Moroccan Sahara Excursion


A good indication of a trip is how you remember it a few weeks later. In the moment, perhaps you’re worn out, carsick (or simply sick of the car), and struggling to squat over one too many “toilet” holes—a few trials in our excursion through the desert in Morocco. But it’s how you recall the trip outside the heat of the moment that counts. A guided tour to the Sahara was something I wouldn’t have been able to easily organize on my own, and it was such a welcome change from the typical European capital loop. Despite spending a total of almost 23 hours in a van, it was one of the most unique and stimulating trips I’ve taken since I first started seriously traveling 7 years ago. Here’s a breakdown of the excursion, in military time because that’s how European I’m pretending to be.

DAY 1.

7:15—Join a group of 12 others and head out in a van from Marrakech with a driver who doesn’t speak English. Time to draw on those few words of French I’ve been studying out of library books. How do you say toilet again??

9:30—Stop at an overlook in the High Atlas Mountains. I initially pictured all of Morocco as flat, dry wasteland. How wrong I was.




11:30—Tour the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, a traditional Berber village and the filming location for a number of Hollywood movies (and most recently a Game of Thrones episode!). Today, 50 Berber families live in the old part of the village, and there is still no electricity.


17:00—After a few scenic photo stops along the way, we reach our beautiful hotel squeezed into the breathtaking Dades Gorge. It is calm and peaceful, and the hot shower and cous cous dinner are more than welcome after 7 hours in a van.




7:00—Breakfast. Moroccans really love their carbs, and breakfast is bread on bread on bread. Even this bread-lover was over it.

10:00—Tour through one of the largest Berber oases. Our guide speaks quite good English, so he can explain to us all about Berber customs, Ramadan, desert life, and the positive and negative effects of the tourism industry. He also throws me on top of a donkey.



11:00—We enter a carpet house were they hand make rugs. A Berber man offers us mint tea and a demonstration on the rug-making process. He shows us a variety of different carpets, and we witness a true salesman at work as he bargains with us over prices. We try to insist for 45 minutes that we’re all too poor or nomadic to buy a rug of our own, not to mention airline carry-on limits. Eventually, two in our group are convinced, and each leave with a beautifully hand-woven souvenir.



12:30—Drive to another impressive canyon, and then lunch at a restaurant. Tagine, cous cous and kebab are the three items featured on EVERY menu. Strangely, for a country selling so many spices, the food seemed a bit bland in Morocco. Some tourists CAN handle a spicy kick!!

17:00—Finally reach the sand dunes at Merzouga. Without much warning, I’m thrown on a camel and we’re off. Trekking through the Sahara at sunset was a spectacle.



18:30—We reach our desert camp, consisting of several sturdy sleeping tents, a bathroom, and a mess-hall tent. We climb a massive sand dune, which counts as my cardio workout for the month.

20:00—Tagine dinner in the dining tent, followed by a drum circle around the fire. The stars in the desert are something else.


6:00—Wakeup call. Back on the camel in time to catch the sunrise. Breakfast once we return to the van.


13:00—After a solid 5 hours on the road, it’s time for lunch. How has our driver not fallen asleep at the wheel?

14:00—Back on the road. All those switch-backs through the High Atlas Mountains aren’t for the weak-stomached.

18:30—Arrive back in Marrakech after a total of 10 hours driving today. We give plentiful merci boucoups to our driver, who handled those endless miles and potholes like a champ.

Morocco is a big country, and if you want to see the highlights you have to put in the mileage. Despite long days on the road, the desert excursion was absolutely worth it. How often do you get the chance to walk barefoot on Saharan sand? It’s also great for budget travelers—we arranged the excursion through our hostel, and it was all-inclusive (minus lunches and gratuities) for 80 euros. Such a steal! Of course, if you’re roped into buying a Berber rug, the price tag goes up a bit ;)

Have you ever been to Morocco or the Sahara? Would you consider doing a guided trip targeted solely at tourists? 

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    • I’m almost positive it was those damn DADES that made me a bit sick in Morocco….

  • Luc

    Morocco is totally a place I’d love to visit on an all-inclusive guided tour! The shadow pic of you on your camel is priceless. You must have felt productive and like you were getting the most out of Morocco by covering lots of ground. I can only imagine how much reflection and life pondering you did on those bus rides. I know it’s a favorite pastime of yours.

    • I do feel that we squeezed in a whole lotta Morocco in 5 days, which was great! And oh my god…..there’s such a thing as too much reflection time haha. I tried to not overthink on those 8-hr van trips…..I was sort of carsick through some of it, so my main focus was not puking on my friend next to me ;0