Merzouga is a small town located right in Morocco’s Sahara Desert and is surrounded by the gorgeous Erg Chebbi Dunes. It’s the main getaway spot to explore the Sahara and is a must on your bucket list! The Sahara Desert is one of the largest deserts in the world with a total of 9.4 million square kilometers (the same size as the United States)! Visiting the Sahara Desert has always been a surreal dream of mine and being able to actually explore this unique part of the world really was unforgettable. Trek the dunes, ride a camel towards the endless views, or camp under the milky way. Coming here is truly a magical experience and I hope this guide on how to visit Merzouga in Morocco will help you plan your trip!
- Top Things To Do in Merzouga
- Best Places to Eat
- Where to Stay
- How to get there
- Tips for visiting Merzouga
Top Things To Do in Merzouga, Morocco
Merzouga itself is a very small town and there are two different ways how travelers visit. The first one is by booking a several-day trip with a tour operator – those tours usually start in bigger cities such as Marrakech or Fés and will have the activities already planned and included.
Secondly, you can visit Merzouga by yourself, in your own time, and booking your own activities. I would highly recommend the second option as it’s easy to get to Merzouga yourself and you will have more freedom to truly enjoy this magical spot on earth!
We actually ended up staying for almost 2 weeks because we really enjoyed our time but also had to work full-time for our remote jobs, so we wanted to make the most of our time in the desert.
First, let’s have a look at all the top things to do in Merzouga! You can book all the activities below by yourself once you’re in Merzouga.
Walk up Merzouga’s Sand Dune
Located right in front of Merzouga’s main gate, you can find a beautiful sand dune overlooking the horizons of the desert. You will already be able to see the sand dune on your arrival in Merzouga as it’s one of the tallest.
Walk to the top of the dune to watch the sunset and enjoy the incredible desert views. It takes around 30-40 minutes to arrive at the top and the sand doesn’t make walking up the easiest but it’s well worth it if you’re up for a little challenge!
Merzouga’s arrival gate
View from the top of the dune
➳ Tip: Always check the weather conditions before heading to the sand dunes! We experienced around four sand storms during our stay and they can be really strong. After all, you don’t want to get into a sand storm without shelter!
Explore Erg Chebbi Dunes
The Erg Chebbi Dunes are the highest and largest sand dunes of Morocco. Beautifully formed by the the wind, they surround Merzouga and are an important part of the Sahara Desert. When you visit Merzouga, it’s a must to head inside the dunes to explore this astonishing world phenomenon.
You can explore the dunes by camel trekking, with a small 4×4 group tour, or by renting a quad.
Spotted camels! Exploring the Erg Chebbi Dunes.
The first option how you can explore the Erg Chebbi Dunes is to book a 4WD adventure. There are options to book a private tour or a group tour (which will be cheaper). Most of the tours will also include lunch and a visit to a Berber village, so it’s a great all-round option if you want to get to know the desert with an experienced guide in a comfortable way.
Starting from 45€
Without doubt, this is the most fun way to explore the dunes and feel the wind of the desert! Renting a quad is the perfect option to explore the dunes when you come to visit Merzouga and like some action. You will see how big the desert is and it would take only a few seconds to get lost in between all the dunes, which is why there will be one or two guides with you leading the way up front. The tour usually takes 1-2 hours and you can either book one online or in person once you’re in Merzouga.
Starting from 45€
Erg Chebbi by quad – super fun!! We booked our tour in Merzouga but this one didn’t have lunch included.
Camel Trekking is probably the most preferred choice by many travelers when it comes to seeing the Sahara Desert. Indeed it is a very unique and unforgettable experience! Most tours will be group tours but you can also book a private tour which will be a bit more expensive though.
We didn’t book a day trip for the camel trekking as we decided to spend several days crossing the desert with a local nomad but there are plenty of camel tours you can book online or in person (your hotel can most likely help you to organize tours as well).
Camel Trekking in the Sahara Desert
➳ Important: Camel riding is a controversial topic and you should be very careful when choosing the provider. Camels are being used for many purposes and, especially in the Sahara, are essential for the locals. However, please check the tour operator before you book to make sure that the camels are treated well. When we did our nomadic experience in the desert, we went with a local who brought his 2 family-owned camels, and we knew that they came from a good environment. There is an interesting article about this topic here that can help you choose your tour operator!
I would recommend booking the camel riding in person in Merzouga, so you can visit the farm yourself to see how the animals are treated or ask around where you can find a sustainable experience.
Camel Farm in Merzouga, Morocco
Finally, Sandboarding is another fun way to explore the desert when you visit Merzouga! You can organize this activity directly with your hotel or hostel.
The beautifully shaped Erg Chebbi Dunes
Overnight in a Luxury Desert Camp
Spending one or more nights in a luxury desert camp is one of the best things to do when you visit Merzouga, Morocco. The camps are located deeper inside the desert surrounded by the Erg Chebbi Dunes. It will give you the opportunity to experience the Sahara at night, do a bonfire with the locals and have the most beautiful stargazing experience in your life!
There are plenty of different camps available ranging from lower to higher prices depending on how much luxury you’re looking for. Some of the camps will have breakfast, lunch and dinner included – the more expensive ones even offer pool and wellness programs.
Overall, most luxury camps also offer activities in the desert for the day and can arrange a pickup from Merzouga to the camp.
Lower Budget Camps: From $16 USD p/n
Medium Budget Camps: From $30 USD p/n
Comfort Luxury Camps: From $60 USD p/n – $140 USD p/n depending on inclusions
Luxury Camp in the Sahara Desert
Crossing the Sahara with a Nomad for Several Days
Surely, this has been one of my absolute favorite experiences in the Sahara and made this whole trip so special! When you visit Merzouga, are up for adventure and have a good level of fitness, this might be an incredible experience for you.
If you’ve been following my adventures for some time, you might know that I love taking more local travel experiences. Luxury camps are beautiful but we wanted to truly experience the desert in a local way – in a way that real Nomads do when they cross the desert with their camels.
Luckily, we found a local in Merzouga that agreed to live this experience with us! We spent 4 nights & 5 days in the desert: our guide who was a true Berber, two camels, one tent and basic food. It was also rough & challenging but an incredibly precious & beautiful experience!
Nomading the Sahara Desert for 5 days
➳ Tip: Make sure you ask to visit a Berber village! It’s an amazing way to see how locals live in the desert.
Berber Village in the Sahara Desert
Where can you book a nomading experience?
You can either book this experience locally in Merzouga or you can try to find an online tour operator.
You can speak to your hotel/hostel in Merzouga to see if they could help you to organize this experience. It’s very likely they know locals who would have the resources to take you to the desert for several days. It obviously depends on what kind of experience you want – if you don’t want to go wild camping like we did, you could also ask to stay in luxury camps instead. Just make sure you clearly communicate what you want. Another option would be to speak to the locals in restaurants or on the streets.
Depends on several factors & the number of days but we paid around 220 USD for the 5 days. We booked in person in Merzouga.
Unfortunately, it is not very easy to find an authentic experience like this online but you could check out ‘Walking with Nomads’ for more information and have a look if they have availability! Prices are likely going to be higher rather than booking the experience locally.
Our guide ‘Mohammed’ and his two camels
Best Places To Eat
There is not too many options available on where to eat when you visit Merzouga in Morocco as it’s quite small. However, you will definitely find well-priced spots where you can get simple but very delicious local food!
Restaurant La Grotte Dunes
‘La Grotte Dunes’ is a very delicious restaurant! The food is great, the prices are cheap and the staff is very friendly. They have local tagines, pizza, pasta and more but you should try their ‘Madfouna‘ (stuffed Moroccan flatbread) – we loved it!
Starting from $1,50 – $7 USD per meal
Cheese heaven for cravings – pasta & fries with cheese sauce at ‘La Grotte’
Café Restaurant Rimal
Our favorite is ‘Café Restaurant Rimal’. The owner is so friendly and welcoming and the food is local, cheap and awesome! They have options for vegetarians and offer awesome BBQ options for meat lovers.
Starting from $1,50 – $6 USD per meal
Group picture with the owners of ‘Café Restaurant Rimal’
Where to Stay in Merzouga, Morocco
You can find different types of accommodation in Merzouga depending on if you are traveling on a budget or prefer to stay in more comfortable hotels. There are plenty of Riad, campings, hostels or hotels you can book.
There are some very nice budget options available if you want to save some cash. You can check available hostels on Hostelworld.
Some of them also have private rooms available from 15 EUR/night.
➳ Tip: We met some travellers that stayed at the camping ‘Le Petit Prince‘ & they really enjoyed it!
Auberge Trans Sahara
Auberge Trans Sahara is the place we stayed at and we can really recommend it if you are looking for more privacy. They have very nice private rooms and little apartments that mostly come with a terrace (no kitchen though). There’s a super cute outside area & a restaurant where you can rest during the day or have your included breakfast.
Hotel Ksar Bicha
One hotel that I can highly recommend is Hotel Ksar Bicha. We spent one morning here by the pool area and loved this place! As it gets very hot every day and there is no place to refresh in the desert, having a pool around is a big plus.
How to get to Merzouga, Morocco
If you want to visit Merzouga in Morocco, the easiest way is to take a bus. You can take one from cities such as Marrakech or Fés, depending from where you continue your journey. Merzouga is in the very east of Morocco, so you might have to split your trip if you come from further distances such as Casablanca.
From Fes to Merzouga
The best way to get from Fés to Merzouga is by taking a bus to Rissani. You can either book a ticket with CTM or Supratours which are the most popular and reliable bus operators in Morocco. Tickets can be bought online on their web page or at the ticket counter.
The bus ride takes 9,55 hours so it’s quite a journey but the buses are comfortable night buses with air conditioning.
Bus tickets start from $13 USD one-way
With CTM there is no direct bus to Merzouga, so you will have to take a shuttle from Rissani to Merzouga. The shuttle will be waiting where the bus stops & takes another 45 minutes to arrive in Merzouga.
➳ Tip: There will likely be other travelers on the bus with the same destination, so you can share the same shuttle and split the price.
From Marrakech to Merzouga
The bus with CTM takes around 19 hours (there is one change in between) from Marrakech to Rissani. Therefore, you might want to split your journey into two days. You can also try Supratours for connections! Same as above: tickets can be bought online or at the ticket counter.
Bus tickets start from $30 USD one-way
Things to Know Before You Visit Merzouga, Morocco
Let’s be honest – visiting the Sahara Desert is a whole different experience than visiting any sort of other destination! Especially because it’s hot, dry and one of the most remote places in the world. Therefore it might seem a little overwhelming to plan for this trip, so I put together some other useful tips that might answer some of your questions.
There is an ATM machine in Merzouga, so there is no need to bring lots of cash upfront hence you will be able to cash out (10 minutes walk from Merzouga center). However, already bringing cash with you is a good idea as there is only one ATM machine and you never know how much cash this one still has available.
Bring comfortable & airy long sleeve clothes! The sun is burning hot in the Sahara and you want to avoid exposing your skin to the sun. Additionally, you can buy light head scarves in one of the many shops in Merzouga to protect your skin even more.
Is it safe to travel to Merzouga? There certainly are parts of the Sahara that are not safe to travel to, but generally Merzouga is safe. In fact, Merzouga is one of the most tourism-oriented spots in the Sahara, so locals are used to receiving international travelers and they are very welcoming! Whenever you head inside the desert, make sure you don’t go by yourself & stick with a tour guide, stay hydrated during the day & don’t walk around alone in the middle of the night.
Best Time to Visit
Overall the best time to visit the Sahara Desert is the months of May and October. During the winter (December and January) temperatures can get freezing at night and sandstorms are more frequent. Try to avoid the summer months (June – September) because temperatures will be very, very hot!
Only long-sleeve clothes in the Sahara Desert… protected from the sun!
➳ Read next: 7 Best Things to Do in Chefchaouen, Morocco
I hope you found this guide on how to visit Merzouga, Morocco helpful! Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below or reach out to me directly!
*Prices are based on May 2022 and can change at any time*
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