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

No visit to Morocco would be complete without a desert adventure. From camel rides, motorized vehicle excursions, palm groves and breathtaking waterfalls, the route to the Moroccan desert is littered with stunning destinations.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

Best Things to Do in the desert of Marrakech: 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. If you're going to Morocco soon, a visit to the Great Sahara Desert is sure to top your bucket list.

But what's so exciting about visiting the Marrakech desert? What exactly will you be able to 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. Camping under the stars

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

If you arrange your travel itinerary to spend a night in the desert of Marrakech and sleep under the stars, I assure you that you will not regret it! It 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 will understand the avalanche of emotions that can be experienced.

Departing from Marrakech you will find several alternatives of trips to the desert whose intention is to take tourists to any of the three main Moroccan deserts: The desert of Merzouga, the desert of Zagorac and the desert of Agafay. Upon arrival in the desert you will spend the night in special tented camps that various Moroccan companies have set up in the middle of nowhere to provide visitors with certain amenities such as: a comfortable place to sleep, toilet area, seating, warm campfires and much more.

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2. Go sandboarding on the sands

Sandboarding in the desert| ©Maria Borisenko
Sandboarding in the desert| ©Maria Borisenko

If the name seems curious, don't worry, 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 any of the two main sand deserts of the Sahara you will have the opportunity to go sandboarding; you can rent the board and safety equipment in the vicinity of the camps.

If you travel to the desert with friends or family, you can have a great 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.

3. Quad riding 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 and 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 the participants; the participants go in the vehicles in pairs and children under 16 must always be accompanied by an adult.

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

4.A camel ride is not to be missed!

On camel in the Agafay Desert| ©Sean Cundy
On camel 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 demanded activities by travelers you will find hundreds of options available: You can make your camel ride in any of the Moroccan deserts but also 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 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.

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5.Take a sand bath in the desert

Enjoying the desert of Merzouga.| ©Jeremy Bishop
Enjoying the desert of Merzouga.| ©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 to do 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.

6.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 you can enjoy twice as much if you visit the desert with your partner or close family.

To carry out this type of activity departing from the Red City you can choose several alternatives such as: go to the desert of Marrakech on your own or hire an excursion that includes round trip transfer from your hotel in the city.

You will have the opportunity to taste a traditional meal that includes tajine, couscous, salads and cakes; all under the magical blanket of the night if you decide to do this activity after sunset.

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7. Enjoy the sunset or the sunrise

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

The tranquility and infinite beauty of the golden dunes of the desert are unmatched by any other natural spectacle on earth and watching a sunset or sunrise in Morocco is a once in a lifetime experience.

The most fun thing about this activity is that it can be very easily combined with many of the other activities we saw in the list, thus enriching your experience or trip to the magical desert of Marrakech. For example, if you decide to camp in a Moroccan desert during the night you can manage to do a camel ride or a quad ride at sunrise or sunset to enjoy the natural spectacle of the shining over the overwhelming desert landscape.

8.Meet the desert oasis of Morocco

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

The Sahara Desert in Morocco occupies a vast expanse of land. Getting to the desert from Marrakechis notcomplicated due to 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 caravans of camels crossing the desert.

9.Make 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 you can't miss the opportunity to take pictures of the night sky. Whether you are a professional photographer or just an amateur who enjoys magical destinations, the desert of Marrakech is the perfect setting to create stunningly 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, take into account that 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 care of your photographic equipment from the sand; carry lenses and cameras in special cases that prevent dust or particles from entering the interior.

10. Meet the nomadic Berbers of the Sahara

Berber in the Desert| ©Sole Bossio
Berber 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, their gastronomy and their art.

While the men and boys look after the livestock, 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 tapestry designs reflect their ancient customs and traditions.

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

11. Enjoy the Takerkoust Lake and surroundings

Lake Takerkoust| ©Trysk
Lake Takerkoust| ©Trysk

Located 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 get there.

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, the excursions. Some of the establishments available on site are.

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Get ready for your adventure: What to pack for your visit to the Marrakech Desert?

Travel Luggage| ©Dids
Travel Luggage| ©Dids

As you prepare for your desert adventure, consider the following tips:

  • Pack light, 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; wear long sleeves to keep your skin protected from the sun as much as possible.
  • Sunglasses, caps and hats are necessary; again to protect you from the sun.
  • If you are spending the night in the desert pack some socks, desert nights can be cold even in the summer.
  • If you are going to the desert at night during the winter wear warm clothes or you might have a bad time.
  • Proper footwear is always sneakers or hiking boots. Forget about sandals if you will walk on the sand and if you will go on camel rides.
  • If you wear glasses, opt for your frames and leave your contact lenses at the hotel.
  • Additional equipment such as a small first aid kit and a portable charger for your cell phone.