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Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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,

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

As I mentioned, I'm not being picky about the age group. I just want to get in with a group so that I don't pay the rate of 4 people when I'm only 1.

I was hoping to have everything booked prior to departure, but I guess I'll have to wait if I can't find anything.

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

I am agree, if you will go with some group it is better to wait to Marrakech and there choice whit who you will go, your accommodation there can help you to find something suitable for you.

Marrakech, Morocco
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43. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

The Tizi and Tichka pass cutting through the Atlas Mountains even though pave and good road can be quite difficult to drive on. The other day for the first time I have traveled the road from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, it took me over 6 hours to drive without a single stop. The road was full of trucks and it was very difficult to pass them due to many curves on the road. When I have traveled the road as passenger with a professional driver that knows every curve of the road it took little over 3 hours. The drivers know the roads well and know when it is safe to pass the trucks or busses. They also know the areas that are good for picture taking. The trip is much more authentic when you select a good company that have friendly and thoughtful drivers as they point interesting sights that you might miss driving alone, and also share good stories and culture of Morocco.

Also note that if you decide to visit the sand dune of Erg Chigaga by M'hamid, 4x4 WD is a MUST. These sand dunes are located about 60km off road through rocky plains that eventually changes into the fine sand of the Sahara Desert. If you decide to travel on your own, either rent a 4x4 WD with a good GPS system as you do not want to get lost in the desert. Or hire a 4x4 WD with a guide/driver in M'hamid. Or of course you can book tour from Marrakech. Again 3 days is necessary for such a trip, but 4 are more ideal due to the distance involved.

Depending on the company, of course, but the tours to the Sahara Desert are not expensive especially if there is party of 4 or more traveling on the trip. You can get better and unique, authentic experience and save time, enjoy the scenery better (not worrying for driving) and it is very cost effective.

Derby, UK
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44. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Would a 2 day trip from Marrakech really be that bad? I've found a couple of companies that offer this service involving leaving early one day. Stopping every 4 hours or so and seeing sights such as Tamegroute and the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou sounds like it's doable for a once in a lifetime experience that won't eat into the rest of the holiday.

The four of us going are all in our mid-20s and very good friends so I don't think the journey would be too arduous but I could be being naive?

Thanks in advance for replying.

Edited: 11 July 2011, 21:33
East Gwillimbury...
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45. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Hi and welcome!

Yes...A 2 day trip would be brutal. You will spend the better part of 20 hours of 48 hours driving in a vehicle...watching the world go by.

They will probably be long, hot driving days and you won't have a great deal of time for stops, which means that you will miss out on the majority of sites in-between Marrakech and the desert. Plus, you won't have any real time in the desert, which is the point of the whole trip, right?

My advice would be to take AT LEAST 3 days for the trip; longer if you can.

cheers

Cardiff, United...
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46. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

Hi Chomboner, 2 days to get to the desert and back is a not a good idea. Yes you could possibly do it (not sure about stopping too much though) but at the end of it, you will not get the experience you are after.

I love doing extreme challenges and fitting as much as I can into a holiday, the desert experience should be done at a relaxed pace, stopping at sites in a relaxed manner, looking around and taking in the experience. I would be thinking exactly like you if I hadn't done the experience myself, "how bad can it be driving for 20 hours in 2 days", trust me, it is not worth it.

The trip you talk about will be so rushed, you will have a look at a site and then be forced back into your vehicle and onto the next place, it will be the same when you get to the desert, you will be pushed out of the vehilce, onto the camels, then you will have a 1½ hour camel ride to the nomad camps.

You must take the extra day to split the journey to Merzouga allowing you to take your time, also on the second day you will get to Merzouga at a good time and not too late in the day, this will mean you will get more time in the nomad tents.

47. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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New York City, New...
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48. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

@Shimmin -

I'm going to Marrakech next month, and my hotel is affiliated with a tour group called Trek Morocco. They definitely have prices for solo travelers because it's mentioned all over their website. Might be worth a look, though I know absolutely nothing about the company...

Edited: 13 July 2011, 14:22
New York City, New...
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49. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

@chomboner:

I was considering doing the 2 day/1 night desert trip for the same reasons as you (camping in desert, once in a lifetime opportunity, etc etc) but after looking at reviews from other websites, I´m going to wait until I arrive to decide if I want to do it. The reviews are all mixed (I googled "overnight desert marrakech reviews"). I only have 3 nights in Marrakech, though, so I´m thinking that I probably won´t go for it unless I come across an incredible deal; so far, the websites´ prices have been quoted at around 60 - 65 euros per person.

50. Re: Info about Desert Trips from Marrakech

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Removed on: 07 August 2011, 16:50