A night in the desert of Marrakech: the best sleeping experiences in the desert

For travelers who dream of enjoying the silence of the desert and the experience of sleeping in a camp under the stars, Marrakech is a destination that offers impressive alternatives. Do you dare to discover them?

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

8 min read

A night in the desert of Marrakech: the best sleeping experiences in the desert

Couple in the Moroccan desert | ©Pavel Danilyuk

On your first visit to Marrakech the first thing you may notice when you are making your list of experiences to live in Marrakech is the large number of tour operators offering excursions to the desert in the most varied ranges of days and prices.

Given this reality, how do you know which one to choose? I leave you with this guide with detailed information on the best experiences to sleep in the desert of Marrakech to help you clear your doubts.

2-day excursion

Zagora Desert 2-Day Trip from Marrakech

Visit the closest desert to Morocco with this complete two-day adventure.

Spend a night in a Berber camp with this 2-day Zagora desert excursion that includes guide, transportation, breakfast, dinner and a camel ride.

Imagine watching the sunset in the desert of Morocco with the Atlas Mountains in the background. This picture is possible with this excursion to the desert of Zagora, about 7 hours from Marrakech and that takes you to discover its dunes for two full days.

The tour starts at your hotel in Marrakech where you will be picked up by an expert guide who will accompany you throughout the excursion. On the way this tour will take you through some cities like Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate, where you will see incredible landscapes. Once you arrive in the desert you will have the opportunity to take a camel ride and spend the night in a Berber settlement. Breakfast and dinner are included.

Recommended if... You want to live an authentic experience in the Moroccan desert in the most comfortable way with an all-inclusive excursion and enjoy at least one magical night under the stars.

3-day excursion

Merzouga Desert 3-Day Trip from Marrakech

Embark on a journey through the Merzouga desert and discover its imposing dunes.

With this 3-day experience you will be able to tour the pearl of the Sahara Desert with transfers, breakfast, dinner, accommodation and activities included.

If one night is not enough for you, a highly recommended option for travelers who have more time in Marrakech is to book this 3-day excursion to the desert of Merzouga with which you can admire the pearl of the desert.

Being further away, about 10 hours from Marrakech, at least two nights are required for this tour, a complete adventure with which you can forget about transfers. In addition, this activity includes breakfasts and dinners throughout the trip, a professional guide, accommodation and a camel ride. When booking you can select the option that includes a quad bike ride or the one that takes you to the beautiful city of Fez.

Recommended if... The idea of lying under the starry desert sky is one of the reasons for your trip to Marrakech and you want to dedicate enough time to this activity but forgetting all the logistics and planning it requires.

We compare the two options

Whether it is to spend a night or two in the desert, the excursions that are organized to the nearest dunes of Marrakech provide you with a complete experience in which to enjoy the scenery. I summarize in the following table what each one includes:

  • Zagora Desert 2-Day Trip from Marrakech
  • From $101
  • 2 days
  • Round trip transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast and dinner included
  • Camel ride
  • Guide
  • No other activities
  • Book now
  • Merzouga Desert 3-Day Trip from Marrakech
  • From $103
  • 3 days
  • Round trip transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast and dinner included
  • Camel ride
  • Guide
  • Other activities
  • Book now

Why choose the two-day Zagora desert excursion?

Campfire in Zagora| ©Jose Noguera
Campfire in Zagora| ©Jose Noguera

Zagora is the closest Moroccan town to the desert of Erg Chigaga, located about 360 kilometers from the city of Marrakech, is an area with dunes of great tourist attraction and with a lot of activities to enjoy.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Zagora Desert

  • Main advantage:

Distance. This destination is closer to Marrakech than its counterpart the Merzouga Desert, making it the ideal choice for those with a limited travel itinerary, but refuse to leave Morocco without experiencing the desert dunes.

  • Main disadvantage:

Zagora's dunes are a bit smaller in comparison. The dunes located just outside Merzouga in the Erg Chebbi desert have a higher concentration of sand so visually they are much more impressive.

How to get to the Zagora desert from Marrakech?

Visiting the desert of Erg Chigaga in the vicinity of Zagora requires a few days of travel through rocky landscapes. In the city of Marrakech you will find organized tours that offer transportation from the hotel, but you also have the option to rent a vehicle or arrange private transportation.

The Erg Chigaga dunes are more than 60 km from the nearest paved road, so once you have arrived in the town of Zagora you should be prepared to visit the sands on a camel or hire a guide in a 4x4 vehicle.

What activities can you enjoy?

The experience of enjoying the Zagora desert will depend largely on the time you have. However, many of the organized excursions include some of the following options:

  • Overnight in a desert camp.
  • Enjoy the dunes of Erg Chigaga in the Zagora desert.
  • Camel rides in the desert
  • Admire the sunrise and sunset over the dunes of Erg Chigaga.
  • Friendly atmosphere, nights in bivouac and traditional dinner around the campfire.
  • Visit the fortified village of Ait Ben Haddou and the film studios in the city of Ouarzazate. Place where productions such as the Game of Thrones saga took place.

Book your excursion to the desert of Zagora

Why choose the Merzouga desert excursion?

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

Merzouga is the destination for those who want to intensely enjoy a unique night in the desert of Marrakech. This is not an isolated opinion, but a common concept that is reaffirmed when you visit its dunes up to 150 meters high.

Let's start with the basic geographical location. Merzouga is the closest town to the Erg Chebbi desert; one of the two great deserts of the Moroccan Sahara along with the Erg Chigaga desert. From this village you move to the final location of a desert camp to enjoy the wonders of the Sahara.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Merzouga Desert

  • Main advantage:

If you are looking for a desert of towering dunes where the concept of time and space seems to transport you to another galaxy, this is the perfect destination for you.

  • Main disadvantage:

You'll need to consider travel time, stops along the way, and rest time. I do not recommend very rushed trips from Marrakech to Merzouga as you will not have time to rest and enjoy your excursions to Erg Chebbi. Full tours usually take a minimum of 3 days including the trip to and from Marrakech, plus some stops.

How to get to the Merzouga desert?

My favorite option for trips with this level of complexity is to hire a tour with a specialized company. If you are going to make an excursion from Marrakech to the village of Merzouga you should know that there is a distance of 550 km with an approximate of 10 hours by car if you do not make stops.

From Marrakech you will find all kinds of excursions to Merzouga that include stops at the most popular and attractive tourist destinations. This means that on your excursion to the desert you can also discover much of Morocco's beauty and culture outside of Marrakech.

Other transportation options include renting a self-drive car or taking the bus.

Where to sleep in the Merzouga desert?

Most of the camps in the Merzouga desert are luxury camps. Even the most economical ones are focused on offering an individual experience that prioritizes comfort, although with the limitations of camping. If you choose one of the luxury camp alternatives you will find the following amenities: individual bathroom in each tent, fully functional shower, and electric fan.

What are the camps like?

In the camps you can do all kinds of fun activities such as camel rides to the dunes to enjoy the sunrise or sunset in the desert; typical dinners at the campfire; sandboarding on the sand and much more.

Book your excursion to the desert of Merzouga

What is the best time to sleep in the desert of Marrakech?

Sleeping tents in the desert| ©lowweek
Sleeping tents in the desert| ©lowweek

The best time to travel to Marrakech. and spend a night in the desert of Marrakech are the months of October to May.

The worst time to spend a night in the desert is from June to August. The heat is so scorching that some excursion companies are forced to close their daytime activities for weeks at a time.

Note that the months of December and January are quite cold. Although the campsites function normally, and the Berber tents are made of dromedary skins that insulate the outside temperature, you should still be prepared with winter pajamas, coats and socks if you visit Marrakech in winter.

What clothes or equipment to bring for a desert tour in Marrakech?

Walking in the Morroco Desert| ©rosey146
Walking in the Morroco Desert| ©rosey146

For ease I have divided the luggage recommendation by sections which I share below. Keep in mind that, depending on the destination you choose and the amount of days your trip will last, the time you will spend on the road will be quite significant, so in general terms dress as comfortable and cool as you can.

For desert tours

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts
  • Wear loose-fitting cotton or linen pants.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. Preferably boots.
  • A baseball cap or sun hat is recommended.
  • Include a scarf or bandana to protect your face from the sand.
  • Always carry something to eat and fresh water.
  • On treks, carry only an easy-to-carry backpack.

For nights in the desert

  • During the night temperatures can drop to zero degrees, so it is advisable to take into account the following...
  • Include a warm hat in your luggage.
  • Include warm clothes and a sweater
  • During the nights you will appreciate some warm socks.

Other useful items

  • Pocket flashlight and spare batteries
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • A sandproof case for your camera
  • Toilet paper
  • Toilet bag with wet wipes
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Portable charger for your cell phone.
  • Garbage bag.

What other destination to visit in the desert of Marrakech?

Visiting Ouarzazate| ©Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Visiting Ouarzazate| ©Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

It's no secret that Morocco is a land capable of providing unparalleled experiences. If you have the time and budget for activities other than a trip to any of the deserts we have listed here, consider Ouarzazate.

Ouarzazate is known as the little Hollywood of Africa. You may have heard of this place, since its kasbah or castles have been the setting for movies and high-budget productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars and Game of Thrones.

This destination is located 200 km from Marrakech, its popularity has made it a stop included in many excursions and tours of the desert.

Some of the attractions and interesting points that you can do during your day in the city of Ouarzazate are:

  • Visit the Kasbah Taourirt. A residential castle made of rammed earth built in the twentieth century.

  • The cinema museum is located just in front of the Kasbah Taourirt.

  • The film studios of Ouarzazate. Unless they are filming a movie the studios can be visited as part of a guided tour.

  • Ait-Ben-Haddou. One of the most interesting places to visit in Morocco and declared a World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful brick citadel and an impressive historical city.

  • Visit the Fint Oasis. From Ouarzazate Fint Oasis with its beautiful palm groves is only 20 kilometers away.

Book your excursion to the desert