Most visitors to Morocco know about Sahara desert trips however it’s not always practical to make this journey. While there are some two-day tours offered the minimum recommended time to make the trip is three days. When considering taking a desert tour from Marrakech people also need to consider how much time they want to be in a vehicle.
The drive from Marrakech is about 8 hours if driven straight, though most organized tours will stop in at least a few places along the way. The time spent in the actual Sahara desert is often very little. On one of my first trips we spent less than 12 hours in the desert; just long enough to ride a camel in at sunset to the tents and ride the camel out at sunrise. It was not what I imagined.
So what if you don’t have the time to make this trip or you want to spend time in a desert but a Sahara trip just isn’t your cup of tea?
If you don’t have the time or desire to make this big trip there are other desert tours from Marrakech. Not a lot of people know about the nearby Agafay Desert just outside Marrakech. While you won’t find the golden, rolling sand dunes here (it’s a stone desert) you absolutely can have the secluded desert experience complete with a stunning view of the High Atlas Mountains. Plus, it’s close enough to easily be a day trip from Marrakech.
What is the Agafay Desert?
The Agafay Desert is a barren, rocky landscape located in Morocco. It’s one of the country’s few remaining stretches of true desert, and it’s a popular spot for tourists looking to experience a taste of the Sahara.
What can you do on this Marrakech day trip?
There are a lot of different offers depending on the Agafay desert camp that you choose. But, one of the best things to do is really slow down and relax. Of course, this is an amazing location to take your Marrakech camel ride (and trust me it’s a lot more atmospheric than riding a camel in the city!) You can easily go trekking or set up a meal with local families – yes people do live out here!
Horseback riding or quad bike riding are a few other activities that you can choose from or bring some cards and board games to bond with your travel companions. Some camps also offer hammam and/or massage treatments to guests in specially equipped tents.
When the sun goes does enjoy a delicious meal with a nearby campfire while gazing at the stars. It won’t be quite as clear as in the Sahara, as you can still see some of the lights from Marrakech but it is lovely for stargazing!
Day Camp Activities to Book
How Can I Get to the Agafay Desert?
The Agafay Desert is located just under an hour from Marrakech, making it an easy day trip or weekend getaway. There are a number of tour companies that offer trips to the desert, or you can rent a car and drive there on your own. You also can hire a private driver or even taxi to take you. Just make sure you have a return trip booked too.
What should I pack for a trip to the Agafay Desert?
Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and water, as the desert can be extremely hot during the day. A hat or scarf is also a good idea to protect against the sun and wind. And if you’re planning on doing any hiking, be sure to wear sturdy shoes.
Which Desert Camp to Choose?
There are several Agafay desert camps to choose. There are constantly changes being made to the landscape and new camps cropping up. Some camps offer day experiences and others offer overnights (many offer both).
To book most camps overnight you’ll need to contact them directly.
What to expect on an overnight?
You have the option to visit on a day trip from Marrakech or spend an overnight in the Agafay Desert. Some questions you should ask if you’ll be spending the night include;
- what meals are included?
- what are the sleeping arrangements/accommodations?
- which activities are included?
- which activities are available?
- is there any heating or cooling options available (depending on the season)?
- how many other guests could there be?
- any other questions that might be specific to your personal needs.
A day or night in the Agafay desert is a great way to experience the Moroccan desert without having to travel too far.