Stretching northeast from Ouarzazate, the Dadès Valley is at times harsh and desolate, but there is a bleak beauty on the plain between the parallel ranges of the High Atlas and the Jebel Saghro. Along much of its length, the river is barely visible above ground, making the sudden appearance of its vast oases all the more astonishing. Littered with half-hidden mud-brick houses – the Dadès is also known as the Route of a Thousand Kasbahs, for obvious reasons – the palmeries lie along the N10 from Ouarzazate to Erfoud, offering an excellent and easy opportunity for a close look at a working oasis and, in Skoura, a startling range of imposing kasbahs.
Impressive though these are, however, it is the two gorges that cut from the valley into the High Atlas that steal the show: the Dadès Gorge itself, carving up a fertile strip of land behind Boumalne du Dadès, and, to the east, the Todra Gorge, a narrowing cleft in high rock walls north of Tinghir. Beyond both, roads run into the heart of the Atlas, a wonderful (and, from Tinghir, fairly easy) trip that emerges near Beni Mellal in the Middle Atlas.
To the south of the Dadès, the volcanic rock and limestone pinnacles of the Jebel Saghro offers exciting options, either on foot or on its network of rough piste roads in a 4WD.