3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips
3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

Visiting the Sahara Desert has been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember. That’s why, when I took an impromptu trip to Morocco in May 2017, I made sure to plan my trip around a desert excursion. I booked a shared 3 day trip to the Sahara Desert with Marrakech Desert Trips and was not disappointed. Riding a camel through the golden sand dunes of the Sahara and sitting outside at night gazing up at the millions of stars in the sky are not things I get to experience on a regular basis. This was easily one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done, and Marrakech Desert Trips made that possible.

The sun shining down on the golden dunes

Since I was traveling alone, I wanted to join a group on my trip to the Sahara rather than take a private tour. Much to my surprise, most of the companies offering Sahara tours from Marrakech only offer private tours, which usually cost around 300-400 euro. Marrakech Desert Trips is the only company I found that offers group tours for up to 17 people at only 169 euro for a solo traveler. Not only would I have the opportunity to meet fellow travelers from around the world, I would only be paying a fraction of what I would pay through any other company. By the end of the trip, I became friends with everyone from my group, which consisted of solo travelers, couples, and small groups of 3-4 people from the United States, Portugal, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Malaysia.

The whole group with our driver, Aziz

While it is possible to drive to the desert on your own and arrange your own accommodations in the Sahara, I would strongly recommend booking a tour if it is your first time in Morocco. The roads from Marrakech or Fes to the Sahara are often unpaved, narrow, and winding. Traffic rules and customs in Morocco may be different than what you are accustomed to in your home country. Streets are not always labeled very well, and it is difficult to get cell phone reception in the mountains and desert to look up directions. There are also frequent police checkpoints along the way which may be confusing to navigate if you are not familiar with the area and do not speak Arabic or French. Finally, it will take you much longer than you anticipate to drive from point A to point B, which can be frustrating and throw off your plans.

Marrakech Desert Trips offers several different group tours to the Sahara. The one I took was the Marrakech to Fes Desert Tour, which picks up in Marrakech and drops off in Fes. If you are interested in seeing several different cities during your time in Morocco, this tour is a great way to get a free ride from Marrakech to Fes through the Sahara. Alternatively, if you plan to be based in Marrakech or Fes, you can opt to take a tour that picks up and drops off in either of those cities. I recommend using the itinerary provided on Marrakech Desert Trips’ website as a rough guide for what to expect and not as an exact itinerary, as my driver made some derivations from the itinerary listed on the website.

A map of the entire route taken over the course of 3 days

DAY 1: MARRAKECH – AIT BEN HADDOU – GORGES DADES

I was picked up from Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square in Marrakech, promptly at 7:05 AM in a large 17-passenger tour bus. After making several more stops in Marrakech, we were on our way east toward the Atlas Mountains. In addition to the stops highlighted below, our driver made several stops at scenic spots along the way to give us a chance to get off the bus, stretch our legs, and take photos of the beautiful landscape.

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

A scenic stop in the Atlas Mountains

Our first stop was in a walled city, or ksar, called Aït Ben Haddou. Formerly used as a trading post between other north African countries and Marrakech, it is perhaps most well known today as a filming location for popular movies and TV shows such as The Gladiator, Prince of Persia, and Game of Thrones. Aït Ben Haddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987, and today, only eight families remain in the old city area of the ksar. The rest of its original inhabitants have moved away to larger cities, such as the neighboring city of Ouarzazate (pronounced WAH-zah-zaht) or as far as Marrakech. At the conclusion of our tour, we were led to a restaurant just outside the old city where we had lunch.

Aït Ben Haddou, where many famous movies and TV shows were filmed

I note that while Marrakech Desert Trip’s website states that hiring a tour guide at Aït Ben Haddou is optional, that was not the case when I arrived. We were greeted by a tour guide as soon as we got off the bus, and there did not seem to be an option to wander off on our own. The guide asked us to pay at the end of the tour, and we were not made to feel that we had another option. As a general rule of thumb, everyone expects you to pay for everything in Morocco, so just keep that in mind and be prepared to tip or pay for any bit of small help that you may receive.

Crossing a shallow river in Aït Ben Haddou

That night, we stayed at a beautiful hotel in the Atlas Mountains called Hotel Vieux Chateau. Nestled in the Atlas Mountains, Hotel Vieux Chateau was the perfect place to enjoy one of Morocco’s most beautiful landscapes. We took advantage of the multiple outdoor terraces to get some fresh air and enjoy the views. Although the rooms were well equipped with mosquito nets, many of us still received multiple mosquito bites that night, so I would recommend bringing mosquito repellant on this leg of your trip.

READ MORE:  Surviving Marrakesh

DAY 2: TINGHIR – TODGHA GORGES – SAHARA DESERT

After getting a good night’s sleep at Hotel Vieux Chateau, we started the second day early with breakfast at the hotel at 8:00 AM. The main attraction we saw on our second day was Todgha Gorges, or the “Grand Canyon of Morocco,” as the locals called it. Todgha Gorges is located along the Tinghir River near the town of Tinerhir. Although Todgha Gorges was not quite at the same magnitude as the Grand Canyon, it was quite impressive. You can take a dip in the river Tinghir, which feels extremely refreshing in the scorching Moroccan heat.

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

Todgha Gorges, the “Grand Canyon of Morocco”

Finally, we were off to the Sahara desert. We arrived in the afternoon at around 3:00 PM and headed to a hotel near the entrance of the Sahara, where we rested while waiting for our camels and guides to arrive. We were told to pack a day pack to bring with us to our desert camp, and to leave the rest of our belongings on the bus. Although I knew I would be given a room upgrade in the desert, I did not expect to have a place to shower, so I packed only my basic toiletries and no change of clothes. However, when I arrived at my “glampsite,” the brand new Sahara Stars Camp, I found the accommodation to be not only nice but quite luxurious. In fact, it was one of the best accommodations I stayed in during my time in Morocco. I had my own cabin with a bed, toilet, and shower, whereas the typical accommodation features shared rooms, a shared toilet, and no shower facilities. For this reason, I would highly recommend paying for a room upgrade. It will make your stay much more comfortable and your experience that much better.

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

Trekking by camel to my glampsite

Since I was the only person in my group with the room upgrade, I was separated from my group and taken to a different campsite by camel. Although I was sad to leave my group, who I had become well acquainted with and quite comfortable around, that sadness quickly dissipated when I arrived at Sahara Stars Camp and saw how beautiful the accommodation was.

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

Sahara Stars Camp

READ MORE: Glamping in the Sahara With Sahara Stars Camp

The camel ride to Sahara Stars Camp took about 40 minutes, and we stopped several times along the way to take photos and enjoy the sunset. Our guide seemed to know all the best places for photos, and he even advised me on where to stand and how to pose. Getting on and off the camel was a bit challenging at first, but I quickly acclimated and felt comfortable taking photos on my phone instead of holding on tight with both hands while sitting on the camel.

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

Camels taking a rest while we took some photos

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

My guide suggested that I jump with the camels in the background so it looks like I’m hovering over the camels

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

My new camel friend and me

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

The shadow of our crew at sunset

Upon arrival at Sahara Stars Camp, I was given a refreshing Moroccan mint drink and treated to a 4-course dinner. Afterwards, we turned off the lights at the campsite to enjoy the stars, and we sat around the fire playing drums, dancing, and singing. I had never seen so many stars in my life and will remember that moment forever.

READ MORE:  Surviving Marrakesh

DAY 3: SAHARA DESERT – FES

The next morning, I had to leave the campsite at 6:00 AM to rejoin the group back at the hotel we started at. A few people from our group had a flight to catch in Fes that afternoon, so we needed to leave early to ensure they did not miss their flight. We were divided into several minivans and transported to our respective locations. We stopped several times along the way for lunch and bathroom breaks, but otherwise we drove straight from the Sahara to Fes. 

If you’re looking for a Sahara trip from Marrakech or Fes that won’t break the bank, you’ll want to book a shared 3 day trip to the Sahara Desert with Marrakech Desert Trips.

3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

A big thank you to Marrakech Desert Trips and Sahara Stars Camp for making our stay possible. As always, all opinions are 100% our own.

 

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Recently left my job as an attorney to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life. I blog about traveling the world with a full time job, confronting your travel addiction, and pursuing your passions without going broke. Traveled to 21 countries on 4 continents since March 2017 and 48 countries total. Next big adventure is hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2018.

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22 thoughts on “3 Day Trip to the Sahara Desert With Marrakech Desert Trips

  1. I can’t believe you got this tour so cheap!! I’ve been searching for a good one and this sounds perfect!! What an amazing adventure this looks like 🙂

  2. Hello Diana! What an amazing trip and experience. It looks like you had the trip of a lifetime 🙂 I haven’t been to Marrakesh but its on my bucket list (of course) haha I’ll safe your post for my hopefully near future trip 🙂 PS- the sun shining down on the golden dunes photo is absolutely stunning! Safe travels. – Mariella

  3. What a beautiful experience you have had. I can only imagine how beautiful the sky full of stars is in the dessert, where there is no light pollution. I have been wanting to visit Morocco for a while, skip the chaos in Marrakesh and head over to the Atlas Mountains instead and then explore Sahara for a little bit. The photos of the sunset changing the color of the dunes are so pretty!

  4. This looks amazing. I can see why it was on your bucket list! Sometimes group tours are such a good call. Especially when you get to meet new people and save money.

  5. Wow, good to know that Marrakech Desert Trips is the only company that offers group tours. This piece of info is quite helpful, especially for those (like me) who often cannot afford private tours. And your photos look great! It must have been an amazing experience at the Sahara desert.

  6. This desert trip sounds amazing! So crazy that most of the tours are private though – you’d imagine it being a super popular activity in Morocco. Sounds really pricey as well compared to the genuine price level in the country :/ But in all honesty I’d probably do the tour as well! I’d love to spend a night in Sahara.

  7. What an amazing adventure. Seeing the whole sky full of stars is worth €170 alone!!! What was the inside of the tent like? I have always been a bit scared of camels, I’m not entirely sure why. Was yours friendly?

  8. The price for the Marrakech Desert Trip for solo travelers seems like a steal! I’m hoping to visit Morocco soon, so I’ll definitely keep them in mind for my future trip. I love how your guide was such a pro photographer and so willing to take photos for you!

  9. OMG! I can’t express how much I loved reading about your trip! I am dying to do this! This looks like such a wonderful experience.

  10. I don’t think a desert excursion ever crossed my mind until I read your post; this looks so cool! What a cool experience, and I love your camel trekking pictures!

  11. The map really helped me link to your descriptions. A tour group would surely be helpful here and mostly in all deserts. Can’t imagine getting lost among the dunes. The accommodations sounds good, I would surely prefer this tour group.

  12. I have not left a single word unread in this post. Simply loved your post and the video. You took me away to that golden desert from my work desk. Thanks for sharing such an amazing experience.

  13. What a mindblowing series of landscapes. Just everything looks epic in this region, straight outta action-adventure movies. The camel also looks very happy with you… in fact, it is also smiling!

  14. This is incredible! I know a few people who have done this and I am just so jeaous! It looks like such an amazing experience! Those Atlas Mountains are beautiful.

  15. It looks very nice, quite similar to my May experience went for a 3 days from Marrakech to Merzouga ending in Fes
    It cost me about 135 euro. Merzouga dunes are really amazing, it was my best trip in Morocco.

  16. Bang On!
    What a lovely destination to visit to, seriously just came to know about the deserts over here.
    Apart from Dubai deserts this also seems a great place to be. Loved your pictures.
    Keep posting
    Cheers 🙂

    1. Hi Agness, I had a blast for sure! 3 days are enough to explore the Sahara. The tour company I went with did a great job of organizing everything, so I didn’t have to plan any of it. You start in Marrakech and return to either Marrakech or Fes – up to you. I went to Fes after so it was like a free ride from Marrakech to Fes. We were in big busses that were actually quite comfortable, and we made many stops along the way, so the long drive didn’t feel quite as long. I thought 3 days was perfect and would recommend it! 🙂

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