Did you know that you can visit the Sahara desert in as little as 4 days!?
Have you ever dreamed about visiting the largest hot desert on the Planet? Did you know that only need 4 days to tour from Marrakesh to Sahara to have that dream come true? Check out this itinerary, and plan to check this incredible destination off your bucket list!
During a trip to Spain, I decided at the last minute to squeeze in some days in Morocco. It was a great introduction to the country and to visit the Top 10 destinations in Marrakesh, and I was also able to visit other amazing sites, including the Sahara.
With a rich history, landscape, and culture, Morocco offers so much and it is one of the most fascinating destinations. From the vibrant red Atlas Mountains to the explosion of colors in the endless markets scattered around the ancient medinas, to the golden sand dunes in the Sahara desert...this place has a unique beauty everywhere you look.
Where should I start?
Did you know that the Sahara desert is HUGE???? It is almost as big as the entire United States and this vast landscape is filled with natural treasures and is on many peoples' bucket list for some reason.
The Sahara covers large parts of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia. It covers 9 million square kilometers (3,500,000 sq mi), amounting to 31% of Africa. Morocco is located in the northwestern corner of Africa and is about the same size as the US state of California and slightly more than three times the size of New York. Yes, Morocco is a vast country and offers much to explore.
I don't normally hire a tour guide, as my travel style consists of hiring a car or take public transportation and immersing myself and trying to learn as much as I can about the local culture, while I connect with locals and find my way around.
But in some cases, hiring a local guide is the smartest choice you can make, as it will allow you to explore and take full advantage of your time.
Because of my successful experience with Morocco Trip Sahara, I highly recommend them if you are seeking a truly amazing experience. They provide local guides that will organize your visit based on your expectations, time and travel style, while still offering an authentic experience allowing you to immerse in the local culture.
Day 1: MARRAKESH to ZAGORA
My day started early, and at 7:30 AM, my guide picked me up from my riad in his 4X4 car and the adventure began!
The total driving time was 7 hours to the final destination. Even if it sounds like a long day, the good news is that the driving through the Atlas Mountains and the views are just breathtaking. You will pass through mountains and valleys along winding roads and make some stops along the way to visit some shops and take pictures.
We stopped at Ouarzazat for lunch and it was a great opportunity to stretch our legs from the long drive.
Zagora: After 7 hours of driving, we arrived at our final destination for the day at around the sunset. The driving was not easy, and some people got sick in the van during the zig-zag of the mountains.
Zagora sits at the base of the Atlas Mountains and on the shore of the Draa Valley in South Eastern Morocco. It is a highly popular tourist destination partly because of the beauty of the land and the local people, and because it is the closest desert to Marrakesh. Surprisingly, Zagora is not the golden sand dune paradise you might expect, but it has more of a black, rocky landscape that has its own beauty.
After dinner, everyone gathered around a fire, and Berber musicians played drums and sang traditional songs. It was just amazing to be able to sit and stare at the sky bright with the stars.
Day 2 - Zagora to Erg Chigaga
It was another early morning, and time to hit the road again.
Tamgroute: This was the first stop of the day, and it was terrific to visit the Qoranic library, which was once one of the most important Koranic libraries in North Africa, holding a collection of 50,000 Arabic works. Most of these manuscripts and books have now been distributed to museums across Africa or have been lost, but an awe-inspiring collection of approximately 4,000 priceless manuscripts remain in the library. I wouldn't know that if I was not on this tour!
M'hamid: The stop for lunch was great in this small village, and as it is not touristy you can really have a more authentic experience. They call this place "The end of the road" as the Sahara desert starts here. Exciting!
Erg Chigaga: Final destination for the day. WOW! We made it! We crossed the Hammada Oases heading to the Erg Chigaga dunes and you can really feel that you are very isolated from the world. Silence and tranquility are predominent in this place.
It was a memorable night...just when everything settles down, you can just lie down and gaze at the stars. Ah...the life in the desert!
Day 3: Erg Chigaga to Ouarzazate
It was another early morning in the camp. We wereup before sunrise and just watched the sun coming out while the dunes change colors from yellow, to orange, to red...it was breathtaking!
I spent about half the day just wandering around, taking pictures and enjoying the silence while contemplating the nature surrounding me. It's not every day that we can feel disconnected from cell phones, computers or emails and just live in the moment.
After lunch, it was time to say goodbye to the Sahara (awwww man!!!) and head back to the road. We drove around 6 hours to Ouarzazat, where we arrived around sunset. We had another fantastic dinner, with music, mint tea, and enjoyment.
Day 4: Ouarzazate to Marrakech
Another exciting day ahead! It was time to visit Ouazazate, also known as the Hollywood of Afric. Here is one of the largest movie studios in the area called the Atlas Studios. Atlas Studios is the place where many successful and famous movies have been filmed such as Gladiator, the Mummy, and Game of Thrones.
Kasbah of Ait: It is one of the oldest Kasbahs in Morocco. Built by Thami El Glawi the old Pasha of Marrakesh, it is now considered a world heritage site by UNESCO. Visiting Ait Ben Hadou was amazing. It was so much fun to explore the streets and the ancient architecture of the Kasbah. It is an opportunity for epic pictures.
Time to head back to Marrakesh....sad to get to the end of this long 4 day journey, but I felt so accomplished for another successful and amazing experience and unforgettable memories.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- The best option is to hire a tour guide - From the oasis town of M'Hamid El Ghizlane, it's about 30 miles to the actual dunes so it may be best to join a tour or hire a guide, as the desert is no place to just wing it.
- You must have a 4x4 vehicle - In order to roam these sand dunes
- Be aware that the weather - It can turn at any given time. Sand grains of sand can pick up and collect into whirlwinds with rapid speed, causing visitors to clutch their headscarves around their faces
- Pack smart - You will want to wear comfortable clothes, closed-toe shoes, wipes are also a great item to have with you, and SUNSCREEN AND HAT are essentials! Also important, bring toilet paper, snacks, and water.
- Be prepared for cold nights and early mornings - Temperatures in Skoura can vary by one hundred degrees throughout the year, so it’s good to check the weather before you go. In the summer, temperatures in a single day can range from 70F to 110F degrees. In the winter, temps can be between 40F and 70F degrees. It doesn't matter the time of the year, you’ll feel a major drop at night.
- Bring cash. It’s handy to have cash for tips. Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep at least a Moroccan dirham in your pocket any time you’re out. Don't be surprised if you don't find an ATM in the desert!