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Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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East Gwillimbury...
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Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

While most of southern Morocco is an arid region, if you are looking to find the "real" Sahara (rolling sand dunes with very little vegetation), you will need to travel a fair distance away from Marrakech.

The 2 closest desert areas from Marrakech are Erg Chebbi near Merzouga, and Erg Chiggaga near Mhamid. Erg Chebbi is the more popular of the 2 with travellers, given its higher, colourful dunes, though reports vary concerning the actual heights of the dunes in both places. Both of these areas are a full day's drive from Marrakech (over 500km's); keeping in mind that the speed limit on open roads in Morocco is 80km/h; 60km/h or 50km/h in towns. Expect the total 1-way driving time to these areas to be approximately 9-10 hours with limited stops.

Given the distances involved, it is recommended that the minimum required time to enjoy a desert trip from Marrakech is 4 days/3 nights. Using this plan, it will limit the amount of drive-time in 1 day to around 4-5 hours, and give you the opportunity to actually see some of the country instead of rushing thru and missing out on sights en-route. The round-trip can be done in 3 days/2 nights, however this means that 1 of the days will be a full-day drive without the chance to see anything but sights thru the window of a vehicle. A 2 day/1 night desert trip, while theoretically possible, is not recommended.

Popular overnight stopping places en-route to the desert are Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate, Skoura, the Agdz area, Todra Gorge & Dades Gorge. Hotels & guesthouses can easily be found in all of these areas.

While many travellers choose to hire a tour company or car & driver for desert trips, one can easily hire a rental car and drive themselves. Once outside of Marrakech, the driving is very straightforward, with relatively little traffic, good signs (French & Arabic) and decent road conditions. The Tizi n Tichka Pass over the High Atlas Mtns. is a mountain pass with many twists and turns, but is in good condition, and should only be a potential problem in poor or winter weather.

The only part of a desert trip from Marrakech that *requires* a guide, is the actual overnight desert trek. One can hire camels or 4x4 vehicle for an overnight trip onto the dunes via organized company, local guide or desert hotel/guesthouse. Many can be found and booked online via their website/direct email.

The TripAdvisor forums have MANY of these contacts already listed by travellers, and trip reports also contain excellent info posted by those who have already been. For more detailed info from others already posted, type in key-words (eg. desert tours, desert trek, tour companies, camel trek, etc.) into the Morocco forums Search Box, and one will find many pages of excellent, specific information that has been contributed by your fellow travellers.

A desert camp generally consists of a group of semi-permanent tents, grouped together with a central eating/gathering area and (hopefully) separate toilet/outhouse. Some camps even offer running water, flush toilets and shower! Of course, facilities will vary depending on cost and services offered. Overnight treks usually leave from the edge of the dunes around sunset, and will return in the early morning light, before the heat of the day sets in. Expect to have dinner at camp, and possibly a very light breakfast as well. If you book your trek via a desert hotel, it may be possible to leave luggage in a storage area in the hotel instead of a vehicle overnight. **Be sure to ask all questions regarding services and facilities offered BEFORE you book your desert trek, so that you will not be disappointed upon arrival at camp.

Hopefully this information has been helpful to any potential desert-trekkers. I hope that others will add other useful information as time goes on as well. A Moroccan desert trek is an unforgettable experience, and I hope you have a great time!

Best regards,

Stockholm, Sweden
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31. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

hi spmm, charley wrote to me that Mexico and New Mexico are different that New Mexico is in mountains and there it is colder. On that I only answered that I should shame (joking) because even if I have good knowledge in geography so took I mistake - that was what we wrote, nothing more

East Gwillimbury...
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32. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Guys...I have no greater sway on TA than any other member. No one needs to justify or explain anything to me. Like I said, if you have questions about why posts may have been removed, check out the posting guidelines, the Support Forum, or send a PM to one of the TA Staff.

cheers

33. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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34. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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Rio de Janeiro...
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35. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

My experience:

I went to Morocco last week with my husband. We stayed 2 nights at a riad in the medina of Marrakech and in the 3rd day we left the hotel early (around 7:30AM) and went to the airport to pick up a car the we rented. Then we went straight to Merzouga - about 600 km, 9 hours driving. We only stopped 2 or 3 times at gas stations. It wasn't easy - especially between Marrakech and Ouarzazate, where you drive up and down between the Atlas mountains - but in the end we were ok. My husband said that the worst part was driving in Marrakech - the traffic is insane! But the road was okay, just be careful about people asking for a ride or trying to stop you for any reason. We left Marrakech at 9AM and arrived at the hotel in Erg Chebbi at 6:30PM.

We had booked 2 nights in a hotel in the dunes of Erg Chebbi - one night in a room and the other night in a tent, with a camel ride and dinner in the desert. The hotel was great, I was really impressed with the quality of the service and the meals. I won't put the name here because I don't know if it's allowed, but if you want a reccomendation you can contact me. This hotel is not listed on TripAdvisor.

We stayed the 1st day in the hotel resting and then we left to the desert about 4:30 PM. We came back the next day around 6:30 AM, after the sunrise. It was an amazing experience and it was worth the several hours of driving.

Actually the worst part (apart from driving in Marrakech) was driving in a non-pavimented road from the main road in Merzouga to the hotel - 14km of a sandy road in a regular car (not a 4x4) were not comfortable at all! I strongly advise you to do this in a 4x4 - the road to the hotel, not over the dunes, because riding a car in the actual desert disturbs the environment in a way that can end up destroying the dunes in a near future.

After our 2 nights in Erg Chebbi, we went back to Marrakech, but this time we stopped at Ouarzazate to sleep for one night - this was definetely necessary. We couldn't find the hotel that we booked, so we stopped at a hotel in the center or Ouarzazate and stayed there - it was a very basic hotel, but really good especially if you consider the low price. Feel free to contact me for the reccomendation.

Aside from the desert itself, the road was amazing. You pass through a lot of small rural cities and you can see a bit of the life there - the mosques, the kids playing in the streets, the women with their vests, people working in the countryside with goats and camels...

Our stop in Ouarzazate was quite nice, we took a walk in the evening in the local souk, which is not overwhelming as the ones in Marrakech, and local people were much more friendly. We were not disturbed once. The food is also a lot cheaper. It was a much needed escape from the heat and the masses in Marrakech.

Anyway, I really reccomend visiting Erg Chebbi - the sunrise and the sunset n the dunes, the stars at night, the silence... it was an experience that I will never forget.

Singapore, Singapore
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36. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

I'm going to the desert in June, am worried about the heat, but I come from a country where it's average 30C all year round, and humid to boot, so I *hope* it will be alright. I'll be doing a 4D/3N circuit from Ouirgane to Marrakech, staying first night at Dades Gorge, 2nd night in the desert, and final 3rd night in Ouarzazate (going via Rissani, N'kob and Agdz). It looks like a pretty good circuit on paper. I read somewhere that there's a market in N'kob during the weekends. Does anyone know about it? I would love to catch it while I'm passing N'kob.

Hong Kong, China
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37. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

I I don't want to drive the car to through the way to see the desert, what else transportation we can use on? Please kindly to give us some suggestion .Thank you.

East Gwillimbury...
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38. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Hi T-bird,

You can join a tour-group, hire a car & driver, or take a bus. There lots of info about all of these options if your use the forum's "Search Box".

cheers

San Francisco
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39. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Hi there,

I've really been enjoying the Marrakech forums, they've been super helpful with trip planning.

So I would like to base myself in Marrakech, and I'm definitely interested in doing a desert trip. I can't imagine the trip and not doing this!

As of right now, I'm traveling to Morocco solo (SWF in her 30s). So when I've reached out to various tour guides (recommended here), i think I'm getting prices based on a party of 4. At least 500 Euros for 3 days, when most of the websites average 50 Euros per person. So they seem to be charging $50 x 4 x 3 at 600 Euros.

For one thing, I don't really want to go to the desert by myself, or alone with a guide. I think it would be more fun to experience it with a group of people.

Can you recommend any tour guides, or do you know of any tour guides that organize groups of people to travel to the desert from Marrakech? Preferably in their 30s or 40s, but I won't be picky.

Thanks for any recommendations!

marrakech
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40. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Hi jackiebuf,

I doubt you'll find an age specific tour guide or indeed company. Best bet is to search around when you get here or ask your Hotel or Riad to help you.