Camping, Camels and Sand Dunes in the Moroccan Sahara
How to Choose a Sahara Desert Tour in Morocco

Camping, Camels and Sand Dunes in the Moroccan Sahara

As my taxi pulled into Cairo International Airport in advance of my flight to Casablanca, Morocco, the driver informed me of one destination I’d missed during the marathon two weeks I spent in his country. “Camping in the Western desert near the Libyan border” he said, “is something you must do the next time you’re in Egypt.”

Never one to wait for a “next time” — or to count on it, for that matter — I began researching trek’s into the Moroccan Sahara almost immediately after landing.

Let Me Plan Your Trip to Morocco

Although the dune-y portion of the Sahara desert within Morocco is small by African standards, a huge variety of tour options exist. Decide on how many days you want to spend in the Moroccan Sahara, what you want to do there and where you want to sleep before you commit to a tour to ensure your expectations match up with what you find among the dunes.

How Many Days?


When you begin investigating Sahara desert tour options in Morocco, you’ll notice headings for all tours offered specify the number of days you spend on the tour. When I visited in October 2011, tours were available for durations as short as one day and up to four days, although fine print always specifies that longer stays are available.

Morocco is a huge place: Most of the tours depart from Marrakech, located near its eastern seaboard, while the Sahara occupies the eastern frontier of the country. As a result, you have to understand that even getting to the desert takes a pretty significant amount of time, so if you choose a one- or two-day tour, I don’t know how much of the actual desert you’re going to see.


As a general rule, I would say you should book as long an itinerary as you can afford — the longer your tour, the further into the Sahara you can get. I embarked on a three-day, two-night tour at the advisement of my hostel’s owner. Shorter tours, she warned, don’t permit you access to the dunes of the Sahara. You know, the portion of the desert that actually looks like desert.

Making Sure You See the Dunes

I actually wish I’d booked a four-day, three-night instead. The first day was comprised of a long drive over the beautiful Atlas mountains and ended with us barely entering into the “rocky” portion of the Sahara, spending the day exploring the Kasbah of Ouarzazate, where several of the movies in the “Mummy” series were filmed. We slept in a hotel near the Dades Gorge in the Draa Valley, admittedly one of the coolest places I’ve ever been.


It wasn’t until just before sunset the second day that we arrived in the town of Merzouga, the gateway to the dunes of the Moroccan Sahara near the Algerian border. We hopped promptly onto camels and traveled a few kilometers into the desert, where we set up camp — as in tents, fires and sleeping bags, oh my! That night, the adventurous among my group (present company included) smoked hashish with our Berber guides and climbed to the top of a 300-meter sand dune, which provided incredible views of the entire desert.

Unfortunately, morning came quickly: By 6, we were on our dromedaries and en route back to Merzouga, where the “third day” of the tour was about to begin. Again, I will emphasize that you should book as long a tour as possible, particularly if being among the dunes and camping are your highest priorities in seeing the Sahara. The longer your tour, the less of it (percentage-wise) you spend in a motor vehicle.

Onward Destinations from Merzouga


The last day of whatever tour duration you select is spent completely in transit — either back to Marrakech, the starting point of most tours, or onto other places in Morocco, namely the city of Fez in the country’s central valley.

Do be aware that if you choose not to continue back to Marrakech, you are responsible both for facilitating and paying your way onward. Two of the German girls in my tour group wanted to continue on to Fez as well, so I wasn’t alone in my struggle — and I’m going to be honest, it was kind of a struggle.


From Zagoura, you need to take a “petit” taxi to the town of Er-Rachidia. The cost of this taxi is negligible if you have several people, but be warned: You will share this cab with five other passengers, in spite of its (rightfully) being labeled as “small.”

Several onward options exist, including a government-owned CTM bus directly to Fez. After a few days in the desert, however, I have a feeling you’ll be like me and wanting a bit more luxurious transport. If you have some extra dirhams to spare, a car to Fez can be yours for 720 DH, or about $86. That sounds like a lot — and it is — but if you have three or more people, the extra cost is well worth the comfort and freedom.

Another advantage of taking a private taxi to Fez is that you can make your driver stop along the way so that you can enjoy the stunning views you get descending out of the Atlas mountains into Morocco’s vast central valley.

Where and How to Book — And How Much

I’ve mentioned several times in this article that I departed from Marrakech and accepted advice on which tour to take from a hostel owner there. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Marrakech is the place to book.

I’d also recommend you follow my advice and book directly through your hostel. Although you will certainly be placed on a third-party tour with people from other hostels and hotels in the city, booking through your hostel ensures you get a fair price and gives you an outlet for recourse in the event that something goes wrong with your tour — it shouldn’t, but I’m just saying.

As far as price, I paid 950 DH for my three-day, two-night trek — the worthless (inasmuch as I detailed above) one- and two-day treks are slightly less, the longer ones slightly more. Unless you are spending a huge amount of time in the desert, I wouldn’t pay more than 1,200 DH.

So what does the price include? All your transportation and lodging — including a camel ride in the Sahara and a camp there — as well as breakfast and dinner. That means you’re left to pay for lunch, incidentals and drugs out of pocket.

About The Author

is the author of 612 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


  informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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  • saissise

    Traveling with Iddir is special because he and his team have a unique relationship with the desert; they know it and are passionate about it. If you want an insight into Berber and Moroccan culture they’re a good choice. Iddir also introduces you to real people (actually he knows people everywhere, and we were introduced to family and friends wherever we went), and he tells you about his own experiences growing up and the amazing changes he has seen.

    We travelled in the rains of Nov/Dec 14 in the worst flooding in Morocco for 20 years. It meant that Iddir adapted the tour and drove many miles further than planned in order to make sure we had a good experience, including a starlit night in the desert. The rains eventually defeated us and we got stuck at Ourazazte where Iddir got us onto a flight back to Marrakesh, spending an extra day with us in order to get us safely on board. Iddir is unflappable and I was left with the feeling that if you were to call him up and say “Iddir, we’re on the south east corner of the moon” his response would be to say “I’ll have somebody with you in about 30 minutes”.

    Iddir, someday we’ll be back to finish that last leg of the tour! I highly recommend

  • Ellen

    This will be the first of two posts about our trip through Morocco to Erg Chebbi.

    I’m not sure more than a few people have read this trip report, but I guess I need to remember that this forum isn’t as well-read as Europe which is what I’m used to. Morocco is off the beaten path for many which is a shame because its landscape is breathtaking, its people are genuinely welcoming, it’s affordable and even getting a glimpse into the culture as a tourist is fascinating.

    Since we figured this would be our one and only trip to Morocco, we wanted to make sure we included a visit to the desert. It turned out to be the highlight of two weeks of highlights. Because our children had only 10 days, we had to limit our Sahara trip to three days/two nights. I found that most excursion companies don’t offer an itinerary that short because it involves too much driving. I did find Morocco Excursion,

    They picked us up from our riad in Marakkech. There were six of us, seven including the driver, in a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Good thing we were family . The first day we crossed the Atlas Mountains and spent the night at a hotel in the Dades Gorges. I have a fear of driving over mountain passes, but surprisingly, this didn’t bother me. The scenery was breathtaking, climbing through lush greenery, finally reaching the top of the treeline, then descending again. We often remarked that it reminded us of the Rockies.

    We stopped for lunch at Aït Benhaddou a kasbah and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We climbed to the top and were able to see miles into the countryside.

    We stayed here the first night. It was a rustic, charming riad in the middle of the Dades Gorges. We had three choices of lodging that night and we chose this which was the medium option. Definitely rustic, but fine for a night. It was a narrow gorge and that night was particularly windy which lent an almost eerie quality to it. We were served a delicious dinner family style with the few other boarders.

    Our driver that first day only spoke Arabic and Spanish. Most Moroccans speak French, then English after Arabic, but not this young man. Our son speaks Arabic, but the Moroccan dialect is very different from traditionally-taught Arabic, so as the only Spanish speaking member of the family, he served as our interpreter. Looking back, it made it all that more interesting and exotic!

    The second day we left early after another delicious Moroccan breakfast. A new driver, Ibrahim, met us in a somewhat larger (thank heavens) SUV. Once over the mountains, the landscape was flatter and more desert-y with low scrub. We passed through countless villages and began to see even more traditional dress – lots more burqas. We were interested to see so many women on donkeys with baskets of greenery. Our best guess was that they would make mats of some sort with it.

    We had lunch at a cafe in Erfoud, a busy city on the edge of the dunes. After lunch Ibrahim took us on an off-road excursion through the moonscape leading to the dunes. We started to see a mass or orange ahead of us which got bigger and bigger as we approached. That was our first glimpse of Erg Chebbi and it was a thrill.

    In case only a few people are reading this report, I’m going to talk in more detail about the trip into the dunes in a separate trip report entitled Erg Chebbi as it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Here are a few pictures of those couple of days leading to Erg Chebbi.

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    A picture from ourMorocco sahara desert tours

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  • Robert Schrader


  • visit erg chebbi desert

    I’m Said i welcome to the beautiful moroccan land and quiet magic desert , we will be happy to share with you all great moments of your holidays in morocco,We are berber people born and raised in the desert with our family in southern Morocco, Our childhood was with nomadic life, traveling around the desert with the family, Every month we change the home to nother home looking for a green place for our animales as camels and goats ,Our experience started with guiding the guests from a several hotels in merzouga desert, We learned many langues as English, Spanish, French, Portugues , with the parents we learned our mother langues Berber and Arabic as my second language from the same religion of Islam ,Now after nine years of guiding the travelers from around the world in morocco,We started from few years ago to organize Camel trekking in erg chebbi desert for spent one night in desert by camels Trekking in merzouga desert,Yoga meditation with all necessary , Rent 4×4 to explore the area of merzouga , but we avoid the sand dunes to respect the value of the nature, to discover the environment and to teach you about our culture .

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  • Lisa Washborn

    We had chosen “Sahara Desert Crew” (http:// sahara-desert-crew. com) because good friends in US highly recommended Youssef and his company. And they were absolutely right!

    Youssef Yaakoubi, the owner, responded very quickly and within one day he send us an exciting itinerary and a good price including one week of private guide and chauffeur and all necessary accommodation in the standard and variety we asked for.

    We spend a week driving a bit more than 1.800 km, myself, my husband and our two sons at 14 and 20. From Agadir – Marrakech – Atlas Mountains – Quarzazate – Rissani – Desert dunes – Draa Valley – Taroudant – Agadir.

    Youssef is a fantastic driver – I didn’t say “ouh” once – and he is also very easy to be around. He had a lot to tell and was able to give both the boys and us good stories and guidance.

    The boys loved the times we drove off road, lunch at his mum, they loved the camel riding and camping in Berber tent. My husband and I also loved the variety of the riads and hotels chosen for us – especially the fantastic riad in the orange plantation where we had our last relaxing day :)
    We appreciate that Youssef would share all his knowledge with us and we are very happy getting to know him. He is a very great and professional host.

    We highly recommend them.

  • Robert Schrader

    So glad to hear you enjoyed it!

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