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I arrive in Marrakech on Dec. 19, 2013. I have 48 hours to rest before heading out on a rented BMW F800 (or possibly 650). I am heading down the R203 to Taroudant on Dec. 21. Then on to Taliouine - Ighrem - and Tata for the night (22nd). The next day, Dec. 23, I will head to Zagora for one night. Then on to Merzouga for two nights. Then on the 26th, I'll head thru Boumaline Dades for a night before heading up the N9 for Marrakech. My question is this: Is this crazy? Can I do this in December? Will the roads be passable with the snow at high altitudes crossing the Atlas Mountains? Should I cancel the hotels in the East and stay along the coast? I have never been to Morocco before but I am more excited about this trip than any I have ever been on. Any ideas on routes/trips in Morocco on those dates is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
I rode around Morocco one December and had a blast. Conditions were changing all the time, with some passes in the High Atlas picking up a couple of feet of snow in the few weeks it took me to circle back, but main routes were nicely plowed to bare asphalt rather rapidly. Back roads at elevation were very pretty in the snow, but sometimes nervewracking. Bits of rain kept things interesting, but in truth the main problem was the short days.
Asking anyone to predict mountain weather for specific days four months in advance is kind've pointless. Be prepared to flex according to conditions as they develop and you'll do fine. I never found it necessary to reserve anything in advance, and I'm thinking neither should you unless you've got something very special in mind.
Thanks Mark. That's good to know about the reservations. I'll stop worrying about that part. I should have mentioned that my route is flexible and I could change it if someone suggests a more attractive route. I also have several days lined up for surfing in Taghazout afterwards and could alter this to a coastal route. I guess that will depend on the weather conditions as it happens and what will be will be. Thanks!
Well to do a lot of milage in a short time is allways crazy. This way you cant really enjoy the beauty of some places but if you are short of time i would focus on the desert. As you said there might be a snow in the atlas mountains...you never know:
We did a month or so there 2 years ago (touring in a 4x4).
Tremendous country, particularly the mountains - if the high passes are open (a bit of a lottery sometimes).
If you get the chance, stay at The Panorama Kasbah Hotel in Merzouga - brilliant. Simple, great views of the dunes, cheap, friendly, good food. We actually camped in the courtyard (roof tent) but had the run of the place.
Also, if going to the coast don't miss Essaouira, just north of Agadir. Agadir on the other hand I would be pleased never to go back to - windblown, characterless, could be any tourist town on the Med.
If you get the chance, go up to Fez - we found it less 'touristy' than Marrakech.
Weather is never predictable, however snow is more likely in January to March period. December is likely to be cold in the early morning and later afternoon, and of course also colder at altitude (crossing the Test pass to Taroudannt). Also daylight hours are short. For me your itinerary is too much riding, I prefer to see more of the country.
Taroudannt is good, then I would head via Ait Baha to Tafraoute which is somewhere I could happily stay several days. I'd also consider Sidi Ifni and the coast.
Ta-Rider, Weatherthefox and Tim,
I appreciate your thoughts and am going to follow the advice you each offer. Nice web page Ta-Rider. Weatherthefox, Essouria is going on my route somehow. Even if it's just a day trip up from Taghazout. Tim -Tafraoute is now on my route. My 5 days of surfing is eating up too much time. I may cut that down a day or two and get some extra time in the desert. Thanks for all your ideas!
I have changed the route and dropped a day or two of surfing to give me some more time. I am now starting in Taghazout (near Agadir) and heading to Taraoudant. I will then follow Tim's suggestion and head South along the R105 to Tafraoute. Now here is the question: To get to Merzouga, what is the most scenic route? Do I leave Tafraoute and head North to the R106 and head for Agdz or do I leave Tafraoute and head South for Tata and then go East thru Zagora and on to Merzouga? I am only interested in scenic beauty and not the time or distance. I'll drop surfing if I need a few days. Also, I ordered Morocco Overland (2nd ed.) but it ships from the UK as it is not available in the USA yet. When the book arrives, I may be better educated and not ask such basic questions. Thanks again for any ideas!
From Tafraoute, head south west past the painted rocks, then south to N29 24.388 W9 15.345 which is about 60km from Tafraoute.
Continue heading south on piste for about 25km until you reach a tarmac road, then turn sharp left to Amtoudi.
Stop overnight at Ondiraitlesud (N29 14.490 W9 10.992) and make the trek up to visit the agadir. There will be a guardian to show you around (tip of 20dh or so). If you feel up to it, there's another agadir a bit further up the valley.
Google 'amtoudi morocco images' for pictures of the agadirs. The next day head south to join the N12 then east.
Agadirs are ancient communal fortified warehouses that were used to store grain, dates, gunpowder, farm implements, etc., and I have about 80 of these waypointed in the Anti Atlas area.
Olliwood: Thanks for the well wishes. I am so excited! I can't wait for December.
Tim: Again, many thanks. I am now heading from Taraoudant to Tafraoute to around Amtoudi area. Then I head East through Tata - Foum Zguid - Zagora and on to Merzouga?
Does that sound about right?
Tim: I am new to this board (and others) but I am seeing invaluable information from you here and on other boards (Trip Advisor and LP). You have provided all of us with a wealth of knowledge. Many thanks for being awesome!
I was there last December and it's a great time to travel in the desert area, day time temps (~26c) are far nicer than Spring or Autumn , means you can go for a walk or climb a hill to see the views, down side is very cold nights and it's dark by 6pm.
You get about 10 to 10.5 hours of day light in December in the South, so to make the most of the daylight it's well worth setting off early in the mornings.
Unless anything has changed N12 between Zagora and Foum Zguid is a rough slow old piste most of the way.
I may well be there again over Xmas 2013
Have fun Shane, Morocco is a fantastic place to travel.
EDIT, almost forgot to say in December last year, the coast was really packed with Campervans.
Many thanks for the information. How much time did you allow for the the N12 from Zagora to Foum Zguid and the rest of the N12 for that matter? Any particular spots I should be aware of? I plan on leaving each morning bright and early to give me time to enjoy the scenary along the way and to be better prepared for any unforeseen obstacles or pitfalls. December sounds like a great months to be there. The downside is packing for such diverse climate changes from the coast where I will be surfing for a few days and then through the higher elevations of the Atlas Mountains and then into the desert. Of course, that's what adventure is all about!
Now if only I could concentrate on my day job and actually get some work done (push paper). All I do is dream about this trip. Time to get some work done! lol
N12 between Zagora and Foum Zguid 6 hours. Using R111, R108 and N9 4 hours.
N12 Tata to Foum Zguid 2 hours.
I've only been on the Tarmac road between Zagora and Merzouga once but looking back at my GPS log, I think you can do that in day, the nice way to go is via the piste (Christ Scotts MS6) but it has a sandy section that way.
All the way from Assa to Foum Zguid the road is very good and quiet (100km/h if you wished) each to their own, but for me the N12 desert scenery between Assa and Foum Zguid is stunning.
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