Marrakech and Sahara Desert Tours: how far is the Sahara from Marrakech?

Many visitors to the Ochre City do so in the expectation of making an excursion from Marrakech to the Sahara. But how far is the Sahara Desert from Marrakech and what does one need for the trip? Here’s everything you should know before embarking on a tour from Marrakech to the Sahara.   

How far is the Sahara Desert from Marrakech?

If planning to combine a trip to the desert with a visit to Marrakech it’s important to remember that to get the most from such an excursion you need to allow at least a couple of days for it due to the distance between Marrakech and the various entry points to the desert itself and the nature of the drive involved in getting there, not least the exhilarating crossing of the Atlas Mountains. The three most popular kicking off points for such tours are the townships of Erfoud, Merzouga and Zagora, all some two to three hours south east of Marrakech.

Marrakech to Erfoud

Some 505 km (314 miles) east of Marrakech, Erfoud is a great starting point for visiting the spectacular Erg Chebbi dunes en route to the Sahara itself. Taking the shortest route from the Ochre City to Erfoud (via the N9 & N10) takes about 8 hours in a touring minibus.

Marrakech to Merzouga

Invariably referred to as one of the main gateways to the western Sahara, Merzouga is located just south of Erfoud, some 560 km (350 miles) from Marrakech. Taking the N9/N10 (again the shortest route), you should get there in just under 9 hours.

Marrakech to Zagora

The ideal starting point for experiencing the stunning Erg Chigaga dunes, Zagora is located around 354 km (220 miles) south-east of Marrakech. The fastest route (N9) will take you there in just over 6 hours.

While these distances involved are considerable, the chance to marvel at the Sahara’s vast oceans of undulating dunes makes such excursions well worthwhile, with the bonus of being able to admire some of the country’s best mountain landscapes, oases, frontier posts (like Ouarzazate) and ancient kasbahs along the way. Crossing the Atlas, just an hour or two from Marrakech, is an unforgettable experience.

Marrakech Sahara Desert Tour Options

When booking an excursion to experience the desert itself there are a couple of basic choices; explore either in a 4x4 vehicle, great for taking on the dunes at speed, or astride a dromedary…traditional desert transport, romantic and peaceful but not that comfortable!

You will also have to decide whether to stay in a Bedouin desert camp established around a central camp fire, for one or two nights, food and drink included, or choose the greater comfort of a hotel in one of the frontier towns mentioned above, making day trips into the desert itself. Both have their advantages but there is no better way to experience the mystery and majesty of the desert than sleeping under the stars (and what stars!) and waking to the most spectacular of sunrises you will ever see!

What to Pack for a Marrakech to Sahara Desert Tour?

  • A light jacket or windbreaker for the cooler nights (November to March)
  • Comfortable trousers/jeans to protect your legs from the rough hairy hide of the dromedary
  • Appropriate footwear (trainers/sneakers, sports sandals or hiking boots)
  • A hat or headscarf to block sun & keep out dust.
  • High-factor sunscreen to apply generously and regularly (approx. every two hours)
  • A camera & and flashlight to immortalise your desert experience
  • A lens/camera brush and dust/waterproof bag to keep your camera protected from sand
  • Any medications you may require for the duration of your trip

When deciding on clothing to take, one needs to bear in mind that Morocco (especially the rural areas of the south) is a conservatively religious country. As a rule of thumb one should keep covered up.

For ladies, this means covering their knees and at least their shoulders, preferably with long sleeved garments. Gentlemen should keep their shoulders and the area above the knees covered.

Les Borjs de la Kasbah

The perfect base for your stay in Marrakech, Les Borjs de la Kasbah has an experienced, helpful team happy to provide you with detailed information on how to book a desert tour and what you can expect from the experience.