Spain and Morocco
Nine million square kilometres of sand, seas of rolling dunes, and large rock plateaus. The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, a vast wilderness that stretches all the way across the top of Africa. There aren’t many environments on the planet that can claim to be as harsh as the extremes experienced in the Sahara, excesses of temperature at either end of the mercury, dust storms that engulf all that stand before, and a lack of water that even the Dromedary Camel struggles with.
To witness this huge area is a once in a lifetime experience, a privilege and a reminder that life can conquer all and find a way just about anywhere. To rally out here, on the other hand, is a joy that is only really known by those that have done it. The Sahara Challenge will select the very best bits that the desert has to offer and condense it all into a 12-day adventure, that will test the soul and leave an unrivalled feeling of triumph after one has conquered the ever-encroaching sands of the desert.
Beginning and ending in Spain, just a short hop over the Mediterranean Sea will transport all of those involved into another time, a distant world where the roads were sparsely populated and the roadsides even less so. If remote rallying is what you are after, the Sahara Challenge is the test for you.
This event is open to HERO-ERA Club, Premier and Heritage Members
Premier Members benefit from up to 10% off event entry fees*, early sign-up opportunities, 10% savings on classic car vehicle hire, preferential rates from our insurance partners and much more!
See the full list of exclusive membership perks and sign up here
*Doesn’t include Peking to Paris and some one day events
All adventures must start somewhere and ours will begin in the Spanish port city of Malaga, with 134 km of stunning coastline in between our departure city and Algeciras, the roads for the day will dip in and out of the Andalusian hills that dominate the area, and if it is a clear day there will be tantalising glimpses across the Mediterranean Sea of Africa.
Once in Algeciras, the ferry to Tangier will take us across the Strait of Gibraltar and onward to Morocco and our gateway to the Sahara.
The Maghreb coast town of Tangier has been an important point of passage between Europe and Africa since Phoenician times and unsurprisingly given its strategic position has come under many different stewardships in its history. Heading south towards Fes, the landscape will begin to change as we gain altitude, with Regularities in the Rif Mountains and a visit to Chefchaouen, the famous blue city.
Upon leaving Fes, the upcoming Atlas Mountains will loom large in the distance. The Moyen Atlas, or Middle Atlas, will provide a playground for the day with its well-regarded, twisty tarmac roads. The Atlas Mountains have been a natural barrier to the Sahara for millennia, and whilst this day will see us travel along their ridges to the town of Midelt for the night, they will need to be conquered in their entirety before we can truly claim to be properly in the desert.
Once we arrive safely in Erfoud we will have crossed the Atlas and descended into beginnings of the desert. The roads on this day will be spectacular, a tremendous mix of high mountain passes and sand flanked desert road. Erfoud is an oasis town, and exactly what one pictures when imagining settlements in the desert. We will view the world with an orange hue, a characteristic that will become par for the course as the adventure into the desert begins in earnest the following day.
The mighty Erg-Chebbi dunes. Orange sands rise up in mighty wind-blown mountains, reaching 150 metres in some places as they meet the azure blue skies. Vegetation is all but non-existent, the odd bit of scrub breaking up the sand and the heat is tremendous. Visions of Dakar and desert races will no doubt flood your mind as some of the most exciting driving anyone can experience is undertaken as the rally heads to Merzouga, where we will camp under the dark, star filled skies of the desert.
Out of the soft sands, rise the hard rock as the route takes us back towards the Atlas Mountains. Today the rally will encounter one of its highlights, the Todra Gorge. A series of limestone river canyons, with incredible roads and views mean that being stuck between a rock and a hard place is a pleasure for once. The canyon walls are 400 metres high in places, cut deep by the Todra river. Ouarzazate will provide our shelter for the night, known as the Gateway to the Sahara, it has also featured as a location for many famous films.
The roads through the Anti-Atlas Mountains are a joy to drive, and will be our through-fare to Tafraoute as we complete a full week on the road. The landscape is pretty incredible as well, and Lonely Planet rates it as some of the best scenery that Morocco has to offer, but also states that it is one of the least visited areas of the country. All of this translates into visiting one of the regions best-kept secrets, and having the incredible roads to ourselves. Tafraoute itself is surrounded on all four sides by red granite mountains, with a relaxed pace to the village.
Today the adventure begins to head north again, up to the port city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. Our descent from the Atlas will be as pleasurable as the climb through it, but there is still plenty of high altitude driving to be done, as well as taking in the coastal roads on the route to our evening terminus. Essaouira itself has a decidedly medieval European feel to it, as well as boasting an excellent beach, blown into a crescent shape by the favourable ‘trade’ winds.
A reasonably short stint inland to the Imperial city of Marrakech will provide Day Nines entertainment. More sun-baked rock will await us on the road, littered with the occasional oasis and irrigated patch of farmland. The streets of Marrakech are full of life and the mixture of architecture and historical points of interest, as well as the gardens, restaurants and street markets will mean that this is a city you will want to explore as thoroughly as we will have discovered the roads of the region.
As we approach the end of our adventure, we will strike a course for Rabat and leave the Sahara largely behind us. The landscape will begin to change again as we approach Morocco’s capital city, becoming decidedly greener as we edge ever more north as well as more populated. There will still be plenty more incredible roads to be enjoyed though, as we take in the final full day of driving through a country, we are sure every single one of you will have fallen completely in love with.
The Atlantic will be our guide as the route heads back towards Tangier and the ferry to Spain. There will still be plenty of Morocco to drive, with 300 kilometres or so of roads between Rabat and Tangier, and with the onward travel to Jerez it will be a tough, but enjoyable day of driving that may just provide a sting in the tail for the competitive element of the rally. The penultimate day yes, but by no means a gentle stroll into the finish.
A final day of motoring through the Andalusian Hills to cap off 12 days of exploration in fine style. Ending where we began, it will have been two weeks of wonderful adventure, creating incredible memories and seeing parts of the magnificent country of Morocco that many people will never experience. The mighty Sahara will have been conquered, and despite its vast landscape and extremes of temperature everyone who competes in this rally will always be left with a warm, cosy glow when they think of it in years to come.