Traveling down to the Moroccan Sahara Desert in one of our 4x4s with a driver-guide is an adventure in its own right – the journey to reach the desert is all part of the Saharan experience. No surprise then that some clients enquire about how they can do the journey themselves.
Driving distances from Marrakech to reach the great dunes of Erg Chigaga, the largest sand sea in Morocco and in our opinion the most authentic region of the Moroccan Sahara Desert, are not great but the conditions en route are such that the driving is steady-paced. In little under 500km each way you cross the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains, follow part of the longest river valley in the country (the Draa) and drive through the desert itself.
Without breaking up the journey, it means one full day of driving to reach Erg Chigaga, and another full day to return. Of course, we advise, where feasible, that you aim to break up at least one of the journeys – either at Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate, Agdz or Zagora. For those who self-drive, there are three options available for reaching Erg Chigaga dunes –
1. Drive to the village of M’hamid (460km out from Marrakech) in a normal rental car, leave the car in M’hamid and join us for the 90mins 4×4 journey across the desert terrain to reach desert camp at the dunes. We then take you out of the desert the same way, to collect your rental car.
2. Drive to the village of M’hamid by rental 4×4. Meet one of our guides there who will join you in your 4×4 to assist with the off-road driving and guide you the 90mins across the desert terrain to reach the dunes. To exit the desert, our guide will take you out a different route (3hrs drive), via the vast, dry salt lake Iriqui, to join the tarmac road at Foum Zguid. This ‘circuit’ may be completed in reverse, with a guide meeting you in Foum Zguid to enter the desert, etc.
3. Drive to Ouarzazate in a normal rental car, to meet one of our 4x4s with driver-guide. Leave your rental car in Ouarzazate. Thereafter your route into and out of the desert, to/from Erg Chigaga, will be a ‘circuit’ as per 2. above. For instance, you may enter the desert via the Draa Valley and M’hamid, and exit via Lake Iriqui and Foum Zguid, before reaching Ouarzazate. This ‘circuit’ may be completed in reverse.
Driving to the dunes of Erg Chebbi is relatively straightforward; the dunes are adjacent to the village of Merzouga, at the end of the sealed road. Again, this is a full day’s drive out from Marrakech, 520km.
No specialist vehicle or driving experience is required. From the end of the road, it’s a short camel trek or walk into the dunes to reach home for a night in a desert camp. Please do seek our advice on guest-houses en route, at Merzouga and the desert camp at Erg Chebbi. We would advise to break up the outbound journey in the Dades Valley and the inbound journey at Agdz.
Please contact us for further details.