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Guide to Sahara Desert Adventure in Morocco

A trip to Morocco without going to the Sahara is like visiting France without going to the Eiffel Tower. The trip to the Sahara desert located in the town of Mergouza is easily reachable and not that daunting as others said. The Sahara is the most beautiful and awe inspiring piece of geography one can encounter in Morocco. You simply need to include Sahara desert experience if one is heading to Morocco! CIMG1071 CIMG1086

Why Visit Mergouza?

Erg Chebbi sand dunes is located near to Mergouza and is more accessible, with modern hotels located, a 30-minute camel ride away. It is splendid both in the day basking under the sun and at night with the chilly weather. There is simply many activities to do here! Spend the days sandboarding, camel trekking and the nights singing, dancing & stargazing under the Mars-like realm of Erg Chebbi sand dunes.

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When to Visit?

Best time to travel: Between March to the beginning of May. Followed by end October to December as that is when daytime temperatures are milder. Sandstorms are more frequent between January and May.

Tempature can reach up to 55 degree celsius during the day from June- August period. If you plan to go in the summer, most would not be going out in the day as the camels would also find it unbearable at time. I would suggest going in early November as this is the shoulder season while mid December onwards is the mini peak season. The climate in the day when I was there in November is around 20-25 degree celsius, thou I feel the heat from the sun was unforgiving yet at the same time accompanied by ocassionally cool wind. In the night, I was shivering at time as temperature can drop to around 3- 10 degree celsius. This feeling is difficult to put into words, you ought to be here to experience it yourself! In a nutshell, do note that temperatures can varies thus the trick is to bring the correct type of clothings.

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What to Pack?

  • Appropriate shoes (hiking boots preferred).  Do note that walking on the fine sands in the Sahara mean that sands often goes into your shoes.
  • Windbreaker. The nights can get near to freezing tempature, depending when you go. Nights in the summer can be chilly too although not that cold.
  • Long Track Pants or Jeans: You would want to protect your skin when riding the camel.
  • Headscarf: You need this to cover your face from the sun and the occassionally sand storm. Beside, be immersed in the Berber culture!
  • Sunblock: You got to have this applied on during the day!
  • Flashlight: It will be dark in the middle of the desert should you be camping overnight. The only source of light is the stars and moon.

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How To Get into Mergouza

Usually, people who heads to Mergouza will first venture into the Altas Mountains, followed by gorges, oasis, palmeries.  The itinerary would be usually start from Marrakech through Ouarzazate. Should one have more time to explore, visit Skoura, Dades Gorges, Todra Gorges along the way.  Marrakech is 600km away from Mergouza while some people travel southwards from the popular ancient city of Fez to Mergouza (470km away). I would not recommend a day trip into Sahara Desert as the travel journey probably would have already taken a day.

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I took the Supratours Bus that departs from Ouarzazate Town at 1300H. Duration of the bus ride is around 8 hours with stops in between. It costs 155 Diahrms  (about Singapore Dollars $22). For the complete of my Morocco Itinerary, you may refer to here.

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How many nights in Sahara Desert?

I would recommend spending at least 1 night in the desert and 1 night in the hotels located in the Hassilabaid area. Spending a night under the stars in the Sahara Desert is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you are unlikely to experience anywhere else in the world. With 2 nights, one will be able to explore the desert at a more relaxed pace and fully immerse yourself in the traditional ways of the local tribes.

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Where to Stay in Mergouza?

One of the many tips that not people know is that Mergouza is often known as the desert town but you should be staying in Hassilabaid area as there are far more better and larger number of accomodations options, enabling one to get the best deal out of it.

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With so many hotels on offered, I did not regret staying in Haven La Chance Desert Hotel. Here is why this hotel is one of the best in this area.

  1. Quick reply from the hotel: When it comes to booking of the rooms, the owner (Ms Elena) is very efficient and patience in answering to all your enquiries.
  2. Great Staff Service: They able to pick you up from your bus drop off point to the hotel. In any other way, the bus drop off at Hassilabaid town is probably 800 meters away only, 10 minutes walk.CIMG0940
  3. Awesome location: 10 minutes walk from town, bus stop, food area. At the back of the hotel, one can find the sand dunes. It is simply the gateway into Sahara Adventure. You are living in hotel yet only 5 minutes walk from the desert. I noticed there are other hotels but some of the location mean one still need to cross the road, walk further into the area and only then access to the sand dunes.CIMG1021
  4. Many types of accomodations. They allow one to park their Campervan in the camping site should you be driving on your own. If staying the hotel does not suit your budget, they have tentage like which is lighter on your budget. So there is a room for everyone at Haven La Chance Desert Hotel depending on your budget!CIMG1013
  5. They help to arrange tours, buses and all your activities! If you are looking at a one stop centre to do up your Morocco trip, you can just approach them!
  6. Great food at the hotel, dinner and breakfast!CIMG0944CIMG1004

Here is the contact details of Haven La Chance Desert Hotel. The website is easy to remember (see below).

Website: www.desert-hotel.com

Phone: +34 952 463 387 ; Cell phone: +34 600018109

Email: deserthotel@gmail.com

Below is the picture of the big room I stayed in Haven La Chance Desert Hotel. It can sleep up to 4-5 persons in the room, making it an ideal family retreat! The air conditioners are very strong, hence it was very cooling during the day when you step back into your room after a hot day outside. With the use of a private bathroom and large room space, I would definitely recommend spending at least a night here!

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The best part is Haven La Chance Desert Hotel would be able to arrange 1 night to sleep in the middle of the desert. Head out around 4pm from the hotel lobby, ride on the camel for 45 minutes into the desert and one can admire the sunset before enjoying great food under the stars in the middle of the desert! The next day, wake up around 5.30am to view the sunrise. It is something not to be miss!

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Take the camel ride back to the hotel at 8am. One can wash up, have a hearty brekfast and catch up your sleep in the comfort of the air conditioned rooms.  Below is a guideline of how I spend my time in the Sahara.

Day 1: Ouarzazate – Merzouga (Sahara)   

– 0800H: Walk around the small town of Ouarzazate (less than 1km) away from Le Petit Riad Maison

-1130H: Purchase bus ticket at Supratour counter and have lunch in the area while waiting

-1300H: Depart Ouarzazate on Supratours Bus. Duration of ride: 8 hours.  Price: 155Dh

-2100H: Arrive Hassilabaid town which is 4km before reaching Merzouga.

The trip with the bus Ouarzazate Merzouga is a fantastic trip where you’ll pass the Rose Valley and towns like Kalaat M’Gouna, Boumalne Dades, Tinghir, Goulmima, Errachidia, Erfoud, Rissani and finally the finally destination of Merzouga.

 

Day 2:  Sahara Desert Area

– 0900H: Take  a 5 minutes walk from hotel and you will arrive at the Sahara Desert (Self walking)

– 1130H: Finish exploring Sahara Desert. Back to hotel for rest.

– 1230H: Visit some Berbers in the village, which is only 800metres away from hotel and explore the small town.

– 1630H: Collect your camels 2 hours before sunset for overnight Bivouac in the Erg Chebbi dunes under the stars.

 

Day 3: Sahara Desert Area – Menkes  

– 1730H: Head back to Hassilabaid town and purchase bus ticket from SupraTour

– 1900H: The bus will leave for Menkes  at 1900hrs and arrives 0330H in the morning in front of the train station in Menkes. Costs: 180Dh.

 If you are looking to explore Ouarzazate town before arriving into Sahara Desert, you can read up more of < Venture into Ouarzazate, Morocco > , here is the link.

Here is a summary of the video during the entire Morocco Trip:

 

 

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