The Sahara desert was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed and experienced!
If you’re a backpacker like myself and looking into the possibility of heading into the Sahara Desert but not sure how to go about it; weather to do it independently or through a tour company, you’ve clicked onto the right post.
Since I started backpacking way back in 2010, I very rarely take tours. I prefer to do excursions like this independently, but this time I opted for a Sahara desert tour from Marrakech because of time restraints.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, In this post we will explore your options and I’ll run through the experience I had with IgoMorocco.com’s marrakech Sahara desert tours.
Before we dive into this Sahara desert tour though I do have to admit something. In all my years of traveling around the world, all the things I’ve seen, done and experienced the riding through and staying the night in the Sahara is easily was one of my greatest experiences and the best thing; it’s budget traveler friendly!
But, how do you get to the Sahara desert?
There are certain things, we budget backpackers prefer to do on our own. And if you have the nouse, the time, some haggling ability, I’m sure you could do this alone. However there is that risk of getting lost in the Sahara desert. I’m sure you could just rock up, haggle, buy or rent a camel and wander off into the Sahara desert. But if you’re not an expert at navigating vast Sahara desert dunes; I wouldn’t recommend it.
Of course there are other options to do it independently without getting lost on your own. You could make your own way to a town close to the Sahara desert edge, and get a local guide from the towns to take you into the dunes. I’ll be honest if I had more time on my hands, I probably would have chose this option instead of one of the Sahara desert tours from Marrakech.
So, you can either do it independently and get a local or a guide to take you into the desert once you get to the town on your own, or the other option is to book an organized Sahara desert tour from Marrakech or Fes.
Which methods suits you best?
A Pre-booked Sahara desert tour from Marrakech is a better option if you prefer everything organized for you if you want to just turn up and be led the whole way and be hassle free in planning or don’t have the time to do it yourself. However with tours, everything is on time restraints, there’s an itinerary to follow, there’s no freedom of length of time spent in one place, or where to eat and sleep. It’s all pre-determined and there’s less of a chance of spontaneity, so depending on your view that can be seen as a pro or a con.
If you want to do it independently, you have to do all the research yourself, figure out a route, decide where to stop and how long for and then figure out which local or guide can take you into the Sahara desert dunes themselves.
Remember, you should go for the option that suits you and your traveling style best.
As I mentioned I prefer to do trips independently, I like to have the freedom to explore in my own way at my own pace, to figure out my own route, and doing things my way. For me, it’s more of an adventure to get to the destination that way.
Having said that, I have taken tours in the past and due to time restraints so this time I chose to book a Sahara desert tour.
Budget Sahara Desert Tour options
If you decide to go the organized Sahara desert tour route, then your first course of action is to seek out a tour company/operator.
When it comes to choosing a Sahara desert tour, there is no need to worry. There’s no shortage of budget Sahara desert tours from Marrakech.
You might get tempted to just book one online and get it out the way, but there are plenty of options in Morocco itself. It felt like every other shop was offering Sahara desert tours from Marrakech, and even the ones that weren’t knew somebody who sold one. You can book them through your hostel or Riad (although not the best option as I found out from people in my hostel.) And, don’t even worry about booking too far in advance, tours run 365 days a year.
I learned that most Marrakech desert tours offer pretty much the same options and itineraries the only difference between then are the prices. (Prices vary on the quality of the tour operator and trip. However, some companies charge a higher rate for a poorer quality of the trip. More on this later.)
Types of Sahara desert tours available:
Most Sahara Desert Tours from Marrakech have pretty much the same Itineraries, they typically range like this:
2 day/1 night – Shorter trips that typically go to smaller dunes like Zagora, including a few stops along the way, an overnight stay in a Berber camp in the dunes and a return journey the next day – Great introduction to the desert if you’re really tight on time. (But you don’t go so deep into them)
3 day/2 nights – Longer trip that takes you further to the bigger dunes like Merzouga and Erg Chebbi, tours typically include scheduled stops like Kasbah Ait Ben Hadodu, Dades Gorge Valley, and Todra Gorge. This option includes your first night in a shared or private hotel, second night in the desert camp and a return journey to Marrakech.
4 days/3 nights – This option includes all of the above but you get to spend a full day in the desert doing activities like sand boarding, quad biking and 4×4 riding
*Note activities depend on the tour operator, not all will offer activities.
Budget trips – Basic camps and tents, Air conditioned Mini-vans.
Budget Shared – Shared mini-vans with people from other tour groups (This is not told beforehand and causes confusion, more on this further in the post.)
Private Sahara desert tours are available but at a higher cost.
IGoMorocco.com Sahara desert tours from Marrakech
- In this part one of this post we are going to cover what my experience with IgoMorocco.com tour company was like:
- Sahara desert tour day 1
- An early start
- Nothing runs on time
- Leaving Marrakech behind
- Atlas mountains
- Kasbah Ait Benhaddou; a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Join me for part 2 – the main event
I opted for the 3 day Marrakech to desert tour which included mini tours and stops along the way, first night in shared or private accommodation, a 2-hour camel ride to the camp, a night’s stay at the desert camp, with a return journey back to Marrakech.
This option covers all main attractions and gives you a decent amount of time to experience the Sahara desert.
TIP: With most tour companies, you can choose between riding a camel into the desert or riding in a 4×4 but the latter is more expensive.
IGoMorocco were very good with communication about the Sahara desert tour before the trip. Booking was simple, a quick secured online payment, which I got a receipt for instantly. They emailed me the Itinerary, what to bring and even sent me a reminder through Email and a phone message the day before.
As I mentioned above most of the Marrakech Sahara desert tour operators follow the same route to the desert and include similar Itineraries. Below is how my 3 day Marrakech to Desert tour with Igomorocco turned out.
Sahara desert tour - Day 1
The first thing you should know and prepare yourself for is the early starts and long drives. The Sahara desert is a long way from Marrakech and the days will be long.
An early start!
Nothing ever runs on time
Finally, we hit the road and left Marrakech behind us
Kahsbar Ait Benhaddou
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Day 2 - The Sahara desert tour main event!
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