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.
Agafay is the only desert close enough to Marrakech to allow us to have a one-day adventure and return to the city to rest in our hotel. It is a desolate and rocky wasteland just 40 minutes drive from the city.
Although the term Marrakech desert is used interchangeably to refer to the deserts surrounding Morocco, it does not exist as such. What most people refer to when we talk about the Marrakech desert is actually the Sahara desert and the two large dune fields or Ergs that you will find at the ends of Morocco.
Getting to any of these destinations from the city of Marrakech requires a very long trip that not everyone is willing to make. To get to the Zagora desert requires a minimum trip of 2 days while to get to the Merzouga desert requires a minimum trip of 3 days.
So, instead of visiting the Great Moroccan Sahara Desert you can opt for the Agafay Desert. See below, how you can take a day trip to the desert and enjoy all its goodness.
1- Visit Berber villages and eucalyptus forests
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. Walking through these forests you can 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-minute 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.
2- Arrival in the desert of Agafay
Once your walk through the Berber villages is over, 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 a stop in Agafay in your itinerary.
- 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.
3. Camel ride in Agafay
The camel ride 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, in addition to 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 Agafay's sand dunes, 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 of the 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.
4. Lunch in Berber tents in the desert
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.
5. Arrival at Lake Takerkoust
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 an excellent 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.
6. Visit the Takerkoust dam
The impressive Lalla Takerkoust Dam is located right at the opening point of the lake, 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 spot to take pictures.
7. Enjoy all that the lake has to offer
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, due to 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:
8. Or if you prefer choose land activities
If you like quieter activities you can opt for a ride on a quad or motorcycle to do some ecotourism, learn about the nature that surrounds the place or visit the nearest 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:
- Quad Lac et Desert
- Rachid Quad Atlas
- Quad Marrakech
- Quad Atlas Loisiris.
9. Meet 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 by the artist Jalil, an open gallery overlooking the central courtyard displays beautiful works and portraits. The trip from the lake to Dar Zagora will take you only 4 minutes by car.
10. Enjoy a sunset in the desert
Take advantage of your stay at 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 and I recommend you bring your camera ready to take great pictures.
How to get to the Agafay desert?
From Marrakech you can reach the Agafay desert using the following means:
Tour to Agafay desert and surroundings
Opting for an organized tour that takes you to the most popular destinations without worrying about planning anything else. Excursions to the Agafay desert and surrounding areas are designed so that the traveler can enjoy an authentic desert experience by getting to know as much as possible.
Transportation by cab
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 transport for rent
You may choose to rent your own vehicle as a way to get to your first destination. However I only recommend this option if you have experience moving around Marrakech and 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?
I consider it important to always carry a backpack that is easy to transport and to include the following equipment in it:
- Water bottle
- Sunscreen with a high protection factor
- Lip balm with sun protection factor
- A cap or hat
- Wet wipes
- Paper towels
- Plastic garbage bag
- A high-protein snack or sandwich
- Portable charger for your equipment
As for the clothes you should wear on your desert excursions. Take into consideration the following:
- Use cool natural and 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.