Photography by Svadore
From this point onward, forget everything you have heard or read about driving through the Tizi N’Tichka Pass from Marrakech to the desert. Here’s the truth about driving through the Pass based on my first hand experience.
Anything and everything you read on google about the drive from Marrakech to Ouarzazate through the Tizi N’Tichka pass will try and convince you not to attempt it on your own. They claim, the drive is terrifying, the people are insane, the roads are dangerous and their are many hairpin turns. I am here to tell you, all these claims are false…! After reading up on the pass myself, I was a bit worried about the drive down. However, when Pat and I finally found ourselves face to face with the pass, we awaited our “impending doom” as some people call it for hours on end. When would the drive turn from a regular mountainous drive to a horrific death trap? The answer was never. Driving the Tizi N’Tichka path truly is as beautiful as people describe it and NOT as dangerous as everyone describes it. What might be scary is the drive down the Dades Gorge..but I can’t speak to that since I have never driven it before. A quick google search will show that many people confuse the Dades Valley drive with the Tizi N’Tichka drive. In fact most of the pictures posted online for the Tizi N’Tichka pass are actually pictures of the Dades Valley. The people who are posting these pictures have obviously never done the actual drive themselves and have resorted to the internet to share false horror stories and pictures on the pass. I’m here to recount the drive to you based on firsthand experience. None of the pictures I took give the true drive and breathtaking views any justice, but I did my best!
It begins with a winery-esque landscape with straight roads that lead into a dry forest landscape with winding roads. Here you begin to see the Berber villages still made out of mud brick cratered down the side of the mountains and in the dams below you-a beautiful and rare sight! You’ll encounter a lot of school children, sheep herds and a few hitchhikers along the way, all part of the scenery.
Once you exit the dry forest you will find yourself immediately surrounded by arid rocks. Don’t be surprised to find some distinct contrasts, such as a mountain with one side made of white limestone and the other made of green trees, and men along the street selling open rocks beholding beautiful red, pink and orange crystals! The winding roads continue across the canyon-like mountains as you approach the Tizi N’Tichka pass.
Once out of the white canyon-like rocks, you will begin to drive up winding roads surrounding beautiful red mountains. This is where the Tizi N’Tichka pass begins. Yes, you will have to pass the occasional tour bus or slow truck along the two lane road, but it is nothing to be frightened about and is super easy. The roads are too winding to drive faster than 40km p/hour so fast and reckless drivers are not an issue either! As you begin to reach the highest point of the pass the roads become super smooth to drive on. The two lane road turns into a huge three lane road that has been newly paved. Giving people ample space to drive up the mountain and stop for the occasional scenic picture.
After you descend the mountain you will find yourself in a desert like landscape surrounded by red mountains and straight roads leading you to your final destination. Although many will encourage you to rent a grand taxi, a mini day trip bus or a large coach bus, I highly recommend you do the drive on your own. It may be a 3 to 4 hour drive, but it is well worth it given the beautiful scenery. The trip goes by a lot faster than you think and it is super fun to drive! Additionally, the only somewhat scary part about the drive was the buses and grand taxis themselves! Those huge buses are going 40 to 50 km p/hour, the same speed as Pat and I, but on a tall and huge bus while the driver has one hand on the wheel and the other on his phone. The risk of tipping over in those buses seems high and I would not trust being in a bus with a reckless driver and a bus full of car sick tourists.
As for rest stops? There are plenty along the way so there is no need to determine your pitstops based on the buses time schedule. Don’t let all the misinformed horror stories of the Tizi N’Tichka pass deter you from a once in a lifetime easy, fun and rare drive from Marrakech to Ait Ben Haddou or Ouarzazate. Take to the road and you will find that you will not regret my advice..!
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