Desert Tour from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga

A three-day desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga. This organised tour takes you on a drive through the diverse landscapes of Southern Morocco and you’ll spend two nights in the Sahara. One word of caution though: This trip potentially offers an all-time holiday highlight that’s hard to beat.

A desert trip is usually at the top of many wish lists for travellers visiting Morocco for the first time. That’s hardly surprising, because the sand dunes, the endless horizon, the emptiness, the silence and the starry skies all make for an unforgettable experience. Morocco has two large expanses of sandy desert. The tour I’m going to tell you about in this post focuses on the vast sand dunes of Erg Chegaga, which cover around 150 km². As you approach, it’s plain to see the incredibly impressive landscape that South Morocco has to offer.

Sand dunes in Erg Chegaga, Morocco

The Erg Chegaga sand dunes

On the way to Erg Chegaga: The Atlas Mountains, Ait Benhaddou and Zagora

Depending on where you’re staying in Marrakech, you can either arrange a pick-up in the morning or make your way to the meeting point at Jemaa el Fna. Each tour takes place in a small group (max. 16 people). At the start, we cross the Atlas Mountains by minibus via the Tizi n’Tichka Pass. Even this part is amazing and after just one hour on the road, I already feel like I’m in another country, such is the difference between this place and Marrakech. The scenery and panoramic mountain views are so breath-taking.

Our two-hour break at Ait Benhaddou is better still. The Ksar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and been used as a backdrop for many famous film productions, including Babel, Game of Thrones and Gladiator.

Ksar Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
Ksar Ait Benhaddou is on the way from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga

Passing through Ouarzazate, we continue to the oasis city of Zagora. From here, we travel for a good hour by camel to the first desert camp, which is set up near to a few small sand dunes. The camp is pretty cosy and comfortable and we spend the night in a well-furnished tent, which, of course, we have to ourselves. To make the most of the sunrise from the nearby mountain, we start the next day very early. Our reward is a most spectacular sunrise. After breakfast, we ride back by camel with the group to Zagora.

Desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga
Duration:3 days
Highlights:Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazte, Erg Chegaga, Draâ Valley, 2 nights in desert camps
What to take:A backpack for the camel ride to the first night in the desert camp, a sleeping bag, sunscreen
Cost:from 189 Euros per person
Booking: Getyourguide

Travelling by jeep through the dunes

The tour to Erg Chegaga continues in a comfortable jeep. We learn more about the production of ceramics in Tamegroute, a place made famous for its green pottery works by the arte documentary The Colours of Morocco. After visiting the village, we continue towards Erg Chegaga.

Shortly after M’Hamid, the road comes to an end. A sign indicates that the desert starts here and in order to carry on, you must be adequately equipped for your own safety. This is where the true desert adventure begins. The track leads across the dunes and in some places, you can barely see the way. The driver really needs to concentrate due to the sand, which means the jeep glides slowly through the breath-taking scenery of sun and sand.

Erg Chegaga Offroad
On the second day of the desert tour, you’ll change from a minibus to a jeep

We spend the second night in a desert camp surrounded by sand dunes. This place is far more enchanting than the first desert bivouac, because we’re utterly alone here in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the fabulous sand dunes scenery.

The third day starts with an early breakfast because we want to start our homeward journey in good time. First, we travel by jeep through the sand dunes. Then, from Zagora, we board the minibus once more. Our last extended stopover is in Ouarzazate where we visit the Kasbah Taouirt with a city guide. Then, we make swift progress over the Atlas Mountains and the tour finally ends in Marrakech in the late afternoon.

Organisation, food, accommodation

It doesn’t take long to realise that this tour is very professionally organised and everything runs like clockwork. This is no mean feat, given the different drivers, vehicles and crews in the three desert camps, all playing a part in the success of this tour. The tour guides speak good French and their English is ok. They’re always mindful of your needs and will answer all your questions. The drivers are professionals and drive safely.

Last but by no means least, moving on to the meals and the accommodation. All the hot food served in the desert camps tasted great. I thought that the accommodation was just as positive. The fortified tents near Zagora and Erg Chegaga are very well-equipped, with integral beds and carpeted floors. In the desert camps, you and your companion have your own private tent, guaranteeing you privacy at night.

desert camp in erg chegaga at night
Overnight in a desert camp at the Chegaga

An overview of the itinerary for the desert tour to Erg Chegaga:

1st day

• Departure from Marrakech (minibus)
• UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ait Benhaddou, lunch (2 hours)
• Ouarzazate.
• Zagora
• Camel ride to the desert camp in the sunset
• Overnight stay in the desert bivouac

2nd day

• Breakfast in the desert camp
• Camel ride to Zagora
• Switch to a jeep
• Tamegroute (mosque, pottery, Islamic library)
• Erg Chegaga, lunch in the desert camp
• Continue to a third camp with an overnight stay

3rd day

• Breakfast
• Drive to Zagora (by jeep)
• Ouarzazate, guided tour Kasbah Taourirt (minibus)
• Lunch in the Atlas Mountains
• Arrive back in Marrakech

Desert safari to Erg Chegaga: hints and tips

Luggage tips

I recommend taking as little as possible on this desert tour to Erg Chegaga. The reason is that you load your luggage onto the camels for the first night. The minibus doesn’t go to the camp. Ideally, you’ll have a daypack with your camera, torch, water, towel, sunscreen, toiletries and a warm jumper, depending on the season. Also, I advise taking a light sleeping bag.

Best time to travel

Although you can go on this tour all year-round, I think I’d prefer a three-day trek in the Atlas Mountains in July or August to the sweltering summer heat in Erg Chegaga. Although it’s bearable during these months, September to June offer cooler weather in the desert than in the summer. However, if you go to the desert in the winter, please remember that it can get quite cool at night and you’ll need at least one jumper.

Sunrise in the desert near Zagora, Morocco
Sunrise near Zagora

Booking

You can book this desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga through Getyourguide. During the booking process, you can provide your hotel address to get picked up in Marrakech. You can also do this later if the travel agency contacts you after booking for further information.

Desert safari from Marrakech to Erg Chegaga
Duration:3 days
Highlights:Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazte, Erg Chegaga, Draâ Valley, 2 nights in desert camps
What to take:A backpack for the camel ride to the first night in the desert camp, a sleeping bag, sunscreen
Cost:from 189 Euros per person
Booking: Getyourguide

Conclusion: The Erg Chegaga tour will be the pinnacle of your holiday!

Going on a tour to the Erg Chegaga sand dunes is definitely a guaranteed holiday highlight. The journey through the constantly changing landscapes of southern Morocco is just amazing. This stunning spectacle of nature will give you memories of Morocco that you can’t get from cities like Marrakech or Agadir. The highlight of the tour is definitely the second day when you drive by jeep through the Erg Chegaga dunes before finally reaching the desert camp. This night under the stars of the Sahara was just phenomenal.

(all photos: Travelguide Marrakech)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *