The desert and the dunes in Morocco!
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 a few definitions:
*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 Desert on the planet:
- the Reg is a desert of stones, a rocky plain.
- the Hamada is a desert plateau, rocky.
- the Erg is a vast region occupied by dunes.
You will find in Morocco desert the 3 types of Desert, but in very specific areas
Let’s talk about “Marrakech Desert” for starters.
First of all, THERE ARE NO dunes in Marrakech, nor in the surrounding area! The region of Marrakech Desert is arid and desert, it is a beautiful region with many contrasts between mountains, plateaus, and valleys. You will find there a wealth of incredible landscapes, of all beauty. Nevertheless, if you are looking for dunes, you will have to drive at least 8 hours by car to reach the first sand waves. You will find many dunes on the Atlantic coast (Essaouira is only 3 hours away) but here I am talking about “Desert” dunes with a big D.
To find them, you will have to cross the High Atlas mountain range towards Ouarzazate. You should also know that you won’t find any dunes there. But you will be closer!
We have 2 oceans of dunes in Morocco desert, 2 big Ergs, namely the ergs Chebbi and Erg Chigaga.
The Erg Chebbi is the best known: they are very large orange dunes whose highest point is over 150 meters. They are located in the region of the town of Rissani in the heart of the Moroccan desert. 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 beautiful and rare place, its beauty is undeniable. Unfortunately, the road makes it one of the most touristic sites in Morocco. So a piece of advice, don’t stay on the side of the road but find one of the beautiful and comfortable bivouacs on the other side of the dunes, accessible only by the track and in 4×4. A perfect setting for adventurers who love comfort!
For those who are looking for even more authenticity and adventure, then without hesitation, go to the Erg Chegaga.
The Erg Chigaga 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 2 hours journey through the real desert, where unreal landscapes such as dry rivers (Oueds), Regs, Hamada and finally the very wild and majestic Erg Chegaga. This region is still preserved from tourism and remains wild. A fragile pearl that must be taken care of.
Erg chigaga or Erg Chebbi?
Between Chebbi and Chegaga, it’s hard to choose! I’d 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: don’t forget 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 ones to you. There is a multitude of small Erg that are often tourist traps. Remember two of them: Erg Tinfou (at the gates of Zagora and on the roadside) and Erg ElYoudi. The second one is better but it is such a pity to have traveled so many kilometers to be so close to the goal and to limit oneself to these tourist fairs or swarm the bivouacs. Let’s not forget that first of all, a desert is by definition an area where the population density is very low.
Attention!!!! Some agencies, propose you circuits in 2 or 3 days. In my opinion, this is a mistake! To go and come back, I advise you a tour in a minimum 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 is too much road for them and it is sometimes difficult.
I hope that this article will help you to organize your holiday and your trip. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need good addresses, we have a lot of good tips.
I wish you a wonderful holiday in our fabulous country. Trek Salamat!
At Desertbrise Travel, we understand that experienced travelers want to get truly off-the-beaten-track. That’s why we’ve created experiences with local experts to help you get the best trekking in morocco that are packed with personality and stimulating adventure – at all levels of comfort. If you love planning, but find arranging the logistics exhausting, you’re in the right place.