How to Take a Sahara Desert Tour from Marrakech

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Picture this: you’re trekking through the Moroccan desert on camelback, the wind whipping through your hair as the sun dips below the horizon, casting long shadows over endless dunes. The air is crisp and cool, a welcome contrast to the day’s heat, and a million stars begin to pepper the darkening sky.

A trip to Morocco wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Sahara Desert. It’s an unforgettable adventure—a chance to trade bustling souks for Berber hospitality and swap the familiar for the utterly breathtaking.

We’ve created this guide to help you navigate your options. We’ll help you find the perfect desert location (Zagora or Merzouga?) as well as the right tour activities for your budget and travel style.

Looking for the best tour? Travelers have given this best-selling 3-day Merzouga and Sahara Desert Tour a 4.9/5 rating. Explore nomadic life, visit iconic kasbahs, ride camels at sunset and sunrise, and camp in the majestic desert.

How many days to spend in the Sahara Desert?

Bedouins gazing over the desert sunset.

Regardless of how long you’ll be in Morocco, experiencing the desert is a must-do. No matter whether you’ve only got a few hours or a few days, there’s a Sahara Desert trip that can make your dreams a reality.

For the full Sahara trip experience, you’ll need at least three days. Longer is better, of course. But if you’re short on time and still want a glimpse into this incredible desert landscape, there are ways to experience the desert in one or two days.

Merzouga: The Classic 3-Day Tour (Recommended)

Morocco desert sand dunes with head of a camel in the foreground. For centuries the Bedouins transited these desert routes just like we did.

If you want to experience the magic of the Sahara in its full glory, Merzouga is the classic Sahara experience.

Picture windblown sands streaking orange hues beneath a turquoise blue sky, tufts of green pushing up desperately through the rippled surface, and camels lazily navigating the cascades, their backs heavy with colorful cloth and campsite essentials.

Most travelers choose to book the classic 3-day/2-night tour from Marrakech to Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi dunes. This provides enough time to truly immerse yourself in the desert, witness stunning sunsets and sunrises over the dunes, and soak in the unique culture and landscapes.

A well-rounded itinerary typically includes:

  • Transportation from Marrakech in an air-conditioned vehicle
  • Stops at notable locations along the way (listed below)
  • Memorable experiences like camel rides and 4×4 excursions
  • Sleeping in a traditional desert camp with dinner, music, and stargazing
  • Experienced local guides to enhance your experience

Merzouga is 560 km (350 miles) from Marrakech and is just south of Erfoud. The fastest route (the N9/N10) takes just under 9 hours to complete.

A three-day tour usually costs between $100 and $200 per person, and longer tours are also offered. This rate includes lodging and transportation, as well as most meals and activities. This can often be cheaper than planning everything yourself, making it a great option for budget-conscious travelers.

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Zagora: 2-Day Desert Experience

Camel feeding from a tree in the Sahara. Camels are a common sight on Marrakech desert tours.

If you’re short of time, but want to spend a night in the desert, a 2-day/1-night trip to the Zagora Desert can provide a taste of the desert experience.

The town of Zagora itself boasts a unique charm with its ancient Kasbahs and contrasting landscape of date palms and rocky Hamada. It’s a good desert spot for tourists who want to avoid crowds, since most Moroccans still don’t know about it.

Zagora won’t have the sprawling sand dunes of your dreams, but you’ll still get to:

  • Ride camels over the smaller dunes near Zagora
  • Witness stunning sunrises and sunsets over the Erg Chigaga dunes.
  • Spend a night in a traditional Berber camp
  • Enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine and music under the stars

Be prepared for a long journey from Marrakech (about 6 hours by car), while reaching the majestic Erg Chigaga dunes in Zagora requires a further 2-hour off-road adventure by either camel or 4×4.

Expect to pay around €60-90 per person for a 2-day Zagora tour.

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Agafay: 1-Day Desert Excursion

If you are visiting Marrakech and can’t spend more than one day in the desert, you won’t be able to experience the vast Sahara dunes. They’re too far away.

In this case, a 1-day excursion to the Agafay Desert near Marrakech is your best bet.

You’ll get a taste of desert life with:

  • Camel rides over the rocky desert terrain
  • Opportunity to explore the desert by quad bike or 4×4
  • Traditional Moroccan lunch or tea in a desert camp

Although Agafay’s not part of the Sahara Desert, its proximity to Marrakech (around 1 hour away) makes it an easy day trip. But don’t expect golden dunes stretching to infinity. It’s more of a rugged, rocky moonscape with a sprinkling of sandy ripples.

Prices for Agafay Desert day trips start around $30-50 per person.

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💡 PRO TIP: Many Sahara desert camps close for a month or two every summer because it’s too uncomfortable and dangerous to be in the desert at that time of year. If you’re in Morocco in the summertime, Agafay’s your oasis.

How to get from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert

The shear volume of red sand is stunning at Merzouga

You have a few options for getting from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert:

Organized Tour: This is the easiest and most popular option. There are many companies that offer tours from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert, typically lasting 2-4 days. These tours will usually include transportation, accommodation, meals, and activities such as camel trekking and sandboarding.

Private Driver: Hiring a private driver is a more flexible option than taking a tour. You can choose your own itinerary and stops along the way. This is a good option if you are traveling with a group or if you want to see some of the sights along the way.

Public Transportation: You can take a Supratours bus from Marrakech to Merzouga, a town on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The bus ride takes about 12 hours and there is only one departure per day. This is the most budget-friendly option, but it is also the least comfortable.

Rental Car: Renting a car is a good option if you want to explore the Sahara Desert at your own pace. However, be aware that driving conditions in Morocco can be challenging, and it is important to be familiar with the route before you set off. Also, you’ll need an international driver’s permit.

Iconic stops during on a Marrakech-Sahara Desert tour

Whether you’re departing by bus, self-drive, or tour group, the earnest journey into the Moroccan desert is no small feat. It requires a great deal of patience and a highly efficient air-conditioning unit for the great distance ahead!

The sights, tastes, and sounds along the way are another memorable part of a trip to the Sahara desert. Departing Marrakech, your road trip itinerary includes stops en route at some of the most spectacular landmarks and locations in Morocco.

Tizi-n-Tichka mountain pass

Tizi-n-Tichka is a well-known, scenic mountain pass. It will take you through the impressive High Atlas Mountains. Reaching an altitude of 7,415ft, it links Marrakech to Ouarzazate and offers a welcome break from the long drive.

Be sure to stop along the Pass. You’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views.

Ait Ben Haddou

The first highlight of the journey is a UNESCO world heritage site. After the 4-hour, 185-km drive from Marrakech, you’ll be glad to have a chance to stretch your legs and explore.

The modern part of Ait Benhaddou will greet you, with all the touristy shops you’d expect. A short walk down the hill and across the bridge will bring you to the old part.

If you’re a fan of the silver screen, you’ll want to see Ait Ben-Haddou. Countless producers have used this as a film location, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, The Last Temptation of the Christ, Gladiator, and even Game of Thrones.

Ait Ben-Haddou is probably the best known of Morocco’s ksars, which are fortified Berber strongholds. Once a caravanserai – where traveling merchants would stop for the night and stable their camels – the ksar now supports itself through tourism.

ⓘ TIP: Climb all the way to the top for the best views of the area.

Tinghir and the Todgha Gorges

The walls of Todgha Gorge is massive as seen here

Three hours from Ait Ben Haddou through Ouarzazate, and passing palm-lined Skoura, will bring you to Tinghir (in the Draa Region) and the neighbouring Todgha Gorges. Combining it with Ait Ben-Haddou would make for a long day. Rather, stop here on your return trip.

Owing their splendid, natural beauty to both the Todgha and Dadès Rivers, the limestone river canyons have been deeply etched into the earth, with impressive rock walls reaching up to 525 feet into the sky.


The once oasis-outpost of the desert, Erfoud is a mere 45 minutes from Merzouga and an excellent stop to purchase dates and Moroccan madfouna (known as ‘Berber pizza’)—it’s easy to find within the bustling souk. Be sure to check out the ‘Erfoud stone’ or fossilized stones that the area in known for.

Erg Chebbi

If you’ve pictured yourself riding a camel through seas of dunes in the Sahara desert, then Erg Chebbi is the destination for you.

Morocco has several ‘ergs’ or large seas of dunes, washed into shape by the wind. However, the Erg Chebbi dunes are especially spectacular. They tower almost 500 feet above the surrounding rocky hamada below.

The dunes here are far more impressive in size and composition than you can find at Zagora. You will arrive after a memorable camel trek.

Things to do on a Sahara Desert Tour

Getting to the Sahara desert from Marrakech is part of the fun, but the rest of the fun comes once you get there. That’s because there are many things to do in the Sahara desert.

Merzouga desert tours can last anywhere up to four nights. We suggest you make a list of your “must-do” activities before you finalize your plans. This way, you won’t miss out on anything during your once-in-a-lifetime stay in the desert.

Here are some of the most exciting adventures awaiting you in the Sahara:

Sahara Desert camel ride

Riding a camel in the saraha desert is a must do activity
I’ve been through the desert on a camel with no name…

No Sahara desert experience is complete without a camel trek. Riding these “ships of the desert” is an iconic way to explore the vast sandy landscapes.

With its lone hump, the humble Dromedary camels are the perfect companion for a trek off the beaten track. It’s the only way to find a quiet spot with perfectly rippled sand, undisturbed by the feet of dozens of other travelers.

Getting onto the camel’s back is quite an experience; it’s part of the fun of the camel ride! As it kneels gracefully beside you, it won’t be hard to hop onto the camel’s saddle. Camels stand up with their rear legs first, so be sure to hold tight and lean back. You’ll settle into your seat as soon as the front legs follow.

As the string of camels follow your nomad guide, the swaying pace is generally rather slow. It provides the perfect opportunity to whip out that selfie-stick (if that’s your thing) and take a few picture-perfect desert snaps.

You can opt for half-day, full-day, or even overnight camel treks, where you’ll camp under the starry skies. The gentle swaying motion of the camels and the ever-changing vistas make for an unforgettable journey.


Imagine the thrill of snowboarding, but on the soft, undulating dunes of the Sahara. Sandboarding is a unique and adrenaline-pumping activity that allows you to carve down the slopes of the desert’s massive dunes.

With expert guidance, you’ll learn the techniques to master this exhilarating sport, creating lasting memories in the heart of the Sahara.

Quad Biking

4x4 Tour through the Saraha takes you to many locations

For an off-road adventure, embark on a quad biking excursion across the desert terrain. Explore remote villages, traverse rugged landscapes, and witness the diverse flora and fauna of the region.

Quad biking allows you to cover vast distances and reach otherwise inaccessible areas. It’s a fun and thrilling way to experience the Sahara’s untamed beauty.


Trekking lets you absorb the desert’s tranquility and witness its raw beauty up close. So, why not lace up your hiking boots and embark on a trekking adventure?

You will find undiscovered gems, historic kasbahs, and breathtaking natural wonders like the Todra Gorge. 

Cultural experiences

Dressing comfortably couldn't get any better than echoing the Bedouins' dress

In addition to outdoor adventures, a Sahara desert tour will let you interact with local Berber communities. Your guide will act as translator as you learn about their nomadic traditions, share a pot of tea, and enjoy traditional music and storytelling.

These authentic encounters provide a deeper appreciation for the Berbers’ rich heritage and way of life in the desert.

Watch the sunrise

But not all experiences are organized excursions. Even if you are not usually a morning person, you’ll want to wake up to see the sky change color and wait for the sun to peep over the sandy curve of a dune.

As the burning ball of light illuminates the rippled sand and sets the horizon ablaze, you will be glad you did!

Bask in the morning glow, meditative and silent—it’s so quiet that it will make your ears ring. A spectacular moment with just a little bit of magic.

Go stargazing

Star gazing in the Sahara brings more stars out that the grains of sand on a seashore.

For aspiring astronomers, it is the perfect chance to spot constellations, planets, and stars with just the naked eye. Gaze up at the pristine Milky Way without the city glow to wash out the starlight, and you may just witness a shooting star.

The Sahara desert under the stars is breathtaking! It’s almost surreal against the silhouette of cascading dunes (and the occasional roaming camel).

Sleep at a Sahara Desert Camp

Merzouga Desert Luxury Camp as viewed from the dunes.

A desert escape may sound daunting if you are used to the creature comforts of modern living. But there are luxurious desert camps that offer a memorable getaway from the city.

With meticulous attention to detail, comfort, and luxury, these desert escapes are an oasis of relaxation and solitude. Set in the midst of a stunning landscape, these camps have a special Lawrence of Arabia-esque allure. Imagine yourself encircled by the warmth of the fire, embracing the flavors of a hookah, and feeling as if the Milky Way above is guiding you through a portal into another world.

Cue the Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp, where we were invited to spend two nights. There, we enjoyed a true nomadic experience in one of their premium ‘khaimas’, which are traditional tents. The meal buffets were traditionally Moroccan, from the tea to the tagines. The abundant spread was the perfect introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine, and even the pickiest eater found something to enjoy.

As the sun set, we found ourselves between the cascading dunes and the constellation-filled sky.

Unfortunately, it got chilly as soon as that gorgeous, blazing sun sank below the horizon. Thanks to the lack of humidity and the sand’s inability to hold heat once the sun has gone, average nighttime lows in the Sahara can plummet to around 25°F/-4°C.

Despite the chill, nighttime in the Sahara is a magical experience. You get to wrap up like a Berber nomad and sit around a cozy fire with a hookah in hand, a bellyful of tagine, and the sounds of Berber music dancing in the still night sky.

Final thoughts about visiting the Sahara desert from Marrakech

Part of travel’s appeal is the chance to check out of your monotonous daily grind and escape into the great unknown, far away from routines and responsibilities.

For the trip of a lifetime and the photos to prove it, make sure to include a desert experience while you’re in magical Morocco. If you crave a digital detox, this is your chance.

bedouins looking out at the sahara desert and merzouga desert camp text says how to take a tour in the sahara desert

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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2 thoughts on “How to Take a Sahara Desert Tour from Marrakech”

  1. Before reading this, I didn’t know a desert tour was on my bucket list! By golly, it is! I think the 4×4 experience would be fun and definitely the desert camp. Your photos are lovely too! It would be an experience of a lifetime for sure.

    • You should go, Sherry. Morocco is incredible! There’s something so magical about being out in the desert and seeing all those stars in the night sky. That plus the sunset camel trek are some of our best travel memories EVER. We can’t recommend the desert camp experience highly enough!

      Thank you for the photography compliment. Morocco was an especially easy subject for the lens. 🙂

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