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Safaris in the Sahara Desert

  • Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 18 May, 2024

Over 9.2 million sq km (larger than either the US or China) of nothing but vast, shifting sand dunes, the world’s largest hot desert covers most of Northern Africa. Average daily temperatures can reach 47°C – only Death Valley can rival it.

Mute and empty, beneath flawless blue skies, the Sahara Desert is like nowhere else in Morocco (or indeed the world).

But don’t let that put you off. Joining a safari into the desert is an evocative, unearthly and sometimes surreal experience, and the chance to sleep and wake in one of the world’s most extreme and beautiful landscapes.

At 450 kilometres from Marrakech, reaching the edge of the Sahara Desert takes at least 10 hours by car, and is an adventure in itself. Once in the desert, the journey continues by camel to a comfortable camp (some camps offer 4×4 transfers if preferred).

Sunset camel treks are a must-do, with the sky flaming pink and purple before fading into inky darkness. Piping hot tajines appear at mealtimes, with many camps offering fireside musical entertainment before guests retreat to a luxury tent, complete with en suite bathrooms and proper beds.

Tizi n Tichka mountain pass 

This extraordinary stretch of road, built during the French Protectorate era, reaches a height of 2,260m, winding its way over the Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. It’s a spectacular ride, with expansive views of centuries-old kasbahs and palm groves.

Ouarzazate 

This quickly expanding town is home to the Nour Power Station, an impressive solar power complex, as well as the Atlas Film Studios, where visitors can explore film sets from iconic movies and TV shows including Gladiator and Game of Thrones. In the town centre, the Taourit Kasbah rises up, with vendors peddling goods ranging from tajines to djellabas.

Agdz  

Stretch your legs during a wander through the expansive palm oasis with views of Jebel (Mount) Kissane in the background. Start your wander in the old mud-brick Kasbah, but be sure to ask your driver/guide to accompany you as navigating the winding paths can be confusing.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Atlas Film Studios

  • Ouarzazate, Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Entrance to film studios in the desert

Experience

Wander among film sets from some iconic movies and TV series, including Gladiator and Game of Thrones, at the Atlas Studios, the largest film studio in the world, just outside Ouarzazate.

Adult price: 8

Good for age: 13+

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Caid’s Kasbah

  • Agdz, Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Moroccan castle with lush lawns and palm trees in the foreground

Experience

Exploring this three-storey mud-brick Kasbah, once home to the caid (leader) of the area, is like wandering in a maze, with spectacular views of the nearby palm oases from the rooftop.

Adult price: 2

Good for age: 18+

Drive on Lake Iriki

  • Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Off-road vehicles drive in a sandstorm

Experience

From Erg Chigaga, traverse dry Lake Iriki toward Foum Zguid. The expansive landscapes, bordered by the rocky Anti-Atlas Mountains make for a unique drive; look out for shepherds grazing their camel herds.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Half day

Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou

  • Ouarzazate, Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Ancient hilltop town in the desert with river and palm trees in the foreground

Experience

This kasbah has achieved international fame as the backdrop for movies including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. Climb to the top for 360-degree views of the stony desert landscape.

Good for age: 18+

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Kasbah Telouet

  • Telouet , Draa-Tafilalet, Morocco

Ruined Moroccan palace on a clear day

Experience

Left to crumble, but once a residence of famed Pacha Glaoui, impressive zellig, stucco and painted cedarwood line the interior of this mud-brick kasbah, with picturesque views over the valley.

Good for age: 18+

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Logistics

Price from: £100
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The drive from Marrakech to the edge of the Sahara takes at least ten hours (including rest stops along the way). From Marrakech, it’s about a four-hour drive to Ouarzazate – the Tizi n Tichka mountain pass marks the halfway point. From there, it’s about a further four hours to reach the edge of the Sahara.

The Erg Chigaga part of the Sahara Desert is accessible via an off-piste road near M’hamid, with luxury camps set among the colourful dunes. Erg Chebbi is easily accessible from Merzouga, further east from Marrakech, and popular with group travel.

This is a harsh and unforgiving environment, and only experienced trekkers should drive there independently. Several reputable tour operators offer all-inclusive Sahara Desert safaris from Marrakech. They’ll pick you up and organise all logistics. They’ll also arrange visits to interesting sites along the way, breaking up the long car journeys. Allow at least five days for the circuit, starting and ending in Marrakech.

En route, look out for unassuming roadside stalls serving tajines slow-cooked over hot coals mopped up with fresh bread. They’re often the best option when travelling in rural Morocco.

Regardless of the season, it’s worth packing a layer or two to throw on while watching the sunrise or gathering around the campfire at night.

When to do it

Spring and autumn are ideal times for a safari in the Sahara Desert with comfortable daytime temperatures and pleasant evenings, ideal for dining under the starry skies.

Many camps close in the hot summer months when temperatures can climb above +50’C. Winter months provide pleasant daytime temperatures, but surprisingly cold nights.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Marrakech to Fez via Merzouga Desert 3-Days Morocco Sahara Tour

  • Marrakech

Marrakech and Fes are the major cities everyone visiting Morocco can’t miss. Combining the Sahara desert with Fes and Marrakech will make your Morocco desert tour as rich as possible. For that reason, and with increasing inquiries, we decided to suggest a Marrakech to Fes desert trip for you to take advantage of and combine the Sahara desert with the two amazing cities of Marrakech and Fes. Cross the High Atlas Mountains driving past one Berber village after another. Visit Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, considered a world heritage site by UNESCO. Visit Ouarzazate and its Kasbah Ait Ben-Haddou. Drive along the Valley of the roses & the road of 1001 Kasbahs. Walk in Todra oasis to Todra Gorges & visit a Berber village. Ride a camel in Erg Chebbi. Spend the night under the stars at your Sahara desert camp. Drive along Ziz Valley and cross the Middle Atlas Mountains with its cedar forests to Fes.

Price €169

Min age 0

Rating 4.88 / 5 [3575 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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3-Day Sahara Desert To Merzouga From Marrakech

  • Marrakech

This 3 days Sahara to Merzouga Erg Chebbi expedition is an enriching tour of southern Morocco and is one of the best things to do in and around Marrakech. Join your local guide on a unique experience to trek on a camel through the dunes of Erg Chebbi Desert on this overnight trip through the Sahara. Then enjoy traditional tagine and sweet mint tea before camping under the stars in a Berber tent. Breakfast and dinner along with all transportation by air-conditioned minivan are included. 

Price €110

Min age 0

Rating 4.79 / 5 [1429 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Ouarzazate One Day Trip from Marrakech

  • Marrakech

Join us on this wonderful day and explore Moroccan history and it`s amazing natural landscapes on a day trip to Ouarzazate. Admire beautiful views of natural landscapes while you explore typical villages of the Kasbahs region. In one day trip, enjoy a beautiful moment with a professional driver who will make you see the history of the Moroccan desert door. Ouarzazate is one of the famous destinations that the tourist admires with a beautiful and historical sights.

Price €27

Min age 0

Rating 4.71 / 5 [1330 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Marrakech to Merzouga desert 3-Day via the high Atlas mountains

  • Marrakech

Experience the Sahara Desert like never before on our captivating 3-day tour. Departing from Marrakech, you'll embark on an enchanting journey to the remote Merzouga dunes. Our adventure features: - Camel Trekking: Traverse the majestic dunes atop a camel, relishing stunning sunsets and sunrises. - Local Insights: Our knowledgeable guides share Berber traditions and Sahara history. - Historical Treasures: Explore hidden oases, ancient villages, and historic sites. - Intimate Groups: Forge connections in a small, close-knit group. - Moroccan Cuisine: Savor authentic meals prepared to perfection. - Safety & Comfort: Your well-being is our priority. Don't miss this opportunity for a unique Sahara Desert experience. Book now for lasting memories.

Price €100

Min age 0

Rating 4.93 / 5 [996 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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3 Days Sahara Desert Trips From Marrakesh

  • Marrakech

This short 3 days desert tour gives you a real feel of Morocco where you get to meet locals and see the south of the country. Visit Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah, Walk in the Todra gorge. Experience a camel trek at Merzouga and Erg Chebbi dunes. Dont hesitate to book this Marrakech to Merzouga trip in advance!

Price €533

Min age 1

Rating 4.93 / 5 [175 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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