So many travelers have a Sahara desert tour on their Morocco wish list. But, quickly the questions start to pop up.
Planning your Morocco Sahara desert tour it can be somewhat daunting. How do you know where to begin when every tour claims its one of the best Morocco desert tours?
If you’re in the early stages of planning your Morocco desert adventures
and wondering how best to arrange your Morocco desert travel, then you’re going
to find this Sahara
Desert vacation guide very helpful.
In this article I’m going to cover off on all the essentials that you
need to know about Morocco desert trips including:
Hopefully after reading this guide which covers everything there is to
know about the Sahara Desert tours Morocco offers, you’ll be in a much better
position to book one of the best Morocco desert excursions that’s just perfect for
One of the first things you need to decide for your Sahara Desert travel
is which area of the Sahara will you visit and where will you commence your trip
There are two main deserts which tourists visit in Morocco for their Sahara
Desert holiday – either the Merzouga Desert or the Zagora Desert and usually
tourists commence their tour from either Marrakech or Fez. We will discuss both these points further
Merzouga tours are the most popular Sahara tours, with Merzouga being located close to the popular Erg Chebbi sand dunes. The dunes at Erg Chebbi are taller and richer in color then the dunes found near Zagora making them a much more sought after destination.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of Merzouga desert tours, are that the town is right on the edge of the impressive Erg Chebbi sand dunes. Moreover, the town is full of modern hotels and you can easily reach the sand dunes with a short 30 minute camel ride. This makes a Merzouga desert trip relatively easy and convenient and ideal for people short on time or not wanting to get too far off the beaten track.
However, it’s closeness to the sand dunes, can also be its down
fall. Being more popular, it tends to be
more expensive and it certainly can get busy with lots of tourists.
Merzouga is located around 9 hours drive from Marrakech
or 7 hours’ drive from Fez. If you
are joining one of the Marrakech desert tours, you will need to allow at least
two nights and three days as you will stop overnight on the way there.
Zagora is located in the southern part of Morocco and is located close to
the Erg Chigaga sand dunes. These sand
dunes are located some 60 km from the nearest road and so the trek to see them
takes quite a lot longer then to see the sand dunes from Merzouga.
To reach Zagora, you must first reach the small town of M’hamid. From here it’s a rather long trek through
rugged desert terrain before arriving at the Erg Chigaga sand dunes.
It’s also important to note that the Zagora desert is not the orange
like desert you might imagine – this is a stone desert, which has a more moon
like appearance. So for this reason (as
well as taking longer to reach) it does tend to be less popular than Merzouga
and tends to be for the budget traveller or for those that prefer to get off
the beaten track.
Zagora is located around 6 hours drive from Marrakech or 9.5 hours’
drive from Fez (without stops).
Where to Commence?
The most popular location to commence Sahara Desert trips is from Marrakech. Mainly this is because Marrakech is the
capital of Morocco and where many people commence their trip. However, you can visit Sahara Desert from
Fes. Just note that given the Marrakech
Desert trips are more popular, there are many more options from here.
A very popular route is to do a Marrakech to Fes desert tour. So start your trip in Marrakech and after
your Sahara desert safari move onto Fez – or vica versa.
Given the huge amount of driving required to visit either Merzouga or
Zagora and regardless of whether you visit from Marrakech or Fez, expect a very
full day of driving there and back. For
this reason, it’s not possible to do a Fez or Marrakech desert day trip.
At a bare minimum you can do overnight Sahara trips from Marrakech or
Fez, but for a Sahara Desert camp trip to be worthwhile you really need to
allow two to three nights. Even doing a
two or three night Sahara camping trip, a good portion of your tour will still just
If you’re starting your Sahara Desert experience in Marrakech and only
have the one night available, your best bet is to visit the closer Zagora
Desert. If however you have two or three
nights you can easily visit the stunning orange sand dunes of the Merzouga
If you do book a 2 or 3 night tour, just double check that at least two
of the nights are in fact spent in the desert.
Some of the more budget tours will spend just the one night in the
desert, whilst any additional nights will be spent in a hotel. Staying two to three nights in the desert you
will be able to explore the desert at a much more relaxed pace and participate
in various activities such as visiting local tribes, sand boarding, camel
trekking and just relaxing among the stunning sand dunes.
For those short on time, Marrakech day excursions to the Agafay Desert is a good alternative. The Agafay Desert is located 40km southwest of Marrakesh and has a rough dry moon like landscape.
You won’t find the amazing sand dunes like you do in Merzouga or Zagora, on this Marrakech day trip to the desert you’ll still get the opportunity to ride a camel across the desert – I just want to reiterate however that the Agafay Desert is not the Sahara Desert.
The Agafay Desert is also a good option if you are visiting Morocco in the summer months. Many Morocco desert camp options close down for a month or two due to the extreme temperatures and risk involved with bringing people to the desert during these months.
So if you’re planning a Sahara Morocco tour in summer, consider visiting an Agafay desert camp just outside Marrakech instead where it will still be hot but camps remain open.
It’s entirely possible to take a DIY Sahara excursion. You can either hire a car and drive yourself
to the sand dunes, or even take a bus.
On arrival you can arrange all your own activities and do exactly what
you like in the Sahara.
However, when it comes to camping in the Sahara, there are so many
advantages with joining one of the desert Morocco tours, that it far outweighs
doing it on your own. Here are some
reasons you should book one of the Morocco Sahara Desert tours:
What type of Sahara
Desert Camp to Book – Budget, Mid-Range or Luxury?
Now you have an idea of where you’d like to visit on your desert safari
in Morocco and how many days you have available, it’s time to start working out
whether you’d like to book a budget, mid-range or luxury tour.
But before booking any tour, ask the Morocco desert tour company the
Just Google “budget Sahara Desert tours” and you will be inundated with terrible
reviews from unhappy customers. Whilst
many seemed to have been promised luxury and peaceful tents in the middle of
stunning sand dunes, the reality is a sea of tents, poor facilities and a lot
That’s not to say there aren’t good budget tours out there, because I’m
sure there are, it’s just that quality budget tours don’t appear to be the
norm. Unfortunately, that’s also my own
personal experience as well.
Here are a few things you can expect on a budget tour:
For some people, this is a non-issue. You might want to have a more rustic experience. That’s awesome! However, if you’re looking for a cheap desert trip but are expecting something more it’s a long drive with no way out once you get there.
A mid-range camp will have some of the amenities of a luxury camp but may have fewer frills like a budget camp. This option might also have private transportation vs. a shared ride. To determine if something is mid-range compare what is being offered to budget and luxury options.
The luxury Sahara tours are so luxurious that you won’t even realize you’re camping!! In fact, the luxury tour I went on was so amazing that the bed was even more comfortable than my own bed at home!
Here are a few things you can expect on a luxury tour:
For more about luxury tours, you can read about my experience in this post.
About Booking a Tour
My most important tip to you is to book your tour in advance before arriving in Morocco. While it’s possible to book on arrival, by booking in advance you will have time to do your research and ensure you a booking with a well reputable tour group and know exactly what you can expect on your tour.
Too many times I have read reviews where people have been disappointed with their tour, this could easily have been avoided if they had done their research.
When you arrive in either Marrakech or Fez you will find numerous tour touts in the medina hustling tourists with their Morocco Sahara trips. If you have not already booked in advance you may well end up booking a tour that you know nothing about or being influenced to book a tour because it sounds relatively cheap.
The Sahara Desert trips Morocco offers are for many a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s very important that you are not disappointed. Believe me when it comes to a Sahara trip – you really do get what you paid for.
Like any destination, certain times of the year are more ideal than others when it comes to Sahara desert excursions.
Most would say that the best time of year for holidays in the Sahara desert is between April and October as the day and nighttime temperatures are milder.
If you choose to visit during the winter months (December to March), you may find the nighttime temperate below freezing, while during the summer months (June to September) the days can be unbearably hot.
It’s also worth noting that many desert tours close during the summer months (specifically in August).
First up – leave your large suitcase or backpack behind. You’re not going to be able to take a big bulky suitcase on your Sahara camel trek. Anything you do bring needs to be able to fit into a small backpack.
In order to appropriately pack for your Morocco Sahara desert trip, you will need to know a few things about the type of camp you’ll be staying in. Before you begin packing, find out the following about your camp:
Once you have the answers to the above questions,
you’ll be in a better position to pack appropriately. However, regardless of your camp type, the
following items are things everyone should pack:
the Sahara in the Winter
As mentioned above it can get very cold at night in the Sahara during the winter months. So if you plan on visiting the Sahara in winter you’ll also need to bring along the following items:
Visiting the Sahara in the Spring/Fall
is the most common time of year to experience sandstorms in the Sahara. This
doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. In fact seeing an actual sandstorm in person can
be a really unique experience. But you should prepare for this possibility. In
addition to the main list above some things you might consider include;
the Sahara in the Summer
You can wear short sleeve shirts in the summer but keep in mind the sun will be brutal on your skin and blowing sand can also take a toll. It is sometimes better to just opt for loose weight long sleeves (like this one for women or this one for men) to protect yourself. I would advise against wearing shorts camel trekking as it’s just uncomfortable. In addition to the main list some things you might consider for a summer visit include;
Items Required for a Budget Camp
Many low cost Sahara tours Morocco are very basic desert camps. You need to be a little more prepared in this case. Just showing up with a change of clothes may not be sufficient.
First, as mentioned above get as many details as possible about what is available both on the way to the Sahara as well as what you will experience at the camp. A few additional things you may need to bring include;
Many people often ask whether they should take their kids on a Sahara tour and at the end of the day only you know the answer as to whether your kids are up for it. Before booking a Sahara desert tour with your kids, consider the following:
I’ve put together some of the options I recommend for booking. I have worked with many of these companies in the past. If you do decide to choose one of these options, please mention MarocMama where and when applicable. It helps people know where people find their information.
Marrakech to Fez via the Sahara Desert – 4 day tour with Gateway2Morocco
2 Day Trip Marrakech to Zagora via GetYourGuide – I don’t usually recommend this short of a trip but if you have limited time and want to visit the Sahara here’s your chance.
4 Day 4WD Sahara Desert Tour to Erg Chebbi via GetYourGuide – This tour is in a 4×4 instead of the larger mini buses that transport larger group trips.
Roaming Camels Morocco – To book a fully private experience to the Sahara or to include it on a longer trip (like our MarocMama custom 10 day or 12 day foodie tours of Morocco) we highly recommend this company!
Xaluca Erfoud – Not everyone has their heart set on sleeping in the sand dunes. There are several hotels that you can find near the dunes and in desert towns. This is one of them!