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Excursions to the Merzouga Desert in Morocco from Marrakech

If you are ready for a Thousand and One Nights style adventure, the Merzouga desert excursions in Morocco are perfect for you: from luxury camping, camel rides, breathtaking dunes or 4x4 safaris, you will find it all here!

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

8 min read

Excursions to the Merzouga Desert in Morocco from Marrakech

Postcard of the Moroccan Desert | ©Maria Sanchez

Merzouga is a favorite destination for tourists and travelers from all over the world because of its 150 meters high sand dunes that create beautiful images whenever the wind blows. At the foot of the dunes you will find many campsites and amenities that will make your excursion to the desert of Morocco an adventure out of this world. The Merzouga desert offers the perfect setting for unique adventures and today I share with you a list of my favorites.

When talking about Morocco it is almost impossible for us to avoid thinking about the vast desert that accompanies it: the Sahara Desert, the largest desert expanse on our planet, is also the most diverse. In Morocco you will find two major popular desert areas. One of them, the Erg Chebbi desert, is just a stone's throw from the town of Merzouga, which is why many call this city "the Gateway to the Desert''. It is also the reason why the Erg Chebbi desert is commonly known as the Merzouga desert.

1- Excursion to the desert of Merzouga by camel at dawn or dusk

Camel ride in Merzouga| ©Saâd Jebbour
Camel ride in Merzouga| ©Saâd Jebbour

Camel riding in the dunes is an almost mandatory activity if you visit the desert of Merzouga. Depending on the company you hire the tour will start in the late afternoon or early morning.

It takes 30 minutes to reach the sand dunes, the camels should stay about 80 meters from the highest dunes of Merzouga. From here, if you want to enjoy a panoramic view you will have to climb to the top of the dunes in an average 10 minutes walk. If you don't want to climb to the top, the area around the dunes is equally perfect for admiring the sun set or sunrise.

Sunset usually takes about 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to rest and take all the pictures you want. At the end of the experience, you ride your camel back to Merzouga. The tour usually includes an additional stop at a point of interest.

  • Price: approximately 25 € the experience
  • Duration of the excursion: 2 to 2.5 hours on average.
  • Recommended if... You are staying in the town of Merzouga and want to experience a short trip to the desert to see the sunset.

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2- Sunrise excursion with camping and activities in the desert

Campfire in Merzouga| ©Tomáš Malík
Campfire in Merzouga| ©Tomáš Malík

Spending the night in a desert camp is one of the motivations that lead thousands of travelers from all over the world to visit the dunes of Merzouga.

This alternative is particularly interesting for the possibility of being able to combine a night camping under the stars, with a camel ride to see the sunrise in the desert and many other activities. I don't think you can do something similar anywhere else in the world.

How are the camps?

Camping in the desert is an interesting adventure. Apart from how rustic or uncomfortable camping can be for many, the truth is that most of the campsites in the Erg Chebbi desert have a surprising level of luxury.

As a result, the experience of camping under the stars in the Sahara is known as glamping. The range of amenities varies depending on the company you hire and the type of accommodation.

  • With standard accommodation: They offer single bed, dinner, breakfast, camel rides.
  • With deluxe accommodation: They offer large bed, individual bathroom, washbasin, Wifi, tables and chairs inside the Berber tent.

I recommend looking in detail at the accommodation options and prices, since as a general rule those that include a greater number of amenities or additional activities tend to cost a little more.

  • Price: It will depend on the number of nights you spend in the Sahara and the type of camp you choose, camps usually include various price ranges from 40€ to more than 100€ per night.
  • Duration of the excursion: Minimum one day to spend the night in the desert, after that you can hire more nights.
  • Recommended if... You want to live the experience of sleeping under the stars, dining in the desert and riding a camel in the dunes.

Book your excursion to the desert of Merzouga

3- Excursion desert in Safari 4X4

Visiting Hassi Labied| ©bachmont
Visiting Hassi Labied| ©bachmont

You can opt for a 4X4 Safari to move to the dunes of the Merzouga desert and explore the area in a different way. Get ready to explore the dunes accompanied by an expert guide and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the mountains of sand.

In this type of excursion you will discover not only the desert but also the surroundings of Merzouga. The adventure includes stops at points of interest such as: visit the lead mines of Mifis, visit the seasonal lake, meet the nomadic families of the desert or visit the Hassi Labied village with its gardens.

  • Price: These excursions are usually available from 30€.
  • Duration of the excursion: Depending on the stops included in the itinerary they usually last 3 hours or more.
  • Recommended yes... for those who like the most extreme adventure and speed, but also for all those who consider that a camel ride is not their style.

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What to do in Merzouga desert

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

Sandboarding

If your trip to Merzouga includes a few hours of leisure, seriously consider sandboarding on the desert sands. This adventure usually includes professional boards and the necessary safety equipment.

I do not recommend it for amateurs. If you have previous experience on a surfboard or skateboard, sliding down the dunes is another possibility to enjoy the Sahara desert that adrenaline lovers will appreciate.

Enjoy a sunrise in the desert

If you decide to spend the night in one of the camps in Erg Chebbi you should prepare for one of the most important events of the experience: the sunrises in the dunes.

At approximately 06:00 hours we campers get up to sleepily walk through the dunes and admire how the bright red sphere of the sun rises over the dark sand. It is one of the most magnificent spectacles you will ever see in your life, with the biggest and brightest sun your eyes will ever see.

This show can be combined with a camel ride which will save you from having to walk. Many camps include a camel ride at sunrise among their list of experiences.

If you don't see it on your itinerary, you should ask your tour guide or the camp organizers for information beforehand.Tip: Don't wait until the morning of the excursion to investigate or you might miss it.

Take pictures at night

Due to the low light pollution in the area, night photography in the desert is really impressive and the clear sky at night in Erg Chebbi allows you to count billions of stars. If you are a lover of photography and have good photographic equipment, take advantage of your night in the desert to take night shots of one of the most perfect skies on the planet.

A recommendation for people traveling with highly sensitive equipment is to protect it well from sand and wind. Make sure your camera's protective gear is designed to prevent sand and dust from getting inside.

How to get to Merzouga desert in Morocco?

By 4x4 Guided Tour to Merzouga| ©Artur Aldyrkhanov
By 4x4 Guided Tour to Merzouga| ©Artur Aldyrkhanov

First, you should note that the Merzouga desert is located near the town of Merzouga and that getting to this area of Merzouga from Marrakech is not the easiest task. A one way trip can take up to 12 hours depending on the method used.

Option I: Guided tours from Marrakech

My favorite alternative of all. A guided tour from Marrakech is able to free you from worries and the need to plan. It is the perfect alternative if you are visiting the country for the first time and the ideal option for those tourists who wish to have a hassle-free vacation. The minimum price to pay for this experience is 100€.

Option II: Rent your own transport

Although this alternative requires a little more planning on your part, it is a very attractive option, since you can organize your own stops along the way, visit interesting historical points and stay as long as you consider prudent.

Renting a small, simple car in Marrakech will cost you approximately 8 to 10 € per day. Consider as an additional expense the payment of fuel and tolls.

Option III Take the bus route from Marrakech

Some local companies offer bus services from the main Moroccan cities to destinations such as Merzouga. This is an interesting option for those traveling on a tight budget.

Where will you sleep on your trip to Merzouga desert?

Camping in the Desert| ©Jaanus Jagomägi
Camping in the Desert| ©Jaanus Jagomägi

Merzouga is a destination that offers travelers different accommodation options. You can enjoy the goodness and fun of the desert during the day, staying in a comfortable hotel in the village or you can also live an immersive experience camping under the stars in one of the luxury camps located in the desert.

If you decide to stay in the village of Merzouga

The desert is only a 10 minute camel ride away. However, getting to the highest dunes, the most interesting attraction, usually takes 30 minutes on the camel. In any case, the time flies by distracted by the beauty of the landscape.

Camping in the desert

Another alternative is to do Glam Camp, really comfortable luxury camping options that will allow you to spend the night in the Sahara desert surrounded by dunes in the sands of Erg Chebbi.

Some accommodation options worth exploring:

What is the best time of the year to visit the Merzouga desert?

Visiting Merzouga| ©Jeff Jewiss
Visiting Merzouga| ©Jeff Jewiss

The best time to visit Merzouga is between spring and autumn. For these dates the weather in Morocco is usually a little more pleasant which means that the strenuous activities under the sun are more bearable than in the extreme heat of summer.

Take into consideration that spring brings sporadic sandstorms, although tour operators are well equipped to deal with such eventualities.

Many travelers find the warm summer nights in the desert attractive and prefer this time of year to avoid getting cold when the temperature drops. However, the heat of the day can be very exhausting and in some years with extreme heat many operators have been forced to close their tours in the months of July and August.

Winter is another season that tends to attract travelers from all over the world to the Merzouga desert. The presence of clouds in the desert causes the daytime temperature to become very pleasant, however, the nights can be quite cold. If you are a person who can handle low temperatures well, this is an option you may want to consider.

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Other desert excursions

In Zagora| ©gemmmm
In Zagora| ©gemmmm

For other excursion alternatives to the Moroccan Sahara Desert explore this information.