Saharan Odyssey – Morocco, Western Sahara & Mauritania Tour
YPT are expanding our presence in Africa with this exciting jump into the unrecognized country of Western Sahara. Join us in January 2019 for our first ever foray into the Maghreb!
We’ve created a unique three country tour to make it easy to start and finish your adventure with us.
Starting in Casablanca, Morocco and ending in Nouakchott, Mauritania the tour will take us into unrecognised Western Sahara overland. Also known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic republic (SADR) the country was declared independent in 1976 but has only been recognized by 28 states and has control only over a largely uninhabited eastern slice of territory.
The trip will finish in Mauritania where we will take the famed Mauritania Iron ore train in open carriages into the Saharan sunset. The train is 3km in length and is one of the heaviest in the world. This unique trip highlight is not to be missed!
We’ll also see UNESCO world heritage Chinguetti, a holy city of islam. We’ll tour its libraries and other historical monuments and buildings before finishing up in the Atlantic fish-markets of the Mauritanian capital – Nouakchott.
Arrive in Casablanca at own time and make your way downtown to our centrally located hotel
Afternoon sightseeing around the Moroccan economic capital. While not aesthetically beautiful the city is Morocco’s most progressive and liberal as well as being culturally very diverse. It’s big on its gritty nightlife too so we’ll be sure to sample some of this!
We’ll visit the United Nations Square and the Habous district,
Visit the Corniche Boulevard. A once thriving resort area that used to bustle with several nightclubs. The area has lost its once glorious image but is still a fascinating part of town.
Hassan II Mosque (Entry is extra charge) Third largest mosque in the world and tallest minaret in the world!
Dinner in a traditional Moroccan restaurant
Hit the oldtown and Medina to experience some of Casablanca’s dark and dingy nightlife!
Overnight in Casablanca
Tuesday 8th January
Early breakfast in the hotel and check out
Hit the road for Marrakech! Morocco’s third largest city is teeming with sights and sounds that emanate from its historical medina.
Check into the hotel and hit the famous streets for a tour that starts with the Koutoubia Mosque. Some say its minaret is to Marrakech as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris!
Visit the Bahia Palace. This 19th century masterpiece is said to capture the essence of Islamic and Morroccan stlye
Visit the Madrassa Ben Youssef. This Islamic School is the biggest of all Morocco!
Visit the tombs of the Saadian Dynasty. Only discovered in the 20th century, they were left untouched and blocked off for centuries
After traditional Moroccan fare for lunch we continue on with visits to the Djema El Fna Square and world famous souks.
Free time here before regrouping for dinner and checking out the live outdoor entertainment in the square. Musicians, dancers, snake charmers and story tellers pack the square creating the unique atmosphere late into the evening
Overnight in Marrakech
Wednesday 9th January
After breakfast we take a drive to the 12th century Agdal gardens
Just south of here we’ll check out the Royan Palace and historic Medina. Along the drive we’ll take in the stunning green oasis pools and the infinite olive, orange and pomegranate orchards.
Next stop Is the 16th century Menara gardens and its famed pavilion which was used as a summer residence by Sultan Abderrarhmane. The pavilion was renovated in 1869
Take in the Marrakech city walls and it’s most famous gate at Bab Khemis
Visit the exquisite Majorelle Gardens which was laid out by the French expat Louis Maforelle and later restored by Yves Saint Laurent. It’s famed for its distinct cobalt blue buildings.
Free time to explore more of Marrakech’s medina and souks
Dinner followed by shisha and tea!
Overnight in Marrakech
Thursday 10th January
Check out and drive to Agadir!
This beachside city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1960. It was rebuilt with wide avenues lined with low rise futuristic 1960’s design. This makes it a truly unique Moroccan city
Take in the breathtaking pamorama views from the Kasbah fortress.
Get lost in the local souk for some last supplies for hitting the trail for Western Sahara
Dinner at a traditional restaurant
Sample some Moroccan whisky in Agadir’s seedy nightclub – Papagayo.
Overnight in Agadir
Friday 11th January
Early start for the long drive to Western sahara and Laayoun city
It will take us about 8 hours total including the photo stops and “border” crossing.
Lunch along the way at a local restaurant
Continue the drive to Laayoune where we arrive late and check into our central hotel.
Once the capital of Spanish Sahara, the city is now claimed by the SADR but administered by Morocco. Laâyoune or El Aaiún are respectively the French and Spanish transliterations of the Maghrebi Arabic name Layounwhich means “the water springs
Overnight in the Hotel Rimel Sahara, Laayoune
Saturday 12th January
Up nice and early to visit the busiest souk in Western Sahara
Next we’ll visit the great mosque – apparantly designed under the guidance of Franco, the mosque is a simple yet very peaceful symbol of the city situated in the central square and surrounded by palm trees
Laayoun craft center – an Interesting little bazaar. It’s the best place for some authentic traditional souvenirs
Lunch in a local restaurant
Visit the Spanish Cathedral. In 1940 Spain designated Laayoun as the capital of the Spanish Sahara and this is the best relic leftover from colonial times.
Museum of Laayoune. The museum houses of the best collections of Saharan arts anywhere
Dinner at a local restaurant specialising in local cuisine and seafood a plenty!
Overnight at the Hotel Rimel Sahara, Laayoune
Sunday 13th January
After breakfast we hit the road for Dakhla city
On the way we stop at Boujdour and its famous lighthouse. Built by the Portuguese in the 18th century, the lighthouse is visible from miles around
Lunch and photo stops on the way
Hit the beach and swim in the Atlantic ocean!
Continue to Dakhla city, arriving just in time for dinner
Overnight at the Hotel Imperial Playa in Dakhla
Monday 14th January
After breakfast we take a city tour of Dakhla
Depart the city and head for the dune blanche – a place that must be seen to be believed. This enormous sand dune perched in the middle of a lagoon is a hotspot for flamingos. If that wasn’t enough there’s also a natural hot spring where you can take a jet shower. The 38 degree Celsius sulfur water is said to contain many health benefits!
Lunch in a local traditional restaurant
Drive back to the hotel
Free relaxation time before meeting up again for dinner
Overnight in the Hotel Imperial Playa, Dakhla
Tuesday 15th January
Today we cross the border to the Islamic republic of Mauritania!
Visa on arrival (may take some time, please bring small denominations of Euros to pay for the visa in exact cash, which should be 55 EUR)
Transfer to Nouadhibou city, the country’s second largest city and economic capital
We take a trip to the Atlantic ocean again at Cape Blanc. A peninsula that is shared between Mauritania and Western Sahara. It was here that the Spanish expanded their fishing presence from the Canary islands onto the African coast.
Visit the Mediterranean monk seal colony and the port of Nouadhibou
Visit the largest ship graveyard in the world! Nouadhibou is the final resting place of over 300 ships dumped with the help of corrupt officials accepting back handers to allow just about anyone to abandon their vessel here.
Dinner at Madame Souware’s, famous of course for it’s seafood. Wash it down with fresh camel milk!
If you fancy a cold one we will visit the Chinese restaurant for the only place that openly serves beers..
Overnight in the Hotel Tiris, Nouadhibou
Wednesday 16th January
Free time to explore this city and pick up some supplies for the epic train journey ahead
*Trip highlight* Ride the famous Mauritania mineral train! The train is up to 3km in length with 200 cars weighing up to 84 tons making it one of the longest and heaviest trains in the world. We’ll be sitting in open top cars on top of the ore so make sure you bring a blanket and you’re wrapped up warm with a good scarf to protect your face from dust!
This iron ore express to Choum in the Mauritanian interior will depart at 4pm and arrive at 3am the following morning
Thursday 17th January
Arrive in Choum at 3am and spend the rest of the night/morning in igloo tents!
Sleep in to late morning and enjoy a local brunch
We start exploring the Adrar region of Mauritania
Visit Azoughi oasis, village and its popular markets
Drive to UNESCO world heritage Chinguetti, a holy city of islam. We’ll tour its libraries and other historical monuments and buildings including the much loved Friday Mosque of Chinguetti, the national symbol of Mauritania
The city was for centuries the gathering point for pilgrims of the Maghreb to gather on their way to Mecca. Africans claim it as the 7th most holy city of Islam. Much of the old centre dates from the 12th century.
Evening sunset watched from the huge sand dunes of Chinguetty
Overnight in Hotel Abeida, Chinguetty
Friday 18th January
Early morning 80km journey through pure desert and dune
On the way stop at isolated and lost cities of the Sahara
Lunchtime arrival in the city of Ouadane. Once upon a time it was an important stop of the trans-caravan routes of the Sahara.
It was here that products of sub-Saharan Africa were traded with those of the Maghreb
The Portuguese arrived in 1487 and transformed the city into a local center of cultural, economic and scientific advancement
We’ll walk the streets and see the buildings that once glorifies the country as a whole
Traditional dinner and overnight in the Hotel Vasque, Ouadane.
Saturday 19th January
After an early breakfast we depart for Tergit Oasis. This is Mauritania’s most picturesque place. Complete with thermal springs and hot pools we’ll spend the rest of the morning relaxing poolside.
Journey towards Mheirith osasis and stop on the way for a local lunch
Drive through the stunning Tivoujar pass and arrive early evening in Atar
Stroll through Atar’s markets, prices here tend to be the cheapest in the country
Traditional dinner and ceremony with music and dance into the night!
Overnight in the Hotel Mer et Desert, Atar
Sunday 20th January
Early rise for the long drive to the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott
Arrive in time to catch the lively Atlantic fish market. Every evening hundreds of fishermen bring in the day’s catch on their distinct sea canoes. The catch is then brought by donkey cart to the cities markets
Visit the local craft market and pick up a camel wool rug for yourself!
Head to the beach for some great people watching. This is where local Nouakchottois come to escape the city and cool off.
Atlantic sunset and group dinner on our final evening in Mauritania
Late night shisha and hummus at the Sahara Café before making our way to the Chinese owned restaurants and bars for a night cap!