A Trip to the Agafay Sahara Desert in Morocco

A trip to the Sahara Desert in Morocco is one of the big highlights of a visit to Morocco. The Sahara will bewitch you with its otherworldly beauty and the infinite patterns you’ll see in the sand dunes. It will surprise you with its lushness after the rains. And if you’re patient you just might find magic in the night skies as you lie on a carpet waiting for shooting stars.

How big is the Sahara?

The Sahara Desert is huge covering most of North Africa. Imagine all of the continental United States as a desert. That’s the Sahara agafay desert camp. Interestingly the Sahara is approximately 30% sand and 70% gravel, a fact that becomes quite obvious when you drive through it.

Erg Chigaga or Erg Chebbi on a trip to the Sahara Desert?

There are two main overnight desert camps in Morocco accessible from Marrakesh. They both offer camel rides along with access to the sand dunes. One is called Erg Chigaga, the other Erg Chebbi.

The Erg Chebbi sand dunes, located a day’s drive and approximately 560 kilometres from Marrakesh are by far the most popular dunes. Erg Chigaga, the ones we visited are even further from Marrakesh and camps are more rustic.

Even though I did not visit the Erg Chebbi dunes, I would never want to after hearing about them from our driver, a Sahara desert nomad who has spent most of his life in the desert. He told me that at the height of the busy season there can be up to 5,000 people in the camp, spread across both luxury and rustic hotels. He says the worst it all are the ATV’s that ride through camps, making a heck of a lot of noise.

Erg Chigaga

I loved our experience at Erg Chigaga. These sand dunes are definitely off the beaten path and accessible via four wheel drive only.

Though they aren’t as tall as those at Erg Chebbi, they do cover a larger area and they’re quiet. As they are about 60 kilometres from the nearest road, I wouldn’t want to attempt to get to the desert camp on my own. As it was, we got stuck as did another vehicle and had to be winched out.

Book a 2 day tour to the desert

There are lots of options – and all will require a fair bit of driving. This 2 day tour via Get Your Guide includes a camel ride, sunset and sunrise in the Sahara desert agafay camp as well as a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou.

The ride into the camps was unbelievable. It had rained recently so our drive through this part of the Sahara Desert was through a mass of wildflowers. Camels roamed this area, grabbing mouthfuls of flowers while their babies let out contented sighs – at least according to Mustafa, our driver. I wouldn’t have known the sounds the babies made were ones of contentment.

Our original plan had been to catch sunset from the top of one of the sand dunes before heading to our camp. But as it took a while for help to come and get winched out from our sand trap so we were only able to catch the sunset from afar. Fortunately the next day we were able to enjoy an early morning camel ride to catch the sunrise.

Riding camels  – a highlight of a trip to the Sahara Desert

Riding a camel is touristy but at the same time it’s a cool experience and one I’d recommend. The camels take you to the base of some of the big dunes and from there you climb to the top for the views. It’s a bumpy ride but it doesn’t take long to get onto the rhythm.

We probably spent an hour walking and sliding on the dunes and taking a heck of a lot of pictures. In hindsight another night and day would be lovely just to revel in the beauty of the area.

Note that in the winter months it’s frosty first thing in the morning. Temperatures are around freezing until the sun shows up. You really have to dress for the desert with a coat, mittens and a hat. By 9 AM you’ll probably be in short sleeves.

After breakfast we still had a few hours to explore the dunes on our own before heading across dry Lake Iriki on our way to Tata. I just took off on my own for the dunes, keeping the camp in sight while John went off in search of birds.

One of the biggest takeaways from our time in the Sahara Desert was the complete silence we enjoyed. It’s the one thing Mustafa said he missed most when he left the desert.

The beauty of a trip to the Sahara Desert in photos

The following photos will give you an inkling of the beauty and what you’ll see when you visit the Sahara Desert.

Trip in Agafay Dsert Camp

Who has never dreamed of sleeping in the Sahara cozily nestled between sand dunes while looking at the stars? The desert has always inspired me and as a young boy, I would often imagine myself riding camels between the sand dunes of some far away country like agafay desert camp. I would imagine nights spent under the stars in the desert while drinking tea next to a campfire.

Agafay in the southern region of Marrakech  was the perfect place for me to live all of these fantasies. It’s a small Moroccan town in the Sahara Desert, not too far from the Alhouz border. It’s known as the door to Erg Chebbi, a huge stretch of sand dunes south of town.

I was there five years ago and couldn’t resist visiting this charming little village once more this year. I pitched my tent in the desert, got lost between the dunes, drank plenty of tea and saw more camels than I could imagine. The best part is that it was super easy to get there and I did all of these activities without spending a fortune. If you want to experience the beauties of the Sahara desert without breaking your piggy bank, this is the place to visit.

I wrote this guide to help you plan your trip to this gorgeous desert village, covering almost everything I could think of so you can get the most out of your visit to the Sahara desert

The best time of the year to visit desert agafay camp is in spring between the months of March and May, or in fall between the months of September and November. During these periods, the weather isn’t too hot and you’ll be able to enjoy your time in the desert much more. The temperature in summer reaches highs of 40°C (104°F ) and it rarely drops below 26.7°C (80°F) at night.

 

Regardless of the time of the year you visit Merzouga, always cover your head to avoid getting a sunstroke. Sun protection is vital. It could be a good idea to cover yourself with a wide-brimmed hat or a bandana. To avoid losing a lot of water through sweat, a good clothing option to spend time in the desert are light-colored long-sleeve shirts and pants

No matter what time of the year you visit this village (although I wouldn’t recommend summertime, it’s just way too hot then), you’ll always find plenty of cool things to do. Here is a small list of super fun activities you can do in Merzouga, whether you are a budget traveler like us or whether you prefer to travel a bit more luxuriously. Since Merzouga is the perfect place to do many free activities, I really encourage you to try these first

Also, make sure to always drink plenty of water while you visit the desert. The general rule is to drink at least a gallon a day—and you should double that amount if you are going on long walks.

 

South of Morocco. Travel in the desert.

agafay desert camp
agafay desert camp

Morocco, in addition to being a country of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, is a Saharan country. The Sahara Desert occupies large expanses of its territory in various forms: mountains, steppes, Hamada, and large dunes, sprinkled with palm trees that extend to the Algerian and Mauritanian border.

There is an acceptable road network of paved roads and an infinite number of dirt tracks, secured and supplied. Ideal place to enjoy adventure tourism, caravans, but especially all-terrain vehicles.

Zones of desert Morocco

The desert of Morocco can be divided into five zones.

The eastern desert, which can be accessed from the eastern Mediterranean coast from the ports of Melilla and Nador, through Oujda, the great oasis of Firguid being the center, next to the Algerian border. It is the closest zone, although not prepared for tourism and having few quality establishments.

An alternative is the Rekkam plateau steppe zone that separates the Rif and Atlas Sahara that can be traveled from Debdou or Jerada.

The Valleys of Ziz Todra and the region of Tafilete. Errachidia being the middle town, where stand out the dunes of Merzouga and the tourist sites of Errachidia, Erfoud, Rissani, Merzouga and Tinehir with the gorges of Todra. Areas of wide tourist offer and quality, it is perhaps the most recommended for the first visits of the Sahara. It is easy to access by non-off-road vehicle, although we must avoid the Atlas in winter.

It is normally reached from Ceuta and Tangier through the cities of Fez and Meknes, crossing the Atlas and from the eastern ports of Melilla and Nador, through the valley of the Muluya River through Midelt. We have a small airport in Errachidia.

El Jebel Saharo, between this area and the Draa Valley, with the oasis of Nekob and Tazzarine.

The top Drâa and Dadés. Its center is the modern city of Ouarzazate, note the oases of Zagora, Boulemaine El Dades, El Kelaa de Megouna and the great dunes of Mhamid with tourist quality and better hotels. Although to access it with his car, it is further. There are the airports of Ouarzazate and Zagora.

It is normally accessed by Marrakech or directly to Agafay desert camp crossing the Great Atlas by the port of Tizi n’Tichka or from Rachidia by the Dades Valley.

The lower Drâa Valley and the mountains of Jebel Bani and Ouarkziz. Its middle is the oasis of Tata, to notice the oases of Foum Zguid, Akka and further away from Assa and Zag. Zone with a poor and remote tourist offer. It must be visited by all-terrain vehicle or caravan.

It is accessed from Ouarzazate-Zagora and through the mountain range of the Anti Atlas from Agadir.

The Anti Atlas and the Southern Desert. The great south of Morocco begins after crossing the chain of the Anti Atlas is where is the desert Agafay camp, its entrance being the city of Agadir, extending to the southern Saharan provinces. Good tourist offer in the area of ​​Agadir. It can be reached with all vehicles, although it is far from the Strait of Gibraltar, more than 1000 km. The plane is more recommended and the car rental.

In this area, we will note the tourist centers of Taroudant, Tafraouten, Sidi Ifni and Tiznit in the Anti Atlas and Goulimine, Tan Tan, Tarfaya, El Aaioum, Bojador and Dakla in Western Sahara.