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sahara desert | a 3 days trip to merzouga

The Sahara desert, the largest hot desert in the world and one of the main reasons we planned our trip to Morocco in January 2019. A desert safari with camels included and a night in the Sahara was quite high on our bucket list. We’ll give you a small overview of our 3-days trip to Merzouga desert.In the first place, find a good host. 

Day 1

We gathered very early on the central square of Marrakesh, Djemaa el Fna. In a small van, with 8 other people, we started our journey to Merzouga. But, don’t get us wrong. This trip is not only about the destination, but the road to Merzouga is also filled with must-see places.

Firstly, keep your eyes open on the road. Even though you are advised to leave early, do not fall asleep in the car. You’ll be driving through the Atlas mountains in the morning, which are AMAZING. The Atlas mountains separate the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara desert. The Atlas stretch out about 2,500 km through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. If you have a good driver, he will definitely stop a few times to let you enjoy the magical views. When you notice he has no intention of stopping, please do ask him to stop, it’s worth it. As a matter of fact blabla. 

Because we left so early, we also arrived before noon in the mountains, which gave us the perfect light conditions to take some great shots. Then we did this.  

Snow mountain peak in Altkas mountain range
Green terrace landscape in Atlas mountains

Ouarzazate / Ait Ben Haddou

Our first ‘real’ stop was Ouarzazate, where we visited Ait Benhaddou. The name may ring some bells as it was the scene for many movies, such as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, The Mummy. Even recently it was still used as a décor for the popular series Game of Thrones. It is considered a great example of the Moroccan Earthen clay architecture, and therefore the city is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1987. Entering this city feels like stepping back into time. Even though the whole Ksar (fortified village) looks like a giant sandcastle, it was built to protect and defend the inhabitants against any attack. The need for a defensive structure was high because the city was of great importance in the past, given the fact it was a very busy trading centre. although this may be true, it’s not. 

There is not so much to do in the village, other than wandering around the narrow streets, enjoy the architecture, and go crazy with the camera. But we were really happy to have visited this place and see this town from the inside.

Woman in front of Aït Benhaddou

Nightly entertainment

In the evening we arrived at “Auberge des Peupliers” where we were to spend the night. This was a sober but cosy bed & breakfast, located between the “mountains”. It seemed to be a normal relaxed evening, but when we were having dinner, things changed drastically. Some locals arrived and they started to play music and pretty quickly, things started to get out of hand. They started dancing on the tables and it didn’t take long before even we started to fool around with them. In a few minutes, everybody was dancing, singing and cheering in the room. I can assure you, they were the best entertainers imaginable. You can imagine our night in the B&B was pretty short, and getting up the next day was hard! In other words, travel blog, travel destination, morocco, camel safari

Valley and town in Aït Benhaddou
Small Moroccan clothing shop

Day 2

Gorges du Todra / Tinghir

Around noon we set foot in “Georges du Todra”, which are age-old spectacular limestone river cliffs. These cliffs are carved by the Todgha and the Dades rivers and can reach up till 160 meters high on each side, which makes it pretty impressive to walk through. It’s easily accessible due to the well-maintained asphalt road bringing you from Tinerhir to the canyon. After all, it’s beautiful. 

Blue morning light over Atlas mountain range

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to spend here, given the fact we had to be in Merzouga before sunset. Otherwise, we would advise some nice walks around the valley, or even to do some rock climbing. For this reason; things to do in morocco, things to do in marrakesh, must see places, visit africa, visit morocco.

Local man in Gorges du Tondra
Valley with fields and palmtrees in Gorges du Tondra

Merzouga – Sahara desert

In the late afternoon we arrived in Merzouga, the gateway to desert Erg Chebbi. Merzouga is a small village in the southeastern part of Morocco, situated 550km from Marrakesh. Merzouga itself is known to be the base of most of the Sahara desert safaris, because of its proximity to the high sand dunes. And those dunes are exactly what we wanted to see. We booked a safari on a camel with an overnight stay in the Sahara desert. Especially; camel safari, desert safari, stargazing, 

Small town in front of Merzouga desert

Camel Safari

The first thing to do before the trip can start: choose a camel. The camels are all lined up outside, chilling and grazing a little bit. And as we were the first to arrive, we had the privilege to choose the best camel. I instantly fell in love with one which looked a bit clumsy… Koen had no other option than to take its buddy standing next to him. When everybody had made his/her choice, off we went.

We soon experienced that camel rides are not extremely comfy… In Koen’s opinion, the ride was also a bit smelly… Camels come with a scent!

But what an experience it was… A 2-hour ride, chasing the sunset on a camel with a light breeze and a lot of sand in our ears. The camel ride instantly gives you postcard views and evokes souvenirs of when you watched Aladdin for the first time. Dreaming stopped for me when we arrived at our Berber camp. Because I wanted to ride the clumsy one, I had to pay the price when I had to get off. The exact moment my camel starts to kneel down to let me get off, it changed its mind and decided it wanted to keep me and stood up again. Result? I was wriggling in the sand, and everybody had a good laugh. Well yeah, it’s not the first time.nstead, must visit places morocco, things to do in morocco, camel safari all means, visit morocco,/ 

Large sand dune in Merzouga desert


At our Berber tent camp, we were served a delicious dinner, made with local products and spices. The cooks joined us for dinner and spoke about their life in the Sahara desert. It’s always nice to meet people whose lives are so different from ours and to exchange ideas and visions about life. Above all, this was great. 

When the night fell, we gathered around a campfire and observed the night sky, covered with stars and a clear view of the milky way. It’s not our first starry sky, but this one was absolutely one of the best. Probably, there are not many places better suited for stargazing than the Merzouga desert. By all means, visit morocco,/ 

Camel safari in Sahara desert
Desert tent camp in Sahara

Day 3


On our last day, we woke up early in the morning to catch the sunrise from the top of the dunes. Don’t be fooled, climbing a sand dune is even more exhausting than mountain climbing sometimes. Luckily, the result was one of the most beautiful sunrises we ever saw in our life. The sun peeking over the horizon and the dunes, lovely. These are the moments we travel for!

This sunrise was absolutely worth getting up so early. We both share the conviction that the best pictures are taken in the early morning light when nature starts to wake up and most of the world is still deep in slumber. Sitting there for about an hour, just watching the sunrise and appreciate the beauty we had in front of us. If you’re interested, perfect travel destination.

Back to Marrakesh

To head back to Merzouga, we were given the choice to return either by camel or by 4×4. Because we wanted to enjoy the magical sunrise above the dunes, we chose the 4×4, which left later than the camels. When Alfred, our awesome driver, arrived and we asked him where we should take a seat he simply answered

“Well, there is not enough place, you sit on the roof. If you fall off, we pick you up tomorrow.”

For a small moment, we thought he was joking and I brought my most fake smile up. But after 5 seconds we realised he was bloody serious. So we got ourselves up the jeep and started our way back to Merzouga. The jeep was definitely more comfy than a camel, but our ride was quite bumpy nevertheless. We were heavily loaded so it was difficult for Alfred to get his jeep up the dunes, but what an experience this was. I can tell you, this was so much fun. We felt like small kids in Disneyland jumping over the dunes.

Once we were back in Merzouga, we said goodbye to the many camels stationed there, and we hopped on the bus which brought us back to Marrakesh. In view of visit marrakesh, visit morocco, things to do in morocco, things to do in marrakesh. 

Woman with red scarf on sand dune in Sahara desert

Travel tip

We visited the Sahara desert in January, which wasn’t ideal, due to low temperatures at night. During the day the temperatures were pleasant, but during the night we literally froze our asses off, despite the many thick blankets. Best time to visit the Sahara desert weather-wise is from mid-March – until mid-May or from the end of September until mid-November. But with higher temperatures also comes a higher density of tourists, so if you don’t like crowds, January is a perfect month to visit Morocco.

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Walking in the Sahara in Morocco