Large seas of bright orange sand lay before my eyes – the Sahara Desert that I have always longed to see. After 2 days of hard travel from Marrakech, we finally made it to the Erg Chebbi Dunes, a small portion of the largest hot desert in the world.
The Sahara Desert covers a huge extent of Northern Africa. Morocco is considered one of the best places to tour the Sahara Desert, so we didn’t let this opportunity pass. We made sure to see this magnificent natural wonder. From Marrakech, we arranged for a 3 day tour to the Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes which also included a lot of interesting sights along the way.
Here are the highlights of our 3 Day Tour to the Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes in Morocco:
The Atlas Mountains
Our first day started with the sight of North Africa’s greatest mountain range, the Atlas Mountains. The snow-capped mountains were very impressive but the roads were very winding.
From Gladiator to Lawrence of Arabia to Game of Thrones, Ait Benhaddou has been featured in a lot of Hollywood productions. A World Heritage Site, the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is a fortified city with mud brick houses overlooking the Atlas Mountains. We went all the way to the top of the city and the scenery was incredible.
It is possible to do a separate tour to Ait Benhaddou but doing it during the 3 Day Tour to the Sahara Desert is so much easier.
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The cinematic landscapes in Morocco make is a great place for film. In Ouarzazate, there are film studios with props and sets for different films shot in the area. We didn’t go inside the studios since we had just been to Ait Ben Haddou. Instead we went for a stroll around town. We saw lots of carpet and trinket shops and went for a quick look at the stunning Kasbah Taourirt (there is an entrance fee to visit the interior).
We spent the night in a hotel near Ourzazate. It was already very dark by the time we arrived but in the morning before we left, we saw the nice view from the terrace of our hotel room. The hotel was pretty good (for a middle of nowhere place) and we even had our own room but it was very cold at night since they didn’t have a heater in the room.
Moroccan Berber Rugs
Early the next day, we left our hotel and visited a small house in a settlement near a stream. Our group all sat down in one circle and were offered traditional mint tea. The guide, who owned the rug shop explained how they made Moroccan rugs from the different kinds of thread and their origins as well as the techniques they used. He also mentioned why rugs made by the Berber (indigenous people of North Africa) stand out in terms of craftsmanship. Later, he presented us different styles and sizes of rugs. It’s good that they didn’t push us to buy anything. Apparently, it’s cheaper than in Marrakech but we didn’t really have any room for a rug (I would have bought one if we did).
Located in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Todra Gorge (also called Todgha Gorge) is a canyon with enormous rocks walls. We made a stop in one of the narrow parts of the Todra Gorge. The canyon walls were only around 10 meters from each other and the rock walls rise up to over 150 meters high on each side.
One guy who appeared to be a guide for the canyon approached our van. We knew we didn’t need a guide so we avoided unnecessary tipping by walking ahead of our group.
The Sahara Desert – Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes
Am I dreaming? At last, we made it to the Sahara Desert! What better way to traverse the vast desert than by camel ride. Camels are adorable creatures and they truly fit their place in the desert. While it wasn’t the most comfortable means of transport, it was a unique experience that I will never forget.
We did the camel trek in the Sahara Desert during sunset. The colours of the sky contrasted perfectly to the glistening waves of orange sand. The massive sand dunes seem to go on and on. It was incredible! It was so much more than what I had imagined. The Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes is a part of the Sahara Desert that most people will wish to see.
Read More: Erg Chebbi: The Sahara Desert of Your Dreams
Camping in the Sahara Desert
After an hour of camel trekking, we reached our desert camp for the night. Thousands of stars glimmered in the sky as night fell upon the desert. It would have been so romantic if we had our own tent but we didn’t, 700 MAD is probably not enough value for that kind of luxury. It was not bad, even though we had to share the tent with 5 other people.
After a communal Moroccan dinner, we all gathered around a giant bonfire. Music filled the air as Bberber people performed for our group. People cheered, attempted to play the instruments and danced. It was so much fun!
We stayed a while longer to gaze at the stars. It was truly mesmerizing.
It got pretty cold at night in the desert. We visited in December and the temperatures dropped to nearly freezing. We had to sleep fully-clothed (with jackets, hats and socks) as the layers of rugs which served as mattresses and comforters did not provide enough warmth. A thick sleeping bag would have been really great at that point.
4WD at Sunrise
We dreaded the wake up call the next day as we didn’t sleep too well because of the cold. An uncomfortable camel ride isn’t a great idea when you are still half asleep. We were lucky that for some reason they didn’t have enough camels to take us all back to Merzouga so we ended up going back on a 4WD.
I was apparently too small to ride at the top of the vehicle (Jon was up there) so I stayed next to a mom and her kid inside with the driver. As chanting music started, the roller coaster ride in the desert began. It was a completely different way to cross the intimidating sand dunes. Up, down and around we went. Even though I have a bad case of motion sickness (I forgot to bring pills), I enjoyed our last ride across the Sahara Desert.
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Tips for the 3 Day Sahara Desert Tour (Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes)
The best place to book a Sahara Desert Tour is in Marrakech. Make sure you choose the 3 Day Tour to Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes as the 2 day option takes you to less than impressive sand dunes (not orange!). We booked the 3 Day Tour to the Sahara Desert with our hotel in Marrakech for 700 MAD, which is quite a reasonable price.
Meals are not included except for breakfast on the second day and dinner for two nights. Bring snacks and enough water, although there are a lot of stops where you can buy food.
There’s a lot of driving involved in a cramped van. The winding roads through the Atlas Mountains are stunning, but if you get motion-sickness make sure to bring some pills. I learnt this the hard way and really struggled during the trip.
Plan your time of visit. We were there during winter (December) and the temperature during the day were perfect – slightly breezy and the sun was not as intense, however the temperature drops at night and it’s freezing. Between October and April or early May is supposed to be the best time to travel in the Sahara since the day time temperatures are more bearable. However, in the winter around December and January, night time temperatures are much lower.
Do you have plans to do the 3 Day Sahara Desert Tour in Morocco? Have you been to a different section of the Sahara Desert? Let us know.
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