Riding a camel across the undulating dunes of the Moroccan Sahara is unquestionably the stuff that holiday memories are made of. Any element of discomfort will fade into the distance, along with the recollection of any aching muscles when you shake the sand out of your shoes and remember the sunsets…
There are very few places on Earth that compare to the incredible landscapes you’ll see visiting the Sahara Desert. Running roughly north-south along Morocco’s eastern border with neighboring Algeria, the Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert. In fact, the Sahara covers an area roughly the size of the entire United States. Many travelers visit Morocco specifically with the intention of venturing off into the desert and spending a night under the stars. And we can’t blame them! A desert adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on. (more…)
“What should I wear?” – I often get this question from travelers coming to Morocco, particularly women, wondering what to wear in Morocco. While the country does not have a dress code, it is always a good thing to understand the culture before packing your suitcase. (more…)
Have you ever video chatted with the family back home while traversing the Sahara, perched on the hump of a dromedary strolling through the vast sand sea?
Yep. That’s a thing.
In the 13th century, Morocco’s own Ibn Battuta, in explorer and intrepid traveler, was the first known traveler to connect distant the northwest corner of Africa to the far East. It’s taken nearly eight centuries, but the connection these days between Beijing and Rabat is strong. With stronger political ties, many are following the route of Morocco’s most famed exploring, making the journey from China to Morocco. And make no mistake about it, in just a few short years, this recent influx of Chinese travelers to Morocco has altered the landscape of some of the most popular destinations around the country, largely because of the number of travelers from China choosing big bus tourism over smaller, more independent and sustainable travel. (more…)
Morocco was once home to the largest population of Jews in the Arab world, a figure topping 300,000 inhabitants. These people left behind a vast history visible through the ancient Jewish sites of Morocco. Today the number has largely diminished but many of the historical sites have remained intact and offer a glimpse into a part of Moroccan culture that is unique to the region. While the relationship between Muslim and Jewish residents has had ups and downs, the legacy and richness of Morocco’s Jewish population remains a national treasure. (more…)
Imagine riding atop a single-humped camel into a seemingly endless sea of rolling sand dunes. The evening sun to the west creates a dramatic contrast of boldly colored golden sands and dune-curved shadows. By night, after finishing a fresh tajine dinner by candlelight, you gaze up toward an enormous moon, surrounded by more stars than you’ve ever seen in the night’s sky.
Venturing into the Sahara Desert is one of Morocco’s iconic experiences, and overnight desert tours are especially popular with visitors. Those who shop around for desert excursions face a choice between two main destinations: Erg Chigaga or a Sahara Desert Tour in Erg Chebbi. (more…)
Ouarzazate often considered the last big outpost before the Sahara Desert. Filmmakers and crews alike have flocked here in recent years to film blockbusters such as Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Body of Lies, The Mummy, Babel, Spy Game and many other movies in and around this desert city. If visiting this locale is on your to-do list during any Morocco holidays you might plan, don’t confine yourself to the city alone. There are many day trips from Ouarzazate that are worth the time.
This city is located 50 kilometers from the Algerian border and about 300 kilometers from Ouarzazate. While this is a bit of a drive, this small city is located near the famous sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi reaches 150 meters tall and spans 22 kilometers from north to south and 5-10 kilometers east to west. Many camel treks ranging from a few hours to several days depart from this city. If you’re interested in “seeing” the Sahara, but perhaps not for more than a few hours, visiting Merzouga is a great way to do so. (more…)
On the outskirts of Marrakech lies the Agafay Desert of Morocco. In the 18th century the area was settled by Saharan nomads who planted crops and flowers, changing the arid landscape into blooming fields during the harvest months. In the months when the plants are dormant, the Agafay Desert returns to a parched wilderness, giving travelers an idea of the great Sahara Desert. The Atlas Mountains sit behind the desert and provide water to the enormous manmade Lake Takerkoust, sometimes referred to as Lalla Takerkoust Lake.
At 5,000 hectares and seven kilometers long, the lake was built by the French in the late 1920s as part of a dam and irrigation project to provide electricity and water to Marrakech. The French, of course, insisted that the lake would enhance the area and add to its natural beauty. Today Lalla Takerkoust Lake is an ideal day trip from Marrakech for those who want to get out of the city and admire views of the lake, mountains, and desert, especially for those who don’t have the time or ambition to journey to the Great Sahara. (more…)
Considered one of the toughest ultra marathons on the planet, runners of the Marathon des Sables travel approximately 150 miles through the rugged and arid Sahara Desert. Participants run the equivalent of six regular marathons over the course of six days with each stage ranging anywhere from 21 to 91 kilometers in length.
Runners battle sand storms and incapacitating heat. They endure torturous chafing and blisters down to the bone. Not only does this race seriously challenge the body’s physical abilities and will, but the $4,000 entry fee challenges most people’s financial will as well. Surprisingly the race has a 2-year registration waitlist and once registration opens, all available spots are often filled within an hour.
Sunny Blende once said that “Ultras are just eating and drinking contests, with a little exercise and scenery thrown in,” and this is especially true of the Marathon of the Sands. Participants battle temperatures of up to 120°F so maintaining adequate hydration and electrolyte balance is not only crucial to finishing the race but to surviving it. Water is rationed out at each aid station and runners are responsible for carrying all their own food typically around 14,000 calories a person. (more…)
Among Morocco’s most iconic destinations, traveling to the Sahara Desert of Morocco is among Morocco’s iconic things to do. Most travelers who visit the Sahara opt for an experience among the Erg Chebbi dunes in eastern Morocco. Near Erfoud and Merzouga, travelers tend to start this excursion from Marrakech or Fes.
If you’re an adventurous traveler who wishes to see less traveled parts of the Sahara, consider wandering further south to the Erg Chigaga dunes, south of Zagora and Tagounite. In both areas, you can create a classic desert experience by hiking the dunes, riding a camel, eating local food, sand boarding, camping and star gazing. (more…)
Hollywood films have tried to encapsulate the immensity of the Sahara Desert in several genres from action/adventure to romantic tales, but it’s really one of those sites that you have to see to believe. Whether you are traveling for a vacation in Morocco or just want to know a bit more about one of the world’s most interesting deserts, here are just a few grains of information you might find interesting:
Sizing Up the Sahara Desert:
The Sahara Desert is 3.63 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers). It runs from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean and into central and western Africa. The desert covers parts of Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Chad, Libya, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Tunisia and Sudan. (more…)
When you travel, do you like to poke around palaces, indulge yourself in history at a museum or sip coffee at a local café? Do you prefer to take part in extreme sports or wander through the wilderness?
The beauty of Morocco as a vacation destination is that it’s a country diverse in adventure, culture and heritage, and regardless of your travel style, you’ll find something here that suits you. Whatever your preferences when it comes to travel, here are ten good reasons you’ll want to make Morocco your next holiday destination:
1. Trekking experiences are plentiful. The main mountain ranges in Morocco are the Rif Mountains, Atlas Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti Atlas Mountains. The Rif Mountains, located in the northern section of the country, are covered with cascades, forested land and caves. Expert trekkers will find more challenging terrain in the High Atlas Mountains. (more…)
Set on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, Erg Chebbi is one of two ergs (large areas of windblown sand dunes) in Morocco. Most of Morocco’s desert is made up of flat, rockier terrain known as hamada, but Erg Chebbi has sweeping dunes that reach 525 feet in height. Both the 1999 movie The Mummy and 2005’s Sahara were filmed at Erg Chebbi.
Since the dunes are located next to the village of Merzouga, they are often referred to in English as the Merzouga Dunes instead of Erg Chebbi. The most pleasant times to visit the dunes are in spring and autumn when days aren’t as hot as in summer and nights don’t get as cold as they do during winter. (more…)
The world is filled with fascinating places to visit, and there will be a time when you have to choose which destination is right for you. We’re not afraid to let you know, though, that if you’re looking for a vacation experience that encompasses adventure, culture, history and wilderness, you should look no further than Morocco, a diverse country filled with majestic palaces, interesting museums, mouth-watering cuisine and large expanses of stunning natural landscapes.
Still not convinced? Here are ten great reasons to make Morocco your next vacation destination:
The Rif Mountains, High Atlas Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti-Atlas Mountains all fight for attention from trekking enthusiasts. Located in the northern portion of Morocco, the Rif Mountains’ peaks may not be as high as those in the High Atlas Mountains, but they are covered with forests and caves. The Middle and Anti-Atlas Mountains are not as heavily visited as the High Atlas, so they offer a quieter, more personal experience with nature. (more…)
People travel from around the world to trek Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The most southern of the country’s ranges is known as the Anti-Atlas, which spans from the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest to Ouarzazate in the north. The Sahara Desert borders the range to the south … a drastic contrast from the towering mountains!
In many ways, travels to Morocco are defined by a trip to the Sahara Desert, which makes up the southern half of the country. But Morocco is also defined by its impressive mountains and rich cultural heritage. To appreciate the beauty, vastness and diversity of the country, consider taking a guided tour that introduces you to some of Morocco’s greatest highlights; a five-day, four-night tour is ample time to satisfy your curiosity. (more…)
Morocco: Home of fabulous cuisine, beautiful languages, a unique culture and stunning historical sites. With so much to see and do in Morocco, it can be hard to pick the best experiences. If you’re looking for an interesting mix of adventure, education and culture, here are five Moroccan experiences you absolutely shouldn’t miss:
- Visit Ait Benhaddou. This desert fortress (also known as a kabash) is located in the Draa Valley and was built to protect the locals from outside invaders. The city has a frozen-in-history feel with its building designs dating back to the 11th century. It’s little surprise, then, that Ait Benhaddou has been used as a backdrop for several Hollywood films, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator. (more…)
When you hear about Morocco you probably hear about cities such as Casablanca, Fez, and Rabat; or, you’ve heard of camel treks in the sahara, trekking the High Atlas Mountains or even riding waves near Agadir or Essaouira. Such active-adventures available with Journey Beyond Travel are not solely limited to trekking, however. Read on to learn more this vibrant and verdant (and brown) country has to offer its guests. (more…)
An Ocean of Sand is one of those clichés used far too often to describe some of the more amazing deserts in the world, but when the desert is as large as the entire United States, does that old cliché suddenly become valid? The Sahara Desert is enormous, stretching from one end of northern Africa to the other, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Morocco is one of many nations that carve into the world’s most famous desert, and Morocco offers several of the best Sahara Desert tours in Morocco you can find.
Most Sahara Desert tours will take you by the villages of Merzouga and Erfoud via camel. The traditional way of travel through the historical Sahara trade routes is still the same today. If you chose to travel into the desert, you will be trekking known routes by riding camels with experienced guides. You will all travel before or after the sun reaches its midday height and the temperatures climb higher than you have probably ever felt before.
Do away with any images of wild horseman brandishing rifles—those days are only around in Hollywood movies. The Bedouin tribes in Morocco are very peaceful and friendly.
As you visit around Merzouga and Erfoud, notice the Bedouin tribes that you may pass by or visit with. Many of the Arabs and Berbers in the tribes live in exactly the same way as they have for centuries and still follow the traditions of their culture. Do away with any images of wild horseman brandishing rifles—those days are only around in Hollywood movies. The Bedouin tribes in Morocco are very peaceful and friendly, and have traditions of hospitality. If you fear being treated differently because you are an American, sweep it away! Hospitality in Morocco has been a long tradition, and here’s a piece of trivia for you: Morocco was the first nation to officially recognize the United States as an independent country.
The desert is often flat and appearing barren with many small rocks. The conventional image of rolling sand dunes does exist, but further out. Merzouga is the best destination to see actual giant sand dunes. It is here, in the area of a Morocco map, where the most towering walls of sand can be seen in all of Morocco. Here the Sahara exceeds every single hope and expectation. The sheer size of the sand dunes is a very humbling experience for many travelers. A full moon over the desert night is brilliant, as well as sunrises and sunsets, both of which are famous in the Sahara because of their magnificence.
Merzouga is best described as an oasis area. This is one of the few areas in the desert where water can be found via wells—making it an obvious choice for a settlement. If you want an “odd” sight, there is a lake further south called Dayet Sriji. While it is very low, and very salty (as most desert lakes are), many individuals are still surprised to see a lake that is in the Sahara, and the abundance of bird life there, including flamingos.
Erfoud may not be the typical tourist destination on a normal tour in Morocco, but that just makes it all the more attractive to those trekkers who like to go off the beaten path. The town of Erfoud inherits its appearance and rise in population from the time of French colonization. The French didn’t believe they could fully defeat the proud and independent Berber people, many of whom make up the remaining Bedouin nomads, but by having a strong military presence in the south, they believed the show of power would be enough to allow a “live and let live” philosophy that would allow them to govern the rest of the colony effectively Erfoud is used to the off-the-beaten path tourist in Morocco: the hikers, trekkers, and explorers. The town works as a good base camp for several popular explorations, from the local Ziz valley, to the Merzouga sand dunes that are a must see in any Morocco tour of the Sahara, to many other local itineraries.
Many travelers find the Sahara too beckoning to resist, and why not? There are few areas that can claim to be the biggest or best in the world. From Erfoud the greatest of the Saharan sand dunes in Merzouga are only a stone’s throw away.
Morocco is well known for many things: Incredible scenery, old mountains, deserts, and ancient but modern cities all top the list. But did you know that Morocco hosts one of the most demanding foot races in the world? The Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) is held every spring in the southern Moroccan desert, part of the region where many tourists take a Sahara Desert tour in Morocco. Runners and walkers gather together in Ouarzazate to be taken to the start of what could be called an extreme foot race or ultra-marathon. (more…)
Most people do not realize that the Sahara Desert is not just sand and rolling dunes. Only about twenty-five percent of the Sahara, which is about the size of the United States, is sand. The rest of the Sahara is volcanic hills, gravel plains, rock formations, and some scraggly vegetation. It is the home, surprisingly enough, of over 300 bird species and animals including mongooses, snakes, jackals, deer, hares, foxes, and baboons. It is also wonderful to explore on camel and enjoy sleeping beneath the open sky. (more…)
An adventurous expedition to the majestic Sahara Desert begins with a trip back in time to ancient villages and towns that lie in the heart of Morocco. These villages and town contain authentic Berber castles and historic Foreign Legion outposts that now sit vacant. Roadways twist and turn, connecting each small village to the next. These roadways carry travelers from scenery of village life to the breathtaking Sahara Desert and back again. (more…)