The Sahara Desert is, without question, our favourite region of Morocco. It may look as if there’s nothing but sand and sky but there’s a surprising number of things to do in the Sahara Desert. Any anyway, what more do you want from a desert? If you’re preparing for a trip to Morocco and the Sahara isn’t on your itinerary, we beg you to reconsider. In fact, we’d recommend you cut down your plans for Marrakech so you can spend more than a couple of nights in the desert.
The desert doesn’t necessarily have any stand-out attractions other than the obvious sand dunes. For us, the desert itself is the attraction. It’s just magical. The Sahara Desert is one of the most authentic areas you’ll travel to in Morocco. Sure there’s people trying to earn a living from tourists but their way of life isn’t seen anywhere else in Morocco. The desert towns are dusty, compact and basic in their amenities but captivate the imagination like nowhere else.
Simply wandering around a desert town and the dunes is the best way to experience it, and maybe fall in love with it as we did.
Things to do in the Sahara Desert
Sleep in the Sahara, the desert of dreams
Sleeping in the desert, under a million stars! I just can’t describe the experience and do it justice. Just do it. Watching the sunrise and sunset from a tented camp will leave you in awe of the natural beauty of the largest desert in the world. Arranging a trip to the Sahara Desert in Morocco is easy if you don’t have you own transport. If you do, what are you waiting for?
Start planning: How to get to the Sahara Desert in Morocco
Take a camel train ride
It’s quite normal to take a camel ride to your overnight campsite if you’re on an arranged tour. They’re not the most comfortable animals to ride and your guide will always be walking alongside the camel train. But it’s a must do once in your life. Once you arrive in the desert, there’s no shortage of people offering to take you on a trek. Because of this, it’s far cheaper to arrange your trek when you arrive. But don’t forget to haggle. Hard!
Ride a quad bike through the dunes
If you’re driving your own vehicle, you’ll find it almost impossible to get big trucks or heavily loaded 4wds to the top of the highest dunes. Hiring a powerful and lightweight quad is a fun way to play in the Sahara dunes. 1 and 2 hour trips are easily arranged but they can be expensive. Of course hard negotiation with tour organisers is expected. Do take care though. We heard of someone who had a fatal accident in 2014 at Erg Chebbi and we also met a chap wearing a back brace because of an accident on one 3 months earlier. Just take it easy. The dunes may appear soft and gentle but land in an awkward position at high speed and you’re in trouble.
There are plenty of opportunities to hire sand/snow boards and sand skis around the populated dunes. It’s fun to do, once or twice, but there are no ski lifts so you have to walk back up the dune each time. To improve the ski’s performance rub candle wax on the base. Failing that, you could always use your shovel and a rope.
Sahara spa day
Who’d have thought one of the top things to do in the Sahara Desert would be to have a spa day? This is no average spa though! Merzouga locals swear by burying themselves up to their necks in the Sahara sand because it’s said to be good for muscles and aching limbs. In the heat of the summer, around the hottest point of mid-afternoon, you will find some locals burying themselves in the sand. They claim it rids the body of illness and in particular arthritis. Bear in mind, in the summer, ground temperatures can reach well above 50°c so it’s not a comfortable place to be for any period. Be warned though; do not bury yourself longer than 15 mins as it can cook you to death. Genuinely, we’ve heard of people this has happened to!
Join a convoy
We usually travel alone but meeting up with fellow overlanders and travelling in convoy can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
You’ll not have too much choice about this. You think you’re alone but the Berber people, fossil sellers and camel tour operators will find you! It’s a great chance to chat and gain an insight to the life of the people of the desert.Sitting around the campfire
It may surprise you but there is plenty of dead wood to collect in the Sahara. Dead bushes make great kindling too and will really get the fire going quickly. Collect enough wood, build a fire pit, put your bbq grill over the glowing embers and get cooking! There’s nothing like it and you’ll never want to ping your ready-made meal in the microwave again!
It gets quite cold in the desert at night, especially during the winter months and a campfire is a great way to keep warm.
Top Tip: We’ve recently learnt that a shovel full of coals from the fire underneath your seat is a brilliant way to keep your bum warm!