All You Need to Know Before Traveling to The Sahara Desert in Morocco
Watching undulating massive dunes and camel trekking in the Sahara Desert of Morocco are dreams for many people. Witness the endless golden sand sheets and appreciate the magical nature landscaping is something that you will not find elsewhere. Many of my tourists cried when they saw the Sahara desert for the first time in their life. It is also the perfect place for self-discovery, self-reflection, and adventure.
However, sometourists often told me that it was very confusing and hard to make a decision when they planned their trip to the Sahara. So in this blog, I will explain how to travel to the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
First of all, where is the Sahara Desert?
The Sahara Desert is a region in the northern part of Africa. It spans across 11 countries and almost covers all northern Africa. It borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Red Sea to the east. In Morocco, Sahara extends from north to south along with its easternneighbour Algeria. Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world. The name of Sahara derives from the plural Arabic noun ṣaḥārāʾ, meaning desert.
Why visit the Sahara Desert from Morocco?
Many people choose to see the Sahara Desert from Morocco because of convenience and safety. Morocco has several international airports like Marrakech, Casablanca, etc that have many direct flights from the world. Morocco is a stable country that is very safe to travel including the Sahara region. The Sahara Desert in Morocco has the most beautiful and spectacular landscapes with massive dunes.
Another reason is that Morocco is a nation filled with ancient history, beautiful scenery, mouthwatering cuisine, and fascinating culture. It is one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 countries to visit and a bucket-list world destination. It has 9 UNESCO sites. Many tourists want to explore the country as a whole including the Sahara Desert.
Which Dune to visit?
In the Sahara Desert, there are two most visited dunes with different flavors: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi is the most popular among tourists because it is easier to reach. On another hand, Erg Chigaga is more challenging to reach but very attractive for adventurers.
Generally, tourists will arrive at the entrance points -the town close to dunes by regular transportation, then switch to either camels or 4X4 to reach the dunes. Merzougais a small town near Erg Chebbi. It usually takes 1-hour camel riding or 20-30 minutes by 4x4 from there to reach the Dunes. However, it will take a half-day camel riding and 2 hours 4x4 from the closest town M’hamid to reach Erg Chigaga. So we will focus on Erg Chebbi in this blog.
How to plan your trip to the Sahara?
There are several ways to visit the Sahara Desert.
One is self-driving. Generally, people start to drive from major citieslike Marrakech, Ouarzazate, or Fes. Merzouga is 552 km from Marrakech, 455 km from Fes, and 360 km from Ouarzazate. The distance on the map is not very far. But the road condition in Morocco is not good which makes the trip pretty hard. Especially the Tizi-n-Tichka, the mountain road passing through the Atlas Mountains and the gateway to Sahara, has lots of construction years around and many acute-angle turns. It is very stressful to drive even for experienced drivers. It easily takes 8-10 hours to drive to the Sahara Desert from Marrakech or Fes. Another difficulty is that these regions lack landmarks and stable GPS signals. There is the potential of getting lost and losing time when driving by yourself.
Route to Erg Chigaga, Morocco
Generally, you need to plan at least two days to visit the Sahara. If you have three days, it will be even better since you can explore more Morocco tourist attractions along the trip. You can stay in a small town near the Desert. For Erg Chebbi, people usually stay at either Merzouga or Erfoud. For Erg Chigaga, the nearby town is Zagora or Foum Zguid.
Route to Erg Chigaga, Morocco
However, most people choose to spend a night at Berber desert camp, since watching breathtaking sunrise and sunsets or gazing at millions of stars in the sky is such a magical experience. Merzouga Paradise Luxury Camp is one of the best camps located at the heart of the Sahara Desert. It is fully equipped with comfortable beds, an indoor private bathroom, shower to make you comfortable. It is one of the top choices for many tourists.
Merzouga Paradise Luxury Camp
Booking a local tour
The majority of the tourists choose to join a local tour to ensure stress-free trip. There are many Morocco travel agencies offering Shara Desert tour packages from different departure cities- Marrakech, Ouarzazate or Fes.
Then it becomes another headache-which one to choose?
Ideally, you want to choose a tour agency with an experienced driver, knowledgeable and fun tour guide, good itinerary, and best price. Sahara Sky Tours fits all the criteria. It is one of the best Morocco travel agencies. It offers different tour packages based on your time and budget. If you are limited on time, you can take a short 2-3 day tour from Marrakech or Ouarzazate. Some people choose to take a longer trip to explore Fes, Volubilis, Casablanca, and Chefchaouen all at once. You may be surprised that, compared to self-driving, it is not that expensive since renting an automatic car in Morocco is not cheap.
What can you do in the desert?
There are many activities for all ages when on vacation in this gorgeous desert. While riding a camel through the open dunes is absolutely an unforgettable experience, there is so much more than that! You can take stunning pictures ofthe scenery of this majestic desert, practice yoga on the dunes, play sandboarding on the sand slopes, or spend musical nights around a campfire. People who are craving for speed and excitement may want to try quad riding.
A sand bath can be done in the summer months. It is what the Merzouga locals describe as healing through the Saharan sand. During sunrise, Berber men dig holes in the sand for visitors to sit in for up to 30 minutes. The sand is said to provide healing for rheumatoid arthritis, muscle aches, and skin diseases. If you have more time, visiting Nomad families living in the desert is also a great activity. It will let you witness how Nomads live in Morocco.