Merzouga: Your Guide To Enjoy The Sahara Desert

Of all of the incredible destinations in Morocco, there are few, if any, places that draw adventure travelers more than the desert town of Merzouga.

Merzouga sits on the northern tip of the vast and beautiful Sahara Desert in southeastern Morocco. For a long time, this town, without much in the way of roads or infrastructure, was a stopping point for those looking to explore the massive Erg Chebbi Dunes, where towering peaks of rusty gold sand cast dramatic silhouettes over the landscape.

But in the past few years, more attention has been paid to just how incredible and unique this remote region of Morocco truly is. Thanks to its ideal location on the edge of the dunes, Merzouga is, thus, the perfect starting point for camel rides, jeep tours, or other amazing activities in the desert.

Discover why a visit to Merzouga in Morocco is everything you’d hope to be, and more.

Merzouga city

Merzouga: An Introduction to the Jewel of the Sahara

In this beginner’s guide, I am going to reveal the essentials that you need to know about Merzouga starting by taking a general overview of the town, its location, and its weather, and last but not least what makes it a good destination to visit.

A Closer Look at Merzouga Town

For centuries, Merzouga, Morocco, remained relatively unchanged. The epic dunes of the Sahara Desert ebbed and flowed like waves trapped in slow motion.

Nomadic Berber tribes roamed with their camels to known watering holes and grasslands. And the red, dusty air of the Sahara Desert cast a warm glow over the wild landscapes.

Merzouga is a city with a reputation among thrill-seekers. It’s been dubbed “a wonderland of sand” and a “desert theme park” due to the adrenaline-pumping adventures and epic landscapes that surround it.

And shockingly, amongst all of the sand, dust, and desert air, Merzouga is also home to the most significant natural underground body of water in Morocco.

The legend states that the land around the town was once a lush, tropical jungle, and as the world’s largest desert swallowed up the landscape, it became home to some of the most impressive dunes in the world.

It eventually became a transit point for Bedouin and Berber merchants and even acted as a fort during the French colonial rule between 1916 and 1932.

What is The Weather like in Merzouga?

As you might already know, deserts are lands of extreme temperatures. One moment you’re burning in the scorching heat, and the next, you’re struggling to keep warm.

The climate of Merzouga town is no different. However, some cooler areas are more comfortable. The climate becomes more extreme as you go inland and further south.

Where is Merzouga city located?

The town sits about 31 miles (50 km) from Algeria’s border, 50 km from Erfoud, 35 km southeast of Rissani, and about an eight-and-a-half-hour drive from the bustling city of Marrakech.

Merzouga Sahara: A Traveler’s Guide to the Oasis of Adventure

Merzouga Travel Guide

If you are interested to visit this amazing town then stick with me because I am about to answer some of the frequent questions travelers have as well as reveal everything you have to know to plan a wonderful trip and enjoy the peaceful desert.

Is Merzouga safe?

Merzouga is totally safe for tourists both day and night.

If you search online and check reviews of some unreliable travel companies you might find a few cases of tourists who had a horrible trip or solo travelers who faced harassment, especially females. So, always do your research and find a good company before you book your trip.

It’s also a good idea to be accompanied by a trusted and official local guide who provides you with total care and safety throughout your journey, especially for solo travelers.

Remember, You can consult local authorities about any harassment or if things go very bad, police officers are in the most frequently visited places to ensure security. There is a police center in Merzouga that you can consult to check for information on safety in the region.

How To Get To Merzouga?

Depending on your starting point and budget, Here are multiple options to get to Merzouga:

1. Guided Tours from Marrakech

Planning a guided tour from Marrakech can free you from worries and the need to plan.

It is the perfect alternative if you are visiting Merzouga for the first time and the ideal option for those tourists who wish to have a hassle-free vacation.

2. Rent Your Transport

Although this alternative requires more planning, it is desirable since you can organize your stops along the way, visit interesting historical points and stay as long as you consider prudent.

Renting a small, simple car in Marrakesh city will cost you approximately 8€ to 10€ per day. Consider as an additional expense the payment of fuel and tolls.

3. Take The Bus

Some local companies offer bus services from the main Moroccan cities to destinations such as Merzouga. This is an interesting option for those traveling on a tight budget.

There are several transportation companies such as CTM and Supratours that operate and have buses going from and to the main cities including Merzouga.

How To Get Around Merzouga village?

The only way to get around the village is on foot. The hotels are close together, and the streets are easy to walk. If you want to see and do things outside of Merzouga, it does require a different mode of transportation.

You can rent cars, bigger vehicles, motorbikes, and 4×4’s to get you around the desert landscape. Tours and taxis can take you around if you’re not comfortable driving.

If you are planning to see the most visited spots in Merzouga, there are several companies that organize 4×4 tours to explore Merzouga and the surrounding area including a visit to nomadic families, Gnawa village, and so on.

How Many Days Do You Need In Merzouga?

It’s recommended to take a day or two days trip minimum to visit Merzouga, where one night will be spent in a desert camp.

Camel riding in the dunes is one of the first things that comes to anybody’s mind when visiting the desert of Merzouga. Depending on the company you hire, the tour will start in the late afternoon or early morning.

If you decide to spend the night in one of the camps in Erg Chebbi, you should prepare for one of the most important events of the experience: the sunrises and sunset in the dunes.

Tip: Don’t wait until the morning of the excursion to investigate, or you might miss it.

Depending on your preferences, there are a lot of other amazing activities that you can do during your trip to Merzouga including sandboarding, ATV quad biking, buggy driving adventures, horse riding, full guided 4×4 desert tours, and much more.

If you are interested to know what other things to do in detail, then you can jump straight to the things to do section included in this post. Otherwise, stick with me as we go through all the questions.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Merzouga?

The best time to visit Merzouga is between spring and autumn. For these dates, the weather in Morocco is usually a little more pleasant, which means that the strenuous activities under the sun are more bearable than in the extreme heat of summer.

Consider that summer brings sporadic sandstorms, although tour operators are well-equipped to deal with such eventualities. Many travelers find the warm summer nights in the desert attractive and prefer this time of year to avoid getting cold when the temperature drops. However, the heat of the day can be very exhausting.

Winter is another season that tends to attract travelers from all over the world to the Merzouga desert. The presence of clouds in the desert causes the daytime temperature to become very pleasant.

However, the nights can be quite cold. If you are a person who can handle low temperatures well, this is an option you may want to consider.

What To Pack For the Merzouga Desert Trip?

It is a beautiful experience to enjoy a wild ride in a hot desert afternoon during the holiday periods in Merzouga. The silence in the environment, the sun shining bright above your head, and the hot sand below your feet all make for a great adventure.

However, if you have the right items, enjoying all the amazing treats the desert offers will be easier. As a result. when you’re planning to go on a Merzouga desert trip, it is recommended that you get the following items in place:

The Right Clothes: airy and anti-UV items are great to bring. Bring, several pairs of socks, a light jacket, A loose, breathable shirt, and a well-ventilated top. If you are going in summer then complete your outfit with a t-shirt specially designed to absorb sweat.

Wide hat: A wide hat to keep you protected from the shining sun, especially in the summertime.

Sunglasses: this is an obvious item that you need to make should is on your packaging list.


Down Jacket

First-Aid kit

Bug Spray

Matches or Lighter

Shoes: Choose well-sealed upright models or open sports sandals. Don’t forget to protect your feet from the sun with hiking socks made of antiperspirant material that have support bands, ideal for the ankles.

Important Note: You are free to wear whatever you want on your trip to Merzouga, but certain norms have to be respected because of the conservative life aspects of the local people.

Unlike Casablanca, Marrakech, or so ever, Merzouga’s population is susceptible to modern life, including short skirts or transparent clothes. Therefore, it is essential to cover your legs (particularly for women) and wear them appropriately according to the customs of the people in the region.

To know more details, I recommend you check out my previous guide about what to wear when traveling in Morocco and things you should avoid on your Morocco trip.

Top 11 Must-Do Activities in Merzouga (Explained)

Merzouga Morocco

There are many things to do in a tiny town with few streets or stores in Merzouga, Morocco. From unique desert experiences to hiking adventures, Merzouga is packed with attractions.

Here are a few things to do during your visit to Merzouga:

1. Spend An overnight in a desert camp

Spending the night in a desert camp is one of the motivations that lead thousands of travelers from all over the world to visit the dunes of Merzouga.

This alternative is exciting for combining a night camping under the stars with a camel ride to see the sunrise in the desert and many other activities. You can’t do anything similar anywhere else in the world.

Apart from how rustic or uncomfortable camping can be for many, the truth is that most of the campsites in the Erg Chebbi desert have a surprising level of luxury.

As a result, the experience of camping under the stars in the Sahara is known as glamping. The range of amenities varies depending on the company you hire and the accommodation type.

2. Do Camel Riding

Camel riding in the dunes is almost mandatory if you visit the desert of Merzouga. Depending on the company you hire, the tour will start in the late afternoon or early morning. You’ll normally begin by picking out a headscarf in Merzouga before mounting your camel and loping off into the desert.

Tents, food, and water will usually be included in the price, though you may need to establish this long before you leave, and with many companies, you’ll be expected to haggle down the price.

Evenings are a joyous time when you’ll have a tagine cooked on the fire, perhaps hear some live traditional local music, and gaze up at more stars than you’ve seen. You’ll escape your tent’s midday heat if you’re out for multiple days.

There aren’t many things in the world that are as awkward as climbing onto or off a camel. But once you’ve made it up, your troubles seem as far away as the ground beneath you.

3. Admire Beautiful Sunsets & Sunrise

Watching the sunrise or sunset over the dunes of Merzouga will be one of the most spectacular experiences in your life. Colors change with the intensity of the light, from pink to apricot with an infinite number of shades: it’s an ocean of smooth, color-changing dunes as far as the eye can see.

The sun is a huge, bright orb that casts a beautiful light over the landscape. Witnessing a sunrise or sunset in this desert town is an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever.

To have the best experience and enjoy the sunset or the sunrise, you need to find a spot to watch the spectacular show. Bring a blanket or a chair to make yourself comfortable.

During the sunset, you’ll see the colors change in the sky. First, the blue will start to fade, and the orange will start to come out. Then, the red will start to appear, and finally, the sky will turn a deep purple. It’s truly a sight to behold.

There’s something special about watching the sunset in this Merzouga desert. Maybe it’s how the sun slowly dips below the horizon or how the colors change as the sky darkens. Either way, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

4. Enjoy Sandboarding

If you want to discover the desert in a more “alternative” way and get covered in sand in the process, you should try sandboarding. Although this activity looks at first glance something that could be dangerous, it’s super safe.

Sandboarding in Merzouga is an enjoyable sport that tourists practice in the sand of Erg Chebbi, Morocco. This sport attracts lovers from all over the world who are willing to visit the desert.

Tourists and thrill-seekers searching for extreme sandboarding activities were drawn to the Merzouga and Erg Chebbi dunes. When you arrive, a large field of dunes with raised piles and peaks that rise to a height of more than 250 meters is visible. The smooth, golden sand makes the location the ideal vacation spot.

If this is your first-time sandboarding and you still need a sandboard, you may rent or buy one at numerous bazaars in Merzouga. It will take a few minutes of grueling scaling to climb the dunes, but it will be worthwhile.

Tourists can generally practice sandboarding anytime in the year as it does not require a lot of conditions. However, it is also better to do it at some specific times and circumstances. Also, it is safer to do it in the early morning or the evening as the sand is scorching sometimes, especially in the summer.

5. Go On a 4×4 Desert Excursion

Although this activity is more traditional than riding a camel through the dunes, nothing beats the feeling of zooming up and down through the desert in an off-road vehicle.

The guides operating in Merzouga are all quite young but don’t let their youthful appearance fool you. These guys are very experienced guides and know the desert like the back of their hands.

It’s possible to go on a short 2-hour trip in a 4×4 or go on a full-day trip with a private guide to some nearby Berber villages and then to the dunes.

This trip is a great choice because it gives you a chance to discover traditional Berber music, and have the opportunity to try their instruments and learn to play some desert music of your own!

You’ll also visit a Berber family in their tent for lunch. You’ll learn how they live in tents with their goats, sheep, and working donkeys and how to prepare a Berber pizza on the fire.

6. An Adventure on ATV Quad Biking or Buggy

The ATV Quad biking is a great activity that combines the excitement of a quad bike to discover the beautiful Merzouga desert and the widest Sahara Desert in Morocco, the dunes of Erg Chebbi.

During the quad biking experience, you will travel on the four wheels of a powerful quad through the dunes of Erg Chebbi and the impressive Sahara landscapes surrounding the Merzouga desert. An adventure you will never forget!

Once you get to the village there are several places where you can rent a bike or buggy and go on a great tour accompanied by a local guide.

7. Listen To Gnawa Music in Khamlia village

There are several unique ethnic groups within the Berber communities of Merzouga, one of these is the Gnawa, unique due to their dark skin and southern African ancestry. One thing that made the Gnawa such a draw in Merzouga was their energetic and exciting musical performances.

The Gnawa people were brought to Northern Africa as enslaved people from Central and Southern Africa in desert caravans. Now they make up a large portion of the town of Khamlia, just a short 3 miles (7 km) distance from Merzouga town.

One of the groups is called “Bambara Khamlia” and the other is called “Pigeon des Sables”. They have an open-door policy, so anyone can visit at any time to enjoy Berber tea, live Gnawa music, and dancing.

There is no cost for the experience. However, guests are encouraged to purchase a CD or offer a tip to help support the locals.

8. Visit Nomad Families

Much of southeastern Morocco still exists as it has for centuries. This includes the nomadic Berber tribes that make their way through the harsh landscape with herds of camels, mules, and cattle.

Although these tribes move around frequently, many tour guides have connections within the communities and can arrange for visitors to get a unique look into these cultures that live vastly different lives from what most of us know.

The warm hospitality of these people is such a long tradition and top-notch. There you can sit under their tent and drink a cup of tea while meditating around the impressive old stuff of those people.

The father is usually charged with making tea, and the mother with her “housework”.

They welcome you with a charming smile and make you share their daily activities, such as the herding of cattle and the traditional cooking style, and listen to the enchanting Berber language they speak. Surely you’ll appreciate the moments as it remains a wonderful experience.

9. Stroll the Village

Although it had to experience devastating flash floods in 2006. This village has recovered itself and reclaimed a good position in this country’s tourism industry.

Today, Merzouga has many things to offer to all visitors. This village is famous for its golden sand dunes and its unique style of building houses that you can explore while strolling down the village.

You would see how the Berbers live their daily life by visiting spots like the water source where people get water to drink and use and the fields where you can chill out and explore local agricultural activities.

Those are some of the valuable experience that is hard to find elsewhere.

10. Try Horseback Excursions

If you don’t like trying a camel riding experience and you’re someone who wants to do a horse riding excursion instead then I have good news for you.

There are some new providers who just recently opened their local businesses where you can try a totally new experience to explore and visit the main spots in Merzouga and the surrounding area, enjoy the beauty and all that the Sahara has to offer on the back of a horse.

According to Merzouga Horse Riding the range of services that you can do start from short rides of 1 to a few hours to see the sunset, sunrise, or just a normal riding experience.

If you prefer doing a long ride and visiting all the spots during your desert trip then you can check out their tailored horseback tours that start from 2 days up to 4 days or more.

11. Hike the Highest dunes

This is a kind of hiking you have probably never heard of before. No need to lace up your hiking boots, grab a bottle of water and make your way through the red hills.

Barefoot, feel what it’s like to be a Berber living in the desert, and watch the impressive sight of sunrise and sunset from atop the highest dune in the area, “Lalla Merzouga” and “Lalla Laalia” at the height of up to 150 meters.

If you are lucky enough, you will have the chance to see some desert animals and insects, like the fennec and sandfish.

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The Bottom Line

Merzouga is such an iconic place to visit in Morocco, and it is considered one of the best destinations in the country!

With silence so intense that you can hear your heartbeat as it rushes blood through your veins, you’ve come to the perfect place for a peaceful retreat. The minute you step foot on the soft golden dunes of the Merzouga desert, you’ll be transported to another world, another time.

Yes, it is remote, dusty, and raw, but that is all part of the adventure. Don’t forget to add Merzouga to your itinerary, and you’ll be rewarded with a truly authentic experience.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.



Is Merzouga in Western Sahara?

No, it is in Southeastern Morocco, on the edge of the starkly beautiful Sahara Desert.

What is Merzouga known for?

It is known for its proximity to Erg Chebbi and being a tourist destination. It has been described as “a desert theme park” and the Erg Chebbi as “a wonderland of sand.” Also, it has the largest natural underground body of water in Morocco.

Does Merzouga have a signal?

Yes, there are mainly 3 large mobile network operators: Maroc Telecom, Inwi, and Orange. All of them offer similar deals but I recommend you opt for the Maroc Telecom SIM card as it is the one with the strongest signal and offers a good 3G, and 4G signal in the Merzouga area.

How big is the Merzouga desert?

It is measured at a 50km long and 5km wide set of dunes reaching 350m.

Is Merzouga part of the Sahara Desert?

Merzouga is a village in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, on the edge of Erg Chebbi.

Can you fly from Marrakech to Merzouga?

Although at the moment, there are no direct flights between Merzouga and Marrakech, you can take a flight in the red city to Ouarzazate or Errachidia. From this point, you can hire a cab or take a bus line to your final destination in Merzouga.

What is the closest airport to Merzouga?

The nearest and closest airport to Merzouga is Errachidia. it’s about 2 hours drive.

Which is better, Zagora or Merzouga?

Merzouga is the better because it has the largest and most impressive dunes, while Zagora is a bit rockier and arider.

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The Editorial Team

Optimos Travel is a travel blog to help you travel the world, and explore different lifestyles, traditions, foods, and everything in between.