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Best Things to Do in the desert of Marrakech: 11 best activities

Discover the exciting activities in the deserts near Marrakech, the gateway to the Sahara. From camel rides to breathtaking waterfalls, the route to the Moroccan desert is full of adventures.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

8 min read

Best Things to Do in the desert of Marrakech: 11 best activities

Friends in the Desert | ©Belle Co

Named the ninth best destination in the world by tourists and visitors alike, Marrakech has everything to offer: history, traditions, scenery, delicious food, great weather, luxury living and adventure for every taste and budget. Although Marrakech is not located in the desert, a trip to the Sahara from there is sure to top your bucket list.

But what exactly can you do once you get there? Here I tell you in detail the most fun and exciting activities for you to have a great time.

1. Camp under the stars

Night in Merzouga| ©Simone Riccio
Night in Merzouga| ©Simone Riccio

This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that words can hardly do justice to. Only those who have had the opportunity to experience the dunes in the cold of the night and under a million stars can understand the avalanche of emotions that can be experienced.

Departing from Marrakech you will find several alternatives of desert excursions whose intention is to take tourists to any of the three main Moroccan deserts: Merzouga desert, Zagora desert and Agafay desert.

Upon arrival in the desert you will spend the night in special tented camps in the middle of nowhere where you will have certain amenities such as: a comfortable place to sleep, toilet area, seats, warm fires and much more.

Reserve your excursion to the desert

2. Dare to go sandboarding on the sands

Desert Sandboarding| ©Maria Borisenko
Desert Sandboarding| ©Maria Borisenko

A curious name, isn't it? Sandboarding is an entertaining pastime that tourists and locals do on their trips to the desert. Here you don't need to have waves to surf because you take long surfboards to glide over the dunes.

If you visit either of the two main sand deserts of the Sahara, such as a trip to the Zagora desert from Marrakech, you will have the opportunity to practice it by renting equipment near the camps.

If you travel to the desert with friends or family, you can have a good time climbing to the top of a sand mountain to reach the ground standing (or sitting) on the board. To repeat you will have to climb back up to the top. If you travel to the desert and Marrakech in winter the temperature is so pleasant that you can sandboard at any time you want.

Book your excursion to Zagora desert from Marrakech

3. Enjoy the Takerkoust lake and surroundings

Lake Takerkoust| ©Trysk
Lake Takerkoust| ©Trysk

In the middle of the Agafay desert is the artificial reservoir of Lake Takerkoust. If you visit Marrakech in the summer and want to escape the heat for a few hours, this is the perfect place to do it, because of how close it is to the city and how easy it is to reach.

In its calm waters are carried out all kinds of activities ideal to enjoy with family or friends. Among the most popular are: Jet Ski, Windsurfing, rowing activities and also quiet rides on a pedal boat. If any of these activities catches your attention you can rent the equipment directly on site at establishments such as:

Book an excursion to the desert of Agafay

Enjoy a dinner or lunch in the desert.

Preparing lunch in the tent| ©raddox
Preparing lunch in the tent| ©raddox

If due to time constraints you do not have the opportunity to spend the night in the desert, it is important to know that another activity you can do in the camps is to enjoy lunch or dinner in a typical Berber tent. It is a very nice experience that is enjoyed twice as much if you visit the desert with your partner or with the closest family.

You will have the opportunity to taste a traditional meal that includes tajine, couscous, salads and cakes.

And all under the magical blanket of the night if you decide to do this activity after sunset.

Book a dinner in the desert of Agafay

5. Enjoy the sunset or sunrise.

Sunrise in Zagora| ©ismail el youssefi
Sunrise in Zagora| ©ismail el youssefi

The tranquility and endless beauty of the golden colored dunes of the desert is unlike any other natural spectacle on earth and is something you can experience by booking a desert excursion from Marrakech.

The most fun thing about this activity is that it can be very easily combined with many of the other activities we listed, thus enriching your experience or trip to the magical desert of Morocco from Marrakech.

For example, if you decide to camp in a Moroccan desert overnight, you can manage to take a camel ride or quad ride at sunrise or sunset to enjoy the natural spectacle over the overwhelming desert landscape.

Book an excursion to the desert of Merzouga

Take the best pictures of the night sky

Night photography in Merzouga| ©Jaanus Jagomägi
Night photography in Merzouga| ©Jaanus Jagomägi

If you are up for the adventure of spending the night in the desert, for example on an excursion to the desert of Zagora, you can not miss the opportunity to take pictures of the night sky. Whether you are a professional photographer or just an amateur who enjoys magical destinations,

Morocco's desert is the perfect setting for creating breathtakingly composed shots. Since the nearest towns are located at a considerable distance, light pollution is practically nil allowing you to capture the beauty of the stars that cover the sky in an easier way.

While it is true that the best time to visit Marrakech, and from here the desert, will depend on many other factors, the best time to take pictures of the desert and the stars is the summer when the clouds are practically non-existent. When you move to the desert take great care of your photographic equipment from the sand, carrying lenses and cameras in special cases that prevent dust or particles from entering the interior.

Book an excursion to the desert of Zagora

7.A camel ride is a must!

A camel ride in the Agafay Desert| ©Sean Cundy
A camel ride in the Agafay Desert| ©Sean Cundy

I am one of those who consider that a camel ride in the desert is an adventure that you should not miss on a trip to Marrakech.

As one of the most sought-after activities for travelers, you will find hundreds of options available both in the Moroccan deserts, as well as in other areas of tourist interest such as the Palm Grove outside Marrakesh.

If you are going to the desert as part of a guided tour, my recommendation is to read the activity itinerary to see if this experience is included. If it is not, contact the organizers to see if there is a way to do it. As an additional tip, camels are really sweet creatures that have adapted wonderfully to contact and life with humans.

Book a camel ride in the Palm Grove

8.Take a sand bath in the desert

Enjoying the Merzouga Desert| ©Jeremy Bishop
Enjoying the Merzouga Desert| ©Jeremy Bishop

The inhabitants of the desert claim that the sand dunes of the Sahara have healing and even miraculous properties. For some time, they have been teaching this secret to travelers who come to Morocco from all over the world.

The Merzouga desert is the favorite desert in Morocco for this activity because its dunes are the highest, reaching heights of up to 150 meters. As the sun peeks over the horizon you will see Moroccan natives digging holes in the dunes to bury visitors' bodies in what could be considered an unconventional spa treatment.

For the magic of the dunes to take effect you must be buried for at least 30 minutes and water will be provided upon request. Undoubtedly a different way to appreciate the Sahara.

Book an excursion to the desert of Merzouga

9. Quad biking in the desert

In Squad through the palm grove of Morocco| ©Laila Diaz
In Squad through the palm grove of Morocco| ©Laila Diaz

This is a very fun activity that you can do in any of the Moroccan deserts. During the tour you will be able to breathe pure and calm air, as well as enjoy the wild and impressive nature of the desert at its best. For many it is a very relaxing ride especially after spending two days in Marrakech or three days in Marrakech.

After your arrival in the desert you can rent the quads on your own or you can take advantage of one of the many group tours. This type of tour is usually organized in small groups that allow the guide to maintain a personalized attention and take care of all participants.

It is ideal to cover large areas in a short time and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings, being a perfect alternative for all those who for personal or ethical reasons do not enjoy a camel trip.

10.Meet the Oasis of the Moroccan Desert

Knowing the Oasis of M'Hamid| ©Richard Boyd
Knowing the Oasis of M'Hamid| ©Richard Boyd

The Sahara desert in Morocco occupies a vast expanse of land. Getting to the desert from Marrakechis notcomplicated by the many excursions that leave from the city, but depending on the destination you have chosen for your desert adventure you can explore the possibility of embarking on an adventure to see a beautiful natural oasis.

This type of experience usually lasts about two to three hours, so you can easily include it in your one-day desert itinerary. In the desert of Erg Chebbi highlights the Oasis of M'Hamid that for centuries has served as a rest stop for the caravans of camels crossing the desert.

11. Meet the nomadic Berbers of the Sahara

Berbers in the Desert| ©Sole Bossio
Berbers in the Desert| ©Sole Bossio

Berbers is the name given to the indigenous ethnic group that dominates the northern area of Africa and that you can logically find on your trip to Morocco. In the vicinity of the most important Moroccan deserts it is easy to find small traditional settlements where you can appreciate their lifestyle, gastronomy and art.

While the men and boys look after the cattle, the women of the Berber tribes prepare the food and make handicrafts that are later sold in the traditional souks, such as the one in the Medina of Marrakech. On an excursion to the villages you can learn how the designs of the tapestries reflect their most ancient customs and traditions.

Another peculiarity is that, in the lowlands, the Berbers of the desert are mostly nomadic. Composed of tribes of families, they move throughout the desert following the seasonal cycles of their ancestors.

What to bring for your visit to the desert?

Travel Baggage| ©Dids
Travel Baggage| ©Dids
  • A backpack or shoulder bag should be enough to carry everything you need.
  • The clothes you wear in the desert need to be functional. Use breathable materials, linen and cotton clothing, as well as long sleeves to keep your skin protected from the sun as much as possible.
  • Sunglasses, caps and hats are also necessary to protect you from the sun.
  • If you spend the night in the desert wear socks, the nights in the desert can be cold even in the summer. And if you go in winter wear warm clothes.
  • The appropriate footwear will always be sneakers or hiking boots. Forget sandals if you walk on the sand and if you take camel rides.
  • Additional equipment such as a small first aid kit and a portable charger for your cell phone.