Sahara desert Morocco

Sahara desert tour Morocco | 19 things you need to know

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Nothing can prepare you for the majesty of the Sahara desert. The stillness, the velvet soft sand and the golden dunes that seemingly stretch out for miles and miles.

Staying overnight at a desert camp in the Sahara desert has been on my travel bucket list for years. I was so thrilled to finally tick it off when I was travelling in Morocco.

The Sahara desert is one of the vastest and beautiful deserts in Africa and is worth

Taking a Sahara desert tour from Marrakech is one of the best Morocco tours you can do but only if you choose the right tour.

Sahara desert tour Morocco

Sahara desert tour Morocco

Trust me when I say that not all Sahara desert trips are created equally and it really is the case that you get what you pay for in Morocco.

There are many tour companies in Morocco offering Sahara desert trips and not all of them will provide you with a great experience. 

Sahara desert tour

With a little research though, you can be better prepared to book a Sahara desert tour with a reputable company, so that you can have the best desert experience possible.

Read my guide to 19 things you need to know before booking a Sahara desert tour and get ready to be inspired. 

Book your Sahara desert tour online

This is probably my number one tip for booking a Morocco desert tour. I definitely recommend you spend time researching desert trips online to find the right one for you.

I would also recommend booking a 3-day Morocco desert trip, to get the most out of the experience. 

All 3 day Sahara desert trips should include transportation, camel trekking, 2 overnight stays and some meals. 

Book saraha desert trip online

Book your Sahara desert tour from Marrakech online 

The reason I advocate for booking online is that you can check reviews of the tours and the company in advance.

This way you know exactly what to expect on your trip. Yes, it will be more expensive than haggling for a tour in Morocco, but there are massive benefits to booking online with a company with an established reputation. 

Researching Sahara desert tours online is how we found the company we went on our trip with.

Book Sahara desert trip online Morocco

Marrakech to Merzouga 3-Day desert Safari

We booked a Marrakech to Merzouga 3-Day desert Safari with Ando Travel, through Get your Guide, for just £93 per person. 

This particular desert tour had loads of great reviews from customers, so we decided to book with them. 

We ended up having a fantastic time on our group desert tour with Ando Travel. I would really recommend booking a tour with them through Get your guide.

This is so you can have online booking bonuses such as free cancellation up to 24 hours before your tour starts.

The Sahara desert is really far away from Marrakech

Like, really far away, practically on the border to Algeria in fact. If you are looking at visiting Erg Chebbi, the giant dune that tourists love, this is not a day trip guys.

Most desert trips are based in Merzouga on the edge of the vast Sahara desert. Merzouga is around 350 miles from Marrakech through some pretty crazy mountain roads. 

Atlas mountain roads Morocco

I would definitely book a 3-day Sahara trip to make the most out of your time in the desert.

These group tours vary in price depending on whether you are going super budget or super luxury?

There are several luxury Sahara tours available if you have the budget? 

If you are short on time, I would recommend booking a 2 day Zagora Desert tour.

This way, that you can have the experience of a camel ride at sunset without going to the other side of Morocco.

Camel ride sunset Morocco

You will spend a lot of time in a minibus

As mentioned, the Sahara Desert is crazy far from Marrakech, so it’s important to manage your trip expectations properly.

The trip from Marrakech to Merzouga is around 12 hours of driving in a van each way. 

The journey will have multiple stops on the way as well as an overnight hotel stay before you reach the desert camp in Merzouga.

If you are the sort of person who loathes long bus journeys, then I hate to break it to you, but this is not the trip for you. 

If you aren’t put off, I would recommend that you pack some entertainment for the trip.

I would definitely invest in some decent wireless headphones with long battery life as well as a Kindle, to store lots of books on. 

Make sure to check with the company you book with that your transport has air conditioning. Trust me, you will need it in the desert heat. 

This is another reason to book online, so you can check out reviews of the company/transport beforehand. 

group tour Sahara desert bus

The drive through the High Atlas mountains is incredible

The dizzying journey through the winding Atlas mountains is definitely worth 12 hours in a van and the inevitable, accompanying nausea. 

To get to the Sahara desert you have to drive through Ouarzazate, known as the Gate of the Sahara.

High Atlas mountain pass

This mountain pass lies between the great Marrakech Plains and the gateway of the Sahara Desert. 

If you have booked a decent Sahara tour, your driver should do several photo stops so that you can get some incredible panoramic shots.

I would definitely recommend buying a GoPro Hero 8 or a DJI Osmo Pocket for this trip and get some awesome mountain road videos with hypersmooth stabilisation!

Make sure to check what is included in your desert tour

This is a really important one guys, especially if you are negotiating your trip whilst in Morocco, on the fly. 

Our Marrakech to Merzouga 3-Day Desert Safari included transportation, camel trekking in the desert, 1 night at a hotel, 1 night at the Bedouin desert camp and some meals.

Sahara desert tour hotel

Our tour did not include local guides at stops, beverages, lunches, tips to driver, personal expenses and souvenirs. 

Desert tour extra costs

Find out exactly what is included in your desert tour so that you know exactly what is included in your trip and what extras you need to pay for.

This is really helpful when it comes to budgeting for the trip. Our additional costs were things like:

  • 25 MAD for a guided tour of Ait Ben Haddou [approx £2]
  • 100 Mad for a traditional Tuareg scarf, for the desert trek [approx £8]
  • 120 Mad for a set menu for lunch [approx £10]
  • 50 Mad tip for Todgha Gorges tour [approx £4]
desert scarf sahara

Lunch will be at a tourist hotspot

As with most group trips, the lunch stops will be at a slightly lacklustre, overpriced tourist spot. I find this to be the case with a lot of group tours.

There really isn’t any other option on a Sahara desert group tour, you will be taken to a restaurant for lunch and is likely to have a set menu. 

The lunch stops on our tour actually weren’t that terrible considering, the food was passable given that it was a tourist trap.

We actually shared a set meu as often we found a large tagine, starters and fruit were more than enough to share between us.

This also saved us a little money as well and is a good budget tip, if you don’t have a huge appetite. 

The guided tours are surprisingly insightful

We had a few stops along the way on our desert tour including the UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou.

This unbelievable site is famous for its Kasbah and fortified village and looks like a film set. Which is probably why it’s been used as a film set on many occasions. 

We had a guided tour of Ait Ben Haddou that only cost 25 MAD per person [approx £2].

This tour contained lots of interesting information about the history of the traditional Mud Brick city, located on the edge of the Atlas Mountains.

If you are a film geek, you’ll love all the insider info on how they filmed epics such as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and most recently, Game of Thrones.

I was proper geeking out hearing all about how it was used as the slaving city of Yunkai, that Daenerys Targaryen laid siege to in Game of Thrones.

Bring cash on your desert trip

The currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD) and you will definitely need to bring some MAD with you on your desert trip.

This is because Morocco is a country that primarily uses money instead of cards, especially in day to day purchases.

Do not expect the tiny cafe on the side of the Atlas mountains to take Mastercard. If anything, they won’t even accept large notes half the time.

ATM’s will also be scarce in most of the stops on the desert tour, so make sure to take out money before you start your tour. 

Someone will try and sell you a carpet

As with any group tour, you are a captive audience with little control of your schedule.

Inevitably in Morocco, this means you will be taken to a carpet shop, there’s no point fighting it, it’s going to happen. 

Accept that you will have to drink gallons of mint tea and hear about the wonders of Berber carpets.

Morocco carpet shop desert tour

Berber carpet shop

On our tour, we were taken to a “traditional Berber carpet shop”, [aren’t they all?]

We had to sip outrageously sugary mint tea and politely listen as the carpet shop owners extolled the many virtues of owning a Moroccan rug.

In all fairness, the shop owners didn’t give us the hard sell and were pretty gracious when not a single one of us wanted to buy a carpet.

Again, this is why it’s important to research your desert trip. We only had one carpet stop on our trip luckily.

I’ve heard from other travellers though, that their desert tour was basically a non-stop carpet tour. Which frankly sounds like my idea of hell. 

Pack a small bag for the desert

When you arrive at the Merzouga, you will be told to just bring a small bag to the desert camp and leave your big bag on your bus.

This is because you will be riding a camel to the dunes for sunset and then going on to the Bedouin desert camp for the night.

You will have to carry your possessions on a camel with you so pack light.

I recommend a small backpack that has a change of clothes, water, camera, snacks and any valuables you don’t want to leave on the bus. 

Camel trekking in the Sahara is a unique experience 

Riding a camel as the sun sinks behind gigantic sand dunes is an experience that will never leave me. 

The slow plodding along of these beautiful camels up and down the dunes is a fun experience, though can be very sore on one’s derrière, to be honest.

The camels were treated very gently by their handlers. This is something we properly researched before booking our trip. 

Be aware that you are not in charge of your camel, the camels are all connected together in a long line and led by camel handlers. 

This means there’s a lot less chance of your camel going rogue and suddenly breaking into a run, [if camels can actually run? I’m not sure about this?]

Sunset in the Sahara desert is unreal

Sunset over the Erg Chebbi dunes of the Sahara desert is a once in a lifetime experience. 

On a desert tour, you ride your camel into the dunes, leaving signs of civilisation behind. 

sunset in the Sahara desert

I would recommend climbing to the top of the dunes to get the best sunset view and golden hour photos for Instagram.

I promise you, you will look magnificent in any desert photos when you are bathed in lovely desert light, as the sun sinks below the golden dunes.

Sunset photography Sahara desert

What I loved the most was the stillness of the desert. I really enjoyed sitting at the top of a sand dune with Luke and absorbing the quiet of the Sahara. It was one of the best evenings i’ve experienced in a while. 

The Bedouin desert camp is basic but nice

We stayed in the ‘budget option’ Bedouin desert camp on our tour and it was actually a lot better than I expected.

The camp is divided up into fairly sturdy tents that have proper beds in them, definitely a more comprehensive set up than I was preparing myself for. 

There is also toilets, a separate tent where dinner is served and a campfire area. 

Desert camp Sahara desert Morocco

Desert Camp Sahara 

We were served a pretty nice tagine dinner at our desert camp. We were then treated to a campfire with some traditional Moroccon music and singing.

The desert camp staff are rather insistent in us joining in with the singing and dancing.

Sahara desert camp fire

Admittedly, this felt a bit ‘Christian rock camp’ after a while. Especially if you are completely sober because you forgot to bring wine.

Like more travel experiences though, the important thing is just to go with it and have fun. 

Desert camp Sahara

See incredible stars in the Sahara Desert

If you are into stargazing and astrophotography, then you will be dazzled by the stars in the Sahara desert. 

The Sahara desert is a brilliant place to stargaze as the sky is usually clear, so you should see lots of stars. 

See incredible stars in the Sahara Desert

If you can brace the cold night temperatures of the desert, sit outside and see if you can spot the many constellations, planets, shooting stars and the Milky Way.

If you love travel photography, definitely bring a GoPro and see if you can capture a night lapse of the stars 

Bring bottled water to the desert camp

I cannot stress this enough guys, you need to pack your own bottled water in your small bag for the overnight desert camp, as there is no water there.

Luckily our bus driver reminded us several times and stopped at a shop just before we got to the desert, so we could buy water.

I’ve heard stories from other travellers [on more shoddy desert trips], that they weren’t informed of this. These poor travellers then rocked up with no water at all for the evening as a result. 

There is no wine in the desert

Surprisingly, it turns out there there is no mini bar in your desert camp tent. So, if you wish to drink booze at the desert camp, you’ll need to bring it with you.

I recommend getting your drink of choice before you embark on your journey. It’s going to be a lot easier to buy adult beverages in places like Marrakech than it is from tiny Berber villages.

Whilst the desert camp staff appear to be fine with people bringing booze to the camp, remember to be respectful of the local culture.

No one wants to hear you sing “Roxanne” shirtless, whilst swigging from a bottle of cheap gin.

Keep the drinking sensible guys and remember, you will also be awoken crazy early for your sunrise camel trek. 

The Sahara desert is freezing cold at night

The Sahara desert temperature at night is super cold, so come prepared. Bring lots of warm layers and thermals.

Pack warm socks, leggings, tops, and a hat. Especially if you are visiting Morocco in Winter.

Sahara desert night temperature

Whilst the Sahara Desert can be crazy hot by day At night the temperatures drop dramatically and can be freezing cold, especially in winter. 

Try Dare2B for affordable thermals for the desert. They have a range of reasonably priced outdoor and thermal wear that won’t break the bank. 

You can travel onwards to Fes 

If you want to travel onwards to Fes from Merzouga, rather than return to Marrakech. This will need to be arranged in advance with the tour company.

The most common way is for you to get a shared taxi from Merzouga to Fes, which takes around 8 hours. Make sure to ask the tour company for transport costs to Fez. 

Alternatively, you can always book a Marrakech to Fes, 3-Day Desert tour. This is the less stressful option your journey will already be organised and paid for. 

Manage your desert trip expectations 

This one is crucial to your enjoyment of the trip. Yes, the Sahara desert is magical but it is an arduous journey to get there.

You will spend many hours in a minibus with a group that you may or may not get along with. 

There will be tourist trap restaurants, carpet shop trips, tips to be paid and you will have no control of your schedule.

It’s really important to be fully aware of these things before booking your desert trip. This way, you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. 

Is a Sahara desert trip worth it?

Despite the very long journey and group tour elements, I personally think it’s worth the trip to experience the Sahara desert. 

The landscape is insanely beautiful and the sunset is utterly dreamy. It was a really romantic trip for me and Luke and one we won’t forget. 

Admittedly, his trip isn’t for everyone and it’s a long way to go if you are short on time in Morocco.

I would advise that you do lots of research and decide if a desert trip is right for you and your travel companions. 

What do you think of my Sahara desert tour tips? Would you visit this incredible part of Morocco? Let me know in the comments below.

is a Sahara desert trip worth it?

Planning your trip to the Sahara Desert

Ready to book your trip to the Sahara Desert? Use these awesome travel resources to get you started:

Check out all the best travel resources on my bumper travel resources page!

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