Updated June 23, 2022.
If you know me, you know I’m a wannabe island girl. The ocean, the palm trees, the flowers… the sand is really the worst part because it ends up in the worst places! But when in North Africa, a trip to the Sahara Desert needs to be on the list! Despite my preference for bright colors and signs of life, I have to say deserts are growing on me. Steve and I visited Uluru in Australia this year, with its iconic red dirt, and last year’s trip to Qatar was a positive first desert experience—they have a desert by the ocean!
But besides the fact that deserts are indeed fascinating, there are a few things you really should know before you go. Check out our best tips here!
The Desert is FAR!
You’re probably thinking, “I’m not going to be that close to the Sahara Desert and just not go!” And while being in Morocco certainly does put you closer to it than most places in the world, you’re still not what you might call “close.” It’s not day trip material, but it is well worth making the time and budgeting the money to have a desert adventure when in Morocco. Here’s a quick run-down of distances from major cities in Morocco:
- Casablanca: 403 miles or 10 hours
- Chefchaouen: 411 miles or 10 hours
- Essaouira: 461 miles or 11 hours
- Fes: 291 miles or 7 hours
- Marrakech: 352 miles or 8 hours and 35 minutes
- Ouarzazate: 229 miles or 5 hours and 10 minutes
- Rabat: 366 miles or 8 hours and 45 minutes
- Tangier: 440 miles or 10 hours and 45 minutes
The good thing about the long drives to and from the Desert, however, is that there are actually a lot of beautiful things to see along the way!
Read on: Getting Around Morocco: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Find Weather in Et Taous, Morocco
I wanted to keep an eye on the desert temperatures in preparation for our trip, but “Merzouga” didn’t come up when I searched in my weather app, and neither did “Sahara Desert.” However, a little map reconnaissance revealed that the nearest searchable location to our camp was “Et Taous”!
More here: My Top 10 Travel Hacks
You definitely already thought of this, right? But just in case, you should definitely drink a lot of water in the Desert! Bring bottled water with you because even the #1 Luxury Desert Camp in the world will charge you 3 Euro (not dirham) you per bottle (though juice, tea, and coffee are included). You can pick up a 5 or 6 liter bottle or a pack of 1.5 liters very inexpensively at grocery or convenience stores in any town before you arrive.
More here: What to Eat in the Moroccan Sahara
Air Conditioning is Not Always Available
I know this sounds like a stupid observation, but our camp was supposed to have air conditioning! However, a sand storm clogged the generator, and the air conditioning went out for about seven hours our first night. It was over 90 degrees F (over 32 C) inside our tent. It finally kicked back on after 7:00am the next day.
Also, the camp turns off the generator (and thus, the air conditioner) during the day, since most people only come for an overnight trip and are not there during the day. It was well over 100 degrees F (40 C) inside our tent when we arrived back at camp from our half-day excursion.
More here: What to Pack for Morocco: Men
IMPORTANT: Consider Your Meds
What you might not consider before it’s too late is that any medications you need might be ruined by such high heat for long periods of time. If you have to bring medications with you when you travel, consider visiting the desert in winter or early spring. In September, it was still too hot!
Keep reading: What to Do if You Get Sick on Travel
Bring Lotion and Lip Balm
You will lose much more hydration than you think! Solid lotion and lip balm will be your best friend out in the desert. Solid toiletries are not new, but they are definitely gaining traction these days. They’re perfect for travel because, not only do they not take up room in your carry-on liquids bag, they also work at least as well, or better, than their liquid counterparts!
Helpful info: Your Ultimate Guide to Solid Toiletries
You Will Need Sunscreen
Sure, you’ll be wearing clothes that cover most of your body, but your face, the back of your neck, and any part of your arms and legs that see the light of day will need extra sunshine protection. The best way to do that? Solid sunscreen! Choose a high SPF, and plan to reapply every couple of hours (or more often).
Read on: The Traveler’s Guide to Sunscreen (from a dermatologist!)
Light Clothes are Essential
That means light in color and light in weight. This is not New York City—black may be chic and slimming, but it also absorbs the most heat! Stick to white, beige, or pastels, preferably made of linen to absorb sweat while keeping you cooler than other fabrics.
Keep reading: What to Pack for Morocco: Women
You Will Want Sunscreen and a Hat
With no shade in sight and few clouds for cover, the sun is unrelenting! To make sure you can enjoy it as much as possible, bring sunscreen (solid is best for travel!) and a hat.
But Most Importantly, Bring Sunglasses
Eye protection is perhaps the most important thing for your desert journey. No one likes a grain of stray sand in their eye, and you will definitely want eye protection from that sun! And if given a choice, splurge on real, polarized sunglasses.
For more: What Every Woman Should Pack for Every Trip
Take Your Desert Trip with Merzouga Luxury Desert Camps!
We chose to go with this company at the recommendation of my friend Helene from Helene in Between. Our driver was awesome, the camp is beautiful, and the location is stunning. They are the #1 luxury camp in the world, and it may sound crazy, but we had some of the best food of our trip right here at this camp! But here’s a pro tip: Bring your own water! Each 1.5 liter at camp is 3 Euro!
Read on: Staying at Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp
Need more tips? Check out my Morocco Page and What to Know Before You Visit Morocco!
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5 thoughts on “What to Know Before You Visit the Moroccan Sahara”
Wow! I’ve always wanted to visit desert and Morocco seems like the perfect place to do this. Thank you for sharing all this, it will definitely come in handy. 🙂
Sure thing! It was definitely a worthwhile experience, but we wish we’d been a little more prepared in some ways! Hope you can get to the desert soon!
Thats for sure. I hope to visit Morocco next year, if everything goes as planned. 🙂
I will have LOTS of tips for you by then! I will be honest, it was not our favorite trip, but I think we just had some bad luck! I’ll be happy to answer any questions to help you plan better than we did! 😜
Great! I will see how things turn next year but Morocco is definitely one of the top destinations I want to visit again next year. Mostly because of the desert experience. 🙂