Stretching from the High Atlas Mountains in the north to the rugged Jbel Sarho in the south, the Dades Valley is scattered with oases, palm groves and elaborate kasbahs. The valley itself is made lush and green by the Dades River, which rises from the High Atlas Mountains before emptying into Morocco’s largest river, the Draa. The waters of the Dades provide life for a variety of almond, fig, walnut and birch trees on the valley floor offering a spectacular contrast to the earthen-colored rocky formations rising from the valley floor.
Often referred to as the Land of a Thousand Kasbahs, the Dades Valley is home to many kasbahs that were built here for the added protection the valley provides. The most impressive kasbahs are found in Skoura, a fertile oasis lined with palm groves with sweeping views of the Atlas Mountains. Stay in a converted kasbah to experience the splendor of the Dades Valley and tour the fully restored Amerhidil Kasbah which is featured on the 50.00 note of Moroccan Dirhams.
Although the kasbahs of the Dades Valley are a definite must-see, the area’s natural beauty is the real highlight. Carved through the walls of the High Atlas Mountains by the Dades River, the Todra Gorge is best seen on foot. Wander the many hiking trails through the gorge while you admire the towering pink cliffs tinted with greens and golds that stretch nearly 1,000 feet above you. Rock climbing is becoming increasingly popular in the area with plenty of long classic routes up the Pillar du Couchant. Todra is best viewed in the morning hours when the light first reaches the bottom of the canyon. The canyon colors continue to change throughout the day based on the sun’s different positions.
The Dades Gorge begins just north of the town of Boumalne du Dades, a peaceful town with all the amenities. A precarious road snakes down into the gorge from Boumalne du Dades and most visitors limit their exploration of the gorge to the road. The best views are not visible from the road so set out on foot to marvel at the red rock formations up close. Take some time to explore the hidden canyons like the Gorge de Miguirne where you can find rock pools and swimming holes. Hire a hiking guide or arrange a 4WD trip to ensure that you will see the best the Dades Valley has to offer.
Written by Amiee Maxwell.
Photo by Walter Rodriguez.