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.
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!
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.
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!
After this we continued on to Midelt where we stopped for lunch before crossing the pass of Tizi N’Talghamt.
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!
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.
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!)
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.
It did finally, where we were greeted with Moroccan mint tea and some very welcoming giant cushions.
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..
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou
Overall thoughts on our 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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