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Can’t Get to the Sahara? Visit the Agafay Desert!

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.

Can't make it to the Sahara_ Visit the Agafay Desert outside Marrakech instead!

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?

Lunch in the Agafay desert (1)

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?

Lunch and day trip tents in the Agafay Desert

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.
Lunch in the Agafay desert

A day or night in the Agafay desert is a great way to experience the Moroccan desert without having to travel too far.

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Thursday 24th of August 2023

Very informative article! Thank you!

Linda Hough

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

How much for 1day and night in December?

Amanda Mouttaki

Friday 23rd of August 2019

It really depends on the camp that you use.


Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Hi Amanda! I and my wife will be in marrakech on end of june and only have 1 full day for tour (we will arrive on the afternoon on day 1 and have to leave on the afternoon at the latest on day 3)

We got 2 option for tour on day 2 1. Atlas mountain and agafay desert (going to berber village near atlas)and go back to marrakech via agafay 2. Day trip to kasbah and Oarzazate (around 3.5hrs drive one way).

Can you give usan opinion of which option to take?

Thank a lot!

Amanda Mouttaki

Monday 24th of June 2019

Ouarzazate is a really long drive so I would probably say go with option 1 unless you want to spend a lot of time in the car.


Thursday 22nd of November 2018

Hi amanda. Is the daytrips to agafay deserts suitable for young children? I am travelling with my 4 years old and 11 months old son. Thank you

Amanda Mouttaki

Saturday 24th of November 2018

Yes that would probably be easier than trying to do the Sahara with little kids. There are luxury camps too that are much more affordable than the big trip to the Sahara and comfortable with kids.


Monday 15th of October 2018

Hello Amanda! I am planning a trip To Morocco in December with my 10 and 12 year old children. Is it Worth going to Ouarzazate? Thanks!

Amanda Mouttaki

Wednesday 17th of October 2018

It's a long drive from Marrakech. The kasbah is of course cool and the movie set/museum may be interesting for them. If you were going to the desert and passing through than for sure stop. If you're considering it as a day trip I'd say depends on your kids, it's a long day. It's probably only somewhere to spend a day or two though max.