Todra and Dades Gorges of Morocco: Sheer Sister Canyons
Northwest of Rissani and Northeast of Ouarzazate, just up the road from Tinerhir are the Todra Gorges. Driving the windy, thin road will necessitate your full attention, as the alluring beauty of the lush palmeries below have been known to cause mishaps even with the most skilled of drivers.
Continuing halfway up, you can stop at the famed spring of the Sacred Fish, which is worth a quick picture, but may not be worth spending too much time as you’ll most likely be bothered by a dense canopy of children wanting to sell you their handmade wares.
If you are driving or have hired a driver, you should continue up until the full opening of the Todra Gorge, which will allow you to get a full feel of the unbelievable glory of the massive canyon walls reaching some 300 meters (900 feet) high and continuing for some 100 meters (300 feet). Arguably, the best scenery awaits those who are willing to venture slightly off the beaten path. If you were lucky enough to hire a 4×4 for your trip, and the weather is cooperating, then you can continue slowly onwards through rocky terrain to the small village of Tamtattouchte.
Hiking through the Todra Gorges is an excellent way to spend a cooler day than in the hot and dusty towns near Tinerhir. Many of the hotels offer guided one or multiple-day tours around the gorges. As you hike about, you’ll be able to spot the occasional shepherd who is always willing to let you snap a photo for a few dirhams. Along the way, you might also spot nomadic tribes working away or beating the heat under their black khaima tents. You’ll also catch sight of many types of birds, such as eagles and doves.
Not too far from the Todra Gorge, lies its more beautiful, perhaps older sister – the Dades Gorge. These gorges are located just southwest of Tinerhir and some 110 km (65 miles) from Ouarzazate. The entrance into the Dades Gorge begins on a paved road, but farther along, it is best to explore by walking about, unless you have a 4×4 with excellent road clearance.
Many travelers with whom we’ve talked have exclaimed that trekking the Dades Gorges were the highlight of their trip. In the latter winter, the Dades River flows and in mid-spring through early summer gives the valley an unprecedented amount of greenery. In the valleys along the Dades Gorge, you’ll notice more argan (nut) trees more than the palmeries that surround the Todra Gorge.
If you continue upward along the Dades, you’ll eventually arrive to the town of Ait Oudinar. Just past the bridge, the road becomes quite difficult to drive, but in a 4×4, you’ll have no difficulties. If not, park your automobile and walk a few more minutes. Just up and around the bend, you’ll be able to see some of the most spectacular sights in all the valleys. Also, just past the bridge, there are several small hotels and inns where you can grab a bite to eat or settle for the night.
Similar to the Todra Gorge, you can easily hire a guide to take you around on a one-day hike, or more if you so choose. There is much to see and lots to do in both gorges. If you are into adventure sports, then this is one place to test your skills at climbing the gorge’s walls, white-water rafting the Dades, or trekking for days on end.
Nowadays, both gorges are easily accessible, but it is best if you have your own transportation. You can always hitch a ride up to each of the gorges, but you might have to outwait local Berbers who will pack into trucks heading to the top. Once there, the temperatures will be cooler, the views amazing, and the people delightful.