Taking a Sahara Desert tour and riding camels in to the orange-hued sand dunes was a large bucket list item of mine. Among the first things you need to decide for your Sahara Desert travel is which section of the Sahara are you going to visit and where will you commence your visit to Sahara.
Planning your Morocco Sahara desert tour it could be somewhat daunting. How do you know where to begin when every tour claims its among the finest Morocco desert tours?
There are two main deserts which tourists visit in Morocco because of their Sahara Desert holiday – either the Merzouga Desert or the Zagora Desert and usually tourists commence their tour from either Marrakech or Fez. We will discuss both these points further below.
Sahara Desert near Merzouga
Merzouga tours will be the most popular Sahara tours, with Merzouga being located close to the popular Erg Chebbi sand dunes. The dunes at Erg Chebbi are taller and richer in color then your dunes found near Zagora making them a more desired destination.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of Merzouga desert tours, are that the city is right on the edge of the impressive Erg Chebbi sand dunes. Moreover, the town is packed with modern hotels and you could easily reach the sand dunes with a short 30 minute camel ride. This makes a Merzouga desert trip not too difficult and convenient and ideal for folks short punctually or not wanting to get too much from the beaten track.
However, it’s closeness to the sand dunes, can be its down fall. Being more popular, it is commonly more costly and it certainly can get busy with lots of tourists.
Merzouga is located around 9 hours drive from Marrakech or 7 time’ drive from Fez. If you are joining one of the Marrakech desert tours, you will need to allow at least two nights and three days as you will minimize overnight along the way there.
Zagora is found in the southern part of Morocco which is located near to the Erg Chigaga sand dunes. These fine sand dunes can be found some 60 km from the nearest road and so the trek to see them takes quite a bit longer then to start to see the sand dunes from Merzouga.
To reach Zagora, you must first reach the small town of M’hamid. From here it’s a rather long trek through rugged desert terrain before arriving at the Erg Chigaga sand dunes.
It’s also important to note that the Zagora desert is not the orange like desert you may imagine – this is a stone desert, that features a more moon like appearance. So for this reason (as well as taking longer to reach) it can do tend to be less popular than Merzouga and is frequently for the budget traveller or for those that prefer to log off the beaten track.
Zagora is located around 6 hours drive from Marrakech or 9.5 hours’ drive from Fez (without stops).
Where to Commence?
The most popular location to commence Sahara Desert trips is from Marrakech. Mainly it is because Marrakech is the administrative centre of Morocco and where many people commence their trip. However, you can travel to Sahara Desert from Fes. Just note that given the Marrakech Desert trips are more popular, there are a lot more options from here.
A very popular route is to do a Marrakech to Fes desert tour. So start your trip in Marrakech and after your Sahara desert safari move onto Fez – or vica versa.