During Tim and I’s trip to Morocco, we made the choice to take a 3-day Sahara Desert trip from Marrakech. In all, the trip was 3 full days for less than 8 waking hours in the desert and most of that time was spent sitting in a car driving. When planning our trip, we were so on the fence about whether or not to do it, and we couldn’t find any posts to reference others’ experience. Today I want to share all of the details including a cost breakdown and review on our reccommendations for others considering taking the same trip. If you are visiting Morocco and trying to decide if you want to spend 3 days on a Sahara Desert trip from Marrakech, this post is for you!
When we were planning our trip to Morocco, I thankfully had a few friends to lean on for advice. There are so many options for what you can do and we trusted their recommendation when we finally decided to go for the Sahara trip. We booked a 3-day excursion to and from Marrakech through Desert Day Tours. You can find a full cost breakdown and list of what was included at the bottom of this post!
DAY 1: MARRAKECH TO OUARZARZETTE
We were picked up from our Riad in Marrakech around 8:30 am by our driver and guide (Mohammed and Mohammed lol). Since Tim and I booked the same Riad before and after our trip, they were kind enough to hold our luggage for us so we could just bring light backpacks with us. We highly recommend doing the same and if you’re coming from Marrakech, check out Riad Dar Zaman and tell Hassan we sent you!
Once we left Marrakech it was a lot of winding roads until we stopped at a little restaurant on the side of the mountain for a quick bathroom break and a bite to eat. It’s worth noting that all of the restaurants on the tour were definitely frequent stops for tours and because of that not very good, so don’t expect high-quality food like you get in Marrakech.
After breakfast, we got back into the car and made our way through the Atlas mountains. To our surprise, there was snow on the ground and it was freezing! I definitely had not prepared for that so I would suggest packing layers.
During our drive, I was amazed by how the weather and climate shifted so much. We made our way up and through the Atlas mountains, and it was back to sunshine and warmer weather. Our next stop was the UNESCO World Heritage site Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou.
Ben-Haddou is a historic site along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech with homes built of earthen clay. Our guide showed us around and gave us time to shop and take pictures before we grabbed a bite to eat and headed out.
We ended our day around 5:30 pm in Ouarzarzette and settled into our Riad for the night (Riad Tzawa). It was really nice to stretch our legs, sit outside in the beautiful gardens, and enjoy a slow dinner. If you thought I was going to say “nice hot shower” think again 🙂 Hot water is a sweet surprise in Morocco, when you can find it.
DAY 2: OUARZARZETTE TO MERZOUGA DESERT
After breakfast, we met our guides in the lobby at 9:30 am for our second day of driving. Driving through the valley is beautiful. There were pockets of lush green trees, rock formations, and Berber villages made from clay mixed with more urban cities.
We stopped right before the desert to try on some authentic Berber outfits and take some pictures. Although I appreciated learning about the customs and head wraps, this stop felt very rushed and touristy. Their main objective was to sell us an outfit for photos and get us out. Bummer, but still worth the stop.
Around 6:00 pm, we arrived at the edge of the desert and the real fun began! Our guides drove our bags around to camp while we rode camels up to a high spot to watch the sunset. Riding camels was a hilarious experience and I will say that it gets old fast 🙂 Tim’s camel kept sitting down because it didn’t want to go any further and we all got a good laugh. It’s definitely an experience you should try once in your lifetime, but once was enough for me. 🙂
The highlight of the trip for me was definitely once we reached our spot in the sand dunes. We could see the rolling orange dunes and the black mountains of Algeria beyond them. We had about an hour and a half to enjoy ourselves before sunset so we took pictures, facetime’d friends, and sat in the sand to enjoy the view. The sunset was beautiful and the pictures definitely speak for themselves.
After sunset, we rode our camels to the campsite and settled in for dinner. We were pleasantly surprised at how nice the tents were! The beds were comfy and the showers had HOT WATER!
After dinner, the camp guides lit a fire and played traditional music for us. I can’t even describe the number of stars! We only got to see them for a few minutes before the clouds came in, but I’m so thankful we got even that! I would hate to make the entire journey and have a cloudy evening with zero stars.
We enjoyed some time out by the campfire listening to music and stargazing and even got in a little dancing before heading into our tent for long hot showers and a good night’s sleep.
DAY 3: MERZOUGA TO MARRAKECH
Tim practically had to drag me out of bed at 6:45 am to watch the sunrise. By this point, we were both exhausted from the trip. We left camp around 8:30 am and our guides had to wake us up for our stops and lunch. The winding roads were making me pretty dizzy so the only option for me was sleeping.
On the last day, you end up driving the full distance from the previous two days. Since there are fewer stops, we managed to make it back to Riad Dar Zaman around 6:00 pm and to be honest, I don’t even think we ate dinner. We just went straight to sleep!
WAS IT WORTH IT?
So this is the big question and to be honest it pretty difficult to answer. I don’t regret making the trek out to the Sahara but with the short time we had in Marrakech it definitely required a big commitment to make it happen.
I think everyone should see the desert during their time in Morocco, but you don’t have to spend 3 days in the car to accomplish it. We recommend checking out Agafay desert which is only 45 minutes outside of Marrakech. You’ll get the same feel for the desert and can camp under the stars, but without the travel days. The only difference is Agafay desert is flatter and doesn’t have large sand dunes like the Sahara.
Venturing out of the city will allow you to see the contrasting cultures and lifestyles that are present between the Berber and Arabic people and better understand the diversity of Morocco. Whether you decide to spend a day or 3 days, we know it will be an experience you won’t forget!
Want to book the same trip? Here are the details:
The cost was 335 euros ($373 US Dollars) per person for a standard tent, $746 total. Included in this cost was:
- Pick up from our Riad/Hotel in Marrakech
- Private tour with no other passengers in the car
- SUV or MiniVan with AC
- Tools, fuel and all fees for the car
- English speaking guide and driver
- 1 Night in Hotel/Riad on the first evening (Boumaln dades/Kelaa or Ouarzazate)
- Camel trek in the desert (camel for each person)
- 1 Night in the Sahara desert camp
- Dinner and breakfast at the Sahara desert camp
- Drop off to our Hotel/Riad in Marrakech
The only things that were not included during the trip were lunches on our travel days, miscellaneous purchases we wanted to make, and tips. Plus some small change so we could get toilet paper from the bathroom attendants during the drive. We paid a $150 deposit via Paypal to reserve our spot and paid the remainder in Moroccan dirham to our driver on the first day of the trip.
You can book this excursion and several others in Morocco by visiting Desert Day Tours (not sponsored).
Thank you so much for reading this post! If you enjoyed it, you might also like my other Morocco blog posts:
- OUR STAY AT LE RIAD YASMINE
- OUR COUPLES SHOOT IN MARRAKECH
- 18 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING TO MOROCCO
Interested in more of Morocco? Check out my travel diary on Youtube and my Morocco Instagram story highlights for Marrakech and the Sahara Desert!
What an icredible experience!! I love the photos of the scenery and of course, you and Tim!
Even though it was a long 3 days, I really do think it was worth it! Such a once in a lifetime thing 🙂
It would be much better if you did a 4 or 5 days trip to Sahara. You would be able to explore other parts and visit nomads and enjoy a free day in the desert.