Exploring Todra Gorge – A Natural Oasis
Deep in the rocky Atlas mountains on one of the roads to the Sahara from Marrakech lies the dramatic scenery of the Todra Gorge (called locally Toudgha Gorge), a natural oasis created by the River Todra carving its way through limestone for many centuries. The gorge looks almost prehistoric with canyon walls that reach over 400 metres in height (higher than the Empire State Building in New York).
One of Morocco’s top attractions for visitors, it’s a paradise for photography enthusiasts, climbers, bikers and hikers. The gorge has also been featured in the American TV show ‘Expedition Impossible’* and a 2012 Cadillac CTS advert.
It is an ideal spot to break the journey between Marrakech and the desert for an overnight or a couple of days but it equally lends itself to longer exploration.
If you are flying, Ouarzazate International Airport, is the closest as it’s under three hours away by car. Marrakech International Airport is another, more popular, option as there are more flights coming in and out. You will need a car to then get into the gorge itself and you can either hire a car and drive yourself or at Epic we will provide you with a suitable car and driver who can also tell you all about the towns and places of interest you pass en route. The primary road is tarmacked but if you are going to go off piste, you will need a 4×4.
When to visit Todra Gorge
The most popular time to visit is spring and autumn when the weather’s cooler but not too cold. Be aware, though, that these are also the busiest times as the gorge is a popular spot, however there are plenty of less well known areas around to explore if you want to get away from the crowds. If you choose to come in summer, you will have the place to yourself but temperatures can soar into the 40s, and it is worth noting that many businesses shut down (especially for the Eid holy holidays if they hit in your travel window). If you come in winter, it might be best to avoid the snowy months of December to February as it can be very cold indeed.
What to do in Todra Gorge
There are many options to enjoy the gorge whether you are an active outdoors type, or prefer just to simply enjoy the scenery, soak up the culture, do a little bit of shopping for local handicrafts and maybe …. take a few photographs.
Picnic and hike:
The scenery is absolutely stunning and one of the best ways to see it is on foot. There are hikes we can arrange for all levels around the gorge. We can provide a guide and a picnic to enjoy on the route. This could be a half-day or day option depending on how long you want to spend there. If you want to do longer hikes which will take you deeper into the countryside, we can also arrange you one to suit your timetable and level of ability.
Mountain bike tour:
Epic organize many mountain bike tours in Morocco for Saddle Skeddadle, so we are well equipped with the knowledge and experience to plan a tour in the area for you. Or you can rent a mountain bike for a day to enjoy a different way of seeing the local area and getting fit. There is biking for every level but you will need a basic level of fitness if you want to tackle some of the fabulous technical routes around the gorge. If you just want to relax, then a ride through the palmeraie is ideal.
The gorge is the best spot in Morocco for rock climbing. There are more than 100 official routes that allow climbers to experience the gorge safely. There are routes for every level, many of which include multi-pitch routes. Beginners are welcomed here too as the gorge is a great place to learn. The Todra Gorge uses the French grading system – Sport Grades – so make sure that you have a grade conversion chart
https://www.rockfax.com/publications/grades/with you if you are used to working off a different system. Our two favourites are the classic ‘Eccentric Doctor’ which starts on a flake and ends over a bulge and ‘Big Ben’ which is full of crimpy holds.
Explore the Todra Palmeraie:
A palmeraie is the French word for a grove or plantation of date palm trees and the Todra palmeraie is a great example of a working date plantation. The graceful palms always give shade and, depending on what time of year you come, will be hanging with clusters of dates in different stages of development. The palmeraie also houses small villages and vegetable gardens and orchards of pomegranate trees are peppered throughout. It is the ideal place to explore at a relaxed pace on foot or by bike and to learn how dates are grown and harvested and get an insight into the lives of the farmers. It’s also a natural paradise and ideal for a picnic. Make sure to ask your guide for a taste of the date syrup which the people use here on their bread as an alternative to jam or honey.
Stop off in a village:
One of the highlights of coming to Morocco is getting to meet local people and making some real connections. Epic guides can take you to some lovely local villages and because they speak Tamazight the local language, can help you communicate with the people you meet along the way. The people of this region are Berber (Amazigh) and are famous for their hospitality. They will often invite you into their homes to drink tea and eat sweet dates with them. You will get to see the traditional red clay architecture at first hand and appreciate the intricacy of the irrigation systems that bring the water from the river into the fields. Life here is lived very simply but very richly as the community work together and the family units are strong. Most families will live off the land with a smallholding where they grow vegetables and fruit and some sheep and goats for meat. Often in the morning, you will see the women leading the family cow into a nearby field to graze.
Shop in a market:
Tinghir Weekly Market is one of the largest markets in Southern Morocco, which takes place on Mondays with a cattle market on Saturday. The market has been around for centuries and sells local produce; dates, olives, fruit, grain, spices and herbs as well as livestock, and local crafts, traditional clothing and shoes, furniture, teapots, bikes, plants and much more. You can take your time and stop in a make-shift café for mint tea.
Pick up a carpet:
It’s nice to shop outside of the cities where you can feel closer to the actual makers of artisan goods. Berber carpets can be found in the area, there is a kasbah located near the gorge and local villagers set up shop to sell their carpets on the route. Ask your guide for recommendations.
Explore around the area:
Epic can provide detailed inside track ‘ungoogleable’ itineraries for travelers who want to explore Southern Morocco based on their interests. We can arrange for you to stay a while in a very local area with no other tourists around, or create a whistle-stop travel plan which can include more well known places such as:
Morocco’s, Little Hollywood, it is a great destination to add to your trip as a stop on the way to Todra Gorge. You can visit the ancient Berber Town on a hill used as a backdrop to Lawrence of Arabia; Ait Ben Haddou, or the Game of Thrones movie set. Pop into the Telouet Kasbah, a historically significant building that is. Visitors can also check out the film studio, tour the desert on a camel, or drive a 4×4 into the dunes.
This town is another great place to stop on your journey, it is known as the Gate of the Sahara, and has plenty to see. You can visit the Royal Palace, the bustling souq, the renowned fossil collection, and the Jewish cemetery. Stop off at one of the street cafes, or head into the desert for a 4×4 ride to visit one of the famous architectural desert sculptures by German Artist Hannsjorg Voth.
Where to stay in Todra Gorge
We can organize accommodation near Todra of a level that fits your needs and budget from the simple and authentic Berber stay to a higher level of accommodation with pools and a taste of Saharan luxury, or environmentally aware eco-lodges which still allow for day visits to the gorge.
For those who want to get closer to the outdoors, we can organize wild camping and cooking trips, or glamping options in the local area. Stargazers, photographers and those who treasure the feeling of getting back to nature love this option!
For more information on how to incorporate the Todra Gorge within an epic designed trip, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org