The Atlas Mountains, seaside resorts, and enchanting deserts are all associated with Morocco and the pleasures the country has to offer. Morocco is often perceived as the perfect place in North Africa for an incredible mix of adventure and culture. Case in point: camel trekking and desert camping are among the ultimate experiences of the country. Available in several forms, you will almost inevitably sleep near or in Merzouga. It can sometimes be challenging to get your bearings and decide on a place to sleep among all the options. That is why I created this guide to the best places to sleep in and around Merzouga to have the perfect desert trip.
Why you should choose Merzouga for camel trekking and overnight desert camping
Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga
The term “Erg” describes a large dune sea created by wind-blown sand deposits. The two erg majors in Morocco are Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga.
The first one is the more famous of the two. Being much easier to access from the Fez-Meknes Region and the Prefecture of Marrakech, the Erg Chebbi desert is located just on the edge of Merzouga. Taking its most impressive dunes into consideration, it has all the elements to be very popular with tourists.
Erg Chigaga, a bit further south, is more remote. M’Hamid, a small oasis outside the tour route, is its closest neighbor, and Zagora, at 1h30 drive, is the nearest tourist town. The dunes of Erg Chigaga are less high and striking than that of Erg Chebbi. Consequently, Erg Chigaga is less well-known (and less crowded), making it an adventure all the more exceptional. Those opting for an Erg Chigaga excursion should expect a rustic experience. Those who want to visit this desert usually opt to be taken there by 4×4 as visiting these sands by camelback requires a few days of travel through a rocky desert landscape. It takes, in fact, 2 hours by 4×4 from M’Hamid to get to the dune camps.
Both destinations offer opportunities to ride a camel, climb dunes, admire picturesque views, and sleep under the stars. Erg Chebbi receives more visitors due to its easy accessibility and flexibility nearby hotels offer.
Things to do in the desert of Merzouga
- The unforgettable camel ride through the Moroccan desert
- Observe the sunrise and the sunset over the red dunes
- Sleep under the starry night sky in the desert
- Surf down a sand dune
- Drive a quad bike or 4×4 through the desert
Is Merzouga in the Sahara desert?
Only flawed interpretation of travel companies (by mistake or purpose) identifies the Erg Chebbi as part of the Sahara desert. Erg Chebbi (and Erg Chigaga) are, as a matter of fact, located between the Atlas and the Sahara desert. Located in the “rain shadow” of the three Atlas mountain ranges, Erg Chebbi is an area of sand measuring about 25km by 7km. It’s in a massive semi-arid region and was formed by sand from the Rheris and Ziz rivers.
The Moroccan Sahara is not where you think it is. It lies southwest of Marrakesh, in Western Sahara! Claimed by Morocco as part of its territory and referred to within the country as the “Southern Provinces,” this region is most definitely part of the Sahara, but rather dull as there’s not much in the way of giant dunes.
Luxury Desert Camping in Merzouga
If you are going to sleep in the desert and have to choose a place yourself, there are several things to consider. Among other things, if you look at TripAdvisor’s map, you’ll come to the sobering thought that you’re not alone in the desert.
When booking a desert trip or camping accommodations, there are several things you may want to check:
- Are the activities (camel ride, 4×4, a meal with locals, etc.) included in the price?
- How many tents are there at the campsite?
- Where is it located in the Erg Chebbi desert, and how close are the other campgrounds?
- Are the toilets and showers outside the tents?
- Is there a heater inside the tent?
Thinking of other camping destinations?
Nothing beats the magic of camping in the North African desert. On the other hand, it’s also possible to go camping in the south of Europe, along the other edge of the Mediterranean.
Why not go camping in Andalusia instead? The Spanish region has fantastic weather, and you can take city breaks in beautiful historic towns.
Sunrise Sahara Camp
A Dome in the Desert
Quite out of the ordinary for this kind of camping, Sunrise Sahara Camp offers to sleep in modernistic domes. Their windows allow for a fantastic view of the surrounding desert landscape. Many hotel amenities are available here: hot water, Wi-Fi, and, most importantly, spacious beds. You are given 2 beds, one inside the room and one outside. Sleeping outside will provide you with an unforgettable view of the night sky. (Remember to bring some extra layers if you want to do this.) If you’re not much of an outdoor sleeper, don’t worry. The glass dome will let you enjoy sunrise, sunset, and stars in the comfort of your room.
Price per night: Starts at € 146 /night
Number of domes: 4 domes
Caravanserai Luxury Desert Camp
Camping in an oasis
The Caravanserai Luxury Desert Camp is a dream come true. The grounds are absolutely stunning, with greenery and plenty of areas to unwind and take in the breathtaking views of the desert. The bedrooms are beautiful, clean and have plenty of hot water for showers. The food is delicious and filling. Moreover, the staff goes above and beyond with their hospitality, and the camel rides you’ll do at this camp will be unforgettable.
Price per night: Starts at € 207 /night
Number of tents: 10 tents
Ali & Sara’s Desert Palace
Glamping in style
Experience the beautiful and natural setting of the desert, staying in clean and comfortable surroundings where the focus is relaxation and enjoyment, together with some safe adventure. Nestled well within the dunes, the camp is an hour from Merzouga by camel. This environmentally friendly camping is lit by a combination of candles and solar power. Dining can be done under the stars or in the camping’s separate restaurant. The tents were clean and beautifully appointed: decorated with Moroccan textiles and giving a lovely sense of place.
Price per night: Starts at € 158 /night
Number of tents : 11
Sirocco Luxury Camp
Camping with the stomach full
The Sirocco Luxury Camp has everything to offer a memorable experience. It is the perfect getaway for honeymooners, individuals, and small groups seeking uncompromising privacy and solitude. The tents are clean and luxurious, with everything you need, including a full bathroom with hot water. The excellent food can be enjoyed around a fire with local songs and drums. Plus, those staying for more than a day will be happy to hear that the camp serves a different meal every night!
Price per night: Starts at € 158 /night
Number of tents : 6
Kam Kam Dunes
The ultimate luxurious glamping
Kam Kam Dunes offers the most extravagant experience in all of Merzouga. Take the jeep to get to this beautiful camp just before getting on the dromedaries to admire the colors of the desert at sunset. The comfortable rooms (furnished with a toilet and small shower) surround a terrace and an adjoining garden. This camp is where you can enjoy a beer in front of the campfire and good food in a tastefully decorated dining room. The staff is amiable and warm. You’ll find a simple and festive atmosphere here with the local songs and music.
Price per night: Starts at € 188 / night
Number of tents: 11
Riads and Hotels in Merzouga
If you are not a fan of camping or want to extend your stay in Merzouga, there is always the option of staying in the town itself. You will have more time to explore the desert and what it offers. Merzouga can also be an exciting base to discover the surrounding region.
Desert Villa Boutique Hotel Merzouga
A beautiful boutique hotel
This hotel is located on the edge of the desert and lets its guests enjoy an incredible view of the red dunes from the roof terrace and the rooms! Its architecture, halfway between traditional and modern, is simply magnificent. The Desert Villa Boutique Hotel Merzouga offers very comfortable rooms with everything you need, including an exceptional breakfast! The swimming pool has a je-ne-sais-quoi and will make you wish you had the same back home.
Price per night: Starts at € 112 / night
Number of rooms: 3 rooms
A sumptuous hotel at the edge of the desert
Riad Chebbi is very well decorated, cosy and, simply put, luxurious. It boasts a beautiful pool, impeccable bathroom, comfortable beds, and spacious rooms. (Special mention to its impressive Wi-Fi considering its location.) This hotel is a real balcony over the dunes of Erg Chebbi, and its view of the starry sky almost replaces a trip to the desert. Sleeping here ensures you an unforgettable stay.
Price per night: Starts at € 96 / night
Number of rooms: 11 rooms
The best hotel experience in Merzouga on a budget
The Kasbah Mohayut is a lovely hideaway, at the foot of the dune, with comfortable and tranquil rooms as well as a quality restaurant. The hotel has several shaded terraces, some directly viewing the dunes. It might well give you the feeling of being in a tale of One Thousand and One Nights. Meals here are followed by traditional music. The Kasbah also has a rustic bivouac in the desert, where it is possible to go camping. This hotel is overall excellent value for money.
Price per night: Starts at € 82 / night
Number of rooms: 10 rooms
Airbnbs in Merzouga
As of 2023, most Airbnb listings in Merzouga are hotel rooms and tents from the abovementioned camps. There aren’t any local houses for rent on the website. Also, if you find something you like on Airbnb, I would suggest booking it on Booking.com. As we all know, Airbnb can be really unflexible in their cancellation policies; you might as well try to avoid it when you can.
How do you get to Merzouga?
There are several ways to get to Merzouga and its desert. You can book an organized tour with a travel company, take your rental car, choose to air travel, take the bus and even choose to go with the Grand Taxi. The nearest airport to Merzouga is Errachidia (ERH) which is 129 km (2h drive) away.
How far is Merzouga from Marrakech
Marrakesh is 546 km west of Merzouga. However, the time to get there depends significantly on the means of transport chosen.
Most people who visit Merzouga from Marrakesh do so with a guided tour. Several options are available; however, most tours do the Marrakesh – Merzouga – Fez route, the other way around, or the Marrakesh – Merzouga – Marrakesh route. Those tours usually do several stops along the way (Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate, and the Dades Valley) but don’t spend much time in Merzouga.
It is not possible to take the bus directly from Marrakesh to Merzouga. You’ll first have to head North and go to Meknes or Casablanca for a transfer. A valid option could be to fly from Marrakesh (RAK) to Errachidia (ERH). However, considering all this, you’ll be better off just going on a tour if you don’t have a car to make the trip independently. If you have some time to spare, taking the Grand Taxi from Marrakesh to Merzouga is an option, but you should expect a stop somewhere along the way, in Ouarzazate, for example. It should also be noted that it is claimed that the way through the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh to Merzouga is riskier than the road from Fez to Merzouga. Many people do it without a problem, but those who feel uneasy about driving abroad should maybe reconsider.
How far is Merzouga from Fez
Fez is 469 km north of Merzouga.
Starting from Fez, you can easily rent a car and head to Merzouga. You also have the opportunity to take the bus allowing you to travel more independently. (All the most, considering having a car in Fez isn’t the easiest thing to manage.) The bus can also be a great option considering you can do the route by night and not lose a day on the road.
Merzouga and Erg Chebbi are, all in all, much more accessible than its competitor, Erg Chigaga. It offers several choices of accommodations for camping as well as hotels. The location is easily accessible from the main tourist cities of Morocco and offers the option between group tours or independent travel.