Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania Overland Tour
After years of experience we have designed our Saharan Overland tour to become the most thrilling and affordable tour to take place in this unique part of the world. Join us as you’ll explore Morocco, the disputed territory of Western Sahara and Mauritania.
Your grand adventure begins in Morocco’s largest city, Casablanca where you’ll explore the old and new that this incredible diverse city has to offer. You’ll then board a flight to Laayoune in Western Sahara – the largest city of the unrecognised region and also known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The country declared independence in 1976 but has only been recognised by 28 states only gaining control over largely uninhabited eastern territory.
You’ll then make your way to Dakhla, a disputed city currently administered by Morocco and view an enormous sand dune located in the middle of a blue lagoon where flamingos inhabit and a great spot for a bath in natural hot springs. One of the interesting highlights of the tour is experiencing ‘5 kilometres no man’s land’ along the Moroccan border in Western Sahara where thieves and gun smugglers do business.
Once arriving into Mauritania you’ll have the opportunity to explore Nouadhibou, the country’s second largest city and economic capital. This is where you’ll board the famed Mauritania Iron Ore Train and ride in open carriages through the Saharan desert. The train is up to 3km (1.8 miles) in length with over 200 freight carriages, carrying up to 84 tons of iron ore. This is the longest and heaviest train in the world.
You’ll ride with us from the Port of Nouadhibou to the town of Choum close to the border of Western Sahara. Riding in this direction will allow you to get the best possible views of the journey whilst having plenty of room to move within the carriage as the cars will be empty of iron ore. We use the walls of the carriage to protect us from the wind and dust making your ride slightly more comfortable. You’ll spend the better part of the evening gazing up to the starry night of the desert on this high-adrenaline ride. This is one of the most unique train trips in the world and not to be missed.
Once arriving you’ll explore the UNESCO world heritage site of Chinguetti – a holy city of Islam. This 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. Here you’ll visit the incredibly historic library and have a close encounter with ancient architecture. From here we’ll continue driving through Adrar Region and visit the ancient city of Ouadane before finishing up in the Atlantic fish-markets of the Mauritanian capital – Nouakchott.
Arrive at your convenience into Casablanca – the largest city of Morocco which is well connected from many countries within Africa and most of Europe.
Pre-tour meeting will be held at the lobby of Hotel Diwan at 6:00pm to discuss tour itinerary and to meet your fellow travellers and YPT guide.
Dinner at traditional Moroccan restaurant to feast on local famous dishes followed by belly-dancing.
Explore old town and Medina to experience some of Casablanca’s dark and dingy nightlife
Overnight in Casablanca
Tuesday 18th January – Casablanca – Laayoune
Breakfast at the hotel and check-out
Begin exploring Morocco’s most progressive and culturally diverse city with your first stop at the Medina – the old town that was left untouched by the French with narrow alleyways lined with stores and homes where locals have lived for hundreds of years.
Visit the United Nations Square – the square was first constructed in 1908 after the French bombardment and invasion of Casablanca and previously named the “Square of France”
Explore through Habous district – also known as the New Medina, this area is packed with street markets where locals bargain for fabrics, clothes, and local snacks such as almond pastries, stuffed dates or the incredible Makouda – deepfried potato balls dipped dipped into spicy harissa sauce.
Lunch in town at a local restaurant known for great couscous based dishes
Visit Hassan II Mosque – the largest mosque outside of the Middle East with tallest minaret in the world
Stop by the Boulevard de la Corniche – what was once the famous and glorious thriving nightlife of the city along the ocean, now remains a quirky part of town with plastic surgeries and odd shops.
Dinner nearby at a local restaurant
Head to the airport and board our 7:45pm flight to Laayoune in Western Sahara – the largest city of the disputed territory of Western Sahara
Overnight at Hotel Rimal in Laayoune
Wednesday 19th January – Laayoune
Breakfast at hotel and head to the busiest souk in Western Sahara
Visit the Grand Mosque – one of the most important landmarks in the city and apparently designed under the guidance of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The mosque is a simple yet very peaceful symbol of the city situated in the central square and surrounded by palm trees
Stop by the Laayoune Craft Centre – a bazaar offering the most authentic traditional souvenirs
Lunch at a local restaurant for your chance to try camel meat
Explore the Spanish Cathedral – in 1940 Spain designated Laayoun as the capital of the Spanish Sahara and this Cathedral is the best relic leftover from colonial times. On previous YPT trips we have had the chance to meet one of the three catholic priests in charge of all of Morocco and Western Sahara. They are quite eager to share their experience being a priest in a country where the majority of the population are Muslim.
Head out of town to the dunes for late afternoon mint tea and sand based activities
On the way back into town we’ll stop for dinner on the way back at a truck stop offering surprisingly incredible fare and enormous delicious portions of local dishes
Visit a bar at Hotel Al Massira and overnight at Hotel Rimal
Thursday 20th January – Laayoune – Dakhla
Breakfast at hotel and hit the road for Dakhla city – a disputed territory currently administered by Morocco
On the way stopping at the rural town of Boujdour to visit a lighthouse built by the Portuguese during the 18th century
Explore Boujdour Port – an fascinating scene of hundreds of fishing boats with thousands of fishermen
Lunch of fresh fried fish
Stopping at one of our favourite hidden sites to take a dip into the Atlantic Ocean
Early evening arrival into Dakhla city
Dinner at Villa Dakhla and overnight at the Hotel Imperial Playa
Friday 21st January – Dakhla
Breakfast at hotel and a brief tour of Dakhla
Depart the city and head out 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.
Visit the natural hot underground springs – here you can take a jet shower from a high pressure hose. The experience could be described as half massage, half waterboarding. The 38 degree Celsius sulphur water is said to contain various health benefits
Lunch at a local traditional seafood restaurant by the beach where they serve a delicious mixed seafood tajine as well as enormous fish (good for six people). You can also order fresh oysters (extra 0.5 EUR per oyster)
Stop by the Ostrich farm where you can prove your bravery by letting an ostrich pinch your hand
Head back to the hotel in Dakhla to freshen up
Dinner and night out in town – our last easy-to-find drinks at one of the restaurants on the main strip
Overnight in the Hotel Imperial Playa
Saturday 22nd January – Dakhla – Nouadhibou
Breakfast at hotel
Begin our drive to the border of Morocco – here we’ll exit Morocco and end up in the ‘5 kilometres no man’s land’. While the rest of Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco, this particular area of land is indisputably Sahrawi where many thieves selling stolen cars, gun smugglers, refugees and other interesting folk hangout.
Cross into Mauritania – the moment you cross into Mauritania you’re entering a whole new world. There is visa on arrival service which may take some time to process – you must bring small denominations of Euros to pay for your visa in exact cash. 55 euros.
Transfer to Nouadhibou city, the country’s second largest city and economic capital and lunch on arrival
Head to the Atlantic ocean at Cape Blanc – a peninsula that is shared between Mauritania and Western Sahara. It was this exact spot where the Spanish expanded their fishing presence from the Canary islands onto the African coast. This is where the biggest ship graveyard used to be located until it was broken down into pieces and the steel sold by Chinese companies in recent years. It is also possible to spot the Mediterranean monk seal colony here.
Visit the new ship graveyard of Nouadhibou
Dinner at Ice NBC, a family restaurant with a wide menu of delicious local dishes. For those who fancy a well deserved ice cold beer it is possible to visit the Chinese restaurant next door for the only establishment that openly serves beers.
Overnight at Hotel Al Jezira
Sunday 23rd January – Nouadhibou – Choum
Breakfast at hotel
Head to the Port of Nouadhibou that was first controlled by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally by the French. Many local fish markets to explore.
Lunch at a local restaurant in town
Prepare for Mauritania Mineral Train – we’ll stop at local shops and stores to ensure the group is stocked up on plenty of water, fruits, sandwiches and snacks
Tour Highlight – Board the world famous Mauritania Mineral Train – this is the longest and heaviest train in the world. You’ll be sitting inside open top cars so please ensure you have prepared a blanket, warm clothing and goggles to protect yourself from the sand. Train will depart around 4:00pm to 6:00pm.
Monday 24th January – Choum –Chinguetti
Arrive at the town of Choum approximately at 3:00am and spend the rest of the late evening/early morning resting in an igloo tent
Wake up in the morning and enjoy a cooked breakfast by camp fire
Begin exploring the Adrar Region of Mauritania
Visit Azoughi oasis and village for a tea stop and experiencing how locals live
Lunchtime at hotel Mer et Desert. You’ll most likely meet the owner, a French woman who has left everything behind to become member of the community. She knows a lot about the social issues of local tribes and is a wonderful source of information.
Drive to the UNESCO world heritage site of Chinguetti – a holy city of Islam. You’ll visit the library and other historical monuments and landmarks including the much loved Friday Mosque of Chinguetti, the national symbol of Mauritania.
Evening sunset watched from the huge sand dunes of Chinguetti
Dinner and overnight at Hotel Eden – a traditional stone guesthouse
Tuesday 25th January – Chinguetti –Ouadane
Breakfast at hotel
Begin 80km drive through pure desert and sand dunes: on the way stopping in Tanounichert for a tea stop with the locals – once upon a time it was an important stop of the trans-caravan routes of the Sahara. In YPT, we nicknamed Ouadane the Pompei of Mauritania for its sprawling city in ruins which is sure to amaze you. 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 centre of cultural, economic and scientific advancement.
Explore the streets and see the buildings that once glorified the country as a whole and then move on to the new part of town where we’ll be sure to mingle with the locals.
Traditional dinner and overnight in the Hotel Vasque
Wednesday 26th January – Ouadane – Atar
Breakfast at hotel
Depart for Tergit Oasis – Mauritania’s most picturesque location.
On the way stopping at Agrour – here’s your chance to see pre-historic paintings left there 5000 years ago as well as incredible lava formation
Visit the Mheirith Oasis – an incredibly picturesque place where Mauritanian like to come and relax during the date season
Continue onwards to the White Valley – a dune-filled fault line with many small settlements and palm groves. The Guelb Aouelloul crater is 3.1 million-old impact crater approximately 40 km across and can be observed from space. Breathtaking scenery.
Home-cooked lunch in Terjit Oasis followed by a short trek (approx 30 minutes) to the source of the oasis, here, the scenery will remind you of Jurassic Park.
Drive through the stunning Tivoujar Pass and arrive early evening in Atar
Overnight and dinner in the Hotel Des Caravanes
Thursday 27th January – Atar – Nouakchott
An early rise for breakfast and the long drive to the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott
On the way stopping for lunch at San Francisco Café for a hearty meal and access to WiFi after a few days of deprivation.
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 recognized by their colourful hand-painted hulls. The catch is then brought by donkey cart to the city’s markets
Visit the National Museum where artefacts of the history of Mauritania and its ancient cities are exposed – this will allow you to have a quite recap of what we’ve seen in the last days.
Visit the local craft market where locals specialise in camel wool rugs
Driving tour of the massive embassies of the main players of the region – USA, China, France, and Russia.
Quick photo stop by the Great Mosque of Nouakchott – funded by Saudi Arabia and built in 1982.
Head to the beach for some great people watching. This is where local Nouakchottois come to escape the city and cool off.
Farewell dinner at a local restaurant and try our luck at getting inside a Chinese owned restaurant for a cold beer
Overnight in Nouakchott
Friday 28th January
Breakfast at hotel
Tour concludes – YPT is able to arrange post-tour accommodation or advice for flights out.
Group members apart of our Mali and Burkina Faso Tour will visit the Malian embassy to receive your visas the quickest and cheapest way!
• Accommodation in twin-share
• Breakfast and lunch in Morocco & Western Sahara
• All meals in Mauritania
• All transportation (including domestic flights) to complete the itinerary
• English speaking local guides and YPT guide
• International flights to and from the tour
• Visas fees (Mauritania €55, Morocco if required)
• Single supplement (€240)
• Dinners in Morocco & Western Sahara
• Drinks and personal spending
• Tips for the local guides
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.