Merzouga – my home for the last 4+ years!

One of the top things to do in Morocco is to go see the famous dunes of Merzouga. Go on a camel ride and stay in a camp in the dunes. Most people are scared to go on their own and book a tour to take them from Marrakech or Fez to Merzouga and back. But this is not necessary. How do I know? Because I went on my own. And I am currently living in Merzouga, so I think I can judge how safe and easy it really is.

Merzouga is a small town with around 1500 people at the edge of the dunes of Erg Chebbi. It is the starting point of all trips into the dunes, but because most tourists only pass through, it doesn’t feel particularly touristy. The cafés and restaurants are full of locals drinking tea and chatting and only after the Supratours bus arrives will you see some tourists wandering around the main street.

Do you need a tour to see the desert?

No! At least not to get there and back. You can easily take public transport from Marrakech or Fez and find a camp in the desert when you get there. There are plenty of options for any price range.

sand dunes in the sunset, things to do in Merzouga, Morocco
The famous big dunes

If you want to book something special, look at my desert hiking business Berber Adventure Tours, we offer everything from overnight camps to multi day hikes.

But if you prefer to book a tour from Marrakech or Fez, check out these tours:

If you want a private tour I can of course organise that for you from Marrakech, Fes or anywhere else in Morocco.

The best time to go to Merzouga

The best time to go to the desert in Morocco is between October and April. Temperatures range from 15-25°C during the day to 5-15°C at night.

The summer is hot with temperatures up to 50°C and it will be dangerous to go into the dunes during the day. You would leave Merzouga just before sunset and return early, just after sunrise. You will not be able to stay for a few days in the camps.

Tea in the garden of Maison Adrar

In March there is a higher likelihood of sand storms, so you might want to be a bit flexible with your plans as it can be very uncomfortable.

How to get to Merzouga

Depending on your starting point and budget there are multiple options to get to Merzouga.

From Marrakech and Fez, you can take the Supratours bus to Merzouga. The one from Fez is an overnight bus, arriving in Merzouga at around 7 am. The one from Marrakech takes all day and arrives at ca. 9 pm. Costs are around 15-18 € one way. And of course, you can also get on these busses in any town along their routes.

From Casablanca the easiest option is to fly to Errachidia with Royal Air Moroc. There is a flight at 22:40, arriving in Errachidia at 23:50, 5 days a week. There are some nice hotels in Errachidia to spend the night at and in the morning you can catch a shared taxi from the centre to Rissani and then another one to Merzouga (cost ca. 4,5 € one way). Alternatively you can get up early and catch the overnight bus from Fez when it stops in Errachidia.

Hotel Tip: Dar Diafa or Auberge Tinit

car rental, how to get to Merzouga, renault clio, grey, desert, road, traffic
My little rental car

Of course, you can also rent a car and drive yourself. 4-wheel drive is not necessary as the road is paved all the way to Merzouga. This gives you the most flexibility in terms of stops on the road and arrival times, but it is also the most expensive option. Here you can find more information about interesting stops on the way to the desert.

I rented a car out of Errachidia for a week at 30 € per day, just to give you an idea. It was a brand new Renault Clio, enough for the regular roads around here.

I was very happy with the service of the rental agency, they also deliver cars to other locations for a little increase in the rental fee. Let me know, if you want the contact information.

I also wrote a post with much more information on how to get around Morocco with public transport.

Where to stay

Here is a short list of hotels in town, for more info head over to my blog post about the best hotels in Merzouga.


Hostel Hassan

Low-Mid range

Maison Tamaright

Mid range

Les Roches


Desert Villa Merzouga or Riad Serai


In 2019 the government forbid the camps in the dune field and they had to move behind the dunes. Some hotels also moved them next to the hotels, which might not be everyone’s idea of a desert camp. So I really recommend asking for these details before booking.

One option to sleep in the dunes is with mobile camps, but this is in normal tents that you bring with you on the camels and it is without any comforts like bathrooms, etc. But definitely an unforgettable experience!

You can find a few recommendations below.

Where and what to eat

When visiting Merzouga, you should eat some traditional Berber and Moroccan food. During my time here in Merzouga I am eating my way through all the restaurants one by one and I am only recommending my favourites here.


Typical desert breakfast with Berber omelette

For a traditional breakfast or even just for a coffee or orange juice head to Café Itrane on the south end of the main street. Order Berber Omelette with or without cheese (cream cheese), some olives, bread and a coffee. WiFi is pretty good here, so I am usually spending my mornings here working on the computer.


Soup – If you just want a small meal for lunch, I recommend Harira, the traditional Moroccon soup. You can get it with a boiled egg and bread to make it more filling, if you like. My favourite place is Chez Youssef, a little shop to the right of Café L’Expert and the soup only costs about 1 € per portion. They also serve many home cooked meals like lentil and white bean soup, which are both vegetarian. And you can eat chickpeas with cow feet or vegetable stew with offals.

Berber pizza – If you’re feeling hungry and are in a group, I recommend having a traditional Berber pizza at Café Nora in Khamlia, a small village 7 km south of Merzouga. You can either walk there or rent bicycles or take a taxi of course. The pizza is basically a flat bread filled with either beef, chicken or vegetables and very good.

restaurant, cafe Nora Khamlia, palm trees, where to eat in Merzouga
Café Nora in Khamlia


Tajine – You can, of course, find tajine in pretty much every restaurant in town, the best ones in Chez Youseef.

Kofta and brochette – One of my favourite things to eat here are Kofta, meatballs, and brochette, meat skewers, grilled on the little fireplaces they have outside the restaurants, with hot sauce and bread.

Rooftop drinks – There are a couple of places with rooftop terraces on the main street where you can enjoy a view and a drink, alcohol free only though. My favourite is Café Ténéré, where you can actually enjoy a view of the big dunes at sunset and where I sit frequently in the evenings writing for this blog.

What to do

Day trips

Desert camp – The obvious thing to do is, of course, an overnight trip into the desert. You can ride a camel, walk, or ride a quad to get there. Most of the tours leave in the late afternoon, you get to climb one of the high dunes close to the camp to watch the sunset and then walk or ride the rest of the way. At the camp, you will be assigned a tent, can freshen up a bit and then there will be a nice traditional dinner.

camels, camel ride, what to do in merzouga, guide, dunes, sunset
Camel ride in Merzouga

Afterwards you can sit around the fire, listen to some Berber music and look for shooting stars. In the morning you can climb up the dunes again for sunrise or ride straight back to Merzouga. You only take what you need into the dunes in a small bag/backpack, your other luggage with be kept safe in one of the hotels.

Most camps (and this is where the price makes a difference) have a tent with toilets/showers. Not all have running water, in some you have to “flush” the toilet from a bucket and also take a bucket shower if you really want one. But the hotel you kept your things at will offer a shower once you get back.

A few camps that I can recommend are:

Ali and Sara’s desert palace

Camp Mirage

Caravanserai Luxury desert camp

Chez les Artistes in Khamlia – This cute art gallery is run by Johanna and Lahcen, who exhibit and sell their art. I bought 2 small paintings that now have a home in my living room.

Gnawa music in Khamlia – Another thing to do in Khamlia is listening to the traditional gnawa music. The music goes back to the times when people from more southern places were brought to Morocco as slaves. And Khamlia is a village where many of those former slave families still live. There are a few bands that play their music at local weddings, but they also get invited to events all around the country, e.g. the Essaouira gnawa music festival. After listening to a few songs, please throw some money into the hat, so this tradition can survive.

Taouz petroglyphs – If you are a bit of an archaeology nerd like me, you will enjoy the petroglyphs in Taouz. They are located all over the mountains apparently, but there is one small area with parking close by, only accessible by 4×4 though. You could also leave your car in Taouz and walk, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get there. You can find a guide in Merzouga to show you the way.

petroglyphs, taouz, morocco, day trip from merzouga
The petroglyphs in Taouz

Rissani market – If you happen to be here on a Sunday you might want to consider going to Rissani. Sunday is the big market day and the city is full with people coming in from the surrounding villages riding donkeys or driving horse pulled carts. You can buy everything from fruit and veggies to donkeys and sheep. It is really fun to watch everyone going about their business.

There are plenty of little cafés just around the corner from the taxi station with rooftop terraces and WiFi to have lunch at once you are all shopped out. My favourite place for tajine in Rissani is the Café Esslimania, they have one with plums and apricots and it is really good!

tajine, vegetables, meat, fruit, Rissani, Morocco, day trip from Merzouga, what to do in Merzouga
My favourite tajine in Rissani

To get there you can take a shared taxi for 15 Dirham (about 1.5 €) for the 30-minute drive. The taxis leave from the south end of the main street and stop in Rissani right next to the souk. It is also where they will leave again from to Merzouga. Be aware, if you plan on going anywhere else from here, you need to walk to a different taxi station.

Multi day trekking around Merzouga

If you are up for a real adventure you should consider a multi-day trek to or from Merzouga. It can be anything from 3 days to 3 weeks or more. As mentioned above, I went on a 16-day-trip from Zagora to Merzouga in November 2018. The landscape is amazing and more varied than one would think when imagining what the desert looks like.

trekking, camels, tents, sand dunes, things to do in Merzouga
My guide Hassan during our 16 day trip

The best time to do this is October to February, but it might get really cold at night in December and January. March is also good temperature wise, but it tends to be very windy with sandstorms every few weeks (or sometimes days).

If you are interested in more details regarding longer treks, check out our website Berber Adventure Tours.


turbans, colourful, shopping in Merzouga
Every possible colour

Turbans – You can find plenty of shops selling turbans in every colour along the main street in Merzouga. There is a quality difference, mostly in terms of longevity of the colours. Also, they differ in length. Generally, prices are up for discussion, the more you buy in one shop, the better the price.

Shoes – There is a small shop called Desert Fox right at the southern end of the main street selling really good quality shoes made from camel leather by the Berber women in the mountains. The quality is better than what I have seen in Fez or Marrakech and the price is really good at 12-15 € for most pairs. You can also get a range of really cute camel leather handbags here and of course turbans, dresses etc.

Camel leather shoes

Kaftans, jalabas, etc. – You can also find these in pretty much any shop, beware though, there are big quality differences. You want to look out for natural materials, for jalabas camel or goat wool for example, not synthetics.

Herbs and Rose products – There are plenty herborists on the main street selling all kinds of herbal products, teas, oils, etc. The rose products are from the valley of roses around Kelaat M’Gouna, so if you can’t make it there, buy some rose oil, rose water or soap here in Merzouga. You can also find argan oil at good quality. My favourite of the shops is called Herbier Elmazouar towards the north end of the street.

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. That income goes to supporting this website and keeping it free for you and everyone else!

You prefer to let others do the planning? I offer itinerary planning for your trip to Morocco! You can check out the details here.

For more general information on Morocco, also check out these posts:

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. That income goes to supporting this website and keeping it free for you and everyone else!


  1. This was a great overview, thank you! I’m traveling to Merzouga next month and was wondering if you still have contact information for a good guide. I definitely want to go on a desert adventure for a night or two, but after reading your comments about availability, am thinking that hiring a guide might be an easier way to go (versus just booking online). I appreciate any additional information you can provide.

  2. We also loved Merzouga and the Rissani market. This article brought back some great memories, and my burning desire to go back.

  3. I would love to go back to Morocco and especially visit the dessert there. Your photos are excellent and I am already planning outfits to wear with those gorgeous sandals – so pretty!

    • Kerry-Ann Craven Reply

      Hi Eva, Thanks for your amazing information. I would love some help please regarding the desert camping trips. I am thinking of taking your suggestion of flying from Casablanca to Errachida and taking bus to Merzouga and organising a desert trip from there. Can you suggest a guide you trust? Also if we arrive after midnight from Casablanca should we stay the night in Errachida and take bus next morning to Merzouga or organise a pick up from the hotel on the night we arrive?
      Can I ask if you have any suggestions for visits to Erg Chigaga from Marrakesh as an alternative to Erg Chebbi?
      Once again, Thanks for you work and sharing, Kerry-Ann

  4. This is a fantastic guide! I am heading to Morocco next year and I will take you up on your offer of more info about the multi day tracks.

    I am amazed the government is cracking down on the dune camps. Are the high numbers of tourists degrading the desert habitat? These closures are happening more and more – islands in Thailand, Komodo Island in Indonesia. The multi day track sounds like the best day to ensure you can sleep in the desert for a few nights.

    Thank you for all the info! I will reach out closer to the date of my trip.

    • Thank you Margarita! I’m sure you will love it, and I am happy to provide more info on the trekking.
      Yes, the camps are not removing their waste, there is so much noise, it just got way too crowded. So I believe it is a good thing in the long run, even if it causes some irritation at the moment.

  5. I just did a Sahara Desert Tour last summer so it was a shock to hear they are removing all of these camps. This article had a lot of good information that I wish I had known before going last summer.

    • Yes, it is shocking, but it will be so good for the area! The camps produce so much waste, and quite a few are not removing it appropriately.

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