The Moroccan desert, a major step during a road trip in Morocco. Discovering the desert, in Morocco or elsewhere, is the dream of many people. And one quickly becomes addicted to these expanses of sand as far as the eye can see.
During my many trips to Morocco (more than 10 trips), I went several times to the Moroccan desert. Impossible to get tired of this landscape and these sand dunes as far as the eye can see!
This dream is relatively easily accessible, I will explain it to you in the rest of this post entirely devoted to the discovery of the desert in Morocco.
Indeed, it is possible to organize a trip to the Moroccan desert very easily and the scenery is complete.
Some would say that discovering the desert means going to the middle of the Sahara for example…
The desert in Morocco is there. But the Moroccan desert is not 100% covered with dunes. We will see in the rest of the post that to see the Moroccan desert, 2 different possibilities are available to you.
Indeed, there are two areas of sand dunes in the Moroccan desert. The purpose of this guide on the Moroccan desert is precisely to help you choose and prepare your night in the desert in Morocco.
Finally, I will finish this post on the desert of Morocco to share with you my good plan to go to the best place in the Moroccan desert, an ideally located camp (reservation here).
Morocco Desert: 2 Options To Go To The Moroccan Desert
Desert areas with sand dunes, in Morocco or elsewhere, are called erg. The ergs represent 20% of the total surface of the Sahara. In Morocco, there are 2 main ergs: erg Chebbi and erg Chegaga. This article on the Moroccan desert will precisely address the possibility of going to one of these 2 ergs.
For a real trip in the desert of Morocco, there are therefore 2 possible options:
-erg Chebbi which is located right next to the town of Merzouga
-erg Chegaga which is located near the city of Mhamid
In both cases, whatever the erg chosen, you will have the opportunity to take advantage of the sand dunes in the Moroccan desert to:
-discover a real dune desert and see sand dunes as far as the eye can see, in erg Chebbi or erg Chegaga
– climb to the top of a dune and see the desert as far as the eye can see at sunrise or sunset
-take a camel ride
-you will find yourself alone in the desert and feel this immensity
-spend a night in a bivouac in the desert in Morocco
-if you wish, it is also possible to go out in the desert in Morocco in 4 × 4 or quad
In the rest of this post, I describe the practical aspects of the 2 ergs to see the desert in Morocco. I am talking to you in particular about how to get to these 2 ergs and see the Moroccan desert, by yourself or accompanied.
Erg Chebbi In Merzouga: How To Get To The Desert Of Morocco
Erg Chebbi is located near the small town of Merzouga. It is the first option to see the Moroccan desert. Erg Chebbi is 22 km long and about 5 km wide. Its highest dunes culminate at 150/200 meters.
Route to Merzouga / erg Chebbi
To go to the dunes of Merzouga (erg Chebbi), you will be able to use a passenger vehicle. Indeed, the roads taken to get to Merzouga are all paved. You can leave from Fez or Marrakech and arrive in Merzouga by driving 100% on tarmac roads.
Merzouga and erg chebbi are about 360 km from Ouarzazate. The route takes about 6 hours, the average in Morocco is close to 50/60 km per hour. You can easily take the road in several days because it is dotted with grandiose landscapes (rose valleys, Todra gorges, Dadès gorges,…). This route takes the N10 then cut at Tinejdad to join the N13 at Erfoud.
You can also take a road a little further south, the N9 then N12, a little more rolling but less things to do on the road.
A good compromise can be to go by road to the north to go there for 2 days for example. And return by road south to Ouarzazate.
Accommodation in Merzouga
Regarding accommodation you will find many hostels in Merzouga. To get there, you will have to take a few tracks of 1 to 2 km maximum, very easily passable by passenger vehicle. No problem.
You can then choose from 3 options to enjoy the desert in Morocco:
-take accommodation in an inn and a tour with the guides of the hostel the next morning for sunrise for example
-what I recommend – take a night package in the dunes: accommodation and meals in the dunes of Merzouga, trip to the camel / dunes and back the next morning with the possibility of taking a shower at the hostel the next day;) You can book this night in the dunes of the Moroccan desert here
-take a night of simple accommodation in an inn and go alone to the dunes of erg Chebbi. Not very interesting because you have to sink into the dunes to see the most beautiful dunes of erg Chebbi and take full advantage of the desert in Morocco … If you are experienced, it is possible. Otherwise, avoid because you can take it much easier than you think …
Some information to enjoy the desert in Morocco
Climb a “high” dune before sunrise. The view is great and we gradually see the sun illuminating the dunes and it gives an ocher color quite splendid! Be careful, climbing on top of a beautiful dune is quite trying, alternating phases where the sand is relatively hard and stable and phases where the sand slips under your feet.
It is recommended to climb the dunes by walking on the crest of the dune.
Don’t be afraid, we come across some beetles but very little risk of being bitten!
Before I share with you my good plan for enjoying 100% of the Moroccan desert in erg Chebbi, let’s quickly discuss the alternative with erg Chegaga.
Erg Chegaga From Mhamid, The Alternative To See The Desert In Morocco
Regarding the accommodation possibilities at erg Chegaga are exactly the same as in Merzouga.
Erg Chegaga is not as easy to access as Erg Chebbi, so I would advise you to go to Merzouga for your trip in the Moroccan desert. It remains only my own point of view. In addition, the road to access Merzouga (N10) is in my opinion much more pleasant, road dotted with magnificent landscapes.
Erg Chegaga is 40 km long and 15 km wide. It is much more difficult to reach the erg by passenger vehicle, you will need a 4 × 4. For these reasons, the journey time will be approximately the same, but you may be less independent if you do not have a 4 × 4.
For information, the road is paved until M’hamid. Then a 4 × 4 is necessary to reach the area completely covered with dune.
Again, this is only my opinion, but I prefer the relief of the Erg Chebbi dunes.
You will understand, if you want to see the Moroccan desert, I recommend you go to Merzouga to take advantage of erg Chebbi!
Moroccan Desert: My Advice / Good Tips For The Desert In Morocco
First, 2 options are available to you to go to the desert in Morocco:
- by yourself by renting a car or traveling by bus / taxi
- by booking an excursion from Fez or Marrakech
I will give you some advice for these 2 solutions even if I recommend the first one. On the blog, you will find many tips to plan your road trip itinerary and travel to Morocco by yourself by renting a car.
Desert In Morocco: Excursions From Fez Or Marrakech
As I explained earlier, if you don’t want or can’t drive, the other option to see the Moroccan desert is to book an excursion from Fez or Marrakech.
There are dozens of agencies in Fez or Marrakech that will offer you this. Difficult to sort through and given the expectations that one has when discovering the desert for the first time, it is best not to miss …
Here are 2 serious services for excursions in the desert, with overnight in bivouac in the Moroccan desert. These 2 options are in erg Chebbi. The camp is not as good as the one I recommend afterwards but it is still very good. And anyway, on an excursion from Fez or Marrakech, impossible to go to the camp that I recommend …
Here are the 2 excursions I recommend:
- 3-day excursion to erg Chebbi from Marrakech
- 2-day excursion to the Moroccan desert in erg Chebbi from Fez
If you have the choice because you go through Fez and Marrakech, opt for the excursion from Marrakech. It lasts one more day, for the same price and you will have a little more time to enjoy the Moroccan desert…
Dunes in the desert of Morocco
Go To The Moroccan Desert By Yourself: My Good Plan!
Within erg Chebbi, there are several camps. There are even more and more. Not all camps are created equal. Far from there …
Some camps are close to the edge of the erg and the dunes are small and less beautiful. Other camps are large, very large, especially for hosting tour groups. Still others are located on “highways” of dromedaries, 4 × 4 or quad. In short, we do not take advantage of erg Chebbi in the same way on all camps!
In addition, you should know that among the Merzouga hostels, some (few) have private camps. The rest send their clients to camps shared with other agencies or inns. A hell of a mess to find the right camp.
After having tested several camps on my many nights in the Moroccan desert, I have 2 addresses to recommend.
These 2 camps in the desert at Merzouga in Morocco are:
- this excellent camp, perfectly located, away from the busy areas of the erg
- the Ksar Bicha camp. Another very good camp in the same erg, erg Chebbi and therefore still in Merzouga! As for the first, it is far, very far from the edge of the erg because it will take you 2 hours by camel to reach the camp from the hostel.
In addition, a major asset of these camps, they are located at the foot of the highest erg dunes! In the late afternoon or early morning, you can climb to the top to enjoy the most beautiful sunrise / sunset over the dunes of the Moroccan desert …
To spend a night in a bivouac in the Moroccan desert, it’s very simple:
- book your night (around 60 euros per person, includes dromedary transfer from Merzouga + dinner / breakfast) in the Kasbah Mohayut camp or at the Ksar Bicha camp which has unfortunately grown considerably in recent years
- you go to the hostel at the beginning / mid afternoon on the day of your reservation (well indicated on the main road, just turn left at the sign and follow the pebble track for less than a kilometer)
- you leave your car safely in the parking lot of the hostel
- after a mint tea, you set off on a camel to reach the camp (2 hours)
- you can enjoy the dunes, the snowboards on the camp, the sunset over the Moroccan desert…
- dinner + music on the campsite
- overnight in a tent
- possible sunrise at the top of the dune for the most motivated
- return to the hostel in the morning after 2 new hours of camel
100% satisfaction guaranteed 🙂 You can say hello to them! I often go to these desert camps in Morocco.
Suggested Itinerary For The Moroccan Desert
Finally, here is an idea of a route from Ouarzazate to enjoy the desert without visiting the surroundings too much. It is a quick option to enjoy the desert but return to Ouarzazate then Marrakech quickly. Do not try to go faster than this route, you may be more than disappointed …
D1: leave from Ouarzazate, stop at Skoura to stroll through the palm grove of Skoura with a magnificent view of the Atlas. Drive to the Dadès gorges, admire the landscape and spend the night towards Tinghir a little after the Dadès gorges.
D2: Departure to Tinejdad. Take your time on the road, admire the scenery. Lunch break in a traditional restaurant near Erfoud. Then stop at Rissani (souk). Take the road to Merzouga to arrive in the middle of the afternoon. Evening at the hostel or in the dunes of Merzouga (dune option recommended!)
D3: Leave in the middle of the morning / end of the morning towards Ouarzazate via the N13 then N12. Admire the changing landscape of this route. Lunch break at Tazzarine or N’Kob. Arrival in Ouarzazate at the end of the day.
Road trip in Morocco
This is of course the quick option, if you don’t have too much time. There is so much to see in this region of Morocco that you can travel these routes by making stops everywhere …
I think I mentioned the essentials to prepare your stay and see the desert in Morocco. If you plan to go to Morocco soon and have questions about the possibility of seeing the Moroccan desert, do not hesitate to comment on this post. I respond to blog comments quickly 🙂
In addition, our exchanges in comments on the blog will surely be useful for other blog readers who plan to go to the desert in Morocco!
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