How to Visit the Desert in Morocco

desert in morocco

Want to visit the Sahara desert in Morocco, but prefer to avoid organised tours? This how-to guide may help. It’s based entirely on my own experiences and the research I did for my own trip a few years ago. Although the prices may have changed slightly since then, I believe most other details remain the same.

There are lots of package holidays and tours available to take tourists from Marrakech or Fes to the desert, which can be a great way to get to the desert with an experienced guide and without the need to organise too much yourself. However, if you want to visit the Sahara on a budget, or you simply prefer the freedom of independent travel to the organised structure of a tour, then a DIY trip to the desert is entirely possible, even if the internet seems to suggest it isn’t. It is also a cheaper option and offers a great deal more choice.

How to Visit the Desert in Morocco

In this post, I’ve tried to put together in one place all the information I had to trawl the web for while I was planning my desert trip in Morocco. I’ve also included everything I wish someone had told me before I left. My hope is that I may be able to make your life easier if you’re trying to figure out how to see the Sahara in Morocco.

1. Where to Visit the Desert in Morocco

1.1 Erg Chebbi
1.2 Erg Chigaga

2. Closest Town to Erg Chebbi
3. Suggested Itinerary
4. How to Get to Merzouga

4.1 Bus
4.2 Driving

5. Where to Stay in Merzouga
6. How to See the Dunes in Merzouga
7. How Much Will it Cost?
8. What to Pack
More Information and Further Reading

Updated September 2019 – Most of the information contained below should still be correct. Bus times may have changed, and prices have probably increased slightly. If anyone has any more info please leave a comment to update me! 

how to visit the desert in morocco

Where to Visit the Desert in Morocco

The Sahara is a vast desert, and covers a huge area of Morocco. But not all of it looks like the image you probably have in mind when you picture the desert in Morocco. 

In fact, a huge part of Morocco’s desert region is a big, flat, landscape of dusty grey rubble! To see a real desert of undulating golden sand dunes, you have to head to the “ergs”. These are areas of shifting sand dunes in the Sahara, areas that look exactly like what you would hope to see when visiting the desert. 

In Morocco, there are two areas of Saharan dunes which tourists can visit: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Both are situated in the remote south/southeastern desert region of Saharan Morocco, beyond the Atlas mountain range.

Erg Chebbi

Home to nomad Berbers, Erg Chebbi is the smaller of the two ergs, at 22km long and 5-10km wide. But the dunes reach a greater height of up to 150 meters.

The nearest town of Merzouga is right on the edge of the dunes, just 1km away, meaning that you can stay in a hotel in town and still walk to the dunes in a few minutes. This makes Erg Chebbi far more accessible, and much easier for a DIY trip to the desert in Morocco. This easy access makes the dunes very popular with tourists, which means more guides and souvenir touts. But it also means travelling there under your own steam is easier – perfect for backpackers! 

Erg Chebbi sand dunes morocco

Berber guide in the Erg Chebbi dunes

Erg Chigaga

Erg Chigaga are the larger dunes, around 40km long and 10-15km wide, and reaching a height of up to 120 meters. Historically, these dunes were occupied by Bedouin Arabs.

Erg Chigaga is 60km from the nearest town of M’Hamid and can only be reached by 4×4 (which takes a few hours) or by a 2-3 day camel trek. There are hotels in M’Hamid, and campsites nearer the dunes.

M’Hamid is nearer to Marrakech than Merzouga, and can also be reached by bus. But it’s  This inaccessibility, and the need for an off-road vehicle means that a trip to these dunes is probably better organised through a tour, except for the more intrepid explorers.

best desert in morocco

Erg Chigaga sand dunes

Closest Town to the Desert in Morocco

I have first-hand experience of organising a DIY tour to Erg Chebbi, so the remainder of this article will focus on those dunes. 

The nearest towns to Erg Chebbi are:

  • Erfoud (the biggest nearby town) –  60km away
  • Rissani – 40km away
  • Merzouga– 1km away
independent desert trip morocco

The village of Hassilabied is just next to Merzouga

The larger towns of Rissani and Erfoud make a good base to explore several sites in Saharan Morocco, as well as the dunes. The dunes themselves are still a couple of hours drive away, but there are several other sites around that you could create a fun road trip around. Both towns would be good places to stay if your schedule isn’t as tight as mine was, and you have five or six nights in the area.

If your only goal is to head to the desert, the best place to stay is the small town of Merzouga. You can also opt for one of Merzouga’s surrounding villages like Hassilabied, as I did. There are a number of hotels and campsites in these towns, and local guides can be hired quite cheaply to lead a hike or camel trek into the dunes.

Suggested Itinerary 

Unfortunately, a trip to the Sahara is not something that can be done in a day or two. The drive to the dunes from Marrakech takes up a whole day, so one night wouldn’t allow enough time to actually see the dunes.

A caravan of camels in the Sahara desert

I’d recommend three nights, particularly if you’re getting the bus there and want to spend a night in the dunes. This is how I did it: 

DAY ONE

08:30 Depart Marrakech

21:00 Arrive Merzouga. Check-in Hotel Mamouche

DAY TWO 

Morning and afternoon in Hotel / exploring Hassilabied

16:00 Depart for camel trek. Camping in the desert

DAY THREE

07:00 Camel trek back to the hotel.

Afternoon and evening in hotel / exploring Hassilabied.

DAY FOUR

08:00 Depart Merzouga

20:30 Arrive Marrakech

How to Get to Merzouga

You can fly into Marrakech, Fes or Ourazazate. Merzouga and the surrounding region can be easily accessed from all three. There is no railway in this part of Morocco, so Merzouga can only be accessed by road. You can take a bus, or hire a car and drive yourself there.

Large sand dune in the Moroccan Sahara desert

Taking the Bus to Merzouga

As far as I know, the only bus company that goes all the way to Merzouga is Supratours. Other companies, such as CTM, travel to the nearby towns of Rissani and Erfoud, but don’t go all the way to the dunes.

The journey from Marrakech to Merzouga is 12.5 hours. From Fes to Merzouga (overnight) the journey is ten hours forty-five minutes. Supratours, in my experience, have relatively new, comfortable, clean buses, with decent aircon.

Tickets cost Dh200 per person each way, and can be bought on the day at the bus station or in advance at the Supratours office. They can also be reserved on the phone.

Atlas Mountains in Morocco

Crossing the Atlas Mountains

Good to Know:

When I travelled, you could only buy tickets for the outbound journey as the return tickets need to be booked at the return station. 

There were no toilets on the Supratours buses when I visited. On the 12.5 hour journey from Marrakech to Merzouga we had two twenty-minute stops, the first at two hours in and the second about seven hours in. When the bus stops to let people on and off, most of the passengers will get out to have a cigarette – you can jump out here and use a toilet in a nearby café but the bus may not wait for you, so it’s risky. I’ve also seen online that the Fes – Merzouga journey only stops once.

The shops at the bus stops only sell things like crisps, biscuits and sweets. You should buy sandwiches or fruit before leaving Marrakech if you want a proper lunch.

Bus Office Addresses:

Supratours Marrakech – Avenue Hassan II, Nouvelle Ville – behind the train station. 0524 42 17 69 or 0524 43 55 25.

Supratours Fes – BC Almohad. 0535 65 26 22

Supratours Merzouga – Merzouga Charkia. 0535 57 63 43.

Driving to Merzouga

The other option is to hire a car in Marrakech or Fes and drive yourself down to the desert in Morocco. You could even drive your own car or caravan down through Spain and take the ferry across!

The journey from Marrakech to Merzouga largely follows the same road all the way down. So with the help of a satnav, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make your own way. You can rent a small car with aircon for around £130 for four days (I don’t recommend going without aircon on this journey).

independent desert trip morocco

Winding road in the Atlas Mountains

Although more expensive than taking the bus, the journey takes around eight hours (according to Google maps) as opposed to the twelve hours on the bus. Renting a car obviously offers more freedom, too, to stop when you like. You can also make detours to take in some of the sites of the region, including the spectacular Todra Gorge or Dayet Srji, an enormous saltwater lake near Rissani, which is home to a large number of flamingos.

It’s worth noting that although the drive is fairly straightforward, it does involve crossing the High Atlas Mountains using precarious, winding roads. These have sharp corners, often with no barriers between the road and the sheer drops alongside. Other drivers in Morocco are prone to speeding, as well as overtaking on blind corners.

I’d say that only very confident drivers should be undertaking this trip alone. That being said, the views are incredible and there is a lot to enjoy on the drive through the mountains.

If you fancy doing a self-drive trip to the desert in Morocco, use a comparison site like Rentalcars.com to find the best deal.

Where to Stay in Merzouga

This is the most straightforward part of planning the desert trip. There are lots of hotels in Merzouga and the surrounding area offering a range of services and prices for all tastes and budgets. Just do a search on Booking.com and pick your favourite. There is also at least one caravan park in the nearby village of Hassilabied, and some hotels also offer campsites close to the dunes as a budget option.

I’d be very happy to recommend the hotel we stayed at, Riad Mamouche. See my earlier review for more information. The staff were lovely, the food was great, and we were even able to arrange our dune tour through the hotel. 

How to See the Dunes in Merzouga

Erg Chebbi is relatively small, so you could probably hike into the dunes alone if you were feeling adventurous. A compass would be handy to find the direction of home.

However, most people prefer to organise a camel trek into the dunes, possibly with an overnight stay at a traditional Berber camp. Especially because the best time to see the dunes in Merzouga is at sunrise. 

desert trip morocco

These can be booked locally in Merzouga, organised through your hotel, or booked online using a trusted service. I like Get Your Guide (one of my trusted affiliate partners). They have a great range of tours to the desert in Morocco on their Merzouga page here

I organised my tour in advance through my Hotel, Riad Mamouche, by emailing the manager. We had a local guide who led us on a camel trek to a camp, where we had dinner, watched the sunset over the dunes, and listened to music. The next morning we woke up around 6am to watch the sunrise, before another camel trek back to the hotel.

Tour guide in the Erg Chebbi Dunes

Our guide, Hassan

How Much Will it Cost?

The following is based on what I paid for during my four-day trip. Prices were correct in 2012, and conversions were last updated as of September 2019. 

  • Bus journey from Marrakech – Merzouga and back – 200MAD per person (£16.50)*
  • Hotel double room for two nights, two people sharing – £65
  • One-night camel trek and camping in the desert, including dinner £29 per person. 

In total, we spent £90.50 per person for a three-night trip, plus spending money for food, souvenirs and a tip for our desert guide.

Update 2019: I’ve done a bit of digging online and it seems the cost of the bus may now be just 80MAD, around £9. 

Erg Chebbi sand dunes in the Sahara

What to Pack

Because Merzouga is a relatively small town, it’s polite to respect the local custom of dressing modestly, even if the locals are used to tourists. Try to keep arms and shoulders covered, and wear shorts or skirts that cover the knee. I wore vest tops with a light cotton scarf over my upper arms and shoulders, and I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable walking around the hotel or the town. We went in March and it was baking hot, and very dry. Loose clothes and sun cream are vital.

Also, take an Arabic phrasebook. English isn’t as widely spoken in this area as it is in the cities, and certainly isn’t as strong. A French phrasebook will certainly come in handy in Merzouga, and it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few Arabic phrases just to be polite and make a good impression. The only one I managed to learn was shukran, meaning thank you, which is always nice to know.

Desert Packing List for Morocco

How to Visit the Desert in MoroccoA scarf to protect your hair and face is incredibly useful, as sand gets blown everywhere if the wind picks up. I’d also recommend keeping arms covered with another scarf, or long-sleeved top, as when it is windy the sand has a tendency to sting bare skin. A skirt or dress is highly impractical, especially on camels. Loose shorts are good, or a pair of baggy ‘harem’ trousers are ideal. I swore by these on my trip, and you can pick up some really cool designs for around £8 on AmazonHow to Visit the Desert in Morocco:

How to Visit the Desert in MoroccoOn your feet, wear sandals with straps, or a pair of lightweight trainer pumps like ConverseHow to Visit the Desert in MoroccoHow to Visit the Desert in Morocco. Avoid pumps or flip-flops as they might fall off while you’re riding the camels, and there’s no need to waste suitcase space on bulky trainers or walking boots unless you’re planning a long hike through the dunes.

At night, it was really windy and cold. Plenty of blankets were provided at the camp, but I also wore a long-sleeved top, jumper and leggings under my pyjama bottoms.

I’d also recommend a rucksack, torch, bottled water, antibacterial hand gel, and tissues (the camp had a toilet but only one roll of precious toilet paper). And of course, take a camera!

More Info and Further Reading

My travelogue posts about my own Morocco desert trip:

Booking and information websites:

So, there you have it! However you get to the desert in Morocco, enjoy it – and please get in touch to let me know about your experiences. 

Help me keep this post current to assist other travellers planning a DIY desert trip. Please comment here or contact me if any facts/prices need updating. If you found this post helpful – why not pin it to share with others?

Morocco-Desert-Budget

About

Award-winning writer and solo female travel blogger on a mission to explore the world through deeper travel. Lover of fun, adventure, food, Harry Potter, hiking, beaches, and chatting about the weather. Can be bought with cake.

80 Comments

  1. That is a blinding post. For anyone hoping to go, that information would be invaluable to them. You’ve made it easy to read and very informative as well.

    Also sounds like you would go back given the chance.

    • I definitely would go back, and I’d take more time over the trip, self-drive, and see a lot more things in the area! Hopefully one day I’ll have plenty of money and a driving license to make it happen!! I’m pleased you think the post is helpful, I wanted to write it because there was so much stuff I was unsure about before going and it was really hard to figure it all just from searching the lonely planet and trip advisor forums for other people’s information! I hope this helps anyone who is planning a trip themselves!!

      • I would love to go, but being divorced with custody of my two kids makes life a bit hard, then having difficulty walking on solid makes walking on sand rather … problematic lol. I’ve enjoyed seeing what it’s like through your eyes though, thank you :-)

  2. Thank you so much- this is beyond helpful! I feel like I’ve cheated somehow, letting you do all my travel planning for me. ;)

    • I’m so pleased it helped! I went through so many different forums trying to find the answers to my questions while I was planning this – I really wanted to help others avoid that! Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to help :)

  3. I love that you’ve put all this information in one place! A trip to Morocco isn’t in the cards for me anytime soon.. but at least I’ll be prepared once it is!

  4. fashionthewholeworldover

    WOW! This is so helpful, I have been researching this type of trip for a few months now, with the aim of doing it in the near future and it’s really difficult to find the right mix of things to do and see as well as the travel side of things which I’ve heard differing reviews on! Your tips and guide is pretty impressive! Thanks! xxx

    • Thats great news! I’m glad I could help – I found it so difficult to put the trip together myself, and the information out there is so contradictory – at one point I almost booked hotels in Ouarzazate thanks to the recommendation of a few sites, but when we drove through it I was so relieved I hadn’t because it was still a good 5hrs from the kind of desert we wanted to see!! If you do get around to booking a trip and have any questions, feel free to fire me an email and I’ll be glad to help!! x

  5. That looks incredible!! And such helpful tips :)

  6. Wow I wish that I had read this before heading off to Merzouga! We had nothing planned and no information except for a business card so you can imagine how unprepared we were for the looooong bus ride and then the grande taxi and then another car ride… Worth it though!!

    • Ha ha your version does sound more adventurous though! It’s an incredible experience isn’t it?!

      • Oh definitely! Did you ever get to stop at the tiny meat shops in the middle of nowhere on your way there? It was my favourite thing about the whole journey :)

        • We did, I think I posted a pic I took of one in a tiny mountain village. It was pretty bizarre, just a handful of houses by the side of the road, one souvenir shop, and this little hut with meat hung all around it!

        • Hi yes we are hoping dune buggies get banned from erg chebbi, they are bad for the natural environment, and the microcosm of wildlife, insectlife that live in the dunes and rather dangerous for pedestrians in amongst the dunes, very noisy and more and more difficult to get photos of the beauty without vehicle tracks
          Ive been exploring and sharing information on Morocco since 2003…i still recommend self driving as the best way to independently get to the sahara dunes of Erg Chebbi, i have been self driving all over Morocco for years to see beautiful routes in all the sessons for changing colours and wonderful festivals through the year and much of the beauty is off the public transportation routes, Hotel Mamouche is a rather commercial place to stay, if you go by bus Id recommend staying at Chez Julia in Merzouga.
          Yes yum the meat shops eg Taddert are delicious for grilled lamb chops or kefta patties with slices of tomato and onion and cumin sprinkled over! Along with a pot of mint tea of course!

  7. This is an awesome post Emily – thank you! At the risk of being very cheeky, I’m trying to DIY a tour offered by a company because it will be a fraction of the cost. The only thing is that I’m not a confident driver, so would you happen to know how we can go about hiring a car with a driver for 3 days? I’ve tried to look online, but often get options to hire the car only. Also, would you know how I can book the camel trek in Erg Chebbi and also possibly the stay in a Nomad camp? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks in advance.

    • Hi Coral, thanks for your comment. I’m afraid I don’t know much about hiring a car with a driver in Morocco. I’m pretty sure it’s possible as I think I’ve seen someone else mention having done it on another blog (but that was over a year ago, so I can’t remember which blog!) My personal recommendation would be to take the bus – it was easy and not too horrific for a 12 hour journey!

      I booked my camel trek and berber camping through my hotel – Hotel Mamouche – which was £29 per person back in 2012 for the camel trek, camping, and dinner. If you book a hotel in Merzouga or Hassilabied, the two towns next to the sand dunes (you can see the dunes from the hotel) then I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to arrange a camping trip for you. Otherwise, there are lots of independent touring companies that you can book on the day in Merzouga – so you don’t necessarily need to book in advance.

      Hope that helps – let me know if you have any more questions! And have a great time – it’s an awesome trip :)

    • Hi Coral! Sorry to interject, but I just booked something similar for a New Year’s trip to Erg Chigaga. I wasn’t confident in driving and wasn’t intrepid enough to try the bus- but we hired a car and driver through Morocco Desert Tours (moroccodesert-tour.com) for a very reasonable price, although there were several other companies happy to help, too! (Your-morocco-tour.com) I can let you know how Morocco Desert Tours treats us after we come back in January. Have a wonderful trip! :)

  8. Hey – thank you so much both Emily and Miranda for these tips! Very very helpful. I will definitely check it out. I am travelling next week, so if I go ahead and book the car and driver you recommended, I will surely let you know how we got on. Many thanks again!

  9. Hi Emily,

    Wow, wow, thank you SO much. I have been going back and forth all over the internet trying to get some clarity about a trip to the desert, and you have answered everything I need to know in one beautifully comprehensive post. Thank you so much! I will be in the desert at the end of the week! Exciting!

    • Hi Jessica! Thank you – I’m so glad I could help!

      I remember what a nightmare it was trying to research the trip before I got to Morocco – with so many people in forums online saying that the journey was impossible without flying or booking a tour group. I’m so glad to be able to help take the headache out for you a bit!

      You’ll have such a fantastic trip – enjoy!! :)

  10. Hey yo, just want to echo what everyone else has already said and thank you again for your very informative and helpful piece! Two questions: We’re thinking of hiring a car and driving from Marrakech to Merzouga in January and would like to know your opinion on whether or not you think we’ll need a 4WD car? and if the roads might be covered in snow at that time of the year? (as we have zero experience in driving in snow) Cheers!

    • Hi Dan! Thanks for your comment – I’m glad I could help :)

      I don’t think a 4WD would be necessary since it’s an ordinary tarmac road the whole way. We took a bus but the road is smooth (although narrow – be prepared for some pretty hair-raising corners), and we passed plenty of normal cars en route.

      I’m not sure about snow on the roads in January. We took the trip by bus in March, and although we passed some snowy peaks the roads were all clear. I’ve had a look online and found this thread on Trip Advisor:
      http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g293734-i9196-k5999977-Atlas_Mountains_in_January-Marrakech_Marrakech_Tensift_El_Haouz_Region.html

      And Naturally Morocco say “The higher parts of the High Atlas mountains receive snow during winter; however, it is relatively rare for roads to be blocked” So I think you should be ok.

      Let us know how the trip goes, and if you can add any updates to this post when you’re back they’d be greatly appreciated. I have a feeling some prices might have changed since 2012. Good luck with your trip and have a great time :)

  11. Have just found this blog whilst researching for a trip to Morrocco next March. This has been so so helpful and has got me feeling really excited now! We too like DIY travel and your blog is so informative, thanks for taking the time to do it, it has been really useful in deciding what we want to do and how long it will take. Cheers!

    • Hi Isobel! Thank you! I’m so glad you’re finding it helpful – I remember how difficult it was planning my own trip in 2012 so I’m happy to help anyone else as much as I can. Let me know if you have any questions – and enjoy your trip! Don’t forget to stop by afterwards to let me know if I need to update anything :)

  12. great post..very informative..thanks for sharing :)

  13. Very Hungry Explorer (@VHungryExplorer)

    Great post, I didn’t make it anywhere near the desert during my last trip to Morocco – but next time I will!

    • Brilliant, thank you! If you do visit please stop back and tell me all about it – plus I’m sure this post could do with an update by now :)

  14. Excellent post, thanks.

    CTM goes to M’Hamid, according to their online schedule Site is in French, but Google Chrome browser did a useful translation.

    The CTM map of destinations shows ‘Lamhamid’ where Google maps shows ‘Mhamid’. In the schedule, CTM uses a third name. As one local auberge site puts it: “For unknown reasons M’Hamid is to find under the name “LAMHAMID GHOZLANE”.”

    • Awesome, thanks for the tip. Did you visit M’Hamid yourself? I’d love to get a bit more info from you about it. From what I can tell the Erg Chigaga dunes are still quite far from M’Hamid – did you visit?

      • You’re welcome. I’m researching for my first trip to Morocco this Spring.

      • Hi Emily! I stopped in M’Hamid on my visit to Morocco last year and can confirm that it’s still another 2 hours to Erg Chigaga (the paved road ends in M’Hamid, then it’s sand the rest of the way). Thanks again for all your great planning info!

        • Hey Miranda – thanks so much for pitching in! Are there any dunes to see thean M’Hamid, or do you need to keep going on to Erg Chigaga from there? It certainly seems like the more remote, adventurous option – but that’s not always a bad thing. I think I may have to do a follow up post about planning an Erg Chigaga trip. If you’re up for it I’d love to draw from your experiences?

          • Sure, I’d be happy to help however possible! There really aren’t any dunes to see in M’Hamid… I know a few tour operators run shorter excursions into the desert, but my personal opinion is that it’s worth the few hours drive to see the dramatic, sweeping vistas of Erg Chigaga!

  15. hi, i would like to ask you if its feasible to find your accomodation when you get to a town/ village or do you reccomend booking in advance? i hope to fly out to marrakesh later this month , then make my way over the atlas mountains towards ouazazte- although i ve heard its better to stay at benhaddou(i want to see the old town there)
    hopefully take some detours to dades and todra gorges aswell; then onwards to merzouka and the dunes.
    as regards money, some euros/pounds sterling and local money from cash points would be my choice. i doubt if there are too many cashpoints away from marrakesh!!
    your site is brilliant, i was about worried about independant travel outside of europe or north america but its reassuring to know you and others have done it without any big problems. thanks.

    • I would have thought that you’d be able to find accommodation as you go – for example when I stayed in Merzouga in March the hotel was more or less empty.

      For money, I would take plenty of your own currency with you and exchange it at the airport. You can’t buy Morrocan dirhams outside of the country, but just past baggage claim there is a bureau de change where you can swap your pounds/euros/dollars for dirhams. As far as I know you can’t pay for anything in foreign currency, except perhaps at the larger hotels and tourist companies, so I would change it all over asap if I were you. Also, I definitely didn’t see a single ATM in Merzouga (although that was a couple of years ago now) so I’d say it’s worth taking plenty of cash out before leaving Ouarzazate. I hope all that helps – but let me know if you get any more questions!

      Your trip sounds incredibly exciting! Please stop by to let me know how it all goes – and I’d love to hear more about Ouarzazate and the gorges, as I didn’t get to see those myself. Also it would be great if you can share your experiences in terms of public transport times and prices as I’m sure some of those details have changed.

      Independent travel in Morocco is definitely entirely possible, and while it may not always be comfortable it’s not as bad as many other countries I’ve travelled to. Much more exciting than travelling with a tour company, too!

      Enjoy your trip :)

  16. Planning a Morocco trip with my buddies and came across your site. Many thanks for the info, I will put it to good use! I also prefer the DIY approach when it comes to travel; just feels more authentic. Do you think traveling by car rental from Marrakesh to Erg Chebbi, then to Taghazout for surf, then back to Marrakesh in 9 days is too much?

    • It’s probably doable but might feel a bit rushed. I’d allow three nights at least for the Erg Chebbi trip so that you’re not driving at night etc, so with a couple of days in Taghazout and Marrakesh it should all fit. Just depends how much time you want to spend driving!

  17. Hi EMILY

    my travel to Morocco”

    I have never had such good holidays in all my life as when I was this february in Mororcco.
    I discovered a new world, full of mistery, wonderful people with good hearts, fantastic souvenirs hand- made… and the best.. the trip to the desert!!!
    If you don´t live it you can´t imagine how wonderful it is to go on marvellous camels through the desert at night. The sky so full of stars. The silence……
    And when you arrive great people is waiting for you with a marvellous dinner….
    I have only good words for this country and my advice is…….visit it!!! You will never regret!!!!!

  18. Hi Emily!

    Me and my husband are planning a three day Sahara trip and your post has inspired me so much!

    We will be travelling to Marrakech in March 2016 and really hope we could make it to the desert. I did do abit of research and some companies quoted me £275 per person and then I came across your DIY trip!
    I’m glad to have come across this, you’ve provided great info and basically have done all the work, so thank you :)

    • Hi Rizwana! Thanks so much for leaving a comment. So glad to hear I’ve inspired you to take a DIY trip – I think it’s definitely much better value than an organised tour. And it’s much easier to do than you’d think!

      Good luck with your trip – and let me know how it goes :)

  19. What an amazing blog you have here!
    Very helpful!!
    My husband and I are going to visit Marrakech next week for one week, and ive been reading online that we should just go to Marrakech and there are plenty of tour operators that will take us to Erg chebbi or chegaga for a fifth of the prices listed on websites of tour operators online? even if it is last minute? is it true? do you really think we should just go there and organise a trip in person and they will be ready to give a private tour, for 2-3 nights in Merzouga or M’hamid? Im asking this because we only booked hotel first 3-4 days and the rest we wanted to spend in the desert! but with a car bringing us from Marrakech to the desert, no CTM, because we want to be able to stop along the way for such a long drive.
    Any help will be appreciated!

    • Thank you Sumaira! Glad you’re finding this blog helpful :)

      I’m pretty confident that you would easily be able to find a cheaper trip in person when you arrive in Marrakech, and you will definitely be able to arrange it all last minute. That should all be fine! However, I still recommend checking the company out online before you commit, so that you can have a look at reviews etc.

      Enjoy your trip :)

  20. Ok great thanks Emily for all your help!

  21. This was an awesome post, thanks Emily. My husband and I are going to Morocco at Easter and are doing a bit of a tour, starting in Casablanca on to Fes, Merzouga and Marrakech with a few stops in between. We were a bit worried about travelling in Morocco but having read your blog, feel somewhat reassured. We have decided to hire a car and go on a road trip! I wanted to ask if there is anywhere you would recommend stopping/visiting on the rather long journey between Fes and Merzouga? Also do you know if we would run into any issues with parking in public places? Any help would be appreciated and thanks again for this great post.

    • Hi Wahida! Thanks for stopping by. That’s great news about your trip – it sounds really exciting and I definitely think you should go for it :)

      I’m not sure about any stops in between Fes and Merzouga, since I did the trip from Marrakech. A few people recommend Azrou, a market centre in the Middle Atlas with some beautiful countryside. Midelt is about the halfway point, a small town in the High Atlas which would make a good place to stop for lunch. I probably wouldn’t stop overnight anywhere and would try to push on straight to Merzouga, but there will definitely be some amazing landscapes along the way and with a rental car you’ll have freedom to stop whenever you see something worthwhile.

      Enjoy your trip – and don’t forget to stop back and let us know how it goes!

  22. What a super blog Emily. Now I can’t wait to get to Morocco! May I ask if you might have any leads on tour companies offering a rental car plus driver and organizing a 3 nights stay between Marakkesh, Merzouga and Fes route. I’m not sure where to look. I asked on Lonely planet but they don’t give out names as a rule. We are 2 girls travelling alone and not sure if we should be driving all the way. Would appreciate your help. Cheers!

    • Hi Pia! Great news that you’re visiting Morocco, I love that country! I didn’t do a tour at all so I don’t have any leads – and I wouldn’t want to recommend someone without having some experience of them first. My pal Wanderlust Chloe has done a desert trip with a tour company though, so why not read about her experiences: https://www.wanderlustchloe.com/moroccan-adventures-the-sahara-desert-stargazing-and-camel-treks/

  23. Hi Emily,
    over new Years I did a tour to Mhamid by CTM and then continued a 4 days walking camel tour with a local guide whom I had met before in Marrakesh on a different trip. It was an absolutely amazing experience to see all the different landscapes of the desert and widened my imagination of red sand dunes a lot. We went to Erg azZahra, which is close to the Algerian border and pretty high. Later on i spent a couple of days in a biovac at Erg Lihoudi which is about 30 minutes drive by jeep from Mhamid.
    I just fell in love with this area and feel there is still much more to dicover.

  24. Hi Emily, thanks for the info-my bucket list includes driving from home on the Costa del Sol to the Sahara next year in memory of a desert life I had in the 60´s-I was thinking of taking my two dogs with me-would that be inadvisable in your valued opinion?

    • Hi John! Thanks for commenting. I honestly have no idea! I would have thought it would be tricky to travel across borders with dogs, but if that’s not a problem then I can’t see an issue with taking them in your car on the journey. It is quite a long journey though so they might get fed up! Also, I don’t know if there are any dog-friendly hotels in Merzouga/the surrounding area so it would be best to message them in advance. There is at least one caravan/camp site in town so you’d probably be ok there. Hope that helps :)

      I’d love to know more about your sixties desert life! Sounds intriguing :) I loved the Sahara, hope you make it back there!

  25. Hello. Please help me with an information. i will stay 5 nights in Marrakech with my boyfriend and i want verry much to go and see the sand dunes, I dont want to go with organized groups and i want to hire a car. My question is : i can take the car to Merzouga and the dunes are there or close? i think i dont have time for a camel ride unfortunately:(( i dont want to stay more than 2 days on the road,because we have more other things to see in a very short trip :( Thank you verry much.

    • Hi Anca!!! Yes, definitely. The dunes are very close to Merzouga, although you are best off staying in the village of Hassilabied. It’s just down the road from Merzouga (can also be reached by car) and the dunes are right next door, about 2 minutes walk. You can see them from the front rooms and roof terrace of Riad Mamouche hotel there :)

      I don’t recommend walking too far into the dunes alone as it is very easy to get lost once you lose site of the town. However, you can climb the nearest ones and go for short walks as long as you are careful. If you’re going for one night that would be enough time, but be prepared for a lot of driving! Try to leave early from Marrakech and then you’ll have time to make stops etc.

      Hope that helps!

  26. Hi Emily.

    Thank you for the detailed post. My wife and I will be staying 3 nights in the Erg Chebbi area in September and need advice on how to book our stay. We would like to stay in a desert camp one night. How would you recommend we book the hotel through booking.com, say? If we book three nights, but one of the nights we’re staying in the desert, shouldn’t we book two nights through booking.com and one night through the desert camp outfitter? Or should we book the three nights with the hotel and pay the difference between one night stay at hotel and the excursion cost to the desert camp. Hope that makes sense. Please advise.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Albert!! Thanks for commenting – I’m so glad you’ve found my post useful. I tried to include as much info as possible :)

      What I did was book Hotel Mamouche through booking.com, then I contacted them via email to ask about the desert camping. I was willing to pay for three nights just to have somewhere to store my bags. But in the end, we didn’t have to. They only charged us for 2 nights, and then arranged the desert camping on the middle night for us. I think most hotels will be willing to do the same if you contact them. Might be worth booking one night (the first) through booking.com, then emailing the hotel to sort the rest. If you’re planning to book the camping through a local company and not your hotel, they’ll be less keen to help you with the middle night, so probably best to book the first night only to start with.

      Hope that all makes sense and helps you! Good luck with the planning :)

      Emily

  27. Thanks so much for the post!

    I am an adventurer to the tea and I honestly strongly dislike organized tours. I will be traveling to Morocco with a friend in December and this is high on our to-do list.

    Can I ask, is it possible to make your own way in the desert even in December, with the chilling temperatures? We would like to spend a few nights on a journey out that way.

    I also hear there are ways to rent dune-buggies at certain locations near the desert, do you have any information on this?

    Thanks so much for the post!!

    • Hi Ryan!! As far as I know it’s still possible to visit in December. I don’t know how cold it gets but if you take stuff to wrap up warm at night my guess is you would be fine. I was there in March and it was still very hot during the day.

      When I was there a few years ago I didn’t see any dune buggies in Merzouga, but it might be possible to rent them now. However I’ve heard that they can be bad for the local environment so I recommend you double check on that before you do rent them – it’s always best to preserve the natural beauty of a place :) It might be totally fine though so do some research!

      Thanks for reading and I’m so glad you found the post helpful!

      Emily

      • Hi yes we are hoping dune buggies get banned from erg chebbi, they are bad for the natural environment, and the microcosm of wildlife, insectlife that live in the dunes and rather dangerous for pedestrians in amongst the dunes, very noisy and more and more difficult to get photos of the beauty without vehicle tracks
        Ive been exploring and sharing information on Morocco since 2003…i still recommend self driving as the best way to independently get to the sahara dunes of Erg Chebbi, i have been self driving all over Morocco for years to see beautiful routes in all the sessons for changing colours and wonderful festivals through the year and much of the beauty is off the public transportation routes, Hotel Mamouche is a rather commercial place to stay, if you go by bus Id recommend staying at Chez Julia in Merzouga.

        • It would be great if they got banned – they’re so bad for the environment and they ruin the atmosphere for everyone else!

          As for self driving – I agree that it’s the msot free way to explore but it’s not an option for everyone. For example, I can’t actually drive (my test is soon) so for me it’s not an option. And I can imagine a lot of less confident drivers would feel a bit scared by some of the mountain roads – other drivers there can be crazy!!! But for a confident driver it’s by far the best option :)

          I didn’t think Mamouche was all that commercial, but it was a while ago so maybe things have changed. I thought it was a really lovely hotel with reasonable rates. And it’s nice to have that pool to cool off after a couple of days in the desert!

  28. WOW! I am off to Morocco in April to go surfing and then head to the desserts and this blog has been an absolute saviour! I have just started my own food blog called Biffen’s kitchen and I am starting to tap into the Food Travel section. I will be sure to mention and backlink your blog when I do my own after the trip.

    I will be sure to share this on. :)

    10/10!

    • Oh wow thanks! I hope my post was helpful for you – the info might not be 100% up to date now but it should all be pretty accurate!

      Have such a great trip – and be sure to let me know how it goes :)

  29. Hi Emily, I’m research for my first trip to Morocco and considering a desert trip and came upon your post, and thank you so very much for your research, tips, sharing, and generosity and kindness in spreading valuable information!

  30. Do you mind emailing me your itinerary? We are planning to spend the New Year there too! How was the weather? Thank you!
    qdchair@gmail.com

  31. Thank you so much for the informative post :) Planning a trip in Morocco on your own is really hard as there is not much option for transport and stuff.. It is a pity that 2 days just went off for a bus ride.

    • Thanks for commenting Zeze :) It’s a really long way so yes, you do lose a lot of time on the transport – there is the option to fly to Ouarzazate and continue by bus or car from there – which would speed things up a bit. But if you want to do all the trip yourself, with no tour, then unfortunately that means a long bus ride!

  32. Hi you said – One-night camel trek and camping in the desert, including dinner £29 per person.

    Can you remember what company this was with? sorry if you already said!

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