This post will outline a standard three-day/two-night tour from Marrakesh, Morocco to the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, located near Merzouga. The total cost of the trip will range from 700 to 800 dirhams (roughly $100 cad) if you book from your hostel/hotel, once you arrive in Marrakesh.
Leaving around 7:00am, tourists will load into a small van with 15-20 others. The first destination is Ait Benhaddou.
The group will spend 2-3 hours exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for being the location set for many Hollywood movies like: Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Mummy, Prince of Persia – along with many more.
Located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, this old trading post is a cool town to checkout, if only for its uniqueness. Only a few families continue to dwell in this small village and it is easy to see that the main focus of the town has shifted to tourism.
The remainder of day one will be spent driving through the unique landscape of the Dades Canyons, stopping once in a while for food and picture taking.
The first evening, the group will stay in a hotel, decorated with a distinct Moroccan flair. While you shouldn’t plan on connecting to any internet source, this remote hotel is quite nice and your stay will be a comfortable one. As part of the tour, dinner will be provided … hopefully you like couscous!
The second day begins with a beautiful drive through the ‘road of 1001 kasbahs’, stopping for pictures at a few of the most breathtaking spots!
*Kasbah means the area surrounding a citadel. It is typically the old part of a city, where the local leader lived*
Driving through the High Atlas Mountains, as the landscape changes from entirely dry and barren to lush and fertile in the valleys, is a completely stunning experience!
In the afternoon, the tour will take some time to check out the small village of Tinghir, and like any tour, you’ll be given the ‘opportunity’ to buy local items. In this case, the group will visit a women’s worker co-op to witness the process of carpet weaving.
One woman is solely responsible for each carpet, using whatever style and design they choose. Working 2-3 hours per day, carpets take 7 to 8 months to fully complete! Generally, the rough part of the carpet comes from camel hair and the softer areas are made from the wool of sheep.
After being shown the methods and undergoing an inevitable sales pitch, the group will head to the incredible Todgha Gorges!
And finally, around 6:00pm, you’ll arrive to the destination you came to see, Erg Chebbi! After scoping out the friendliest looking camel, (not an easy task, as they all generally display a look of annoyance) you’ll hop aboard and ride out into the Sahara Desert!
Initially, the group of 15 will ride, rather uncomfortably, for about an hour before disembarking and climbing up the highest dune.
Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll chill for an hour or two, snapping copious amounts of pictures – seeing nothing but sand dune after sand dune in the distance!
That evening, the group will make its way to a local campsite before eating dinner and taking part in a drumming ritual under the bright desert stars!
Waking up at 4:30am, the group will hop aboard the camels for another hour-long ride, and will get to enjoy a somewhat chilly desert sunrise.
By 8:00am, you’ll be back in the van – making the long (8 hours) trek back to Marrakesh.
This brief outline doesn’t go into extreme detail, as there are many itineraries to be found online. I simply wanted to give readers a small taste of what to expect when booking a trip to the Sahara Desert.
The tour (like any tour) can be a bit frustrating at times, as the group is only able to visit certain ‘designated spots’. However, it is quite cost efficient and the opportunity to ride a camel in the 3rd-largest desert in the world most definitely outweighs any negative aspects of the tour!
Ultimately, whether you choose to take a tour or find another way to see the Sahara, visiting the Moroccan desert is an absolute ‘must do’!
I hope you get a chance to experience this!