Merzouga Complete Travel Guide

Last Updated on June 25, 2024 by Safaa (founder of moroccanzest)
driving to merzouga

Merzouga Complete Travel Guide

Merzouga and its world-renowned dunes are high on Morocco’s list of must-do activities for tourists and locals! Even as a Moroccan, Merzouga is one of my favorite places in Morocco.

Located on the edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes, the little village of Merzouga is home to approximately 1700 people.  It is a beautiful place to experience inspiring and breathtaking landscapes, spend an unforgettable night in a dunes camp, ride a camel at sunset, and experience the Moroccan Sahara desert. This is one of the best experiences you can have in Morocco!

The Best Time to Visit Merzouga

The ideal time to visit Merzouga and the Moroccan desert is October and May. During the day, temperatures hover around 68-86°F (20–30°C), while at night, they drop to 41-59°F (5–15°C).

While October through May are ideal, you should be prepared for potentially chilly evenings in December and January. March is a beautiful month to visit if you’re looking for mild temperatures but be prepared for strong winds and sandstorms on occasion.

In June and summer, temperatures get high – up to 120 °F (48°C).

How to Get to Merzouga

There are various ways to reach Merzouga, depending on your starting position and budget. I will detail all the options available below. It’s important to assess whether the option is worth it or not, depending on your budget, time, comfort navigating the desert, and much more.

Going to Merzouga By Bus

The public bus is the cheapest way to Merzouga. The Supratours bus can take you to Merzouga from Marrakech and Fez or any town on the route. It costs about 20 euros for a round trip. 

If you’re in Fez, the trip is overnight and arrives at Merzouga at approximately seven in the morning.

If you’re taking the bus from Marrakech, it leaves in the morning and arrives around nine in the evening.

Getting to Merzouga By Plane

Royal Air Maroc offers the most convenient flight from Casablanca to Errachidia five days a week. You will arrive at Errachidia at midnight and can stay the night in one of its beautiful hotels. From there, you can take a shared taxi to Rissani village and then another taxi to Merzouga.

Getting to Merzouga by Car

Another option is to rent a car and drive yourself to Merzouga. When renting a car, it’s better to mention to the rental car company where you are planning to go and what you’re planning to do to get the right car for the journey. Prices vary but hover around 30 euros a day with insurance. You can find rental car companies at the airport and every central city in Morocco.

driving to merzouga

Driving to Merzouga

Do You Need a Tour to See the Desert?

The short answer is no. You don’t need a tour to see the desert. You can either drive to the desert or take public transportation. Once there, you can set up a tent or rent one from a local camp. 

If you are familiar with Morocco and navigating Moroccan roads, you can quickly get to Merzouga by car or public transportation.  If you love adventure and plan to research how to arrive safely at Merzouga, pack the right equipment, and navigate the area, then you can do it.

If you’re on a tight budget and would feel more comfortable when accompanied by someone who knows the area, there are many group tours from Marrakech to Merzouga that are reasonably priced and, in my opinion, very worth it.

If your budget is somewhat flexible, you can find many private tours from Marrakech to Merzouga, Fez to Merzouga, and other main Moroccan cities. Some tours offer additional experiences like cooking lessons, eating with a local family, star gazing, etc.

Caravan in the desert, Merzouga, Morocco

Where to Stay in Merzouga

You will find many accommodations in Merzouga and along the way for all budgets. Here’s a selection below: 

Budget Accommodation:  Hotel Trans Sahara Merzouga (around $15 to $60 per night

Low-mid range Accommodation: Maison Tamaright (around $50 to $100 per night)

Mid-range Accommodation: Auberge Les Roches (around $100 to $150 per night)

Luxury Accommodation 1: Desert Villa Merzouga (approximately $200 to $300 per night)

Luxury Accommodation 2: Riad Serai (roughly $150 to $300 per night)

Where and What to Eat in Merzouga

Being in Merzouga is the perfect occasion to enjoy authentic Berber Moroccan cuisine. You won’t find many luxury restaurants here; most are quite modest, but the food can be really good! There are also places where locals go, so you’ll probably have a great taste of local cuisine.

Breakfast

Many cafes will do the trick and offer the same menu. Café Itrane is one of them. You can order a typical Berber breakfast: Moroccan mint tea, Berber omelet, olives, bread, and cheese. You can also have it with orange juice and coffee.

moroccan breakfast

Moroccan Breakfast

Lunch

Medfouna, the traditional Berber pizza (topped with meat, chicken, or veggies), is delicious! Ensure you mention how spicy you want it to be, as it can get spicy! I remember one of my first times in the desert, in May, when I ordered a spicy Berber pizza. I was sweating and couldn’t finish my lunch. It’s already hot in Merzouga; you’ll probably enjoy something mild.

Café Nora is where you can get Medfouna Berber pizza, but you can also ask for it at nearby restaurants and see if they have it on the menu that day. There are plenty of dish options to explore; if you like trying new dishes, check out this Moroccan food guide.

medfouna moroccan berber pizza

Medfouna – Moroccan Berber Pizza – Credits Chris Griffiths

Dinner

Tagines are an excellent option if you are hungry (which you’ll probably be!). Many restaurants serve delicious tagines; you can choose from goat, beef, chicken, vegetarian, and many other options. 

Mechoui (grilled meat skewers, also called brochette) are also another delicious option.

For a lighter dinner option, the Harira soup is a great option. This hearty tomato, chickpea, and lentil soup will replenish your energy. It’s also a very budget-friendly option—yet very delicious. You can order eggs with it and a few dates for a wholesome meal.

What to Do in Merzouga

As Merzouga is far from Moroccan main cities (Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca, Rabat, etc.), you’ll probably need to plan at least three days, whether you’re getting there by bus, car, or plane.

Fewer days mean more fatigue, less experience, and a lot of stress. 

One of the most enjoyed experiences in Merzouga is spending the night in a tent, eating local food around the fire, dancing to local music, and stargazing. 

Watching the sunset and sunrise over the dunes are other inspiring and grounding moments you will remember forever.

merzouga camp star gazing morocco desert

The Milky Way over Merzouga

While in Khamlia, I recommend listening to traditional Gnawa music. When the song starts, it transports listeners to when slaves were transported to Morocco from farther south. Plus, many of those families that were enslaved still reside in the area of Khamlia. 

The Essaouira Gnawa Music Festival is just one of many national festivals that invite local bands to perform. You can contribute to the continuation of this tradition by dropping a few dollars into the bucket after each song.

If you love archaeology, you will love the petroglyphs at Amtoudi. They are spread out across the mountains, and some are quite hard to find, which is when a guide can come in handy. 

Petroglyphs near merzouga morocco

Rock engravings near the village of Amtoudi, Morocco

Another exciting thing to witness is the Rissani Market if you’re visiting on a Sunday. Even as a local, this scene reminds me of the old times when locals in every city would ride on donkeys or horse-drawn carts for the big market day. Produce, livestock, and even donkeys and sheep are all for sale. It’s wonderful that some villages still perpetuate this tradition, and if you’re coming from a big city like me, you’ll find the experience grounding and inspiring. 

souk rissani morocco

Souk Rissani Morocco

Shopping for local handicrafts is also necessary when visiting Merzouga and its surroundings. It’s true that if you’re coming from Marrakech or Fez, you’ll have larger artisanal markets to shop from, but risks for counterfeits and low-quality artisanal products will be higher there. Prices can also get more expensive. Shopping in Merzouga and the area will give you access to authentic handicrafts – although you will still have to bargain and learn the best products to shop for. For a more detailed guide, this Morocco shopping guide will have everything you need. 

what to buy in Morocco rugs and pillows

If you are in Marrakech and looking to tour Merzouga and it’s region, I recommend checking out this 4 days tour from Marrakech to Merzouga with Omar, a local guide I have worked with many times. I always recommend him to friends, family, and clients whenever they visit Morocco. His tours include the very best of what you can do in Merzouga and its surroundings.

If you don’t have as many days to spend in the desert, then the Agafay desert would be the better option for you. It’s located next to Marrakech and can be done in one day or two. I invite you to learn more about the Agafay desert, and check Omar’s Agafay desert tour.

Safaa, founder of moroccanzest

From design and decor to food and travel, moroccanzest is the space where I share what I loved growing up in Morocco, and more. It’s your destination for everything beautiful, artistic, and made the Moroccan way with love. Learn more about me here.