Merzouga is a village in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, on the edge of Erg Chebbi, a 50km long and 5km wide set of sand dunes that reach up to 350m high. Most people are here to take a camel safari into the dunes, and to get a taste of remote (tourism-influenced) Berber life.
Winter months (November to February) are cool but sunny, with daily high temperatures only slightly over 10 C, and cold nights. Spring until April is pleasant, with temperatures from 25 C up to 30 C in the afternoons, and with cool nights. Summer months are hot. In winter and spring there is occasional short rain or drizzle (a couple of days per month, on average), but heavy rain is unusual. Best time to visit Merzouga is February to April.
The local population is Berber, and generally welcoming and friendly.
Access to Merzouga is through Rissani.
From Marrakech, drive over the Atlas mountains to Ourzazate, with overnight stops in at least two of Ouarzazate or Ait Benhaddou, Boumalne du Dades, and Tinerhir. After Tinerhir head either to Erfoud and then Rissani, or for a less used alternative route, head south to Alnif and then Rissani. Most of the roads are quite scenic, with the Alnif-Rissani section scenic desert without villages.
From Fez, drive South to Erfoud (1 day) and then Rissani.
Once in Rissani, drive through the town and follow the road Southeast for 40km (24 miles) to Merzouga. In recent years, the road to Merzouga has been asphalted and also to Taouz, a southern military border town (foreigners cannot cross here). The short access roads (1 or 2km long) from the main road to the hotels alongside the sand dunes are normally not asphalted, but well maintained. There is now an asphalt road to Hassi Labied, a smaller village about 4km before Merzouga.
Just before Hassi Labied on the main road, there is a gas station providing gasoline and unleaded fuel.
CTM and Supratours run direct buses from Marrakech to Merzouga, stopping in all the cities in the way. The timetable for the Supratours bus is more or less: Marrakech 8.30 > Ouarzazate 13.00 > Boumalne 14.45 > Tinehrir/Tinghir 16.00 > Errachidia 18.30 > Erfoud 19.30 > Rissani 20.30 > Merzouga 21.00. Anyway check  for up-to-date timetable of Supratours buses.
Supratours also runs a direct bus from Fes to Merzouga, stopping in most of the major towns along the way including Rissani and Errachidia. Supratours has their bus parked almost directly opposite the Fes trainstation (Gare de Fes). Just walk outside up the the roundabout and look across the street, their office is right there. You can buy a one way ticket from Fes to Merzouga for 190DH, bus departs at 1930hrs and arrives in Merzouga around 0530hrs. Supratours bus departs Merzouga back to Fes at 1900hrs.
There are also public buses going to Errachidia and Rissani from Marrakech main bus station near the medina. This option is cheaper then Supratours, you don't stop at overpriced restaurants in the middle of nowhere, but with less comfort. Then there are other buses from Errachidia to Rissani, if the time is not convenient take a grand taxi. In Errachidia, there is a taxi station 5 min walking distance from bus station.
From Rissani to Merzouga, a grand taxi or van is MAD10/12. If you don't want to wait for other people to fill your grand taxi, pay 60DH. If you arrive before sunrise (if you come on the 06:00-07:00bus from Fez) you can pay up to 100DH for a grand taxi.
Beware of guides in Rissani or Erfoud who offer to take you to Merzouga for 5DH each, but instead strand you at their auberge 20km north of the village. If you decline their offers of camel rides and lodging, it is often quite difficult (and expensive) to make your way back to town. For example, they might ask you if you want to go to Merzouga desert or Merzouga village, so most people say desert and then are driven to the middle of nowhere.
If you're continuing on to one of the small villages nearby, such as Hassi Labied, the usual tourist price is a fairly steep MAD50 (total, not per person) for the short 5 km drive. Beware that overnight buses may sometimes arrive more than an hour early, putting you in Merzouga before sunrise. If this happens, you may find yourself with no cabs available, so be prepared to wait for someone to arrive.
You can also fly to Ouarzazate from Casablanca, then continue to Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.
There are also weekly flights into Errachidia, about 2 hours north of Merzouga by car.
Tour operators can arrange 4x4s with driver/guides from Marrakech or Casablanca and back.
The only way to get around Merzouga village is on foot. It's fairly small and easily walkable, but you'll likely want to avoid the midday heat during the unbearably hot summer months. The things worth seeing are either the dunes next to the village, or require transportation (car, 4WD, quad, or motorbike) outside the village.
Sunrise/sunset over the dunes. Folk dances and black G'naui music. Visits to villages near Merzouga inhabited by Senegalese musicians and dancers such as Khamlia can be arranged with some guides, ask at your hotel.
- Animals – see the ducks, and in early spring, flamingos, on the Dayet Srji salt lake, just west of Merzouga. There are many other species of birds (ruddy sheldrack and Kittllitz's plover during the spring migration, Tristram's desert warbler, the Egyptian nightjar, the arabian buzzard and falcons), and the desert sparrows are unique to this region and can be seen all year round. There are also reptiles (Algerian sand lizards, Berber skinks and snakes), mammals such as gerbils, desert hedgehogs, field mice and desert foxes, and scarab beetles. In the morning, you can often see their tracks in the sand. Brown scorpions can occasionally be seen, but they come out at night and tend to avoid humans.
Best activity is walking on the dunes on foot.
Other activities include off-road driving with 4x4, motorbike, or camels. Camel safaris include overnight stays on permanent "nomad" settlements in the middle or the other side of the dunes (as visible on aerial photos of Merzouga).
Birding is possible in spring when the lake next to Merzouga village fills with water, with migrating birds stopping by.
- Meditation, yoga & dance retreats (meditation, dance, yoga retreats in Morocco), . Every winter you can go out into the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi with 20 other travellers for a week of meditation, dance, storytelling and music. edit
- Go for a camel safari Easy and properly planned.
- Join a Camel Trek and nights in desert Ride camels into the sand dunes, spend 1 - 4 nights in desert camps.
Most people eat meals at their lodge, but a few basic restaurants are scattered around the town if you are in need. A lot of these restaurants offer tajin as well as some other foods. If you are eating at your lodge or hotel, you will probably be paying a lot more than you would if you eat in the town.
- Mac Adil, (Just opposite the Supratours office). edit Great food, cheap prices (20-30dh for a main). Good place to try the Berber Tajine if you haven't already, though expect a long wait (typical for a tajine) as meals are made fresh. Vegetarian tajine is also excellent with a tasty sauce that the owner is very proud of.
- Haven La Chance, Hassi Labaid, ☎ +212.66859.9340, . Arrange lunches at Haven La Chance Desert Hotel. Either by the hotel or in the desert itself. Popular is pizza cooked in the sand as the nomads do. edit
- Ali Mouni, Hotel Nomad Palace, Merzouga (2 kms south of Merzouga), ☎ 00212661563611, . 4x4 excursions around to behind the dunes, see the mines, fossil farms, visit nomad families; excursions to dinosaur prints, ancient rock, ruined Portuguese fortress, desert villages; overnight camel trips (N31-02.831',W003-59.743') edit
- Chez Salem, (Opposite Supratours). Chez Salem is a great little place to eat a tasty tajin or lentil dish with the locals. The owner is friendly and welcoming. Tajin costs about 40DH and a lentil dish with bread for 10DH. For those on a budget, this place is highly recommended. cheap. edit
- Auberge Camping La Tradition, Merzouga (GPS 31.0812619,-4.006995), ☎ +212 670039244, . A fantastic hotel situated directly infront of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes. The accommodations are clean and very comfortable with rooms having attached bathroom and hot water.The hotel itself is built using traditional mud render with great decore and also offer food at a reasonable price. Super friendly and helpful manager who is more than happy to offer you a camel safari or whatever else you may desire. If you're coming from Fes, they will pick you up in their car early in the morning. Great place and great value for money. Rooms starting at 100DH. edit
- Auberge Soleil Bleu, Merzouga-Hassilabied, ☎ +212661792455 or +212670362697 ([email protected]), . A locally owned and operated traditional Kasbah hotel five minutes walk from the Erg Chebbi sand dunes. Super friendly and helpful manager. They offer the great prices for rooms, that are well kept and clean. English, French, and Spanish are spoken. In our experience, great value for money. Rooms starting at 180DH. edit
- Ksar Bicha, ☎ +212.5355.77113 ([email protected], fax: +212.5355.73410), . A traditional, family-run kasbah with views of the dunes from the roof terrace. En suite rooms arranged around two plant-filled courtyards. English, French, Spanish, German and Italian are spoken. (31°06.438,W004°00.635) edit
- Complexe touristique de Merzouga, B.pn 49 merzouga centre taouz cercle rissani (500 m from the centre of merzouga), ☎ +212.535576322 ([email protected]), . it is the nearest hotel to the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Mr Sadoq and his qualified staff will make sure that your experience is unique, and put under your disposition all our services: Hotel, Restaurant, Snack, Bar, Terrasse, Piscine, Bivouac, and Excursion with 4x4 or Camel.42 rooms including suites and a royal suite are under your disposition. €30 per person, breakfast and dinner included. edit
- Les pyramides hotel, Ksar Merzouga 52202 BP 41 Errachidia MAROC, ☎ +212.67013.7673 ([email protected]), . Located right on the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, Ali and his staff will host you night and day, 24 / day to give you the best service €20 per person, breakfast and dinner included. edit
- Auberge Berberes, ☎ +212.6810.3178 ([email protected]), . Located right on the edge of the dunes, offering single, double and triple rooms. €20-30 per person, breakfast and dinner included. edit
- Auberge du Sud, ☎ +212.66121.6166 ([email protected], fax: +212.3557.8631), . On the edge of the dunes, all rooms come with private bathroom. Swimming pool, camel safaris. €15-40 per person, breakfast and dinner included. edit
- Auberge Sahara Hotel, Ksar Hassi Labiad, ☎ +212.3557.7039, Mobile:+212.6676.6355 ([email protected], fax: +212.3557.7303), . Clean hotel in a oasis at the edge of erg chebbi sand dunes run by flexible staff. Swimming pool, restaurant, free parking, and a variety of accommodation options including camping under palm trees. Camel safaris and various trips around the area can be arranged. edit
- Chez Julia, ☎ +212.3557.3182, Mobile +212.7018.1360. Spotless clean, very friendly French/English/German speaking staff, great meals (tajines can be shared). From 130dh.. edit
- Dar el Khamlia, Ksar Khamlia, ☎ +212.7091.4351 ([email protected]), . Dar el Khamlia is just outside of Merzouga, offering lodging for those who like to be more near the local people. Comfortable rooms, meals included. Camel trekking into dunes, excursions by 4x4, pick up at airport Errachidia, Ouarzazate or Marrakesh. edit
- Desert Fish, ☎ +212.7208.5113. Right next to the sand dunes. A bivouac with a space to eat and relax and very nice, comfortable Berber tents. The place is managed by some very friendly, young boys. The Berber tents are nice and clean, there are three good showers, the food is good, they play live Gnaoua music after dinner. edit
- Haven La Chance Desert Hotel, Hassi Lybed, ☎ +212.53557.7269 +212.66859.9340 ([email protected]), . Modern, comfortable hotel right next to the sand dunes and palm trees. A new swimming pool (11 meters by 6 meters) has been added. Most rooms are en-suite, 12 Berber tents next to the hotel for the more adventurous. Singles / doubles with en-suite toilet and shower. Home made local food for dinner as well as breakfast is included in the price, The owners also run a tour company, www.bluemenofmorocco.com, that can organize tours around Morocco for individuals, families and small groups. Caravan parking with showers also located by the hotel. N31.08'031" W004.01'128" €17-30 per person with half board. (N 31,) edit
- Hotel Yasmina, ☎ +212.3557.6783 ([email protected], fax: +212.3577.4071), . Yasmina is located right on the bottom of the dunes of Erg Chebbi, on a hill with great views of the dunes. Pool, on site restaurant and camel safaris. from €20-45 per person, breakfast and dinner included. edit
- Les Portes du Desert, ☎ +212.7369.4601 ([email protected], fax: +212.3557.7930), . A comfortable hotel decorated in a mix of Arabesque, Andalusian and European styles. Pool, on site restaurant, and camel safaris. €26-50 per person, breakfast and dinner included. edit
- Nasser Palace, Ksar Hassilabied, ☎ +212.7078.0028 ([email protected], fax: +212.3557.8010), . Nasser Palace is a hotel with swimming pool and spa located on the dunes of Merzouga. 20 rooms with private toilets, bivouac and camel trekkings on Sahara dunes. €25-45 per person including breakfast and dinner. edit
- Hotel Nomad Palace, Ksar Merzouga 52202 ([email protected]), ☎ +212662191244, . Hotel Nomad Palace is located outside Merzouga, on the way to Taouz, before Khamlia. Comfortable, quiet, with terraces, swimming pool, restaurant, all rooms with private bathrooms,suite with king size beds. Half board included. Camel treks, 4x4 tours and pick up form any airport. Other tours can be arranged. edit
- Ali & Sara's Desert Palace ([email protected]), erg Chebbi dunes, Merzouga, ☎ +212 (0) 668 95 01 44. Ali & Sara's Desert Palace, nestled in a secluded setting within the erg Chebbi dunes, Merzouga, a place where you can unwind and relax. large, private traditional style desert tents, clean, comfortable beds with duvets and pillows; shower and western style toilet rooms. Food is freshly prepared using local produce and and catered to individual preference. Service is on hand, but unobtrusive. edit
- Kasbah Ramlia (Kasbah Ramlia), [email protected] (sahara desert), ☎ 212 671 562 521, . Kasbah Ramlia is a small cozy hotel in the middle of the desert! It is very simple, the decoration is very special, every room has a theme, you can find the typical Morocco tapestry, hand craft and furniture. If you are looking for a place to rest, to be calm where the only sound you hear is the wind from.. edit
- Hotel And Restaurant Yasmina (Hotel the Gorges todra), Tinghir (Gorges todra), ☎ +212524895118, . Hotel and Restaurant Yasmina a tourist complex in the village of Ouarzazate in Morocco tinghir region a great tourist area at the bottom of the Gorges todra. 30. edit
- Auberge Kasbah Bivouac Lahmada, Dune de l'Erg Chebbi, 52000 Merzouga - BP 69 Rissani (Follow the signs on that appear on the main road (N13) on the way to Merzouga from Rissani. The auberge is just past hotel Yasmina, which is also indicated on the signs (about 10 km away from the main road on the edge of the dunes).), ☎ +21212668653348 ([email protected]), . Already 20 years old but still looking modern and clean, this auberge offers a really friendly atmosphere, good meals and great value for money. The owner, Hassam, ensures that every guest is looked after and also offers great private tours into the dunes with his own camel train. Between €10 and €30 for a double room including breakfast. (31.21682"",-3.97912"") edit
- Auberge Camping Ocean des Dunes, Ksar Hassi Labied, ☎ +212 676-461377 ([email protected]), . edit
- Auberge Camping La Liberte (Auberge Camping La Liberté), ☎ +212.6621.95844 ([email protected]), . A traditional, family-run kasbah with views of the dunes from the roof terrace. En suite rooms arranged around two plant-filled courtyards. English, French, Spanish,the best service (31°05.632°,W004°00199°) edit
Supra Tour Buses now travel from the centre of Merzouga village north to Meknes, Fes and also over to Ouarzazate and then Marrakech. The bus has many stops on the way so if you wish to visit Todra Gorge, Dades valley, Ait Ben Haddaou or Ourzazate, it is possible, but the bus won't wait for you and as it runs only once a day you will have to arrange an accomodation for a night.
You can check the timetable at ONCF webpage http://www.oncf.ma/Pages/Accueil.aspx. There might be also public buses running between the towns, you need to check the schedule at the local bus station. Beware these ones might not be as comfortable and safe!
The bus for Fes leaves Merzouga at 1900hrs and arrives around 0400 - 0500hrs in the morning in front of the train station in Fes (190DH).
The bus for Marrakech via Er-Rachidia and Ouarzazate leaves at 0800.
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