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Although local companies running Morocco desert trips will happily take you on a two-day tour of the Sahara if that’s what you ask for, the realities of getting from Marrakesh or Fez and crossing the High Atlas mountains both there and back mean it will be difficult to experience all the Saharan sands have to offer on a tour of less than three days. With this amount of time dedicated to the desert you’ll find the opportunity to relax in a tented camp among the Berber people, journey over the dunes on a camel, and begin to get a sense of what the region is all about.

Booking your Sahara tour in advance

Both Marrakesh and Fez are ideal gateways to the Sahara’s warm sands and even warmer traditions of hospitality. Spend just a short time in these southern cities and you’re sure to come across companies offering tours. Many undoubtedly offer perfectly adequate trips, but by walking in off the street it’s difficult to know the quality of exactly what you’ll be getting.

Best time to visit

Renowned for its fierce summer heat even by the tribes you have lived here for centuries, the Sahara’s summer months, when temperatures can reach beyond 40°C in the shade, are best avoided entirely. By contrast, Moroccan winters can be disappointingly wet, and the high passes over the Atlas mountains blocked by snow. You’ll, therefore, find that most companies offer Morocco desert tours between March and May, and then again from late September and October when there are clear skies, bearable temperatures, and the best road conditions.

Geography of the Moroccan Sahara

The Sahara spans an area of 9.2 million square kilometres (approximately the size of the United States), making it the largest non-polar desert in the world. In Morocco, it stretches south from the High Atlas mountains, around half a day’s drive from Marrakesh and Fez.

How to get to the Moroccan desert

By far the easiest way of getting into the Moroccan desert is on a tour, which will take you along the well-maintained roads by minibus. Should you prefer, its also possible to hire a car in Marrakesh or Fez, or hop on one of the country’s frequent bus services.

Dunes to visit in Morocco

The slowly shifting dunes of the photography books are to be found at Erg Chebbi, near the village of Mergouza in the southeast of the country, and Erg Chigaga in the far south, near the Draa Valley and border with Algeria.

What to pack for the desert

Needless to say, the desert is hot, but what is sometimes understated is the change in temperature that comes with nightfall, where temperatures can drop twenty degrees in half an hour. So while the thermometer will still read a pleasant 20 degrees, after the heat of the day it will feel cold and you will be wanting warm clothing.

What to do in the Moroccan desert

The desert is such that you can do as much or as little as you like. The landscapes of drifting dunes, contrasting sharply against the blue sky by day and stars by night are endlessly fascinating, while riding a camel is perhaps the easiest way of getting even closer to the dunes and that true desert experience. Sunrise and sunset treks provide the most astounding colour palette (and more suitable temperatures), while the cuisine, music and hospitality of the Berber help unwrap some of the secrets of the desert.