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Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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East Gwillimbury...
Level Contributor
2,232 posts
74 reviews
Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

While most of southern Morocco is an arid region, if you are looking to find the "real" Sahara (rolling sand dunes with very little vegetation), you will need to travel a fair distance away from Marrakech.

The 2 closest desert areas from Marrakech are Erg Chebbi near Merzouga, and Erg Chiggaga near Mhamid. Erg Chebbi is the more popular of the 2 with travellers, given its higher, colourful dunes, though reports vary concerning the actual heights of the dunes in both places. Both of these areas are a full day's drive from Marrakech (over 500km's); keeping in mind that the speed limit on open roads in Morocco is 80km/h; 60km/h or 50km/h in towns. Expect the total 1-way driving time to these areas to be approximately 9-10 hours with limited stops.

Given the distances involved, it is recommended that the minimum required time to enjoy a desert trip from Marrakech is 4 days/3 nights. Using this plan, it will limit the amount of drive-time in 1 day to around 4-5 hours, and give you the opportunity to actually see some of the country instead of rushing thru and missing out on sights en-route. The round-trip can be done in 3 days/2 nights, however this means that 1 of the days will be a full-day drive without the chance to see anything but sights thru the window of a vehicle. A 2 day/1 night desert trip, while theoretically possible, is not recommended.

Popular overnight stopping places en-route to the desert are Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate, Skoura, the Agdz area, Todra Gorge & Dades Gorge. Hotels & guesthouses can easily be found in all of these areas.

While many travellers choose to hire a tour company or car & driver for desert trips, one can easily hire a rental car and drive themselves. Once outside of Marrakech, the driving is very straightforward, with relatively little traffic, good signs (French & Arabic) and decent road conditions. The Tizi n Tichka Pass over the High Atlas Mtns. is a mountain pass with many twists and turns, but is in good condition, and should only be a potential problem in poor or winter weather.

The only part of a desert trip from Marrakech that *requires* a guide, is the actual overnight desert trek. One can hire camels or 4x4 vehicle for an overnight trip onto the dunes via organized company, local guide or desert hotel/guesthouse. Many can be found and booked online via their website/direct email.

The TripAdvisor forums have MANY of these contacts already listed by travellers, and trip reports also contain excellent info posted by those who have already been. For more detailed info from others already posted, type in key-words (eg. desert tours, desert trek, tour companies, camel trek, etc.) into the Morocco forums Search Box, and one will find many pages of excellent, specific information that has been contributed by your fellow travellers.

A desert camp generally consists of a group of semi-permanent tents, grouped together with a central eating/gathering area and (hopefully) separate toilet/outhouse. Some camps even offer running water, flush toilets and shower! Of course, facilities will vary depending on cost and services offered. Overnight treks usually leave from the edge of the dunes around sunset, and will return in the early morning light, before the heat of the day sets in. Expect to have dinner at camp, and possibly a very light breakfast as well. If you book your trek via a desert hotel, it may be possible to leave luggage in a storage area in the hotel instead of a vehicle overnight. **Be sure to ask all questions regarding services and facilities offered BEFORE you book your desert trek, so that you will not be disappointed upon arrival at camp.

Hopefully this information has been helpful to any potential desert-trekkers. I hope that others will add other useful information as time goes on as well. A Moroccan desert trek is an unforgettable experience, and I hope you have a great time!

Best regards,

101. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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Removed on: 3:54 pm, October 18, 2012
Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
1 post
3 reviews
102. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

In October 2012 my mom (63) and myself (33) went on Infinite Morocco's 3 day Marrakech to Marrakech 3 day tour. It was amazing. When booking a "camel trek" we were a bit nervous/apprehensive and asked a lot of questions. The tour rep (Jaouad) was extremely helpful via email answering all of our questions in a timely manner. We were able to pay our deposit online using PayPal. We originally signed up for a private tour because none of the listed group tour dates worked for us, we indicated that we would be ok with others joining our tour. A couple weeks prior to our tour we were informed that 2 others had joined our group tour and the price was decreased from private tour to the group tour rate.

The driving sounded like a lot, but turned out to be ok in the SUV with airconditioning and only 5 of us in the car was ok. Had there been 3 large men in the backseat of the SUV it would have been cramped.

We got to stop along the way and take photos. Jaouad was full of interesting facts and information about Morocco and was also interested in hearing more about Canada and Australia (where the other 2 girls were from).

The first night we stayed in a very nice hotel, great food.

The camel trek was very cool. We bought head scarves which i was happy to have because of the blowing sand and sun. The only draw back to this tour was that based on timing we arrived at the camp in the dark and had to leave in the dark so we were unable to see the camp in the daylight. We did get amazing camel photos and saw the sun rise as we rode our camels back to the hotel where we showered and cleaned up before our long drive back to Marrakech.

I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone that only has a week in Marrakech. If you have longer I would recommend the longer 4-5 day trips.

Cincinnati, Ohio
2 posts
103. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

My son and daughter-in-law will be traveling from NYC to Morocco Mar. 16-25 with another couple. They want to have part of their trip include a desert overnight. I read your advise on alloting 4 days from Marrakech to do this. I would suspect that they would have a rental car and would do the escorted tour for just the section from a hotel in Ouarzazate.

Is late March a good time to take the trip into the desert or is it too early in the season?

Thank you.

Cardiff, United...
Level Contributor
959 posts
36 reviews
104. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

They will need to drive from Ouarzazate to Merzouga (around a 6 hour drive) and get the guides from Merzouga to take them into the desert.

March will be a nice time of year to go there.

Edited: 12:53 pm, December 31, 2012
Cincinnati, Ohio
2 posts
105. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Thank you.

Adelaide, Australia
7 posts
1 review
106. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

My fiancee and I are planning a trip to Morroco as part of our honeymoon in May 2012 and have always wanted to see the Saharan sand-dunes near Erg Chigaga. However we've read that after March it is unbearably hot and sandstorms are common.

We are from Australia so aren't strangers to heat (it's 44 degrees celsius here today!) but don't want a miserable, sand-blown expeience.

Is it best to forgo the camel ride into the desert and just stick to checking out Marrakesh, Essaouira, Agadir, Meknes or Fes? Or is there a truncated version on the trip?

This may be our only trip to Morocco, so want to do the "must do" experiences in the limited time we have (10 days).

Any feedback at all would be great! Cheers!

San Francisco
Level Contributor
102 posts
14 reviews
107. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

I looked up weather for Merzouga (I'm going in May) and it doesn't look overly hot. 25 Celsius in April.

Cardiff, United...
Level Contributor
959 posts
36 reviews
108. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

There are lots of hotels on the edge of the desert, if you didn't want to stay in the overnight tents in the Sahara, then you could stay at one of these hotels and just take a camel trek into the Sahara......

Destination Expert
for Sun Valley, Ketchum, Beach Vacations, Idaho
Level Contributor
9,146 posts
323 reviews
109. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

i would go again...loved the camel ride, even tho, i kneeled down and i rolled down the dune...couldn't ever have an experience like that..priceless. and our quiet, carpeted camp, just hubby and i..stars and fabulous food. can't wait to do it again. next time, has to be 2 nights!!

Adelaide, Australia
7 posts
1 review
110. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Thanks for all the responses guys! Still trying to convince the fiancee that it'll be worthwhile!! The hotel tip just may get her over the line!