How to plan a Trip to Morocco
How to Plan a Trip to Morocco? If you plan a trip to Morocco, I am sure you dreamed of many colorful walls, decorated doors,
Most European travelers plan to visit the Sahara desert of Morocco, the world’s largest warm desert. And nowhere is the desert more accessible than here in Morocco. But most of the desert in Morocco is different from what one might imagine. The large orange sand dunes represent only a small percentage of the Sahara.
If you are at the beginning of planning your adventures in the desert of Morocco and you are wondering how best to organize your Morocco desert tour, then you will find this Sahara Desert holiday guide very helpful. In this article, we will cover all the basics you need to know about traveling in the Moroccan desert.
The Morocco desert is located in the southeast perimeter bordering Algeria and Western Sahara. With little vegetation, the desert is full of dunes and layers of sand reminiscent of ocean waves. There are some animals, but you will see mostly camels, which are used by nomadic tribes.
The two largest deserts in Morocco are the Erg Chebbi and the Erg Chigaga. Both are close to the closed border with Algeria and are located in the middle of the surrounding Hammada (flat and stony desert) which has its beauty and charm.
The Erg Chebbi desert, which is located near Merzouga, all the way in eastern Morocco is more beautiful than the Erg Chigaga Desert. Please keep reading the article below to know why.
The Erg Chebbi Desert is a popular area of the Sahara, bordering the city of Merzouga. The Erg Chebbi is easily accessible, after 10 minutes by camel, or 5 minutes by 4×4, which is surrounded by sand dunes meters high. The dunes are quite high here, which creates beautiful images, and there are many different fields in the desert. These tent campsites are very luxurious, real glamping in the desert! Due to the proximity of the city of Merzouga, the supply of running water and electricity is well organized in this part of the desert. Note that you will always see other visitors in the desert of Erg Chebbi. It is beautiful and a tourist attraction for a reason.
The Erg Chigaga desert is said to be beautiful. The sand dunes are less high (especially at the beginning). Also, you can’t drive to the Erg Chigaga desert. In the last two hours, you change your regular car to a 4×4 (all-wheel drive).
This means that the Erg Chegaga desert is much more expensive to visit.
Since the distances here are much longer, we do not recommend taking a camel ride to Erg Chegaga, because you cannot go deep enough into the Sahara to reach the high dunes.
Overall, it seems that the Erg Chegaga is much less interesting, but it certainly is not. Precisely because it is harder to reach, there are many fewer tourists here. So if you are looking for an experience where you feel completely alone, we recommend the Erg Chebbi desert!
The Morocco desert is the perfect destination for travelers who would like to visit Morocco. Most of them will arrive in Merzouga to see the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi or Zagora for the dunes of Erg Chigaga.
Really, the best way to explore the Sahara Desert is with a local guide who will share the story of the rich nomads of the desert throughout the journey. Here is a 3 Days tour that includes a night in the dunes of Erg Chebbi. For those who have more time, the Imperial Cities & Desert Sahara Tours is an ideal choice.
Erg Chebbi is the perfect choice for travelers whose goal of traveling in the desert is to marvel at the most impressive sand mountains that Morocco can offer. The dunes of the Erg Chebbi desert can reach 150 meters in height, making them the most known and exploited of the two main sand deserts that make up the Moroccan Sahara.
Merzouga is situated 350 miles/ 560 km east of Marrakesh. If you prefer to save money, CTM and Supratours operate night buses between Fez and Merzouga, as well as a long bus from Marrakech to Merzouga.
The nearest town is Errachidia. If you want to avoid the long journey from Marrakech or Fez, consider a flight to Moulay Ali Cherif Errachidia Airport via Royal Air Maroc. From there it is a two-hour trip to Merzouga.
There are also many tour companies that offer extensive desert tours from Marrakech or Fez. These include a guide, various organized activities, and 4×4 transport, and they usually last several days. Although three days of sightseeing are popular, opt for a 4- or 5-day tour, if possible so you can spend more time admiring the desert landscape. Some tourist companies offer a trip that starts in Marrakech and ends in Fez, stopping in Merzouga on a trip. We highly recommend Marrakech Tour Company.
As a tourist destination, Erg Chigaga opened to the world in the 90s and is still less visited than Erg Chebbi, this is despite some interesting advantages such as the distance from Marrakech and a lower tourist turnout.
Zagora is crossed by two national motorways, the N9, and the N12. You can rent a car and drive yourself, or take a long-distance bus from most major Moroccan cities. With the national bus company CTM, the journey from Marrakech lasts 8 hours and costs 140 dirhams. From Ouarzazate, it takes a little more than 3 hours and costs 55 dirhams.
The city has its own airport – Zagora Airport (OZG) – with direct flights of Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca International Airport. The trip takes about one hour and 50 min. If you are traveling to Zagora from Marrakech, you cannot fly directly there. As such, it is often cheaper and easier to fly to Ouarzazate instead and then travel by road (2.5 hours by car), or travel by car directly from Marrakech.
Several tour operators also offer desert excursions that take you from Marrakech to Zagora, stopping at major attractions such as Aït Benhaddou and Ouarzazate, spending the night in a Berber camp along the way.
There are all kinds of activities you can do in the Moroccan desert – from Camel trekking to glamping in the desert, to sand boards and Atv quad biking, among others.
A 3-day tour actually gives you a rather limited time in the Sahara Desert. You’ll get on a camel at sunset, eat in the desert, sleep in a tent, watch the stars and dawn before you leave – that’s all.
If you want more time in the Sahara desert, I suggest taking the bus to Merzouga and planning an independent trip there rather than taking one of Marrakech’s towers.
A small village on the edge of the desert, Merzouga owes its reputation to the high dunes of the Erg Chebbi which extends to its edge. the dunes of Merzouga, a top destination for adventure tourism in Morocco, are a popular destination for travelers looking for a complete immersion in a desert environment as impressive as it is breathtaking.
Located in the southeast of Morocco, 50 km from Erfoud, the arrival in the village of Merzouga will surprise you. After crossing beautiful varied landscapes, here you face an unforgettable panorama: the dunes of the Erg Chebbi. Depending on the time of your arrival, they will be draped in a yellow or ochre color that will evolve throughout the day.
As soon as you arrive in Merzouga, you will immediately be immersed in another universe. The Saharuis, the famous blue men in the indigo blue cheich, welcome you. the Camel’s guide and camels too!. You are immersed in the indolent atmosphere of a Saharan village entirely turned towards desert tourism.
You finally decided to take your tickets to Morocco and now you are in the middle of planning your trip. Only, you do not know what to do in Merzouga, city from where you can access the famous dunes of the Erg Chebbi.
Moreover, this famous desert of the Erg Chebbi is the principal attraction of the city. All the activities offered by the tourist agencies revolve around visiting the desert.
However, although everything is articulated around this sand building, you will find something for everyone. Indeed, in activities with family, couple, or friends, there is necessarily a benefit that corresponds to you. Thus, you can enjoy the tranquility of the places by hiking or camel riding. But for the more adventurous and thrill seekers, quad or buggy rides should fill your thirst for adrenaline. Finally, whatever the time of day, you can have an incredible experience. Indeed, very early in the morning or late at night, there is always something to do in the Merzouga desert.
We start our Camel Trek at 4:30, the perfect time to watch the sunset towards the end of our 2-hour journey. Later we will head to the desert camp in the middle of the desert surrounded by debts, where we will spend the night. Soon my camel got up off the ground. I was a little uncomfortable sitting on a tall camel on the floor and making sure I didn’t fall. But I finally got used to it. After a while, my ass started to hurt, but it was an experience of a lifetime that I would not hesitate to do it again.
We crossed many dunes, climbs, and descents to the top of a much higher dune. From there we had a magical view of the sunset. After seeing the sunset, we continue our camel ride to our desert camp. At the end of the day, the desert area began to freeze with strong wind. We finally made it to our desert camp.
If you are a person of high maintenance and prefer that your trip to Erg Chebbi is as comfortable as possible, there is a package for you at marrakechtourcompany.com
The luxury Overnight at the Desert Camp starts with an unforgettable sunset camel ride, after which your saddle will be hobbled and you will repair a plush shop for mint tea followed by a satisfying meal and plenty of stargazing.
The next day, you can expand into the quad or try the sandboard, followed by a much-needed shower. This experience includes water and transfers to and from your accommodation or Merzouga bus station.
Board this off-road vehicle. The local driver who will pick you up at your accommodation will take you to visit the dunes of the Erg Chebbi. You will then cross mountains of sand thanks to 4×4. This experience will shake you, literally and figuratively.
Stop in a Berber tent. You will discover local traditions. You will share a meal and tea with a nomad’s family. In addition, they will make you discover their traditional music and their unusual instruments.
The Erg Chebbi desert lends itself perfectly to this kind of activity. Indeed, the quad in Merzouga is the perfect activity for driving enthusiasts. Using these motorized vehicles, you will go through incredible places. You will walk the sandy dunes and cross rocky desert landscapes. Rugged paths will not scare you.
The guide will take you to the corners of nature isolated from everything. Also, you will stop for tea at a Berber family. They will welcome you with open arms and you will learn a little more about the local culture.
If you were looking for something unusual, you found it. Indeed, the only slopes you have ever traveled down so far were covered with thick snow cover. In addition, you were warmly dressed in gloves, a cap, and a winter coat.
Imagine, now, being able to slide in a t-shirt and on the sand. This is exactly what sandboarding offers in Merzouga. From the heights of the dunes, you will jump for a supernatural glide session. You will find the sensations of winter sport except that here you will enjoy higher temperatures. Sandboarding in the high dunes of the Merzouga desert is an incredible way to enjoy it.
Get off the beaten track and set off on a great adventure in the dunes. After a short introduction to driving this motor vehicle, you can travel long distances in the desert. So, you will see as many things as possible in as little time as possible.
You can also visit a Berber family with a guide. Moroccans are very attached to their customs. Therefore, you will share a mint tea with the latter before going on a tour.
The desert is full of surprises. You will discover magnificent panoramas during your excursion.
This seasonal brackish lake four kilometers west of Merzouga dries in summer, but autumn rains replenish it. Like a giant blue leaf against the desert dunes, Lac Dayet Srij would be photogenic under any circumstances, but it is more amazing for its abundant avifauna.
A short distance from Merzouga is the village of Khemliya, which has a small community of people from the Gnaoua ethnic group.
Gnawas originated in West and Central Africa and were brought to what is now Morocco and Algeria as slaves (the word Gnawa derives from Berber for «slave»). After Islam was adopted by the Berbers and slavery was abolished, the Gnawas adopted Sufism, which allowed them to practice certain pre-Islamic traditions.
These included healing and prayer rites, involving musicians playing bass, and conducting melodies on a string instrument called sintir, accompanied by applause and call-and-response chants. Often, regardless of its ritual purpose, Gnawa music has been exported beyond Morocco and is celebrated at important events such as the World Gnaoua Music Festival in Essaouira.
In Merzouga, you can arrange a guided Khamliya trip for an intimate performance of this ancient art form.
One of the most surreal views of Merzouga is a national museum dedicated to off-road vehicles, here on the edge of the desert. This attraction is free to enter and features a small fleet of 4 4 vehicles including Jeeps, Ford, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Toyotas, and Moroccan army vehicles, as well as some more extravagant exhibits such as a single-seater buggy and an amphibious. vehicle. The oldest car on display is a Ford Model T, oddly fitted with off-road tires.
The fertile oases of Merzouga appear like mirages in the desert. Sip a mint tea in the company of oasians who have preserved their ancestral culture.
Most 4 or 5 days tour will take you far into the Sahara Desert of Morocco. A 3 or 4 days desert tour will take you to the Erg-Chebbi region. It is at the foot of the Sahara and is also very nice. However, if you have time, we recommend going to the Sahara. It is an experience unlike any other, feeling the distance from the desert and seeing how the inhabitants live their lives here.
We have arranged a 5% to 10% discount for you with our team about Morocco desert tours. The discount depends on how many days on your trip. We spent an unforgettable time with them during our visit to the Sahara Desert. For security reasons, you can contact us.
The price really depends on the tour you choose. We had a private 3 days Sahara Desert tour from Marrakech to Fes which cost around $750. This included two nights, one in the hotel/riad and one in a luxury desert camp, food, camels, etc. Of course, you can also share a minivan with other travelers, which makes the visit much cheaper.
Whether you want to make a stay in Merzouga, an excursion in the dunes of Erg Chebbi, or a tour with an overnight stay in a desert camp, the best period remains between October to May.
It’s no secret that during the summer (July and August), temperatures in the Moroccan desert can reach up to 50 degrees per location. Even at 45 degrees, a trip to the Sahara for those who are not accustomed to such high temperatures can require effort.
We, therefore, recommend a stay in the Morocco desert between October (or mid-October) to May (mid-May).
to book your Sahara desert tour in Morocco, you have to know what destination you would like to start your desert tour from, we will mention two different destinations that our Morocco desert tours are starting from. and then you can choose a destination that will fit your tour.
Making a desert tour from Marrakech is one of the experiences that we should all live at least once in a lifetime. Stepping on the highest dunes in Morocco, sleeping in a traditional tent, and watching the sunrise in the desert are moments not easily forgotten, we will recommend some desert tours that will fit your needs.
3 Days tour from Marrakech to Fes is the tour to the Sahara desert from Marrakech and it’s enough if you have a short time in Morocco
4 Days from Marrakech to Merzouga is full of adventures and it will make you discover the south of Morocco.
5 Days from Marrakech to Merzouga will make you discover the Erg Chebbi desert and do some activities.
If you have a long time in Morocco and would like to visit the full south of Morocco, we highly recommend you check out tours from Marrakech.
Desert Tours from Fes are designed to meet your aspirations and expectations. In every tour we try to make you know and discover new things, the feeling of living in the moment of the desert, enjoy every second, every spark with so much joy! Alternatively, you can also customize your tour however you like.
3 Days from Fes to Marrakech is the best choice for every traveler that has a short time to leave Morocco and wants to visit the Sahara desert.
4 Days from Fes to Marrakech is full enough to explore the desert and do some activities.
5 Days from Fes to Marrakech is the perfect tour that can make you explore the whole Morocco desert of Erg Chebbi.
If you have a long time in Morocco and you are in Fes thinking of a long trip to the Sahara desert, we recommend you to check out Tours from Fes.
Choosing to travel independently or as part of an organized visit is often based on your personal preferences and travel style. In Morocco, if you have experience of independent travel and know French or Arabic, you can travel independently. Travel books can teach you the basics, and public transport takes you virtually anywhere in the country. Note that you should never go to sand dunes or other remote areas of the desert without help.
On a private tour, you can dive deeper into the Moroccan culture, interact with the locals every day and get to know some of the country’s most hidden gems with knowledgeable guides. See below for some of the private tours we offer to visit the Sahara Desert.
¡Yes, we do! We have many different desert tours that you can customize. one of them takes you to the Morocco Sahara desert. Our Morocco Sahara desert tours will take you to some of Morocco’s imperial cities and include a one-hour camel ride through the desert, a sunset over the dunes of Erg Chebbi, and a night in a traditional luxury desert camp in the Sahara. We also organize desert tours in Erg Chigaga that depart from Marrakech and take you to the less touristic sand dunes of Erg Chigaga for two nights. All our tours are fully customizable and you can also contact us to create your own private tour.
Morocco is a conservative and religious country, which means you must always be aware of your clothing choices. This is especially true in the country’s rural areas, which include the Sahara desert and its surrounding villages. As a general rule, you should always try to cover the body parts considered «private». For women, this means covering the arms (or at least the shoulders) and knees. Men should cover their shoulders and knees.
Spending a night under the stars in the Sahara Desert is a unique opportunity, and you are unlikely to experience it anywhere else in the world. Therefore, if you have time, you’ll want to spend more than one night in the desert. With two nights, you can explore the desert at a more relaxed pace and fully immerse yourself in the traditional customs of the local tribes.
Spend your days doing sandboards and camel trekking and your nights singing, dancing and watching the stars! It is best to spend one night in tents on the sand dunes and another night in one of the nearby desert towns.
Marrakech is about 600 km (370 miles) from Merzouga, a town near the famous sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and about 360 km (225 mi) from Zagora, near the dunes of Erg Chigaga. Fez is 470km (290 mi) from Merzouga and 670km (415 mi) from Zagora. Don’t let the mileage confuse you.
Much of the driving is on mountain passes and through the base, well-maintained, highways and rural roads. Traveling from Marrakech or Fez to the Sahara will require at least a full day of driving (8-12 hours everywhere), one way. Budget your time accordingly. Note that on the way to the Sahara, there is much to see, do, and experience. For your Sahara excursion, we recommend spending a few days on the budget to slow down the pace and admire all the cultural and wonderful landscapes you will inevitably encounter on the way.
There are some essential ones that you can’t forget to take when embarking on your desert adventure. These include:
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