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Desert Tour Morocco

Desert Tour Morocco: Tour Suggestions and Tips

The Sahara is the largest dry desert on earth and impresses with gigantic dunes, soft sand and endless space. Our Morocco expert Britta gives you in this article helpful tips for a successful desert tour through the Sahara.

Where is the best place to do a desert tour in Morocco?

As I said, there are two famous areas in Morocco for Sahara tours that are developed for tourism: Erg Chebbi near Merzouga and Erg Chegaga between M’hamid and Zagora. and you can enjoy Marrakech desert tours 

Both have gigantic dunes with fine soft sand in an almost endless expanse. I can’t say which one is more beautiful, but I present the differences here. I also present an alternative for those who have little time.

To give you an overview of where in Morocco the areas are located, you will find them marked on the following map:

Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi is the most popular desert area in Morocco for tourists. Here there is sand as far as the eye can see and the highest dunes of the country with up to 200 meters high.

 

The starting points for tours are the oasis towns of Erfoud and Rissani, as well as the smaller desert oasis of Merzouga, which lies directly behind the sand dunes. The choice of tours and offers is simply overwhelming.

 

You can go into the desert on the back of a camel, by quad bike, off-road vehicle or on foot. Sometimes at sunrise, sometimes at sunset, sometimes with an overnight stay in a traditional Berber tent or in a luxurious camp. You can ride through the dunes for just one hour or walk through them for a whole week.

 

In Merzouga there are numerous accommodations directly at the edge of the dunes – there is something for every budget. But more exciting, of course, is a night in the desert in a nomad tent.

 

A typical tour into the Erg Chebbi, which I can recommend to you, looks like this from Merzouga:

Desert tour to the Erg Chebbi with overnight stay

In the afternoon you saddle up on the camels at the base camp, which is usually an accommodation in Merzouga at the edge of the dunes. It is quite a wobbly affair when the 2 meter high dromedary moves swaying from the knees to the standing position.

 

After a few minutes the whole caravan, one camel riding nicely behind the other, is already in the middle of the desert. Around you, you see nothing but sand.

 

1 to 2 hours later – just when you are slowly rubbing your butt, because such a camel is anything but comfortable – you reach the camp.

 

A Bedouin camp consists of several traditional Berber tents with lots of rugs grouped around a central campsite. In a central tent there are comfortable mattress camps for lounging around and sometimes a few tables for eating.

 

Everything is kept very simple, but that’s how it should be in the middle of the desert. Under the open sky you eat a Moroccan dinner. Often there is tajine, which is the traditional dish cooked in clay pots on the fire in Morocco.

Before or after dinner, you climb a dune to watch the sunset. Slowly, the sea of sand turns golden yellow and red until it becomes pitch dark. And an unbelievable silence spreads along with it.

 

In the evening, everyone gathers around the campfire. While the Berbers tell you stories of nomadic life and Bedouin wisdom or play traditional music, the sky above you sparkles with thousands of stars.

 

Fascinatingly, the broad beam of the Milky Way shines, constellations stand out everywhere and shooting stars flit across. It is simply fantastic!

 

If you want, you can sleep on mattresses and blankets directly under the starry sky. Otherwise, in the Bedouin tents there are sleeping camps or sometimes even real beds.

 

In the morning you have to get up early in order not to miss the sunrise from the next dune. This is almost more magical in the desert than the sunset.

Depending on the tour, you will have a typical Moroccan breakfast in the camp before going back or you will have breakfast in the base camp after returning from the desert. Here you can usually also take a shower, because in the desert camps there are, if at all, only simple (dry) toilets and sometimes a sink.

Advantages of a desert tour to Erg Chebbi

 

  • There are countless desert-related hotels and infrastructure in Merzouga.
  • You can walk from Merzouga into the desert.
  • You reach Merzouga by a good tarred road.
  • The dunes are even higher than in Erg Chegaga.
  • There are different organized tours, also from Marrakech and Fez.

Disadvantages of a desert tour to Erg Chebbi

 

Many visitors and engine noise of the Quads diminish the desert feeling in the main season.

In Merzouga it is very touristy.

The drive from Marrakech is long and not recommended as a 2-day tour.

Partly the prices for tours and supplies in Merzouga are overpriced.

My tip: If you are on a round trip in Morocco with a rental car, the Erg Chebbi is perfect, because it can be integrated very well into a round route. Even if you want to make an organized desert tour out of Marrakech, you can book great 3 to 4 day tours where you get to know a few more highlights of the area.

Tour recommendations to the Erg Chebbi

3-day tour from Marrakech to Merzouga

Tour with overnight stay in the desert from Merzouga

My tips for hotels in Merzouga and camps in Erg Chebbi

Cheap: Auberge Etoile Des Dunes

Middle class: Riad Nezha

Upper class: Hassilabiab

Luxury camp in the desert: Camel trips Luxury camp

How to get to Merzouga

There are daily bus connections by Supratours between Merzouga and Marrakech (about 13 hours travel time) via Tinehir and Ouarzazate and to Fez (2 days travel time) via Erfoud and Midelt.

 

Erg Chegaga

The dune area of Erg Chegaga, which lies a little further south, stretches between the towns of Zagora, M’hamid and Foum Zguid in the border area with Algeria. These desert towns are also the starting point for tours into the sand dunes.

Zagora is the center for camel tours. From the 1-hour ride to the 1-week camel tour, everything is possible.

From M’Hamid and Foum Zguid the tours into the central sand dune area are often combined with a drive in a 4×4 vehicle, because the large sand dunes are about 50 kilometers away and can only be reached by a dirt road through the boulder desert.

 

Due to its remoteness, Erg Chegaga is less visited by tourists and the region is almost deserted. The desert experience is therefore even more intense and pristine.

A typical desert tour to the Erg Chegaga

Also the typical tours to the Erg Chegaga last 2 days with a night in a nomad tent in the vast sandy landscape. Accordingly, you can also experience wonderful sunrises and sunsets and the incredible silence under the starry sky of the desert.

 

At the base camp you will be picked up by an off-road vehicle. First you will drive through the barren scree desert. This journey alone is worth it.

The landscape with its endless scree fields and wadis is bizarre and impressive at the same time. Almost like a mirage, nomads with their camel herds pass by in the distance.

I was lucky that during my drive through the completely dry Lac Iriki, after a rain in spring, countless tiny plants and flowers just started to sprout from the barren ground. A beautiful sight!

Slowly the sand becomes more and the plants less until you reach the camp in the sand dunes. Often you leave from here in the afternoon with the camels for the sunset. You will enjoy the sunrise from the nearest dune of the camp, before returning after breakfast in the off-road vehicle.

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