The Sahara desert is the world’s largest arid desert and stretches east to west right across the belly of Africa. At its north western fringes it reaches into Morocco, south of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and meeting with the Atlantic Coast at Tan-Tan. The desert is not all "Lawrence of Arabia" styled romantic sand dunes, but a mix of rocky plateaus (hamada), stony desert (reg) and soft dunes (erg) dotted with oases, natural springs, dried river beds, acacia trees, tamarist trees, thorny scrub, strange succulent plants and even wild rocket. Though the gazelle is virtually now extinct, there are other indigenous mammals such as gerbils and the comic-looking fennec desert fox. To experience the immense and harsh wilderness of the desert is a humbling and often emotional experience. It is one of the few places on the planet where you can experience complete silence and understand the fragility of life. In Southern Morocco there are two main gateways into the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert – with the major dunes systems being at Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga.
Click here to see some of our Suggested Sahara Desert itineraries.
SheherazadVentures organises tours into both the main desert regions of Morocco. In the south east, south of the Middle Atlas Mountains and at the edge of the Ziz Valley and Tafilelt Oasis is the desert doorway town of Merzouga. It is a dusty, small outpost with several auberges and hotels dotted along the southern edge of the great Erg Chebbi dunes. It is the most popular for tourists as it is accessible by ordinary car, coaches and minibuses, with paved roads right to the edge. For our clients we offer a choice of character 3-star guesthouse or riad, 4-star classic hotels and both luxury and standard bivouac desert camps in the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Once at the dunes line, then it is a matter of a short camel trek of around 1-2 hours to reach your overnight camp. The further you go, the more peace and isolation you get! Our Sahara Desert tours often take you via the Erg Chebbi dunes to experience an amazing desert adventure and this is a popular circuit for our tours that start from either Fes or Marrakech, passing then via the High Atlas Mountains, Ouarzazate, Skoura, Dadès Gorge, Todra Gorge, Rissani, Erfoud and to Merzouga. The distance from the Erg Chebbi dunes to Fes is a very long drive (approx. 9-10 hrs), but it can be broken up with stopovers in Midelt and Azrou in the Middle Atlas Mountains. See our Sahara Desert Tours for suggested itineraries that go to Erg Chebbi.
The highest dunes in Morocco are at Erg Chigaga, standing at 300 metres above the desert floor. The dunes of Erg Chigaga are in the Hamada du Draa at the very south of Morocco, close to the Algerian border. The route there is a spectacular scenic drive through lush oases of the Draa Valley. The end of the tarmac road is reached at the village of M’Hamid el Ghizlane and then either a 60 kilometre off-road safari in 4x4 vehicle or a 3-day camel trek is required to reach this majestic, remote sea of sand. The dunes are at the edge of the Iriqui National Park which incorporates the dried salt flats of Lake Iriqui (once part of the old Paris-Dakkar rally route), the Sacred Oasis, several marabout holy shrines and green pasture that provides enough food to support several nomadic families living here in tents of camel-wool and herding their camels and goats. A circular tour to Erg Chigaga from Ouarzazate will take in our key destinations Agdz, Zagora, Tamegroute, M’Hamid el Ghizlane, Tazenakht as well as passing through the Anti-Atlas Mountains where they meet the volcanic Jbel Siroua massif in a series of gorges and ravines. Stunning panoramic vistas, crumbling kasbahs, mud-built villages and the colourful tribal traditional dress or the local Saharawi and Berber population make this journey truly unforgettable. In the palm groves just outside M’Hamid el Ghizlane we offer boutique guest-house accommodation, 3-star and 4-star character kasbah-style hotels. At the desert dunes of Erg Chigaga we provide accommodation in our own superior comfort standard desert camp or a delightful luxury bivouac kitted with magnificently furnished safari tents and en-suite showers. Our speciality for adventure seekers in this region is multi-day camel trekking and wild camping to get a true understanding of the nomadic way of life! Our family team of local Saharawi nomads will also delight in teaching one of their favourite pastimes – sandboarding. Enjoy surfing gracefully down the high dunes, but be ready to climb back up without the aid of a ski lift!
For a very special and unusual desert tour in Morocco, see our Trans-Sahara Luxury Desert Tour for an amazing trip that combines on off-road 4x4 desert safari between Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga, then travelling through the Southern Valleys and Oases of Morocco.
NOTE: The deep Sahara desert areas in Morocco mentioned here are best explored between mid-September to late May. During the summer months of June to August, the daytime temperatures can reach around 50 degrees C. In December and January, night time temperatures can fall to near freezing, even though daytime can still be quite warm and sunny.