Deserts in Morocco: Dunes, Rocky, Vas
Where are the big dunes and how long does it take to get there?
These are often the questions we ask ourselves.
Let’s start with some definitions first:
*The desert is a geographical area where the rate of precipitation is lower than the rate of evaporation and where the population density is very low due to very difficult climatic conditions.
*There are 3 types of Deserts in Morocco :
– the Reg is a stony desert, a rocky plain.
– Hamada is a rocky desert plateau.
– The Erg is a vast region occupied by dunes.
You will find the 3 types of Deserts in Morocco but in very specific regions.
Let’s talk about “Marrakesh” to start.
Firstly, THERE ARE NO dunes in Marrakech or the surrounding area! The region of Marrakech is arid and desert, it is a magnificent region and very contrasted between mountains, plateaus, and valleys. You will find a wealth of incredible landscapes, of great beauty. However, if you are looking for dunes, you will need to drive at least 8 hours to reach the first waves of sand. You will find many small dunes on the Atlantic coast (Essaouira is only 3 hours away) but here, I am talking about the “Desert” dunes with a capital D.
To find them, you will have to cross the chain of High Atlas mountain towards Ouarzazate. Know there too, that you will not find dunes. But you will be closer! We have 2 dunes ocean in Morocco, and 2 large Ergs, namely the Chebbi and Chegaga ergs.
Erg Chebbi is the best known: these are huge orange dunes, the highest of which culminate at more than 150 meters. They are located in the region of the city of Rissani in the heart of the Moroccan Sahara. They are easily accessible by the road that will take you to the foot of the giants, near the village of Merzouga. It is a magnificent and rare place, and its beauty is indisputable. Unfortunately, the road makes it one of the most tourist sites in Morocco. So a piece of advice, do not stay on the side of the road but find one of the beautiful and comfortable bivouacs which are on the other side of the dunes, accessible only by the track and by 4×4. A perfect setting for comfort-loving adventure
Deserts in Morocco: Erg Chigaga VS Erg Chebbi
For those who seek even more authenticity and adventure, then without hesitation, you must go to Erg Chegaga.
Erg Chegga is located south of the city of Zagora, about 12 hours’ drive from Marrakech. After the village of M’Hamid, you will leave the road to take the track for a journey of 2 hours through the real desert, where unreal landscapes follow one another such as dry rivers (Ouad), Regs, Hamadas, and finally the very wild and majestic Erg Chegaga. This region is still preserved by tourism and remains wild. A fragile pearl to which it is necessary to pay attention.
Between Chebbi and Chegaga, hard to choose! I would advise you to see both. But I still have a slight preference for Chegaga and its wild side, the track to get there is a great adventure. Above all, never venture into this place alone and without a guide: remember that you are in the heart of the Sahara and that if the weather conditions change, you could get lost.
There are many other Ergs in the Moroccan Sahara, but I have described the two most important to you. There is a multitude of small Erg which are often tourist traps. Remember two: Erg Tinfou (at the gates of Zagora and the edge of the road) and Erg ElYoudi. The second is better but it’s such a shame to have traveled so many kilometers to find yourself so close to the goal and to limit yourself to these tourist fairs where the bivouacs abound. Let’s not forget that above all else, a desert is by definition an area where the population density is very low.
Warning !!! Some agencies offer tours in 2 or 3 days. In my opinion, this is a mistake! To go and come back, I recommend a circuit in a minimum of 4 days, the ideal being 5 days and more. There are so many things to see and visit. Especially since part of the road is mountainous. Also not recommended for families with young children, there are too many roads for them and it is sometimes difficult.
I hope this article will help you organize your vacation and trip. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need good addresses, we have plenty of good plans.
I wish you a great holiday in our fabulous country. Salama Trek!
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