When you think of Morocco the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Sahara Desert. Which is why a visit to Morocco just wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Sahara Desert.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of companies that offer desert tours in Morocco, many of which are good or not so good. After researching dozens of companies and reading hundreds of reviews, I found only a few companies had consistently great reviews. If you choose a 3 day desert tour like I did, most tours offer a similar itinerary and the same hotels, yet some I emailed were trying to charge almost double what other companies had quotes me. Yes. You heard that right. DOUBLE.
I ended up choosing Morocco Culture Tours and I couldn't be happier that I did. They quoted me the best price for a private desert tour from Fes to Marrakech and I couldn't find one review that said anything but how amazing their tour was with Morocco Culture Tours. After weeks of researched I pulled the trigger and booked my tour with them.
Our tour started at 8 AM and our driver arrived at the hotel at 7:40 AM and waited for us to finished our breakfast. One point for punctuality and a great first impression. Our driver was Said and he was fantastic. His English was great and he was extremely friendly and positive. If you book your desert tour with Morocco Culture Tours, request Said if possible. I promise you will not be disappointed. He was a Berber nomad for most of his life before settling in a village by the desert. I mean can it get much cooler and more authentic than to have a desert nomad as your driver? He took us to great places to eat, was a great photographer and he even had WiFi that he offered us to use. This man is gold. On our last day of the tour he even bought us lunch! I'm convinced he's the nicest Moroccan person and we met many nice ones (I even saw him pick up another person's water bottle off the ground and put it the trash bin).
On our first day, we stopped to see Ifrane, a Swiss looking village and then stopped to see the Barbary Macaque at the Cedar Forests. I am obsessed with Monkeys so I knew seeing dozens of Monkeys up close within a couple hours of starting the tour meant this was going to be an incredible few days. After we had lunch we stopped at the Ziz Valley to take some pictures and take in the incredible view. I was really surprised at how diverse the landscape was just a few hours into the tour.
We arrived at our hotel in the desert late in the afternoon and left our luggage for the night before taking a 2 hour sunset camel ride in the Desert of Merzouga, which has the highest sand dunes in North Africa. They really are impressive sand dunes. If you've never ridden a camel before it is quite an experience. You will have to ride a camel for yourself to see what I mean.
We settled into our desert camp at around 9 PM and at around 10 PM dinner started being served. I had read so many negative reviews about the food in the desert from other companies that I wasn't expecting much, but the food we had was some of the best we ate in all of our 10 day trip in Morocco. The potatoes in our Tagine were incredible. I would have been more than happy to simply eat a barrel of them for dinner. After dinner, live Berber music was played by the camel guides who brought us to the camp, as well as our driver/guide Said. It was an amazing cultural experience and I would have been completely happy to stay in the desert for a week.
On the second day, we were woken up around 6 AM and had a sunrise camel ride back to our hotel where we showered and had breakfast before continuing our drive for the day. We stopped at Rissani where we walked through a local market and saw live goats being sold by nomads, as well as a donkey parking lot (nomads ride their donkeys into town to visit the market). The donkey parking really amazed me and was something I could have never imagined existed being raised in a western country.
After having lunch we made another stop at the Todra Gorge where we got to walk down through the valley, next to a stream with many locals dipping their toes in to cool off. We stopped to see the Monkey Fingers (rock formations that look like a monkey's hand), before ending our day in Dades Valley. That's right another valley. Who knew Morocco had so many valleys? This was one of the most surprising parts of the tour. At times I felt like I was at the Grand Canyon or what I imagine the Grand Canyon to look like from the pictures I've seen.
On our third and last day we drove up to see the snake road(winding roads that look like a snake) from above. Then we started en route to Marrakech stopping in the Valley of the Roses to take some photos. In the spring time the valley is full of roses, though we unfortunately didn't get to see any roses since it was July.
We then visited Ouarzazate "The Hollywood of Africa" where we stopped at the Atlas Studios and got to see a variety of different movie sets. After touring around for an hour we then headed to the Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah, the largest Kasbah in Morocco. We climbed up to the top and had a great view of the Kasbah below. The view is impressive but I think I preferred the view from below which allowed us to see all the facades.
Afterwards we headed through the High Atlas Mountains, where we made a stop for lunch before traveling the Tizi nTichka pass, reaching an altitude of 2260m. We made a few stops to take in the view and take some pictures before finally reaching our hotel in Marrakech at 7:30 PM.
We had such a great time on our tour that we were sad to see it end. Of all our 10 days in Morocco my fiance and I both agreed that the Desert Tour was our favourite part. The amount of things that we were able to see and do all while having a private driver/guide to show us the way and keep us from getting lost was priceless. Even if we had rented a car and braved the streets of Morocco we would have struggled to see even half of what we did with our tour.
Thank you Morocco Culture Tours for the adventure of a lifetime!
Planning a trip to Morocco or to the desert? Let me know if you have any questions.
Below is a Detailed Itinerary Provided by Mohamed from Morocco Culture Tours:
Tour of 3 days / 2 nights from Fes to Marrakech through the Desert of Merzouga "Erg Chebbi"
Day 1: Fes – Ifrane – Azrou – Midelt – Ziz Valley – Merzouga:
We will pick you up from your riad / hotel at 08:00am, then drive south to Ifrane and Azrou through the Middle Atlas mountains. On the way we will stop at the cedar forests to see the Barbarian Apes in their natural habitat. Travelling through the Tizi Ntalghamt pass to Midelt and along the magnificent Ziz Gorges carved through volcanic rock, you’ll see views of the Middle-Atlas plateau and the scenery changing to reveal hints of the desert as you approach the city of Errachidia. After lunch we’ll continue our journey through the Ziz Valley to Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga. After a glass of mint tea, we’ll leave our luggage in a safe room, then take a camel ride to a Berber camp in the middle of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, which are the highest sand dunes in North Africa. The camel trek takes about 1hr 30 min from to the camp, where we will set up in the berbers tents for our night in the desert. The tents are well equipped with mattresses, blankets, and cushions. After dinner we will gather around the fire and enjoy the sound of traditional Berber drums under the stars.
Day 2: Merzouga – Rissani – Erfoud – Tinghir – Todra Gorges – Dades Gorges:
Wake up early morning to enjoy the sunrise on the top of the dunes in the sahara desert, then have your breakfast. After these beautiful moments, you will ride your camel back to the hotel where you can shower. We depart towards Tineghir passing by Erfoud and Tinejdad. Have a break for lunch. In the afternoon, we will continue to Todra gorges via Tineghir. Stopping along the way for photos and admiring the views. Arrival to Todra Gorges to enjoy its marvelous Canyons views while hiking on foot, and finally arrive in the Dades Valley where we will have dinner and spend the night.
Day 3: Dades Valley - Skoura - Ouarzazate- Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah - High Atlas Mountains - Marrakech:
After breakfast we’ll drive through the Dades Valley towards Kalaat Mgouna and Ouarzazate. The route through the Dades Valley, the way of the thousand Kasbahs, provides numerous photo opportunities. We’ll visit the Roses valley and Skoura village, then continue to Ouarzazat, “the Hollywood of Africa”. Lunch is at the famous Ait Ben Haddou kasbah, the largest Kasbah in Morocco. After touring this UNESCO World Heritage site, our journey will continue through the majestic Tizi nTichka pass, reaching an altitude of 2260m, over the High Atlas Mountains. We will stop to enjoy the impressive views and visit the argan oil cooperative. We will arrive in Marrakech late afternoon. Drop off at your Marrakech riad/hotel around 17:30/18:00pm aprox, where the tour ends.
Private tour & Transportation in 4WD with A/C and seat-belt.
Pick you up from your accommodation in Fes & drop you off at your accommodation in Marrakech.
Experienced driver English speaking.
Berber tent accommodation in desert with enough blankets. No need to bring your sleeping bag.
Dinners and breakfasts (Vegetarians are welcome).
A room where you will leave your luggage while you ride the camel to the camp. It is possible to take a backpack with you on the camel.
Camel ride ( If you are not interested to ride the camels for 1 hour 20 minutes, It is possible to ride the camel for short time and take the 4x4 to the camp).
Sand boards ( available in the camp without charge).
Noon meals. (Possibility of picnic or restaurants).
Drinks at meals.
Tips and personal miscellaneous expenses.
In Merzouga: Tents of: http://www.hotelnomadpalace.com/es/campamentos-en-el-desierto/campamentos-estandar
In Dades Valley: www.aubergepanorama.com
In Merzouga: Tents of: http://www.berbere-experience.com/
In Dades Valley: http://www.hotelbabylon-dades.com/
In Merzouga: Tents of: http://www.desertcampbouchedor.com/
In Dades Valley: http://www.xaluca.com/es/hotel/dades/
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