The Essential Guide To Camping In The Sahara Desert

Photo of Mandy Sinclair
9 February 2017

A trip to Morocco would not be complete without a trip to the Sahara Desert. Riding off in to the dunes as the sun sets, spending the night under the starry African sky, drumming around the fire following an impressive Berber dinner, camping in a traditional Berber tent or watching the sun rise over the mountainous sand dunes. It’s an unforgettable experience, that is, if you are prepared. Be sure to check out our useful tips to fully enjoy a trip to the Sahara Desert.

Pack Appropriately

Even on the hottest days, once the sun sets, the temperature drops considerably. Be prepared to layer up if you want to sleep under the stars. Even when sleeping in a tent, you’ll want an extra layer as night falls. A sunhat is a must as are strong UV sunglasses for the sunset or sunrise trek to and from the camp. Close-toed shoes are best for the camel trek while long pants are certainly advisable as well.

Spend Where Necessary

For those who want basic comforts including a toilet, you’ll want to pay a little bit extra and stay at a higher-end camp. While there are endless camps and options available, especially in Merzouga and more recently in Erg Chigaga, it’s worth it to pay a bit extra to have your own tent, clean linens and decent camels. While cheap group tours can be purchased in high-traffic tourist areas of Marrakech, the vehicles used are often not airconditioned and pack long distances in to short travel times.

Don’t Skip the Camel Trek

It may be cliché but many travellers rate camel trekking in to their desert camp as one of their top experiences in Morocco. While riding a camel over the uneven sand dunes may not seem comfortable, the views will take your mind off of the discomfort.

Arrive On Time

Plan your departure so you arrive in the desert with enough time to enjoy the sunset from atop one of the mountainous dunes in the Erg Chebbi. Then expect a short night in order to awake in time to see the sun rise over the Sahara Desert, a truly unforgettable experience.

When To Go

Many of the luxury camps close during summer months (July and August) as the temperatures climb above 50°C yet remain open during winter months when daytime temperatures are comfortable, but nights can be cold (approximately 10°C). April, May, September and October are great months for travelling. Autumn sees the harvest taking place throughout the South, providing travellers with a unique experience and the freshest dates available in the souks.

Stay For a Couple of Days

Given the distance required to travel from both Marrakech and Fes, staying two nights in the desert is desirable – one night in camp and a second night in a lodge at the edge of the dunes. The scenery is mesmerizing with the light changing throughout the day, making it wondrous all day long. Activities such as sand boarding, camel-trekking and picnics in the palm groves can often be arranged so there is no need to race back to the city.

Expect to Unplug

Given the remoteness of the camps and lack of mobile reception, expect to be off the grid during your stay. No Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat or email alerts! They will not be missed as you enjoy the 360-degree views of the Sahara Desert. In fact, often even the most luxurious camps do not have electrical supply for recharging so be sure to have enough power for your stay.

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