Morocco Diaries: 3 Days in the Sahara Desert

A Sahara Desert excursion was top of the list for our Morocco trip. It took quite a bit of research and planning to work out how to best do this journey.

In the end, we settled on explorning with a private jeep excursion with local company, Sahara Desert Trips, travelling from Fes to the Sahara Desert before finishing in Marrakech.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Overall, we were really happy with the Sahara Desert excursion company. The jeep was comfortable with charging points, great air con and ample room to stretch out.

Our guide was friendly although he liked being on his phone a lot… His driving was safe though and he didn’t take us to too many local trade stores.

So I thought it might be a good idea to detail our journey day by day. It was an exhausting, dusty but brilliant few days and was such a bucket list experience!

Sahara Desert Excursion

Day 1 on our Sahara Desert Excursion

Ifrane and Azrou

We were picked up in Fes at 8am and drove for what can’t have been more than 1.5 hours to Ifrane, located in the Middle-Atlas mountains. Having heard it was like a Swiss ski resort, I was super excited and couldn’t really wait to see the town with my own eyes.

It is a beautiful ski resort, although visiting in April meant no snow. It is very popular with Moroccans and I really couldn’t believe how European it was. The town was very clean, organised and polished. We had a delightful Italian coffee before continuing on.

Sahara Desert Excursion \Sahara Desert Excursion

sahara desert morocco

Sahara Desert Excursion

Next stop on our 3 day Sahara Desert excursion was the famed cedar forest in Azrou to meet the very friendly Barbary macaques monkeys. We bought some nuts to feed them and were relieved to find they were quite polite, as monkeys go. None of that grabbing and biting like in Gibraltar and Bali!

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

After this we continued on to Midelt where we stopped for lunch before crossing the pass of Tizi N’Talghamt.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Ziz Valley

The viewpoint of Ziz Valley which followed on our Sahara Desert excursion blew me away. In the fertile riverbed are now thousands of date and palm trees and old ksour (ancient villages) which are dotted along the way. It challenged my previous ideas of the Sahara Desert – it is so much more than just sand dunes!

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

After a brief stop in the ultra-clean and surpisingly busy desert town of Errachidia, we approached the dunes at Erg Chebbi with growing excitement and anticipation.

Sahara Desert Excursion

They did not disappoint, when suddenly the landscape outside of the car window changed. Rocks and mountain faces were slowly replaced by golden sand as far as the eye could see.

Our journey into the Sahara desert

We arrived at the beautiful Auberge du Sud – I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with a hotel in the Sahara, but it was not this! This huge property with luxurious, with gorgeous gardens and a huge pool (although full of sand as they had recently had very strong winds!)

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Most of the nomad camps catering for tourists are owned by hotels. This means you have the luxury of a safe place to leave your bags overnight and showers in the morning, whilst experiencing a near-authentic time in the camps.

I would say our camp was mid-range. It was pretty basic but very comfortable and realistically, we weren’t there for that long.

The journey into the desert on camelback is quite amazing. A good 1.5 hours I reckon from start to finish. Towards the end, my hips and back were hurting and at every new dune, I was hoping the camp would emerge.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

It did finally, where we were greeted with Moroccan mint tea and some very welcoming giant cushions.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Our wonderful guide, Hamed, cooked us up a huge Moroccan feast. A warming tagine (the temperature really does plummet!), together with cous cous and salad, followed by lots of freshly cut fruit. An amazing spread!

We got to know our fellow travellers really well – a lovely couple from Singapore on their honeymoon no less. Although we did feel as if we crashed it..

We enjoyed some drumming and singing from Hamed and his friends- I even gave drumming a go but I’ll add that to the list of things I’m not gifted at..

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sleeping under the stars on our Sahara Desert excursion

Then the guys decided we should go and see the stars. So we followed them into the deep dark black hole that is the desert. There really is no light pollution and my eyes struggled to adjust, it must be the darkest place I have ever been. The guys laid out some giant blankets and sort of tucked us up like kids for bed.

We lay there for what must have been 45 minutes – just enjoying the moment. It really felt quite special, lying on a blanket deep in the Sahara desert with 5 new friends.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Day 2 on our Sahara Desert excursion

After a few hours sleep, we were woken at 6am to see the sunrise. Whilst Hamed prepared breakfast, we went off to explore the dunes and capture some shots.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Slowly, we got ready and began our camel trek back to the hotel. Hamed decided to model my sunglasses – it was a good look I think!

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

I really loved the camels. Two of them, Steve and Bob, I really felt had an ability to understand emotions and displayed some quite strong and funny personalities. I didn’t think I could liken them to dogs, but camels are definitely not dopey!

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Rissani

After a bit of a clean up and a change, we journeyed into nearby town called Rissani. This wasn’t officially part of our trip, but our guide informed us that they have really good Sunday markets and since it was Sunday..

It was a great insight into rural desert Morocco life. We saw young girls (as young as 10 even) with older men and learnt this is common practice for poor families. No-one even batted an eyelid. Some store owners offered us tea and the chance to try some spices. My favourite aspect by far was the animal market.

Unfortunately, many of the animals were in terrible condition but it was fascinating to witness local people come to barter and head off back home with a donkey or goat, for example.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Kalaat M’Gouna

From Rissani, we headed further north again to the Todra gorges, before stopping at a small-scale rose water production store. The town Kalaat M’Gouna, known as the Rose Valley was fully in bloom in April time and the gorgeous pink flowers were a great contrast to the desert colours. Oh, and did I mention I got to meet a baby desert fox!!!!

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

That evening, we stayed at Riad Tawaza. A gorgeous locally-run boutique perched atop the banks of the gorge. Our room, decorated with rose petals, was everything after a long day of driving in the heat.

We were also treated to a delicious four course meal before absolutely crashing that evening.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

Day 3 on our Sahara Desert Excursion

After a breakfast on the roof overlooking the gorge in the warm sun, we continued on with a journey north towards Marrakech.

Sahara Desert Excursion

Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou

The town of Ouarzazate could be considered the Hollywood of Africa. A huge amount of films have been shot here, including Lawrence of Arabia and The Mummy, leading to the creation of a number of film studios in the area.
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
However, we didn’t linger for long here as we’re not movie buffs. The real excitement just lay further up the road at Ait Ben Haddou. This settlement is centuries old, once occupied but now empty. Formally, it is a ksar -a type of village – or collective group of dwellings. This is the most famous in Morocco and easily the best preserved.
We enjoyed a tour with a local guide who explain its history, as well as its role in films including Gladiator.
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion
Sahara Desert Excursion

Atlas Mountains

The last leg of the adventure was a long winding drive in the High Atlas Mountains towards Marrakech. We passed through the Tizi N’tichka pass at 2260m and unsurprisingly, the temperature was significantly cooler and actually quite rainy.
Not sure if a holiday dedicated to exploring the Atlas Mountains would be my thing.
Sahara Desert Excursion
And that was it. We crawled into Marrakech in the early evening, after a brilliant few days exploring Southern Morocco. Considering the sheer distance that we covered, the drives never felt too long and were a welcome respite from the heat.

Overall thoughts on our Sahara Desert Excursion

We would highly recommend this tour company for a Sahara Desert excursion, and although you could do this with local buses and shared taxis, or even your own hire car, we actually enjoyed the jeep. We didn’t feel restricted at all and it was useful to have a local guide with us the whole way through.
Sahara Desert Excursion

I hope this post has been useful for anyone planning a visit to Southern Morocco and the Sahara Desert! Feel free to ask any further questions in the comments section below!

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Sahara Desert Excursion

Sahara Desert Excursion

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10 Comments

  1. Millie
    February 22, 2018 / 12:25 pm

    Thanks !
    I really enjoyed this and have booked same tour on strength of your info !!
    Looking forward to my trip now …

    • claire_stokes@msn.com
      Author
      February 27, 2018 / 9:57 am

      Thanks Millie! That’s so awesome to hear… Hope you have an amazing trip 🙂 x

  2. February 27, 2018 / 10:35 am

    Wow! What comprehensive account and great photos:) I laughed at the bit about the monkeys…. not like the ones in Gibraltar and Bali! Yeah, the Bali ones are nasty and so scary! I reckon private tour would also be the way to go for us. It would take too much planning trying to figure it all out myself.

    • claire_stokes@msn.com
      Author
      March 19, 2018 / 3:46 pm

      Haha thank you Amy!Yes Bali monkeys are so aggressive but these ones were so sweet 🙂

      Definitely go with a private tour for ease and comfort 🙂

  3. February 28, 2018 / 3:28 am

    This is a great post of how to spend 3 days in the desert. Love how you detailed each thing. I would love to sleep under the stars. That must be so magical! Your pictures are so inspiring too. Thanks for sharing

    • claire_stokes@msn.com
      Author
      March 19, 2018 / 3:48 pm

      Thanks Katie 🙂 Sleeping under the stars was pretty cool!

  4. March 4, 2018 / 10:31 pm

    It sounds like you had such a fun time! For some reason I really like the photo of the man pouring the tea.

    • claire_stokes@msn.com
      Author
      March 19, 2018 / 3:48 pm

      Haha, they do this amazing long arm pour! 🙂

  5. March 21, 2018 / 9:22 pm

    This looks like an amazing experience. I know I would love all of the animal fun.

  6. Steve
    May 24, 2018 / 10:11 am

    Looks amazing….
    Definately going… Thanks !

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