Carving away from the main road and up into the mountains of the High Atlas, the Dades Gorge runs through knobbly, striated bands of rock that have been carved and smoothed by centuries of wind and water. Villages cling to steep hillsides, usually presided over by a crumbling kasbah, and palm plantations and orchards tenaciously colonise any flat space. As you press deeper into the gorge you reach the most famous section, a furiously zigzagging stretch of hairpins. For those with the time and a love of dramatic scenery, heading over here and linking up with the Todra Gorge to drive back down to the main road is incredibly rewarding.
Rising in a similar part of the Atlas to the Dades, the Todra river carves its way out of the mountains via a spectacular gorge and then flows eastwards towards the Sahara. Near the Todra Gorge, the village of Tineghir is sculpted along the edge of the valley with views out over the plantations and fields of the valley floor; it’s a mixture of more modern buildings (still to an identifiably traditional design) and older kasbahs, a pleasing prospect. Tineghir is one of the better options for exploring the region and breaking the journey to and from the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi.