2 days trip to the Merzouga Desert (Sahara)
One of the must-do things to do in Morocco is to visit the Sahara. Whether you are staying in Fez, Marrakech or other cities, from any of these you can go on an excursion to the Merzouga Desert. Merzouga is a village in the Sahara and is the closest to the area of the sand dunes. Unlike most people think, not all of the desert is covered with sand. In Morocco this is found only in one area, with huge sand dunes. The group of these dunes is called Erg Chebbi and is one of the most incredible places we’ve been to. In this post we will share with you our experience and everything you need to know to organize your trip to the desert.
Where is Merzouga?
The Merzouga Desert is located in the southeastern Morocco, close to the border with Algeria. It is 454 km away from Fez and 557 km away from Marrakesh. It’s a long journey from either of these two cities, but we guarantee it’s worth it.
How to go to Merzouga from Fez?
We stayed in Fez during our time in Morocco. There are many agencies and self-employed drivers who organize both private and group excursions. If you want to rent a car you can go on your own to the desert. The only inconvenience in the case of going by car is that there is a stretch just before arriving at Erg Chebbi, where you have to go in a 4X4 car because there you have to leave the road and the ground is irregular. Another option is to go by bus. We didn’t use this type of transportation, but other travelers told us about the experience they had going by bus. Although this is the cheapest option to get to the desert, the journey takes a long time.
How long does it take to get there?
Although there are only 454 km between Fez and Merzouga, it took us about 8 hours to get there. Morocco’s roads are not like the european ones and you have to go slower. On the other hand we hired a driver and made several stops along the way to see other sites as well. Going directly from Fez to Merzouga takes less time. From Marrakech it takes approximately 9 hours by car. As we mentioned before, the bus option is the cheapest, but as far as we were told it takes about 10 hours to get there from Fez. If you have enough time to spend in Morocco and you’re looking for the cheapest way to get there, the bus can certainly be a good option.
How to book the excursion?
We left Madrid without having this trip booked. We looked at several websites and agencies, but all of them seemed overpriced. We were told that booking the excursion in Fez it would be easier and much cheaper because there are many companies who organize these trips and also because there you can negotiate. After visiting all the agencies in Fez and contacting a thousand drivers by WhatsApp, we realized that the prices were the same as the ones we had seen online. Finally we talked about it with the staff at our riad and they recommended a driver. He charged us the same as everybody else, but at least he was trustworthy. Knowing this, the next time we will book the trip before going and this way we will avoid going around the medina in search of lower prices. Here are some options to book the desert tour. There are options to travel from Fez, but also from Marrakesh.
How much does the excursion cost?
For the excursion we wanted to do, 2 days with one night in a Berber camp, the prices were between €130 and €170 per person. We paid €140 to the driver who was recommended to us. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but the price includes several things.
What is included in the price of the excursion?
The price includes the round trip from Fez, the 4X4 car to the dunes, the night in a Berber camp with traditional dinner, breakfast the following day and camel ride from the entrance of the dunes to the camp (duration is about 1h) round trip.
Is it worth a trip to the desert?
Without a doubt: yes! On the two days of our trip we experienced incredible moments, met local people and other travellers and immersed ourselves in the Moroccan culture. As we mentioned before, we started our trip in Fez early in the morning. The first stop was a forest where we saw monkeys in the wild, we were able to get close to them and even feed them. The second stop was in Ifran, a city that looks more like a city from the Swiss Alps than a Moroccan city. At noon we stopped for lunch in a typical Moroccan restaurant and then continued to the Middle Atlas where we stopped to admire the scenery from the top of the mountain. The last stop before reaching the desert was the oasis of Valleé de Ziz where we saw a palm tree river. It is literally the basin of a river which is several kilometers long and full of palm trees. In the afternoon we arrived to Merzouga. There are several Kabbash hotels there which are used by travel agencies. If you go with suitcases or a big backpack, the hotel stores your luggage until the next morning when you return from the dunes. This is where we grabbed the camels and went towards the huge dunes along with our desert guide. During the journey through the dunes we saw a beautiful sunset riding our camels. Shortly afterwards we arrived at the campsite where we were assigned a tent and joined the other travelers around the bonfire. Dinner, prepared by people living in the desert, was simple but very tasty. There were even cats in the camp and they wandered around the tables in search of food and cuddles. After dinner, the camp staff gave us one of the best experiences of this trip: a “concert” with drums and Berber music. For a moment each one of the people in the camp felt like one of them. We sang, learned to play the drums and danced around the bonfire. Later we took a blanket from our tent and went to see the stars lying on a dune. We will never forget the moment when we walked outside the camp and saw the sky as a dome full of stars and the Milky Way. For us this was one of the best experiences of our lives.
The second day we woke up before dawn to see the sunrise from one of the highest dunes. We went there by camel and saw one of the most beautiful sunrises ever. Then we went back by camel to the hotel where we had stopped the day before. There we had breakfast, took a shower and began the trip back to Fez.
So, what do you think? Is this trip worth it?
One of the things we wish we had known before hiring this trip is that 2 days is not enough. We wish we had spent at least one more night in the Berber camp. If you travel to Morocco with enough time, we recommend you to save at least 3 days for this experience.
We hope that you find this post useful for organizing your trip to the desert and if you have any questions about the trip, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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