The Sahara Desert looms large in the imagination of the traveler in Morocco. And anyone who's been to see this natural wonder will tell you that it's an absolute must for any visitor to Marrakech. Here are some option for what to do and how to visit.
One of the best (and most traditional) ways to experience the Moroccan desert is by camel. A camel ride through the palm groves of Marrakech and into the desert can take as little as a few hours, and often includes a stop at a local Berber home for mint tea and a snack.
Hot-Air Balloon Rides
Gazing down at the desert and foothills of the Atlas Mountains from a hot air balloon gives you an idea of the size and scope of the vast Sahara Desert. This bucket list–worthy experience is a great way to kick off a day in Marrakech or further exploration of the desert.
Buggy and Quad Bike Tours
For a desert-style adrenaline rush, opt for a tour of the desert and palm groves by buggy or desert quad bike. These small-group tours by all-terrain vehicle allow you to safely take in the stark landscapes of Morocco in as little as half a day.
Experiencing the Moroccan desert beneath the stars is a completely different experience than by day. Those who have a night to spare will be rewarded with a camping trip into the desert, which often includes a camel trek from M’hamid into the Merzouga dunes of the Zagora Desert to a Bedouin desert camp, a sunset over the dunes, and a traditional Moroccan dinner under the stars to the tune of local folk music.
The beauty and diversity of the Moroccan desert warrants more than just one day of exploration. On a multi-day trip, you might explore the UNESCO-listed kasbah of Ait Benhaddou or the cinematic city of Ouarzazate, stop at Atlas Studios (one of the largest movie studios in Africa), camel trek across the Erg Chebbi dunes, or take in the scenic beauty of the Dades and Todra gorges.