desert in MoroccoThe Agafay Desert is located just an hour’s drive from the lively souks and dizzying maze-like market streets of Marrakech. Literally untouched by development, the Agafay offers quite the contrast from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.

Visiting the Agafay Desert is a good option if you would like to gaze at some sand dunes and desert, but don’t have the time to travel all the way south to where Morocco borders the Western Sahara. In the spring, the Agafay is alive with blooming wildflowers. The rest of the year, the Agafay is parched and thirsting for water giving you just a taste of the aridness of the Great Sahara.

There are currently no train lines south of Marrakech so if you want to travel to the desert you will need to rent a car, catch a bus or take an organized tour. Quite a few tour companies offer multi-day ATV tours of the Agafay hills complete with tent camping and traditional Moroccan meals. These off-the-beaten path type of tours take you across sand dunes, over rocky buttes and through hidden canyons all offering splendid views of the Atlas Mountains in the background.

Popular Morocco tours include a trip to Lake Takerkoust, a manmade lake on the edge of the Agafay Desert that was built in 1929 to provide the city of Marrakech and surrounding areas with electricity. You can swim and sunbathe at one of the beaches alongside the lake or you can rent jet skis or pedal boats and explore the waters. The hills above the lake offer many hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails.

Quite a few luxurious boutique accommodations have sprouted up alongside the Agafay Desert. La Pause is a peaceful retreat alongside an oasis of palm and olive trees. This resort offers simple luxury in the Berber tradition meaning there is no electricity, but visitors are treated to thousands of candles and exquisite meals served under tents with wide-open views of the surrounding desert and Moroccan wilderness. Visitors can enjoy a camel sunset ride, a round of cross-golf (a unique version of cross-country golf), mountain biking and horseback riding.

Written by Amiee Maxwell.

Photo by Jared Kelly.