Zagora Desert, Morocco

Everyone who visit Morocco all have one common goal, and that is to camp in the desert of the Sahara.  Morocco has many dunes ranging from the small rocky desert of Zagora to the beautiful massive dune of Merzouga and Erg Chebbi. Depending on how much time you have in Morocco, you can choose to see smaller dunes for shorter trips of 2 days or bigger dunes for 3 days or more. I chose the smaller dune of Zagora desert due to my short stay in Morocco through Marrakech-Desert-Trips.com where they offer both private and shared tour.  I opted in for the shared tour which allowed me to meet new people and made friends along the journey.

Introduction to Zagora Desert

The Zagora Desert has a small and rocky dune which is located near Zagora, a town in the Draa River valley in the Drâa-Tafilalet region of southeastern Morocco. It is flanked by the mountain Zagora from which the town got its name.  Despite having a smaller dune, the Zagora Desert is still just as beautiful as the others and is also a great option for those who are beginners in traveling in the desert (traveling in the desert requires patience and high tolerance to heat, and not to mention longer rides on the camel!). You can still take beautiful photos of the desert and witness a beautiful sunrise by 7AM on top of the dune. The Zagora Desert is an 8-hours drive journey from the city of Marrakesh.

The Package

Name: 2 Days Zagora Shared Desert Tours From Marrakesh
Price: €65.00 Per Person (booking deposit €19.50)
Duration: 2 Days (Sleeps 1 Night)
Length of Car Journey: 8 Hours Drive One-Way (excluding stops for breaks and other attractions) ~ total of 16 Hours + for Round Trip

I booked the “2 Days Zagora Shared Desert Tours From Marrakesh” via Marrakech-Desert-Trips.com for €65.00 per person (cheaper during winter season for €59.00). Upon booking online, you have to pay a deposit of €19.50 per person, and you can also choose which day you would like to do the tour.  The shared tour comprised of 17 participants or less with one driver that picks everyone up early by 7:30AM from their hotel, riad or a specific location they will provide you if your accommodation is further away from the city centre or harder to reach due to small and narrow alleys, like my hostel at the Rodamon, which is located right in the Souk. I was told to meet at Jamaa Elfna Square at Cafe de La France, where a driver picked me up and dropped me off again to switch into a more comfortable and bigger van where I got to meet the rest of the people in my group.  I also last minute upgraded to their “Comfortable Camp” option which offers a private room with beds and blankets, as well as a shower facility for another €15.00 per person, on top. I highly recommend everyone to upgrade their camps, even from a different tour company, because all basic camps do not come with a shower facility and you would also have to sleep on the floor near everyone else–not saying this is bad thing, but if you prefer privacy, definitely opt in for the comfortable option; the basic camp does not provide blankets, either, and is not decorated with colorful carpets like the comfortable camp option. For an additional of €15.00, I think it is truly worth it if you want to have a full experience in the desert camp.  Plus, the comfortable camp has less people, are more intimate, and the Berbers that you meet are more attentive.

Extra Tours & Stops

Along the ride, our driver stopped at a couple locations.  After around 2 hours drive, the first stop was a little cafe & souvenir shop.  Here we got to have a coffee and bathroom break. At the bathroom, there was a boy standing to collect fees, I found out later that he was only collecting fees for people who wanted toilet papers, which was around 10 Dhs.  Some people skipped right into the toilet without paying, so I assumed there was no entrance fee for the bathroom. At this cafe, there was a beautiful view of the mountain from the rooftop and patio.  We got to spend time here for around 15 minutes before we departed.

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Our driver stopped a couple of times for us to see some spectacular views of Morocco along the journey to the desert.  One of them is the Atlas Mountain, which was just as beautiful as described online.  These short stops were only 5-10mins each, with no bathroom breaks. They were only opportunities for everyone to take pictures of the view.

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Another stop that we spent most of the time during the trip was the tour of Ksar Aït Benhaddou, which took us around 2.5 hours.  Read more on this tour here.  We also had a lunch break here before continuing on to the rest of the car ride to the Zagora Desert.

The Camp Experience

Finally after a long journey of over 8 hours drive, we finally reach the entrance of Zagora Desert by 6PM where all of us are separated into Basic and Comfortable camp groups. After the separation, we are introduced to two main tour guides who helped us hop on to our camels and led us to the camp.  The camel ride was about an hour journey and we got to witness the sunset along the way.

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After the camel ride, we were introduced to our camp, which was everything I imagined it to be: beautiful. The camp was beautifully decorated with Moroccan carpets and decors to set off the vibe of a true magical Berber camp. We were first greeted and introduced to the rest of the Berbers on site where they sat us down and poured us a glass of Moroccan mint tea each.  We were then given a number to our private tent, shown the bathroom facility and guided to have dinner as a group where we shared a large platter of Tagine, lentil soup, Khobz bread and oranges.  I brought my own water bottles as there are no drinking water available at the camp, so please don’t forget to buy at least 2-3 bottles prior to coming to the camp!

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By night time, the Berbers created a bonfire and started playing drums and singing along the fire. I joined the crowd and this was where I felt most truly at the heart of the desert. The Berbers singing and drumming along the fire had made my experience camping in the desert the most memorable because I had always imagined myself in this very moment since I was a child. Being in the desert was such a bliss because you can appreciate the peacefulness and quietness away from the city and look up to see so many stars across the sky. The drums and singing against this peaceful background was truly magical. I can’t fully describe how amazing this experience was to me but I truly hope that one day, everyone can experience it to see what I mean.

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After the night of sleeping in this magical camp, the Berbers wake you up early at 6AM to witness the sunrise by 7AM. You have to hurry, though, because you have to walk up the big dune, which was a bit of a difficult hike due to the sand, to the top in order to see the stunning sunrise.  I managed to get there just when the sun came up.

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After the sun rise, we headed back to the camp where we had small breakfast. They offered many variety of pastries and either tea, coffee or mint tea. We rode the camel again on the way back for one hour to rejoin the same group that was separated from us the night before. Everyone who stayed at the basic camp all told me that they did not have a shower facility or a place to sleep; most being cold during the night because they didn’t have blankets and had to sleep on the floor. Boy, was I glad to upgrade…

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The same driver picked us up and drove us back to Marrakesh.  We had small stops here and there during the ride back, but most of us were tired so we skipped many stops.  We did end up having a lunch break at a cafe in the middle of somewhere.

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Our driver dropped us off at Jamaa Elfna Square by 7PM. My trip at the desert was short and I wish I could see the bigger dunes, but I must say that being at the Zagora Desert is a trip I will never forget. Every single dime spent on this trip was worth it and I wish I could have stayed longer. In the future I hope to see the Merzouga or the Erg Chebbi and stay for longer than one night.

See the full itinerary for the 2 Days Zagora Shared Desert Tours here for more information and breakdown of the trip and the locations we visited.

PART 1: MARRAKESH, MOROCCO
PART 2: OUARZAZATE, MOROCCO
PART 4: COOKING AT LA MAISON ARABE MARRAKESH

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