Exploring Morocco’s Sahara Desert

The Sahara is the world’s largest sand desert, larger than the continental United States, and yet it also has an incredible diversity of microclimates and is host to some of the world’s most unique and interesting plant and animal life. In Morocco, the Sahara is still home to the Berber tribes, who have lived in the desert following ancient trade routes and preserving their traditions for over 4,000 years.

The best time to visit the Moroccan Sahara is in the winter months, between October and March, when temperatures are tolerable. In deepest winter, overnight lows will plummet below freezing, so it’s good to prepare ahead of time for dramatic temperature changes. In late spring, during March and April, there is increased risk of sand storms.

While most of the country’s infrastructure and transport is best in the north, making a visit to the Sahara a bit of a trek, it is well worth taking the additional time to see the incredible golden sand dunes and experience this legendary location for yourself. And once you have reached the desert, you would be remiss to not spend the night. Sunrise and sunset are the most stunning times to see the Moroccan Sahara, as the sands seem to change color with the light. And deep night offers stargazing like no where else on earth, with no obstruction or light pollution.

Thanks to the hospitality of Moroccans, it is easy to arrange a Saharan journey, including a camel ride in a caravan, and camping out under the stars in a traditional Berber tent. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to step back in time and explore a completely unique way of life.

Erg Chebbi
An “erg” is a large area of sand dunes, and Erg Chebbi is the most frequently visited by tourists. It is the most accessible erg, located several hours’ drive from Fes. As such, it has better tourist infrastructure, with more tours and services, and it also has the biggest and highest sand dunes.

Erg Chegaga
Erg Chegaga is less frequently visited than Erg Chebbi, and is located several hours’ drive from Marrakech. It has lower sand dunes, and fewer tourist services than Erg Chebbi, but that also causes many people to feel that it’s a more authentic experience. Chegaga also has more vast, expansive views, contributing to the feeling of truly being out in the desert.

While everyone should make a visit to the Sahara part of their Moroccan experience, the choice of Chebbi or Chegaga depends largely on your route through the country, and your personal preference. Either way, the sunset and sunrise on camelback are well worth the experience!

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