Marrakech, High Atlas and the Sahara Desert


On this 8-day tour we will explore the southern half of Morocco, from Marrakech to the High Atlas and the Sahara. We will look for most of the birding specialties of the region while enjoying the most varied and spectacular landscapes in the country. The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, the Egyptian Nightjar, the Crowned Sandgrouse, the Blue-checked Bee-eater and the African Crimson-winged Finch will be some of the species that will guide our steps in one of our favourite and most frequented birding destinations.  

This trip includes a 4×4 excursion through the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Moreover, we will have the chance to visit different UNESCO World Heritage Sits, such as the Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou and the mythical Jemaa el-Fnaa square in the Medina of Marrakesh.

The places we will visit are very welcoming and relaxed. Winter and Spring are the most suitable time to visit this region, both for the pleasant weather and for the variety and combination of species, including multiple endemics of the Maghreb region.


Day 1

The tour begins at the Marrakech International Airport, where we will arrive at noon. There our driver will receive us. After enjoying the first Moroccan welcome tea we will head south. Today we will cross the High Atlas. It will be a relatively long and slow first stage that we will take calmly, making stops for lunch and enjoying the spectacular views of the snow-capped peaks in the foothills of the Djebel Toubkal, the summit of North Africa with 4167 masl. Here we will look for the first specialties, including: Levaillant´s Green Woodpecker, Moussier’s Redstart, Long-legged Buzzard, African Blue Tit and the African subspecies of the Common Chaffinch. After crossing the of Tizi n-Tichka mountain pass we will begin the descent towards Ouarzazate. The landscape will gradually become arid and rocky, in a typically pre-Saharan environment. We will arrive at our accommodation in the late afternoon, with time to relax before enjoying an excellent dinner with Moroccan specialties. 

Day 2

After breakfast, we will take a walk through the Ksar (Berber fortified town) of Ait Ben-Haddou, an extraordinary example of the fortified architecture of southern Morocco. Its buildings and ancient walls have been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and have served as the setting for numerous films. This is a great place to observe Trumpeter Finches and White-crowned Wheatear. Next, we will take a secondary road to a nearby valley in search of one of our most elusive targets, the Maghreb Wheatear.

We will have lunch in Ouarzazate before heading east towards Boumalne Dades, where we will spend the night. We will make a first exploration of the famous “Tagdilt Track”, an extensive rocky plateau (reg) and essential destination for every birder visiting Morocco. Here we will have the first opportunity to enjoy the Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Thick-billed Lark, Desert Wheatear, to name but a few.

Day 3

First thing in the morning we will return to the “Tagdilt Track”, very close to our hotel, in search of:  Cream-colored Courser, Thick-billed Lark, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Temminck’s Lark, Desert Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Red-rumped Wheatear, etc.

Next, we will search again for the majestic Desert Owl and the Lanner. By the late morning we will continue heading to the East, towards the Sahara. Along the way, we will explore some of the numerous ouadis (seasonal dry rivers) and large palm groves to look for some emblematic species of the region such as the Streaked-scrub Warbler and Brown-necked Raven.

We will arrive in Merzouga in the late afternoon and have dinner at the hotel with spectacular views of the desert dunes of the Sahara. 

Day 4

Today we will get up early to go into the desert at dawn. We will use 4x4s and local drivers. One of our first targets will be the increasingly scarce Desert Sparrow, which we usually find around the tents of camel and goat herders. Next, we will visit the wells frequented by mixed groups o Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouses. In this sandy environment, the Greater Hoopoe Lark is one of the most frequent species. In turn, finding (and photographing) the Desert Warbler does usually require more effort. Thanks to the help of a local shepherd we will also enjoy unbeatable views of the Egyptian Nightjar. Throughout the day we will continue touring the arid plains and dune ridges, near the border with Algeria in search of desert wildlife. 

In the late afternoon, we will have time to relax at the hotel, next to the dunes. 

Day 5

We will have breakfast and our last views of the dunes before leaving Merzouga. Next, we will explore the Palm Forest between Rissani, Erfoud and Errachidia, targeting the. Next, we will start heading west and visit another hotspot for the Streaked Scrub Warbler. During the second part of the day we will explore the striking Todra Gorge, where Blue Rock Thrush and Bonelli´s Eagle can be found. Overnight in Tinghir.

After a relaxed breakfast, we will take a last walk through the dunes before saying goodbye to Merzouga. Next, we will visit the spectacular palm grove of Rissani where the Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater abound. Moreover, we will look for the elusive Fulvous Babbler and the tricky Saharan Olivaceous Warbler. This is also a suitable place to find the Maghreb Lark. At mid-morning we will start our return to the West, following a different road from our arrival in order to enjoy a greater variety of landscapes.

During the second part of the day we will visit the famous Todra Gorge and admire the spectacular views of the traditional towns and huge walls where Bonelli’s Eagles, Blue Rock Thrushes and Crag Martin breed. 

We will overnight in a hotel in the nearby rural surroundings of Tinghir.

Day 6

Today we will dedicate the day to calmly return to Marrakech, following the same road as on our arrival. We will make numerous stops to walk, both on the rocky plateau and in the high atlas. This will be an additional and excellent chance to keep enjoying the majestic landscapes and the avian specialities of Morocco. 

We will arrive in Marrakech in the late afternoon, with time to relax at the hotel. Those who so wish, will have the chance to stroll through the vivid medina of Marrakech.

Day 7

Today we will visit the High Atlas, around the tiny ski resort of Oukaimeden (2700m a.s.l.) in the beautiful Ourika valley, just one-hour drive from Marrakech. We will reach the snow level and inspect the clearings in search of the African Crimson-winged Finch, Shore Larks and the Seebohm’s wheatear.

This high mountain environment is also a great place to observe Moussier’s Redstart, Rock Sparrows and enjoy the large mixed groups of Red-billed and Alpine Choughs. 

During the second part of the day we will bird at lower levels, in forest and scrub habitats, looking for Llevailant´s Green Woodpecker, Tristram’s Warbler, the Barbary Partridge and the Barbary Falcon.  

In the middle of the afternoon we will be back in the medina of Marrakech, with time to rest before heading out to our farewell dinner in the mythical Yamaa El-Fna square, a world heritage site and meeting place for Moroccans, foreigners, snake charmers and diverse artists and merchants.

Day 8

This will be our last morning in Morocco. If the schedule of our return flight allows it, we will visit some of the foremost buildings in the medina of Marrakech, always keeping an eye on the beautiful flocks of Pallid and Little Swifts. Next, we will drive to the nearby international airport where the trip will come to its end.

Species of interest

  • Long-Legged Buzzard 
  • Lanner Falcon 
  • Barbary Falcon 
  • Cream-Colored Courser 
  • Black-Bellied Sandgrouse 
  • Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse 
  • Spotted Sandgrouse 
  • Crowned Sandgrouse
  • Pharaoh Eagle-Owl 
  • Egyptian Nightjar 
  • Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater 
  • Little Swift 
  • Maghreb Lark 
  • Thekla Lark
  • Desert Lark
  • Bar-Tailed Lark 
  • Temminck’s Lark 
  • Shore Lark 
  •  Greater Hoopoe Lark
  • Thick-Billed Lark 
  • Moussier’s Redstart 
  • White-crowned Wheatear 
  • Maghreb Wheatear 
  • Black Wheatear
  • Desert Wheatear 
  • Red-Rumped Wheatear 
  • Seebohm’s wheatear
  • Blue Rock Thrush 
  • Streaked Scrub Warbler 
  • Saharan Olivaceous Warbler 
  • Tristram’s Warbler 
  • African Desert Warbler 
  • Common Bulbul 
  • Fulvous Babbler 
  • Brown-Necked Raven 
  • Desert Sparrow 
  • Trumpeter Finch 
  • African Crimson-winged Finch 
  • House Bunting

What’s included

The package of this tour includes:

  • All accommodation from day 1 until day 8 (7 nights).
  • All meals, starting with lunch on Day 1 until breakfast on Day 8. This includes 1 drink with every meal and water during the whole duration of the trip.
  • Transportation in a comfortable vehicle for 5, 9 and 14pax depending on the final number of participants.
  • Programmed entrance fees as in the itinerary.
  • A specialised birding guide fluent in English with extensive experience in the Morocco.
  • Welcome package with itinerary, travel information and checklist of the birds of the region.

Items not included in the package:

  • Flights.
  • Extra drinks.
  • Tips in hotels, service and guides.
  • Personal travel insurance.
  • Personal items.

For further details on bookings and cancellations, you can check out our general Terms and Conditions.

If at any time you have questions about this trip, payments, or other related topics please feel free to contact us.

 Tour Basics

  • Guides: Javi ElorriagaYeray Seminario.
  • Length: 8 days.
  • Single Supplement:  365€
  • Lodging: From modern to traditional, charming hotels, comfortable with private bath.
  • Transportation: local driver with a comfortable and spacious minibus with AC.
  • Food: very good, traditional Moroccan cuisine and picnic lunches in the field.
  • Weather: moderate temperatures throughout most of the journey. Warm clothes are recommended for evenings and during our stay in the mountains, where snow is to be expected.
  • Difficulty: easy, short walks and gentle pace. Due to distances to cover, there are some long drives.
  • Birding in southern Morocco 2019 Trip Report