.
Additionally, camel rides at sunset over the dunes will gift you a surreal experience that will make the trip to Morocco truly memorable. Driving through the desert delivers an awesome view of dromedaries and desert vegetation.
The sandy and rocky trails make your driving experience through the desert unforgettable. Erg Chigaga gives you some of the most fantastic natural views in Morocco, and arguably the world.
Did you know that ten million years ago, the Sahara Desert was an ocean? Fossil remains of ancient life remain within the desert landscape.
Walking through the desert gives you the feeling of walking back in time as you view the fossilized remains.
Discovering the Heartland of Morocco
Moroccon Alps – town of Imlil
The heartland of Morocco is arguably one of the most majestic places you could visit. Filled with rich history, culture, and beautiful landscapes as always, this is a must-see for both the adventurous overlander and the urban tourist!
First on the list, is the mountain town of Imil. It is located within the stunning Atlas mountains, almost 6000 feet above sea level.
It is connected to nearby towns, such as Asni and Ikkiss, by road to reach this mountain community. In contrast to the desert landscape we are accustomed to imagining when considering travelling to Morocco, Imlil offers a surprisingly lush environment.
The town is known for growing walnuts, cherries, and apples, for all you foodies. A fun fact about the town is that the film ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ was filmed there!
Roughly 90 km north of the idyllic Imlil, lies the fourth largest city in Morocco – Marrakesh. With a population of almost a million people, this is a city jam-packed with history, culture, and countless landmarks for everyone to see.
For starters, this city has three main palaces to showcase to the world, with the youngest built in the 19th century and the oldest as early as the 1100s CE.
The Royal Palace, formally known as Dar el-Makhzen, is the oldest – built in the 1100s – and has a rich history of occupancy, from Moroccan Kings to businessmen in later years.
Alongside these palaces exist countless Mosques and Museums to add to the allure of the city. A great hotel is the Mamounia Hotel, five stars, built in 1925, and has hosted people such as Prince Charles, WInston Churchill, and even Mick Jagger!
530 km north-east of Marrakesh, is the equally culturally majestic city of Fez. Like Marrakesh, you are exposed to Morocco’s finest in cultural and historical landmarks.
Ancient city walls and gates, tombs, mosques, a jewish city quarter, and spectacular panoramic views of the city lie at your fingertips.
One of the oldest sites, the Mosque of al-Quarawiyyin, came to life in the year 857. The city is also known for its gardens, historic canavaseries, and its many bathhouses, some 600 years old!
The city airport is outside the main town, with a train station and buses connecting you both within and outside of Fez.
212 km north of Fez, as we begin to approach the northern Mediterranean coast, we arrive in the gorgeous city of Chefchaouen. Some of you may know this city as the ‘blue city’ of Morocco.
This is a city to behold. Historic, founded in the late 1400s, and aesthetic, as the city is literally shaded in blue. One of Morocco’s tourist hotspots, Chefchaouen is loaded with almost 200 hundred hotels and is known for its shopping and production of goat cheese.
The city’s blue tone has many theories behind it.
Some say it was painted this colour to fend off mosquitoes. Others say the blue is a spiritual touch to depict the merging of the sky and the heavens.
Its stunning architecture, blue colour tone, local touch, and close proximity to Tangier and Spain, make it an ultimate international destination for any traveller!
Roman Ruins of Volubilis
Finally, if you are a true lover of history, a collection of Roman ruins near the city of Meknes, which lies 50km west of Fez, are the perfect overland stop for lunch and a dash of history.
These ruins, also known as Volubilis are said to be the ruins of an ancient capital city of the Mauritanian Kingdom that was later conquered by the Roman empire.
It is even said that the city once contained a Roman triumph during its days under Roman occupation.
A truly magnificent spectacle for the adventurous traveller who also has a love of learning when exploring our world. A must see for the Moroccan experience.
Morocco is an outstanding destination to enjoy an overlanding trip. The scenic views offered by the majestic mountains will leave you amazed.
Experiencing the vast Sahara Desert on wheels should be on the bucket list of serious overlanders.
The rich culture of Morocco is a fantastic exposure to the many fascinating aspects of the African continent.
The combined effect of the Sahara Desert, Atlas Mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean is a fulfilling experience of appreciating nature that you will not find anywhere else.
Plan that trip to Morocco as swiftly as you can. You won’t regret it!
Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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