Morocco’s environment is varied, ranging from enormous orange dunes to green valley oases to crashing waves along the coast. Still, the country is nearly synonymous with the desert, thanks to the unique experiences offered. The two main deserts are Erg Chebbi and Agafay. Erg Chebbi is a bit more famous, featuring tall orange-tinted sand peaks, whereas rocky Agafay sits close to Marrakech, making it an easy day trip or overnight from the city.
You can enjoy your Moroccan holiday in many ways. One of the most quintessential experiences includes an overnight in a Bedouin-style tent, complete with sunset camel rides, authentic cuisine, traditional music, and stargazing. But you can also explore the desert on an e-bike, horseback, and more! Because these adventures are best enjoyed with good weather.
Adventures in Erg Chebbi
Erg Chebbi sits in southeastern Morocco in the semi-arid Pre-Saharan Steppes. If you want that quintessential Moroccan desert experience atop rolling hills of orange-hued dunes, then this is the place for you!
Cultural Adventures in Erg Chebbi
Erg Chebbi is a massive stretch of dunes and desert, home to local families and an excellent setting for active excursions or cultural adventures ! You can start with a Jeep tour of the dunes and opt for stops to chat with the locals. Have tea with a family that lives in the desert or visit the village of Khamleya to listen to spiritual healing music. Relax at your camp or continue the adventure with an ATV tour or sand boarding excursion. Watch the sunset, enjoy dinner, listen to music, and stargaze into the night.
Overnight in a Luxury Desert Camp
Make a night in the desert more special by staying at luxury eco-camp in the Sahara, where the secludedness reveals a star-filled sky. Enjoy homecooked meals featuring locally sourced food, sip tea at sunset atop a dune, and gather around a fire in the evening to listen to Berber music and stories about life in the desert’s nomadic communities from your hosts. Take part in camel rides or other desert excursions before retiring to your luxury tent at night.
Listen to Traditional Music in Khamlia
Just outside of Merzouga is the traditional desert village of Khamlia (Khemleya), where you’ll sit down with the locals to chat, hear stories, listen to music, and sip tea. Khamlia only houses a few hundred residents, but the town is teeming with culture, as it encourages spirituality and healing with music and dancing. You’ll listen to traditional Gnaou music, which brought together unique sounds from many sub-Saharan countries, as the group was originally nomadic
The Desert Beyond the Dunes
Although Erg Chebbi draws the big crowds as Morocco’s largest sand desert, the villages that sit at the edge of the dunes also offer unique cultural experiences.
Ancient Irrigation System in the Saghro Mountains
Just before the town of Rissani is the end of an ancient irrigation system that brought water nearly 20 miles (30 km) from the Saghrou Mountains to the many desert communities. The system proved vital, as the water supported livestock and the communities’ very livelihood. Each tribe was responsible for its own stretch of the irrigation tunnels, which sit today, looking like molehills and ready to be explored! Follow the tunnels to an oasis as you learn about their history and significance.
Visit the Erfoud Fossil Museum
Since the entire Sahara desert and region was once under one of the world’s oceans, experts have discovered seemingly endless fossils across Morocco. You can see collections at the Erfoud Fossil Museum, where archeologists have mostly found prehistoric squid and snails. However, the museum also has exhibits featuring meteorite fossils, a giant Trilobite, desert roses (petrified sand that has almost turned into glass), and fossils of dinosaur parts.
Explore the Agafay Desert
The Agafay Desert sits just southwest of Marrakech, so it’s easy to enjoy an overnight or day trip in the area. Although a bit rockier and less colorful than Erg Chebbi, it still offers exciting excursions in the solitude of the desert.
Horseback Riding in the Agafay Desert
Explore the desert at a slower pace on horseback! You’ll ride through the rocky and sandy dunes of the Agfay Desert outside of Marrakech, enjoying the everchanging scenery. Savor the quiet solitude as your guide leads you through the scenic terrain, sharing stories of geologic history and cultural significance. Enjoy a traditional Moroccan meal in the desert before heading back.
E-Bike Adventure in Agafay Desert
An e-bike excursion through the desert is the perfect compromise: slower than an ATV but faster than a horse—plus, it gives you an advantage when tackling those challenging hills! Start with a fun quad ride from Marrakech, passing through the surrounding landscape. Then pedal into the Agfay Desert from Terre des Etoiles. You’ll head down canyons and up dunes, experiencing all the various colors of Morocco’s scenic desert landscape.
How to Craft the Perfect Desert Itinerary in Morocco
Many visitors to Morocco incorporate desert experiences into their itineraries, so it’s easy to follow suit. If you just need a taste of the unique terrain, consider combining Marrakech with the Agafay Desert and the Atlas Mountains. Add a day trip or overnight in Essaouira on the coast, and you have a well-rounded Moroccan experience!
But if you’d like to make Erg Chebbi the focus of your trip, then add a few extra days to your itinerary and fly in and out of either Marrakech or Fes. Either city will allow you to combine a bustling Medina with a coastal visit, alpine towns, and desert communities. To get the full Moroccan experience and enjoy a day or two in the desert, give yourself at least one week in the country.