My main reason for heading to Morocco, and flying into Marrakech, was so that I could visit the Sahara Desert.
Wherever you go in Marrakech you’ll find hundreds of tour operators offering desert tours ranging from 1 to 3 nights and the abundance of options can be a little overwhelming.
In the end, I went with the 3 day, 2 night option and paid around $100 in total.
What’s the difference between the tours?
The one night tour is for people who have a limited amount of time to see the desert and, in most cases, you’ll visit the sand dunes in Zagora. These dunes are much smaller and less impressive than Erg Chebbi, but a great option if you only have one night to spare.
My two night tour takes you to the Erg Chebbi dunes — the amazing ones I showcased in my photo essay from my trip.
The three night tour takes you to both Zagora and Erg Chebbi, and, well, I didn’t see too much point in spending a day going to the smaller dunes when I could see the more impressive ones!
What I naively didn’t realise when I booked this tour was that the Sahara Desert is really far away.
Like, two days of driving far away.
Fortunately, there were plenty of fascinating stops to make along the way, all of which helped us to gain a small insight into Berber culture.
First on the list was Ait Benhaddou, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a traditional mud-brick city in the high Atlas Mountains that has been featured in so many famous movies. Most notably, it set the scene for both Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.
Fortunately for us, we had much of the village to ourselves and we able to wander around its alleyways without much disturbance from our tourists or touts.
After a very long and very tiring day of over 10 hours of driving we finally reached our hotel for the night, where I nearly passed out at the excitement of having wifi in the almost-desert.
And then I actually passed out from exhaustion.
The second day began at a horrifically early hour but today, I wasn’t complaining.
Today, I was finally going to see the Sahara Desert!
However, like the previous day, the journey wouldn’t be complete without visiting even more Berber villages. These ones were even more interesting — dry, dusty mountains, enormous gorges, spectacular waterfalls and lush green valleys, which looked wildly out of place in the middle of the desert.
Then, finally, we reached the start of the desert.
Over the next two hours, I watched the surrounding landscape get flatter and flatter, the rocks get smaller and smaller and the sand get more and more orange.
At 6pm, we arrived.
I was finally in the Sahara Desert and it was all I could do to keep from crying with happiness.
It was so magical. I’d never seen sand so orange, never seen so much sand before in my life. I loved it.
We were greeted by our Berber guides and taken over to meet our camels.
This was the moment I had been dreading.
Knowing the ridiculous things that always seem to happen to me, I knew that there was no way I’d be able to successfully ride a camel without having a near-death experience.
Which is why I was completely astonished to find myself gracefully hopping on top of the camel with perfect poise and courage.
Hey, I’m good at camel riding!
For the next two hours we rode deeper into the desert. I soon realised that although riding a camel on flat surfaces is a piece of cake, going up and down sand dunes is a bit of a nightmare.
You see, when you’re sat on a camel and start going down the steep edge of a sand dune, every step it takes has its feet sinking immediately into the sand.
Whereas to climb up a sand dune, camels perform some some sort of gallop that had my camera banging against my ribs as I fought to stay upright.
This was a lot harder than it looked.
There were a few moments of relief, however. The first of these when we dismounted to watch the sunset.
Our guides motioned towards the largest sand dune, at least 100 metres high, and we soon realised that we were going to have to climb it. It took at least 15 minutes to reach the top and I quite often felt like I was genuinely taking one step forward and two steps back.
It was absolutely worth it though, as the view at sunset was one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
An hour more of camel riding and we reached our camp for the night. Our evening was spent eating chicken tagine, listening to our guides play Berber music as we danced around the campfire, and racing each other up the sand dunes until we were too exhausted to move.
Of course, we all wanted to sleep under the stars that night, so we excitedly dragged our mattresses out of the tents and onto the desert sand.
Having spent my entire life in polluted London, I always squeal with excitement when I go somewhere without light pollution and can actually see the stars for once.
And these stars were incredible. With zero light pollution, you could see the Milky Way over the sand dunes and I was completely transfixed.
So. Many. Stars.
Once the campfire had been extinguished, we all settled down into bed and it was at this point when I felt an entirely new and unexpected sensation.
It was unexpectedly freezing and I had travelled with only light clothes in preparation for the desert heat. I had just a thin sheet to cover me. I was not going to be getting much sleep tonight, but for once I didn’t mind.
I lay awake for much of the night and saw more shooting stars than I thought possible, and before I knew it it was 5am and it was time to hike up another sand dune to watch the sunrise.
The sunrise was just as spectacular as the sunset from the night before. There was something so peaceful and relaxing about watching the sun rise over a landscape that had no buildings or people in sight. There was nothing but sand stretching out in every direction, fading out into what seemed like infinity.
We dejectedly traipsed back down the sand dune to our waiting camels and eased ourselves back on, grimacing at our rapidly appearing aches and pains from the previous day’s riding.
It wasn’t going to be a gentle ride back.
As I’ve said a hundred times before, the Sahara Desert has been the highlight of, well, my entire life. It is the best thing I’ve ever done and has kick-started my new-found obsession for deserts.
I can’t wait to return…
How to Book the Same Sahara Desert Tour as Me
I loved my trip to the Sahara Desert and I’m frequently contacted by people who want to have the exact same experience!
The first thing I’d say is that you have two options.
If you want things booked in advance: If you’d prefer the peace of mind that comes with having everything booked before you arrive, go for the tour I took. It’s $100 for the two-night trip, so slightly more expensive than turning up and booking on the streets of Marrakech, but the tour has amazing reviews and you’ll be in great hands. You’ll have the time of your life on the trip!
If you’re tight on money: I’d recommend not booking your sahara desert tour in advance.Instead, you should turn up in Marrakech with nothing booked. I know it’s a daunting prospect, but it’ll save you a lot of money. I paid $70 for my two night trip that I booked through my hostel.
Where to Stay in Marrakech
In Marrakech, Riad Carina ($43 a night for a double room; rated 9.2 on Booking) receives a whole lot of love. So what’s so wonderful about it? Not only is it a stunning and well-designed riad, but it’s located just a five-minute walk from all of the main tourist attractions in town and is home to some seriously friendly staff. It’s quiet and peaceful, has a beautiful swimming pool, and an even more beautiful rooftop terrace.
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Featured image: xamnesiacx84/Shutterstock
Wow… You were actually able to capture the stars w/ your camera! No easy task. Surprised you had shorts on, was the ride rough on your legs? The camel safari Q & I did through the Thar desert felt just as special, except for the fact that India recently installed power windmills that really was a distraction from the desert.
It may have taken me about 382 photos to finally get a decent star shot!
The ride was fine because there were plenty of blankets over the saddle… But yes, it was a stupid decision because it was so bloody cold!
Ah, aren’t deserts the most amazing thing in the world?!
Hi Lauren, great post. I am planning on traveling with a friend this June as well and was wondering if you can recommend the company you went with and also, where did they pick you up from, Fes or Marrakech?
Thanks, Lea! And so sorry for the late reply to your comment, I must have missed it. I actually waited until I arrived in Marrakech before booking a tour, and they all seemed pretty similar. I just booked mine from my hostel! Hope you have an amazing time! :-)
This is SUCH an amazing experience- seriously so jealous! I’d love to do this one day. SOON!
I hope you get to, Melissa! It’s a truly incredible experience :)
Truly amazing !!! Your writing is incredible !! Im so addicted to reading your adventures .. Its the first thing i do in the morning and the last thing i do at night … Seriously !! Better than any book out there ! I cant thank u enough for sharing all of this !! Keep travelling and keep blogging .. You are living millions of ppls dreams :):):
Haha, thanks, Sarah :)
Beautiful pictures! I begged my friends to book a trip, but once we began researching how to spend our short three days, we only go to some of the Berber villages in the mountain. It was my best travel karma – we accepted an offer for tea and squeezed a few nearly free meals and a donkey ride out of it!
Will you be close at all to Seville, or are you even coming to Spain?
Thanks, Cat! That sounds like an awesome experience – I want to ride on a donkey! :)
I don’t think I’ll be able to get to Spain this time around, but hopefully next time I’m in the area :)
This really DOES sound incredible, Lauren! Wow. I really really want to do this someday!
Ah, you’d love it, Amanda! :D
Thank you so much for sharing this. I wanted to see the actual Sahara too. We did see some on our drive from Alexandria to Cairo, but nothing like this. This is awesome. Thanks again. You have a wonderful site and I hope lots of people come to experience the Sahara like you.
Thank you so much, Debbie! I believe everyone should get to experience the Sahara in their lifetime :)
Great pictures of the stunning desert! I would love to stay overnight in the desert too.
Thanks Debby! :) I hope you get to soon!
I majorly LOLd at you screaming that you were going to get eaten by the camels hahaha! I assume you meant the camels and not the people in your tour group.
Those stars look amazing. It’s so difficult to see stars here in Korea and it bums me out, as I grew up on a farm and you could always see them!
p.s. I’m in a state of shock that a camel didn’t fling you off with your head getting stuck in the sand. Good job!
Hahaha, oh my god, Tom! They would run up behind me and touch my legs WITH THEIR MOUTHS! Terrifying.
I know, how amazing is it that nothing dramatic happened?!
Although me and camels don’t get along, I would love to do that tour for the dunes, camping and the amazing view of the stars at night. Almost reminds me of camping out in Rajasthan desert, only the dunes were much less spectacular.
It was definitely worth the crappy and bumpy ride to get to spend so much time in the desert. I’d love to see the Rajasthan desert someday :)
I love spending the night in a desert and do it every chance I get, but I’ve never seen one quite so orange–that looks amazing. I really wish I’d had more than three days when I was in Morocco.
I can definitely do without the camels though and the one time I tried riding one, I lasted a whole ten steps before it tried to kill me. I walked the rest of the way.
Amazing! Which company did you use for the tour to Sahara Desert? I’m going to Morocco in January and thinking of going to Sahara as well, just can’t really find a decent tour there
Amazing colors! Can’t wait to go there and see this “orange” in person!
Welcome to my life! This is what I blogged about the most, but from the Egyptian side of the Sahara desert. You know it stretches all the way to Egypt right?
And although I don’t do the camel rides, I still get much adrenaline and almost pee my pants while riding a 4WD car with some crazy driver :D
And yes, no one believes the amount of shooting stars you can see in the desert!
Well next time you can return to the Sahara from the Egyptian side ;) I’ll show you around and not the tourist way, because it is my friend that is there driving the car, so we actually go exploring places that we haven’t been to before! It’s always good :D
Love your post. We just got back from Spain and Morocco, but only spent 2 days in Morocco in Chefchaouen. Loved the town and our time there though the journey from Spain was nuts. I would LOVE to go back someday and go to the Sahara, so I really enjoyed your post.
Just found this and i have to say great post :-)
I have a bit of a love affair with the Sahara myself, i got married in Marrakesh last June and then we took 5 of our friends to the Sahara for a photoshoot! we’ve been back since & hope to go again someday! Where did you stay when you weren’t on the camel safari?
We are planning to go to Marrkech in 2013 after Pamplano and the running of the bulls. The Sahara is one of our bucket list items. Thanks for the post.
That sounds like an amazing experience but also sounds like not the funnest experience getting there. I’m glad it was all worth it though.
Looks & sounds amazing. We plan on doing a similar trip when we are in Morocco, doing some research here at home and we are seeing prices around 300 Euro for the 3 night trip (only 1 night is in the desert). Saw you paid $70, did you negotiate? What was the name of the hotel/tour operator?
Thanks for any suggestions!
I stayed at Mama Marrakech Hostel (which was great!). I didn’t negotiate, that was the price the hostel quoted me :)
Great post! Hopefully I will manage to fit this in next year. Want to fit in Africa into next years travels to get all seven in a calendar year.
Nice! Good luck :-)
My boyfriend and I are planning on visiting Morocco in late April of 2014, and, having grown up at the base of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, I have my heart set on camping in Morocco. :)
Do you happen to recall which organization took you on the camping excursion? Was it actually through the people who ran Mama Marrakech Hostel?
I found a clear, nicely organized website that offers trips that sound really really similar to what you describe, but I don’t want to blithely allow some people to take me out into the desert without knowing that it’s legit. ( This is the website: http://www.deserttoursmorocco.com/# )
Can you point me in the direction of the tour guides you used?
P.S. – I really enjoy your blog as a whole!! Thank you so much for writing this!
No, Mama Marrakech just arranged the tour for me. To be honest, I don’t know what the tour company’s name was — from what I personally saw and read about, the tour companies are all pretty similar, and you’ll have the same experience with whoever you go with.
From what I can see, the website you linked to doesn’t list prices for tours — do you know how much they are? You shouldn’t really pay more than $100 for a 3 day tour, and usually the tours you can book online are triple the price of what you can get by just arriving and asking around. (I am a budget traveller, though, so am always looking for the cheapest option!)
Thank you for the advice! Cheapest is good!! I’m hoping to get from Marrakech to Fez, camping in the desert along the way (that would be ideal) but I’m not sure if that is something that’s done often, or if you have to create a custom trip for that. I suppose we can ask around when we get there, and if they don’t offer that option, we can do a loop beginning and ending in Marrakech.
Out of curiosity, what month did you do this in? I’m not sure how cold the nights in April are.
I was there in July. The night was absolutely freezing then so make sure you take something warm! :-)
We took the 3 day tour from Marrakech to Fes from October 13 to 15, 2013 and we could not be happier with this company. Our guide was friendly, knowledgeable and very open about his life and country. He picked us up and dropped us off as close to our riads as possible (this is priceless – trust me). Along the way we got to experience the mountains and the desert, instead of flying between Marrakech and Fes and missing out on so many experiences. It was awesome to see so much of this country and not have the stress of driving and navigating. Our overnight in the desert was one of the most unique vacation memories we will ever have. Even if you’re not a camper (and trust me, I’m not) it is amazing to watch the sunset and sunrise from the top of a sand dune.
A few tips;
Tell your guide what you plan to buy because they know the best spots (we forgot to mention we wanted tagines until the last day),
Be prepared that it is a long time in the car – you aren’t driving in a straight line when there are mountains, deserts and awesome things to see in between – but remember you are in a clean comfortable car with air conditioning!
And finally, you are in Africa and on vacation so go with the flow and let your guide teach you about this awesome country and culture.
Thanks for the tips! :-)
First of all, Lauren thanks a lot for your always very interesting travell stories!
Since I would like to go from Marrackesh to Fes while visiting the desert in between, I have a question for you Pae; which company did you take and how much did the trip cost?
Thanks a lot in advance!
Hi! A friend and I are going to Marrakech in summer and this is EXACTLY what we wanted to do, like EXACTLY- what’s the name of the company so we can ask when we get there?
Hey Hannah, I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the tour company as I booked it all through my hostel. From what I’ve heard from friends who have also taken tours of the Sahara Desert, they’re all basically the same, so I think you’ll be good whoever you book it through :-)
I’m already researching a bit for my trip to Morocco in May/June. With which tour operator did you go as it is really cheap in consideration what I’ve found out so far?
Hey Stef, I actually booked the tour through my hostel. I think they’re all pretty similar and run by the same company :-)
hi lauren , ive been loving your blog so far as i am mplanning to go to morrocco in april so i’ve used a bit of urs to plan how long to stay in each place e.g ( 3 days for chefchaouen the blueness and peacefullness seems like something to enjoy)
i really want to go to the sahara so please could you tell me what hostel or riad you stayed in that helped you book? as i have yet to book my riad and it would be good to get an excellent deal like yours as well as a good riad to stay in . most of the sahara deals ive seen are for 3-4 days and i think 2 days is enough so i can go elsewhere , also did you go straight back to marakech after the sahara or on to essaouira?.. cheers :)
I stayed in Mama Marrakech. I loved everything apart from the fact it was really hard to sleep there. The rooms don’t have windows and doors so if people stay up in the common room all night, you’ll be kept awake, too. That was the only downside. I’d really recommend doing a 2 night/3 day tour, though. The two day ones only go to Zagora, which hasn’t looked great from any of the photos I’ve seen.
I went back to Marrakech for a night and then went on to Essaouira :-)
Wished you had captured milky way, nevertheless, beautifully described and this place looks surreal! Imagine being in middle of nowhere and actually enjoying or being Mauro Prosperi with options! (Google him if you don’t know him) ;)
With Love from India
Thanks, Shashank. I wish I had captured it, too, but I didn’t have a tripod for my camera :-(
thank you for sharing, great pictures
Glad you enjoyed!
Hi, just wondering which company did you book your tour with since $70 USD is really cheap!
Hi Raine, I booked it through my guesthouse. I’d recommend not booking in advance and just turning up and finding a tour while you’re there. It’s much cheaper than booking it online!
I will do that then! Any recommendations on where should I stay in Marrakech? :)
I’m afraid the place I stayed has since closed down, so I don’t.
I just came across your blog as I’m researching my trip to Marrakech this July. Your experience and photos have definitely convinced me that this is what I want to do the week that we are there! A few companies I am emailing have said that instead of camping the second night in the desert ( since its really hot) they would put us in a kasbah again for the second night. Although, I would like to camp for the experience. Do you recommend it? Also, how was the camel trek in the sahara? too hot? I’m a tough cookie but my boyfriend not so much haha Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience and much luck on your future journeys! :)
Camping in the desert is one of my travel highlights, but I did only do it for one night. I really didn’t find it very hot at all. I arrived at about 4pm though, so obviously not the full heat of the day. It was around 20 degrees C then. It’s freezing at night, I couldn’t stop shivering! If I had the option, I’d choose to camp in the desert — once I arrived I didn’t ever want to leave! :-)
Hi Lauren! This Sahara desert trip sounds amazing! My friend actually stumbled across your blog because we are planning to be in Morocco in October and want to do the same thing. We have found some three day excursions, would you recommend 2 or 3 days if we only have about 5 days in Morocco total? If you have any other tips about Morocco I would love the advice!
I’d recommend the three day trip, because I know that the desert you visit on the two-day one isn’t great and is kind of rocky.
Hi Lauren! Your trip sounds so great. I am planning on doing the same. I was wondering whether you still remember the name of the tour you took and the riad you stayed at? thanks in advance
Hey Rafaela. It was Mama Marrakech, and the tour was booked through them.
Nice write up. We are headed to Marrakesh and desert tour in Mid August. I am sure it will be very hot. Was your tour a private tour or was it a “shared” one? On the websites I have explored they mention 3 days desert tour, is that the same as the one you took?
From all the websites I have read, it is essentially the same kind of a tour, just my comment.
It was a shared tour.
As almost everyone has said, great write up! It has basically convinced me that I must go as well.
Two quick questions for you:
1. It has been a couple years since you have been, do you know if it is still the same as far as just showing up and booking it once you are there? I like this idea more than booking online, but don’t want to assume it is still this way, show up and pay more than normal because I didn’t book ahead of time.
2. Is there a big difference between Marrakech and Fes and the tours that are offered at each? For example, you said that you had to drive 10 hours south to get to the Sahara, being that Fes is further north I imagine it’s even more of a journey to get to the “good” parts like you mentioned. Do you know if the tours from Fes are as great?
Appreciate any help you can offer. Keep up the amazing adventures!
1. Yep, it’s still the same. It probably will always be that way. The online tours are super expensive for the same thing.
2. I don’t know anyone who’s visited from Fes so I can’t comment on that.
I came upon your post because I was looking up the Sahara Desert since someone had asked whether I’d rather see the Sahara or the North Pole. I initially thought the Sahara if for nothing else than that I despise being cold, but the first few sites I came upon talked about the sand storms and the oppressive heat, etc. I am glad I found your post which shows that there is a lot of beauty there too. I may actually have to put that on my “some day” list of places to travel.
I’m glad you found my post, Amanda! I didn’t experience any sand storms, and the heat wasn’t very oppressive at all. In fact, in the night I was freezing cold! :-)
Lauren – thank you for sharing – this is exactly what I needed to know. I, too, have a fixation on the Sahara! I am traveling solo and I’m worried about pre-booking these tours as a single traveler, so I thought it may be best to take my chance and arrange once I arrived there. Can I ask if you traveled alone or with a group?
I definitely recommend booking once you turn up — you’ll pay about a fifth of the cost through doing so! I travelled with a group, and it was arranged through my hostel
My husband and I are planning to go to Marrakech from the UK in April. We want to go to Sahara as well. Our plan is to stay in Morocco altogether 3-4 days. Could you please suggest the transportation from Marrakech to Sahara, the Sahara desert trip, and the stay in Sahara (hostel/hotel)?
Thank you so much! Appreciate it!! :)
I stayed at Mama Marrakech and they arranged the tour for me.
Hello Lauren, You have shared your views about the beauty and experience at Sahara desert in wonderful way. I will look forwards to see your more experienced tour adventures. Stay Happy & Blessed!
Glad you enjoyed!
Hey Lauren, I loved what I read!
I’m going to a 11 day trip this summer and can’t wait to visit the desert! I would love to take a 2/3 night tour as you did, but we’ll go from Fez to the desert and will end the trip in Marrakech. Do you think we’ll be able to find good (and not too much touristic) tours in Fez as well? Thanks a lot!!!
Yep, it should be easy to find a tour in Fez! :-)
Hi Lauren! Thank you so much for sharing your desert experience. I plan to do a two-night trek to Erg Chebbi in September, and I’m wondering what you did with luggage during the trek? Did you bring it all with you, or did you leave it in a hotel, and take only the essentials with you? Thanks! =]
I took a daypack with me, with a couple of changes of clothes, a Kindle, some toiletries… that was about it. You could leave it in a locker at the start of the desert.
I love this post! Its getting me so excited for my trip to Morocco in June! Im going for a whole week so I was thinking of doing the 3 day tour – thanks for the tip of not pre-booking the dessert tour! I saved myself some money there… Just a quick question though, is it easy to get accomodation in Marakkech in Morocco without booking in advance?
Sorry I didn’t get around to replying to you, Melanie! I was writing a book and had to go offline to get it finished. I see that you said you’re going in June, so you’ve probably already been to Morocco by now? Hope you had an incredible time! :-)
Yh I had the best time, I completely fell in love with Morocco, I did not expect it!
And I totally agree, Camel riding can be pretty scary :)
Especially when you go down a dune!
Hi, nice adventures!
I have a question on this camel ride, can I take a 5 year old with me on one camel? My family plan a trip to Morocco, but not sure about taking the 5 yr old for the desert trip? Did you see any little kids in the desert trips? thx!
No, my tour was run by a hostel so it was all twenty-somethings. I didn’t see any kids but I’m sure it’s possible to take them on one.
What is the hostel name?the one that recommend you to use their tours. Thank you.
Mama Marrakech. It’s in the post :-)
Stumbled upon your blog when planning a trip to the Sahara! Awesome experience and beautiful photos. When I searched for that riad it says it is now permanently closed, hmm? Any other recommendations? Thanks!
Ah, that’s a shame! Sorry — don’t have any other recommendations. Head to HostelBookers and sort from highest rating, and choose the best :-).
I noticed Mama Marrakech is closed down. Do you know why?
Sorry, I don’t know!
Great article and advices, you are always welcome to Morocco :)
Thanks! Hopefully I’ll get there again soon!
Hi! I love your website:)
I have a question for you.
Do most of the tours end in Marrakech? Thanks you!
Yeah, if you start in Marrakech, you’ll normally end there. I think a few people on my tour wanted to go to Fes afterwards, so the tour guide dropped them off at an intersection where they could catch a bus.
Hey!!! OMG What a lovely post!!!!!
My husband and I are leaving in 2 weeks to do the exact same thing you did!!! I just want to know about the desert trip! when you booked it did you mention to them you want to go to erg chebbi desert and they knew what you wanted? or does this excursion have a specific name?? I don’t know exactly what the name of this trip will be when I get to Morocco, as Ive been doing lots of research and erg chegaga is the desert to go because it is so remote but it requires at least 3 nights and for me 2 nights will be enough. Also can you tell me what time they pick you up from the hostel and what time do they bring you back? because our flight is during the day at 4pm, so we will need to get to the airport like 2-3 hours before ?
Thanks in advance!!
They had a piece of paper that listed the options for a 1 night or 2 night tour. Everyone does the same ones, so there were only two options. They picked us up at around 7 am and dropped us back at maybe around 4 ish in the afternoon (sorry, it was three years ago so I don’t remember that well!). I think you’ll be cutting it fine with getting to the airport on time.
Thanks!!! Was that with a group or just by yourself? you didn’t take the CTM bus did you? and the tour operators are located near jemaa El fnaa, or somewhere else in Marrakech?
Please let me know!
It was group tour in a minivan with 6-10 other people. Not sure about the operators, I booked through my hostel.
Very nice article!
I am planning my next holidays to Morocco, and I was shocked when you said: “The first thing I’d say is that I’d recommend not booking your sahara desert tour in advance. I paid just under $100 for my two night trip, and I’ve seen prices online that are around 5-10 times what I paid.”
I am planning all my holidays in advance, but I might stop it if I am going to save money if I book the tours when I am in Morocco.
But, I have a question, if you book for a hotel for 1 week, and then you go 3 days on a Sahara desert tour, you are paying 2 hotels, your hotel in Marrakech plus the hotel or tent in the tour, isn’t it?
Thank you for your help in advance!
No, I paid for my hotel the nights I stayed there and then left my bags with them while I went to the desert. Most accommodations will be happy to let you do that and won’t charge you for the nights you keep your bags with them.
Thanks for your quick reply Lauren! 1 last thing I was wondering was that did the van stop at any point in order to take pictures wherever the people in the van wanted? and did the driver explain anything (any places) as you guys were passing?
Well, the driving and the roads in Morocco are pretty crazy, so there aren’t too many places you can just stop off at without being killed by passing cars. There are designated photo stops in all of the pretty places. And no, the driver didn’t explain anything. I’m not sure he spoke English!
First of all, thank you very much for the informative blog! We wanted to book a similar trip once we arrive in Marrakech, but we wanted to end the trip in Fez instead (Marrakech to Merzouga to Fez).
We see a lot of online sites that offer these options, but do you recall if there were a lot of local companies that offered a similar (group) tour?
Instead of booking these trips at our Riad, are there areas in Marrakech that had a lot of these tour companies clustered? Unfortunately our Riad doesn’t offer an option that ends in Fez!
Ah, sorry, I don’t. I think it should be fine, though, as a couple of people on a different tour were dropped off to catch a bus to Fez on the way back. Wandering around should help you find somewhere to book a tour — everyone’s trying to sell you them in Marrakech!
I loved your blog. I’m thinking of doing a similar Sahara Tour in August 2016, what time of the year did you do it? Your post is marked as 31st August and I wanted some reassurance that it wouldn’t be crazy unbelievably hot in August there. I’m Australian and I do like warm weather though.
It was in June. Definitely wasn’t super hot — it was actually freezing cold most of the time! You arrive at sunset and leave at sunrise, so you don’t get much of a chance for some warmth :-) August would be fine!
Great write up!
I was wondering what exactly was included in the price of the desert tour? Breakfast/Dinner? Tent equipment was all ready and waiting for you or do you need your own tent? Should you bring your sleeping bag? And how much are nicknacks/tourist souvenirs when you’re on the road? Thanks :)
Everything was included apart from two lunches. No need to bring a sleeping bag or tent — they’re already set up in the desert for you. I didn’t actually see any souvenirs, so I can’t help with that!
Nice photo! I’m planning to go to morocco on comming august, and I’m wondering how hot it will be. Since I’m grown up male Adult and I’m feeling confident about it but kind of worried that might faint out in the middle of the dessert. How was it when you were at?
Honestly, you arrive at sunset and leave at sunrise. You’ll be absolutely freezing! I was there in summer and couldn’t sleep because it was so freaking cold. I really recommend taking a sweater for the desert, actually.
Hi! Great post. I’m hearing a lot of people say to book the tours once you get there. My only question is how does it work with your accommodation you already have booked? You wouldn’t want to pay for the nights you aren’t staying there. And do the hotels keep your luggage for you?
My guesthouse kept my luggage for free in a storage room for me! I think they’ll be fine doing that as it’s super-common for people to take desert trips and nobody takes their luggage with them.
Hello, I’ve done a lot of research about going to a Sahara desert camping trip and have learned a lot about it. The one thing no one has wrote about is what to take with you on that part of the trip. How much stuff do the tours usually let you carry with you? One more thing- I’m guessing the only time we have to shower is during the second day when we reach the hotel for the night? Is it worth carrying toiletry with me? Thank you for any information!
You can take as much as you need — you’re in a huge minivan, so they put all the luggage in the back. I just took a few changes of clothes and my camera, but some people had a huge backpack with them. The hotel we stayed at had toiletries you can use.
Thank you so much for this post!! I can’t remember if I already commented on it but I’ve been meaning to. Originally my plan for Morocco was just to go surfing, but this totally inspired me to go visit the desert!! And it. was. amazing. I felt like I was on the moon as I jumped off the side of a massive dune!
I look forward to getting more travel inspiration from your blog!
Oh, I’m so happy to hear that, Ray! :-D
Thank you for the quick reply to my other question! I had another another question: what do you recommend wearing- especially for feet gear?
Anything’s fine, really. You don’t do a lot of walking. Just some normal trainers or walking shoes. I wore a cheap pair of running shoes I picked up for about $7.
Hello Lauren… I am a female with my 8 yr old son… we would be traveling to Marrakesh probably to the end of August since we will be in Spain… reading your article and made me really happy since I was trying to book a tour to the Sahara for the end of August… but now I’m just going to wait until I get there…. I was just wondering if the Riad MAMA MARRAKESH…. is it a kids friendly? and if you have anymore suggestions… they will be really appreciated.
Ah, Mama Marrakech is no longer open. If I was to return, I’d probably stay here: http://www.agoda.com/djemaa-el-fna-hotel-cecil/hotel/marrakech-ma.html?cid=1719506 — Agoda has lots (over 1000!) of options here: http://www.agoda.com/pages/agoda/default/DestinationSearchResult.aspx?asq=80tOQyD40iGR5xx5LK%2fqziXpeaqEsljvwQwUEksKPk839BgKFWph%2fIEyL61JmtEbWMhzjquUchzVsqYp6hdUPc6yw0%2fZYqRt0J0aNv5npLnfO5zwj99B7jR2zMeke3c6EgmXFlpGSYuXwU%2fYq%2fgBFyZKhV00Crk8%2fW%2bubGYC6jHZFO6E5DY9Yj%2flyb3O38BFBp0eoREr2xLYHgqmk0Io4MrTapw9m4iXHi0yk7N4Txb9Ibb59LR6UkfoSL%2bNDWuP&city=11825&cid=-189&tick=636036815234&pagetypeid=7&origin=PT&cid=-189&htmlLanguage=en-us&checkIn=2016-10-1&checkOut=2016-10-2&los=1&rooms=1&adults=2&children=0&isFromSearchBox=true?cid=1719506 if you want to look for anywhere else.
Hi Lauren, did you take a private tour? My friends and I are going to Marrakech this November 2016, As we have limited time, and the bus schedules do not match hours, we asked how much a private tour would cost. We were informed that it would cost us 190 Euros each. Reading your blog, it seems that that rate is way expensive
No, it was a group tour with around 8-12 people on it. 190 euros is pretty expensive, although if it’ll just be you and your friends it’s not so bad.
Hi Lauren! Great post! I am headed to Morocco with 2 friends next month and we definitely wanted to do a sahara tour! The tours online are pretty expensive so i definitely want to wait til we get there. My question is…we wont get to Marrakesh until the evening before we are planning on going on a tour. Do you think it will be too late to book this tour at around 8pm if we go to the medina and try to find tour companies? Just wondering if they are out there all day or not. Any insight would be great! Thanks!
Sahara is such an iconic must-do experience when in Morocco. I still remember of this place fondly. =)
is there a place to fly into that is closer to the desert or is marakesh the best option?
Loved you post thank you!
Marrakech is easiest.
Thanks a lot for your informative article..Truly, the sahara desert is so wonderful.. i always try to bet my friends and let them know that the sahara desert is so romantic and that they should go with their husbands for a tour there. But i always get the same answers: the desert is so romantic?? How so romantic? what do you have to see there? how a desert area can be romantic…
actually, it’s always hard to explain them but when i bet them to go there and they visit it they come back with a big smile and YES, admit that the desert is really so romantic..
Keep up the great work and happy travel always
Glad you enjoyed the article! :-)
Happy new year2017!!!
If our group of 4 will make a trip from Marrakech to Fez
or Fez to Marrakech (3-4-5days we haven’t decided yet) and we need to bring our big luggage with us, how we going to do or is it possible?
We will go in May2017
Hi Nana! I think you would be fine to bring your main luggage with you, as there was space in our minivan for lots of suitcases and backpacks.
Hello Lauren, I loved your post.
Also I have a question, how comfortable is to travel to the dessert? I mean toilet and shower arrangements ? Also how was your hotel at your first stop? Another question would be , how was the food during your trip? Was is save? Thank you so much in advance!!!! ????
It was fairly comfortable. We stopped off for toilet breaks in restaurants, so the bathrooms were all good, and the bathrooms in our hotel were also nice. The hotel was just a standard budget 3* hotel — everything was clean and it was quiet. Just a place for spending a night, but nothing awful. The food was all good — nobody got food poisoning and it was all local Moroccan food.
Could you give me a runthru of the hostels and guest houses you stayed at? That’d be helpful !!
In the Sahara Desert or in Morocco overall?
Hi Lauren! I was smiling while reading your blog, I got excited! :)
How long did you spend in Merrakech and to Sahara Desert? Did you bring you luggage to Sahara desert or did you leave it at the hostel you stayed in Merrakech? and one more, cause I’m planning to go to Merrakech, Sahara desert, Fez and Chefchaouen, do you have itineraries for those places? Thanks! :)
I spent four days in Marrakech in total, and it takes just over a day to get to the desert. I didn’t bring my luggage — I left it at my hotel while I was on the trip and that was fine with them. I do have posts on Marrakech and Chefchaouen. Just head over to my Where I’ve Been page and click on Morocco and you’ll be able to read all of my posts about the country.
i am looking to go for 3-4 days next march how many nights and days in total are you on the tour for ? do you return to marrakech at the end of the tour or somewhere else ?
also what time did you end up back to your hotel after the tour the day after? i think you went on a tour similar to this 3 Day Desert Tour From Marrakesh To Marrakech With Erg Chebbi dunes Camel Trekking:
Hmmm, I think it was at some point in the afternoon, around 3pm ish. But I took the tour back in 2012 so my memory isn’t great. And yep: this tour sound identical to the one I took for not too much more money: https://www.partner.viator.com/en/22432/tours/Marrakech/3-Day-Desert-Tour-to-Merzouga-from-Marrakech-Including-Dades-Valley-and-Erg-Chebbi-Camel-Trek/d5408-7674MERZOUGA
It was for three days and two nights. And you return to Marrakech at the end.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experiences and provide insight, advice, and inspiration to fellow travelers like myself. I was wondering if early May is a time that would be ok for travel into the desert. Also, do you have any experience with trains in Morocco that you could share? I am looking to take an overnight train from Marrakesh to Tangier. Thank you in advance!
May is one of the best times of year to visit the Sahara Desert, as it’s not too hot and not too cold. I didn’t take any trains in Morocco, so I’m afraid I can’t help with that. Hope you have a wonderful trip!
Thank you for sharing. I was wondering, were the hotel rooms and tents you stayed in shared with strangers from the group (like a hostel), or private for you? Was it possible to stop on the drive in case of bathroom emergencies?
I hope to visit the Sahara in May with my girlfriend. Thanks!
They were private rooms. And yeah, you could stop to pee or whatever on the drive. You stop every hour or so to see something on the drive out there, and there’s usually bathrooms you can use at those places.
Which tour operator did you book with? And omg did you take the starry sky photo with your smartphone?
I included that in my post at the end. But at the top, there is a Viator link to an identical tour you can book online. And yep, I took that photo with my phone.
This is so cool! What do you do about your luggage when you go on the tour by the way? Do people carry suitcases up on the camels lol?
Oh, it’s super simple! You have two options: either leave your luggage at your hostel/hotel in Marrakech and collect it after the tour, or take it with you in the van and leave it on the edge of the desert. The tour companies have offices at the start of the sand and you can put your luggage in lockers there if you need to. Hope that helps!
Hi Lauren. Thanks so much for your recommendation of the desert tour at the end of the post. Just got back from a trip out to the Sahara Desert, booked through Viator, and it was one of the best trips of my life. Just as beautiful as it looked in your photos. Thank you!
Yay! I’m so happy to hear that.
Sounds amazing Lauren! Do you still think of this Sahara trip as one of the best experiences of your life?
Absolutely! Hands down. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m still talking about it, four years later!
y lauren . i have put a comment on here before i have now booked my flights for morocco and cannot wait to see the erg chebbi dunes but i have been informed by quite a few people that merzouga/erg chebbi is not infact part of the sahara desert ? this hsocked me a bit as everything i have read online says the sahara desert but alot of people say this is a marketing scheme . they even showed a map of the sahara desert to try and prove that point . what is your intake on this ? the reason i ask is i really want to see the sahara desert and even though i will still visit erg chebbi as it looks incredible will i be able to cross the sahara desert off my bucket list ? if not i will go again to another country like egypt etc to go to the sahara desert . p.s great article and pictures on erg chebbi
I mean, Wikipedia says: “Erg Chebbi (Arabic: عرق الشبي) is one of Morocco’s two Saharan ergs – large seas of dunes formed by wind-blown sand.”
When exactly did you visit the dessert?
We are planning to go in December but I’m a bit afraid it could be too cold.
I went in June, and still found it chilly at night. A quick google, though, tells me it’ll likely be warm during the day still. Just bring lots of layers with you in case it’s cold. It’s totally worth doing!
Hi Lauren, How many hour drive was the tour from Marrakech to erg chebbi? The drive sounds really tough.
Maybe like, 10 hours or so? It wasn’t so bad, as you were frequently stopping to see things along the way.
Hi Lauren, I enjoyed reading your post. I am considering Morocco as my next travel destination and an overnight stay in the Sahara is on my bucket list.
But I did not see photos of your tent/overnight experience. I was wondering how it was like. I am guessing it was not the luxury type. I would be looking for something in between. I like it comfortable and clean but not expensive. Any recommendations? I am not sure if Viator offers detail photos of these.
No, it’s not super luxury, but you’re only there for eight hours. And we ended up sleeping on the sand dunes rather than going inside the tents anyway, so I didn’t get a good look at them.
Lauren, Thanks a lot for sharing all this precious informations about your Morocco experience. Im Moroccan and i can confirm every single information shared here. you guys are our real embassadors to the world against all the propaganda and the media .
Sorry if it was mentioned and I missed it but in what time if the year you’ve been in this amazing trip?
I’m thinking to go in the and of july. Is not too hot?
I went in mid-June. Honestly, I was more cold on this trip than hot! Because you get to the desert at sunset and leave at sunrise, you really don’t spend any time there in the midday heat, so it wasn’t too bad. I’d still go at the end of July.
My husband and I are planning to go to Marrakech from the UK in April. We want to go to Sahara as well. Our plan is to stay in Morocco altogether 3-4 days. Could you please suggest the transportation from Marrakech to Sahara, the Sahara desert trip, and the stay in Sahara (hostel/hotel)?
Thank you so much! Appreciate it!! :)