Are you considering a trip to a cool place where all you hear is the sound of your breath and all you see is golden brown sands and sparkling stars? If yes, then the Sahara desert in Morocco should be at the top of your list. Camping in this desert allows you to see the sky and its stars in the clearest form and to introspect in a spectacularly tranquil environment.
Do you need help in planning your desert tour in Morocco? We are here to help. You are welcome to read our simple yet detailed guide to having the trip of your dreams to the Sahara.
When Is The Best Time To Visit The Moroccan Sahara Desert?
The deserts of Morocco get snowy during winter and extremely hot during summer. The temperatures sometimes rise up to 120 degrees, making it practically impossible to walk on the sand. In that case, the best time to partake your trip is from late winter, through spring, to early summer. Tentatively, from 20th February to 15th June.
Fall- September through November- is also a good time to visit because the temperatures are moderately okay. The skyline is always clear at this time of the year, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking sight of the twinkling lights from the stars.
What Should You Pack For the Trip?
You will be exposed to UV for the better part of your desert trip so you will need to pack some sun cream for your skin. The Sahara is hot and dry so you will need loose clothes and sandals with straps. On the other hand, the day-time wind will constantly blow sand so you will need to protect your face and eyes with a light scarf and sunglasses. Your shirts or blouses also need to be long sleeved to protect your arms from the stinging desert sand.
Surprisingly, the desert gets really chilly at night so on top of your pajamas, a jacket/cardigan, some leggings, jumpers, and a blanket will come in handy. If you are a lady, pack some baggy trousers because of two reasons: First, the local custom strictly discourages women from wearing shorts or anything that falls above the knee and secondly, you probably will ride a camel at some point and dresses/skirts aren’t practical for it.
Most restrooms on your way to the desert do not provide tourists with toilet paper so you will need to pack as many as you will need. Also, don’t forget to pack other personal items such as hand sanitizer, bottled water, vitamin supplements, camera, compass, and a cap/hat. Before leaving Marrakech for the desert, it is important to buy all the food and fruits that you will need for the journey because there aren’t reliable shops along the way.
Choosing Which Dunes to Visit:
The highlight of every desert trip in Morocco is the breathtaking, incredible dunes of Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Both of them are to the south of the Atlas range, although Erg Chigaga is further to the east; very close to the Algerian border. It is too much into the interior that you will need to have an off-road vehicle, a huge budget, and unlimited time for you to visit the dunes.
Erg Chebbi, on the other hand, is very accessible from the town of Merzouga which is about a kilometer away. Although smaller and lesser attractive than Erg Chigaga in regards to the golden sand color, these dunes would be your best place to start your Sahara desert tour. You can always plan another trip to Erg Chigaga after you have gained a little more desert experience.
How to Get To and Around Erg Chebbi:
From your home country, you will take a flight to Marrakech, the city that is closest to the Moroccan desert. It is between 500 and 700 kilometers from Erg Chebbi, depending on the route you choose. How you get from Marrakech to the desert depends on your budget and available time. Let’s break this down:
1) Visiting Erg Chebbi on a tight budget:
The cheapest travel option from Marrakech to the town of Merzouga is using a bus. That would cost you anything from £15 to £25 one way depending on the season. The buses are air-conditioned and clean, but due to the fact that the journey takes almost thirteen hours, they can get really uncomfortable. If you choose to travel by these buses, you can reserve your ticket by phone or book one at the bus station on your day of travel.
The best time to see the Erg Chebbi dunes is very early in the morning. Upon arrival at Merzouga, therefore, it is advisable to sleep in a budget hotel or in one of the many campsites near the dunes. There are many accommodation options for you here ranging from £8 to £15. While there, you can enjoy a variety of Moroccan, Arabic, and African delicacies and drinks from as low as £2 per meal.
At sunrise, you can opt to trek on foot to the dunes, compass in hand to avoid getting lost. Erg Chebbi dunes aren’t complicated at all; you can hike them on your own. It isn’t as fun, though, but quite a memorable experience when on budget.
2) Visiting Erg Chebbi on a Mid-Range Budget:
Another travel option from Marrakech to Merzouga is to hire a car through a travel agency in Marrakech. That will cost you between £30 and £40 per day so the more you stay in the desert, the more you will pay. You will also need to budget for gas, which again will depend on your usage of the car as well as its model.
The upside of hiring a car is that you will have the freedom of stopping whenever you feel like and the cars are much more comfortable than the buses. You will actually be in Merzouga in 10 hours or less. The downside of it, on the other hand, is that the road is mountainous as it passes through the Atlas range.
Most travel companies demand that you have at least two years of driving experience before lending you their car and even with that, you will need to be very confident to beat the sharp corners on this road. You must also have a credit card balance of at least £700 for the company to entrust you with their car. This is the money they will use to repair the car in case of any damages.
At Merzouga, you can book a hotel room for about £30 per night per person, dinner included. If your time allows, you can take a camel trek to the dunes and then camp there for one night at £30 to £40 per person. Also, you can hire a tour guide to help you around the dunes for as low as £20 per day.
Marrakech to Merzouga tour on a Luxurious Budget:
Your luxurious option will be to book your trip with one of the Morocco desert tours. On average, Marrakech to Merzouga tour cost from £50 to £150 for two days, but you will be paying for your own food and drinks. You will enjoy air-conditioned transportation with a professional driver who speaks English among other international languages, so the language barrier will not get in the way of your desert experience. What’s more, hiring the services of desert tours from Marrakech means that you will have very little to organize and worry about.
Once in the desert, you will be camping in luxurious tents with luxurious beds and eating luxurious Moroccan delicacies. Most of the Morocco desert tours will provide you with an experienced tour guide who will optimize your Saharan experience. You will even be able to charge your electronics while there. What’s more, there is enough security to allow you to get out and watch the stars in the middle of the night.
French and Arabic are the most common languages in Morocco. It will be wise for you to learn a few polite French or Arabic words to use while there. Generous tips are also appreciated in this part of the world.