The desert of Marrakech in one day

Imagine being able to enjoy a quiet stone desert, a peaceful lake, typical food and a mountain plateau in just one day. Experiencing the Marrakech desert in just one day is possible if you know what places to visit and how to do it.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

The desert of Marrakech in one day

Caravan in the Sahara Desert, Morocco | ©Linus Mimietz

Agafay is the only desert near Marrakech that allows you to have a one-day adventure and return to the city. It is a desolate and rocky wasteland just 40 minutes drive from the city.

Normally when we refer to the desert and talk about the desert of Marrakech, it is actually the Sahara desert and the two large dune fields or Ergs that are at the ends of Morocco.

Getting to either of these destinations from Marrakech requires a long drive. The Zagora desert requires a minimum 2 day trip while getting to Merzouga requires a minimum 3 day trip. So, instead of visiting the Great Moroccan Sahara Desert you can opt for the Agafay Desert. Here's how you can take a day trip to the desert and enjoy all its goodness.

The most comfortable option

Marrakech Desert Tour with Dinner

Enjoy a unique excursion in the middle of the desert with transfer included.

Enjoy a typical Moroccan dinner outdoors or in a tent. Live a special experience in the desert and take home a different souvenir of your trip to Morocco.

Enjoy booking this perfect experience to escape a bit from the hustle and bustle of the city of Marrakech. The 6-hour excursion will take you to the Agafay desert, where you can enjoy an exclusive traditional dinner. The menu has several options for all tastes and you can choose to taste it under the stars, or in an exclusive tent.

This option includes round trip transfer from your accommodation in Marrakech to the desert and is ideal to share with your partner, friends or family.

Recommended want to do an activity out of the ordinary, without going far and long away from the city.

Visit the Berber villages and the eucalyptus forests

In Aït Benhaddou Kasbahs| ©Abdel Charaf
In Aït Benhaddou Kasbahs| ©Abdel Charaf

From the starting point at your hotel in Marrakech stop on your way to Agafay to enjoy the Berber villages and eucalyptus forests located on the outskirts of the city. Strolling through these forests you can take the opportunity to enjoy the wild diversity of the area and then make stops in the Berber villages that will allow you to soak up the local culture and learn more about the dynamics of Moroccan daily life.

  • If you go on your own: The Berber villages outside Marrakech are by taking Avenue Guemassa; you turn right at the Shell fuel station. For a 29 minutes drive.
  • If you go on an organized tour: Some desert tours include a stop in the Berber villages just before reaching the final destination in Agafay and pick-up at a hotel in the Medina of Marrakech is included as part of the itinerary.

Book your Marrakech desert excursion

Arrival in Agafay desert

In the Agafay Desert| ©Nicolò Melandri
In the Agafay Desert| ©Nicolò Melandri

Once you have finished your walk through the Berber villages, it is time to join the stony desert closest to Marrakech: the Agafay Desert. At certain times of the year the desert is covered with rare wild flowers and barley wheat; however, in the summer and autumn seasons the stone dunes that descend from the High Atlas Mountains cover the entire area emulating an authentic desert landscape. If you visit Marrakech in the summer, consider in your itinerary a stop in Agafay.

  • If you go on your own: The drive from the Berber villages to Agafay will take about 20 minutes by taking Guemassa Avenue.
  • If you go on an organized excursion: Excursions to the Agafay desert always include transportation from the center of Marrakech.

Camel ride in Agafay

Camel ride in the Agafay Desert| ©Sean Cundy
Camel ride in the Agafay Desert| ©Sean Cundy

Camel riding remains the most requested activity by travelers; no visit to the desert would be complete without a camel ride through its desolate wastelands.

The one-humped dromedary camel has been, throughout Morocco's history and continues to be to this day, the means of transport for many of its inhabitants. These fabulous creatures, besides having a gentle and docile character, have adapted to the most hostile desert and pre-desert environments being a faithful ally of man.

You will not find sand dunes of Agafay, but it will be a tour you will never forget. An expert guide will lead the group of animals through the stone dunes to enjoy both the landscape and the High Atlas Mountains in the background.

  • If you go on your own: From your arrival in the Agafay desert you will find several options of companies that offer excursions on camels. Some alternatives you can explore are Chameau Marrakech, Circuit Maroc, Agafay Camel Ride or Transfert Marrakech.

  • If you go on an organized tour: Most day trips to the Agafay desert include in their itinerary a camel ride or a quad tour in the dunes, so you don't have to worry.

Book your Marrakech desert excursion

Lunch in Berber tents in the desert

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

Under the shade of a beautiful Berber tent enjoy traditional Moroccan food. Take a seat, rest from your morning walk and soak up the tranquility of the desert; going to the desert for lunch or dinner under the stars is a very popular excursion from Marrakech as it allows tourists and locals to escape for a while from the noise of the big city.

  • If you go on your own: Near the main road R212 you will find several options of campsites in the desert that offer breakfast, lunch and dinner in Berber tents. One easily accessible suggestion is Agafay Inn Luxury Camp. The house specialty is marinated beef with prunes and almonds, accompanied by a traditional tajine. They also offer a varied wine list.
  • If you go on an organized excursion: Try to find an excursion to Agafay whose main focus is the experience of dinner or lunch in the desert. This way you hire the food service with transportation to and from your hotel in the city.

Book your excursion to the desert of Marrakech

Get to Lake Takerkoust

Lake Takerkoust| ©Trysk
Lake Takerkoust| ©Trysk

The Lalla Takerkoust is an artificial reservoir created by the hand of man. It was built during the French protectorate era to provide electricity to the region. Man-made or not, the truth is that the lake is a great way to connect with nature especially if you have been walking the chaotic streets of Marrakech for many days.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Agafay during the summer months or hot season in Morocco you will see tourists and locals enjoying the large expanse of water where you can do all kinds of activities.

  • If you are on your own: From your location in the desert of Agafay take a two minute stretch of road on the Avenue Guemassa. Until you find the exit to the road P2013 on the right. In a straight 24 minutes drive you will be at the entrance of the lake.
  • If you go on an organized excursion: From Marrakech, day trips are constantly organized to enjoy the lake and its surroundings. The excursions include the round trip to and from your hotel in the center of Marrakech.

Visit the Takerkoust Dam

Lake Takerkoust Dam| ©TheLakeandsurroundings
Lake Takerkoust Dam| ©TheLakeandsurroundings

The impressive Lalla Takerkoust Dam is located right at the opening point of the lake, it is about 60 meters high and has a total width of 350 meters. The dam functions as the gateway to the impressive artificial lake whose imposing 7-kilometer-long body of water contrasts with the surrounding desert landscape. From the dam you will have a breathtaking view of the Atlas Mountains; you can take it as a good photo spot.

Enjoy all that the lake has to offer

Enjoying the Takerkoust Lake| ©Kamal Hammadi
Enjoying the Takerkoust Lake| ©Kamal Hammadi

Lalla Takerkoust is among the favorite recreational spots for Moroccans. A visit to its waters is among the best things to see and do in Marrakech, especially in the warmer months, because of the many entertainment options you can find both in the lake and in the surrounding desert.

In the crystal clear waters of the lake you can enjoy water activities such as jet skiing, a leisurely ride in a pedal boat, windsurfing, rowing or canoeing. Many excursions are organized in the surroundings, additionally if you want to improve your skills in the practice of some water sport you will have the opportunity to hire a qualified instructor. Some companies that offer equipment rental are:

Or if you prefer choose land activities

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

If you like quieter activities you can opt for a ride on a quad or motorcycle to do some ecotourism, get to know the surrounding nature or visit the nearby Berber villages. In the surroundings of the lake you can find several companies dedicated to renting the necessary equipment to carry out these activities, here are some alternatives:

Book your favorite activity in the desert of Marrakech

Meet Dar Zagora

Touring Dar Zagora| ©Dar Zagora
Touring Dar Zagora| ©Dar Zagora

Dar Zagora is located right next to the Lalla Takerkoust reservoir, it is nicknamed "The House of Artists" because it is the space where artists, mainly of Moroccan or French origin, exhibit their works. You can find: monumental sculptures in wrought iron, recycled metal pieces of the artist Jalil, an open gallery overlooking the central courtyard displays beautiful works and portraits. The drive from the lake to Dar Zagora will take you only 4 minutes by car.

Enjoy a sunset in the desert

Sunset in the Moroccan Desert| ©Daniel Cavalcante
Sunset in the Moroccan Desert| ©Daniel Cavalcante

Take advantage of your stay in Dar Zagora or retrace your steps to the lake to enjoy a delicious Moroccan mint tea while admiring the sunset over the waters of the lake and between the High Atlas Mountains. This is one of the most perfect views the desert has to offer so I recommend you bring your camera ready to take great pictures.

How to get to the Agafay desert?

Private transportation to the desert| ©Julia Volk
Private transportation to the desert| ©Julia Volk

From Marrakech you can reach the Agafay Desert using the following means:

Tour to the Agafay desert and surroundings

Opt for an organized tour that takes you to the most popular destinations without worrying about planning anything else. The tours to the Agafay desert and surroundings are designed so that the traveler can enjoy an authentic desert experience by getting to know as much as possible.

Cab transportation

A cab will take you from your hotel in Marrakech to the tents located in the Agafay desert. Many cab services in Marrakech also include some stops to visit markets and authentic Berber villages. However after your arrival in the desert some activities may be limited due to lack of transportation.

Private rented transportation

You may choose to rent your own vehicle as a way to get to your first destination. However this option is only recommended if you have experience moving around Marrakech and its surroundings.

Transportation by bus

The cheapest option on the list but also the one with the most disadvantages. Although you can take the bus from the terminal in Marrakech and get off at a stop near the location of the desert camps, the option of walking in the desert does not seem very pleasant to me.

What should I bring to visit the desert of Marrakech in one day?

Sunscreen| ©Onela Ymeri
Sunscreen| ©Onela Ymeri

I consider it important to always carry an easy to carry backpack and in it include the following equipment:

  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen with a high sun protection factor
  • Lip balm with sun protection factor
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat or cap
  • Wet wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic garbage bag
  • A high-protein snack or sandwich
  • Camera
  • Portable charger for your equipment

As for the clothes you should wear on your desert excursions. Take into consideration the following:

  • Use cool, natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen.
  • Wear long sleeves to avoid burning under the sun.
  • Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes to protect your feet.

Book your excursion to the desert of Marrakech