Morocco is a country that many are flocking to today because of the beauty that they see displayed online, in the form of colourful Instagram pictures with beautifully designed tiles as the backdrop, bustling medinas packed with bright souvenirs pouring out of shops and landscapes that range from snow-capped mountains to white sand beaches.
Visitors are pulled into Morocco with wide eyes to experience the culture that’s so different from there’s at home, to witness the natural beauty and to try a vacation that’s more eye-opening than a trip to the beach.
While I personally didn’t like Morocco, I can’t deny that this country has some incredible things to see and do. I don’t want to discourage people going to Morocco though, just to be aware of what type of holiday they’re going to have.
I do, however, encourage people to go just for the Sahara Desert alone as it one of the best things to do in Morocco and was my favourite part of my 2-week trip to Morocco. It’s one of the few places where you can witness such amazing beauty and the diversity of landscapes in just a short couple of days.
Though it is one of the best top places to visit in Morocco, Sahara Desert travel is not the easiest thing to do though so I’m here to explain how you can plan your trip to the Sahara Desert with no bumps in the road (though I can’t promise that there’s none on the actual road!).
How to get to the Sahara Desert
Let me be real with you, getting to the Sahara Desert is no piece of cake. The desert itself is very far from any of the major cities in Morocco which is where you’ll likely be starting and ending your trip in. Marrakech is 600km from Merzouga, the closest town to the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and Fez is 470km away.
Sahara Desert trips will take hours of driving but good things come to those who wait, right? Don’t let this discourage you from visiting though, the Sahara Desert is a site to see!
You have three options for getting to the Sahara Desert:
For the adventurous souls or for those who feel that they need their own freedom and schedule you can drive yourself to the Sahara Desert. This is a common option as you can choose to stop wherever you want at your own speed.
Keep in mind that driving in Morocco there are many checkpoints and be sure to drive the speed limit as police are quite strict, especially with foreigners.
The roads are good to drive on (better than I expected actually) but some are quite bumpy and if you’re driving from Marrakech be ready for some driving beside the edge of the road where big drops are as you make your way through the mountains. The views are breathtaking but driving here is not for everyone.
Sahara Desert Tour
The most popular option by far is to do an organized tour where a local guide picks you up in either Marrakech (most popular) or Fez and drives you out to your camp, where you spend a night out under the stars, riding camels across the sand dunes and you’ll make multiple stops during your long journey to see other attractions.
Organized tours are either 2-4 days but be aware that a 2-day tour doesn’t actually take you into the real Sahara Desert as there is just simply not enough time to get all the way out.
I personally did and highly recommend a tour which I did with Get Your Guide, the 3 Days 2 Nights Desert Trip to Marrakech from Fez. I loved it because I could kick back and enjoy the views, it was a small group and our guide was able to take us to places that I didn’t even know about!
Lastly, and the least common is to take a public bus which is a 12-hour long journey from Marrakech to Merzouga, the town right on the edge of the Sahara Desert. You can find tickets on the official sites of the public buses in Morocco, Supratours or CTM.
Can I Visit the Sahara Desert as a Day Trip?
From Marrakesh or Fez? No, it’s not possible as you just can not cover the driving distance required to get to the Sahara Desert from each of these cities.
If you are already in Merzouga then you can absolutely visit the Sahara Desert in one day as it is practically on your doorstep, however, it is a 12-hour bus ride just to get to Merzouga one-way.
What You Get from Your Sahara Trip
Even if you’re not a tour person, hear me out: being able to enjoy the views of the mountains and incredible Moroccan landscapes and to not have to drive for 8-10 hours a day is worth booking an organized tour for the Sahara.
My friend and I opted for the 3 day, 2 nights Sahara Desert tour so we could actually set foot in the Sahara Desert (remember 2-day tours don’t actually go into the Sahara Desert) and we were pleasantly surprised to find a tour offered that travelled from Fez to Marrakech which saved us from travelling down to Marrakech first.
Most tours depart from Marrakech with some ending in Fez and some doing a loop back to Marrakech. Obviously, choose the tour that is best suited for your itinerary and which requires the least amount of travelling because Morocco has some big distances to cover.
In 3 full days on the tour we experienced and had included:
- A professional driver and guide
- All breakfasts and dinners included
- A camel ride
- 1 night at a Berber camp in the Sahara Desert (nightly entertainment and unlimited mint tea too!)
- 1 night at a hotel (with a pool) in Ouarzazate
- Picture stops whenever we wanted to see things such as ancient fossils, along the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs, at Todgha Gorges, to see monkeys, filming locations (Gladiator, Games of Thrones and more) and a guided tour of Rissani (a small, local town that is untouched by western culture)
What I loved the most about this tour was that it was a small group, only 5 of us plus the driver/guide who was extremely knowledgable and willing to stop anywhere for us.
We drove out of the way to see some ski hills which one of the passengers wanted to see and our itinerary was determined by us. We were able to skip things if we didn’t want to see them or go if we did. Our guide would explain things to us first and then give us the option. The fact that the tour wasn’t on such a strict schedule like most tours was extremely refreshing.
For the price I was also very happy with our accommodation. Our tent in the Sahara Desert had a private bathroom for myself and my friend to share with a shower. I was expecting to have a communal toilet and no shower! The hotel we stayed in had a pool and the rooms were huge.
There was also no shortage of food at any of the meals and sometimes we were given options of what we wanted to eat. It was all delicious.
Why Sahara Tours are Worth It
I can understand that when you look at the price tag ($268USD/€235) that it’s a bit of a shock. I was at first too but that’s because I hadn’t yet realized that visiting the Sahara Desert is just expensive.
When you book a tour through Get Your Guide you’re able to confidently know that you are getting a good price and a quality tour as each tour is handpicked. If you opt to book from someone that you find selling tours somewhere in the medina I can almost guarantee that you will be ripped off. Some charge upwards of €900 for a 3-day tour which is absolutely ridiculous.
Seeing the Sahara Desert is a bucket list thing to do while in Morocco. Make sure you do it the best way possible for you to have the ultimate experience. For me, and for many, it’s through a tour where you have zero worries and your only responsibility is to stay on the camel and enjoy the views.
Enjoy your Sahara holidays!
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