Visiting the Sahara Desert in Morocco is an experience that stays with you forever. My time in the desert still stands out as the most magical, spellbinding experience of my life to date – and ever since leaving I’ve been dreaming of returning.
Erg Chebbi, the dunes in the Sahara Desert that most people choose to visit, is located a two-day drive from Marrakech. Don’t worry about being bored along the way, though — there are plenty of attractions and sites to keep you entertained, with stops in Berber villages, oases and famous movie sites. Once you arrive in the Sahara Desert, there’s even more fun to be had.
The Erg Chebbi dunes are located forty kilometers from Erfoud, near the town of Merzouga.
Here is our list of the top things to do on a trip to the Sahara Desert:
Visit a Berber Village
It’s inevitable that you’ll pass through multiple Berber villages on your drive to the desert with so many of them located on the edges of the Sahara. It’s well worth spending an hour in at least one of these villages, learning more about traditional (though tourism-influenced) Berber village life.
To get to the villages you’ll mostly likely drive across the Atlas Mountains, as well through and around dry, dusty mountains, towering gorges, spectacular waterfalls and lush, green valleys – the latter looking wildly out of place in the desert.
Spend your time in the villages wandering through alleyways lined with crumbling terracotta homes and mosques along with tied-up mules and camels. Stop to play football with the local children, or admire the local artwork and rug offerings for sale before finishing off your time with a delicious meal of chicken tagine.
Watch the Sunset From Atop a Sand Dune
The Sahara Desert is one of the most phenomenal destinations in the world to watch the sunset. After arriving in the desert, have a look around for the highest sand dune in sight and spend an exhausting half an hour climbing to the top. You’ll soon forget about the burning in your legs and the sand in your shoes, however, when you notice the sun start to melt into the horizon. Being able to look in any direction and not being able to see anything but sand in your eye line makes it hard to judge distances and leads to one of those amazing moments that make you feel so small in such a huge place.
Experience a Bumpy Camel Ride
You won’t truly feel like you’ve experienced the desert until you ride a camel over the sand dunes. An integral part of any trip to the Sahara Desert, riding a camel will definitely be an interesting experience if you haven’t done so before.
Make sure to grip tightly onto the saddle’s handlebars in front as you’ll soon find yourself jostled from side to side and bounced up and down as the camel gallops over the sand dunes in a not particularly graceful fashion.
It’s all worth it, though. You’ll get to take photos from a different vantage point, experience the choice of transport for the local Berber people and receive a workout for your leg muscles as you battle to stay upright!
Camp Under the Milky Way
Make the most of being somewhere with zero light pollution and spend your night in the desert sleeping outside and underneath the stars. After dragging your mattress out of your tent you’ll likely spend your evening in the Sahara sitting around a campfire eating delicious tagine and listening to your guides play Berber music on drums.
When the campfire’s extinguished and your eyes have adjusted to the dark, you’ll witness thousands of shooting stars, and even be able to make out part of the Milky Way above you.
Watch the Sunrise
You’ve seen the sun set the previous night, so why not complete the set and wake up early to watch it rise the following morning?
Once more, look around your camp to scout out the highest sand dune and scramble up to receive yet another incredible view over the sand dunes.
Things to Know Before you go:
Wrap up warm: While the desert can get extremely hot during the day, temperatures can drop to near freezing when night falls. Prepare for the two extremes in temperature by packing several layers of clothing in your bag before you leave. You’ll be grateful for the extra sweatshirts when you’re shivering on a mattress under the stars!
Bring plenty of water and sunscreen: With soaring heat during the day, dehydration can occur quickly in the Sahara Desert. Make sure you pack several bottles of water and some sunscreen before you leave so you can stay hydrated. You’ll be able to pick up water along the way but this gets progressively more expensive the closer you are to the desert. You should also consider packing a hat to protect the top of your head or you can simply purchase a traditional Berber headscarf from the villages along the way.