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. Most people are here to take a camel safari into the dunes, and to get a taste of remote (tourism-influenced) Berber life.
The local population is mix of Arabs and Berber, and generally welcoming and friendly.
From Erfoud, continue South 14 km (11 miles) to Rissani, carry on through the village and follow the road Southeast for 40 km (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 2 km 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 Lybed, a smaller village about 4 km before Merzouga.
From Rissani to Merzouga, a grand taxi or van is 10/12dh. 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 in the 6=7am bus 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 5 dihram each, but instead strand you at their auberge 20 km 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.
You can also fly to Ouarzazate from Casablanca, then continue to Erfoud, Rissani and Merzouga.
There are also weekly flights into Errachadia, about 2 hours north of Merzouga by car.
Supratours buses from Marrakech and also from Fez have daily trips that stop in Merzouga village.
If you're continuing on to one of the small villages nearby, such as Hassi Labied, the usual tourist price is a fairly steep 50 dirhams (total, not per person) for the short 5 km drive. Beware that overnight busses 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.
Tour operators can arrange 4x4s with driver/guides from Marrakech or Casablanca and back.
The only way to get around Merzouga is on foot. It's fairly small and easily walkable, but you'll likely want to avoid the midday heat.
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 plower 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.
Camel train near Merzouga
Berber Children selling dolls in desert
Camel Safaris, . Almost certainly the reason you came here in the first place, and by far the best way to experience the dunes. After taking you into the village to buy a proper head scarf to protect you from the sun, you'll be thrown on a camel and lead off into the desert. Meals, water, tents, etc should all be taken care of by your leader, but naturally you'd want to confirm this when you do your negotiations beforehand and make sure you're very specific, and ask lots of questions. Speaking of negotiations, do your research before coming (ask other travelers in Marrakech, etc for recommendations and for what they paid), and be prepared to bargain very hard.... the industry here is smooth and deceivingly vicious.
On the first night, most groups end up at a pre-setup camp circle at the base of some large dunes, where the various tour operators have their Berber tents set up. Dinner will be cooked here, perhaps some music played, and you can frolic on the sand dunes under zillions of stars. If you're only on a 1 day trip, then you'll wake early, have some tea/breakfast, and head back before it gets hot. Others will hang out during the day, beating the heat in the tents all day, and either spend another night here or venture further out beyond the dunes and stay with a berber family, where you'll then set out to return early on the third morning. A few operators have their own private camps that will offer a more remote experience, ask around if this is what you seek. This provides a more intimate setting with fewer people and noise where you can relax and enjoy the stars. Cost a little bit more but worth it. Also check to see if showers are included after the camel trek.
It is also possible to tour the dunes on ATVs, but this is highly discouraged.... You're destroying the beauty of what you came to see in the first place, and severely ruining the remote experience that most people are here enjoying on a camel.
More tours are proposing in Merzouga desert, like [www.merzouga-tours.com] did, (☎ 00212 66 77 66 236), mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. An exceptionel experience with camels, 4x4, quad, ski, snowboard on the top on the dunes, etc. Sleeping in 3 stars hotels or in tent under millions of stars. A real nomad experience during 1 night or 1 month. For exemple, 1 night in the middle of the dunes in berbere tent, 4 hours going and come back with camels, with diner and breakfast, berbere music at night (drums), cost 30 euros.
If you are planning a trip around Jan 27 - Feb 2, 2013, you might join the Road Junky Retreat  when up to 30 travellers spend a week in the dunes with meditation and dance workshops as well as music and storytelling around the fire.
Most people eat meals at their lodge, but a few basic restaurants are scattered around the town if you are in need.
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.
There are about 50 small hotels of varying categories along the sand dunes, and most of them own camels or can at least arrange your trip into the dunes.
Complexe touristique de Merzouga, B.pn 49 merzouga centre taouz cercle rissani (500 m from the centre of merzouga), ☎ +212.535576322 (email@example.com), . 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 Excurtion with 4x4 or Camel.42 rooms including suites and a royal suite are under your disposition.€30 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
Les pyramides hotel, Ksar Merzouga 52202 BP 41 Errachidia MAROC, ☎ +212.67013.7673 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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.
Auberge Berberes, ☎ +212.6810.3178 (email@example.com), . Located right on the edge of the dunes, offering single, double and triple rooms.€20-30 per person, breakfast and dinner included.
Auberge du Sud, ☎ +212.66121.6166 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Auberge Sahara Hotel, Ksar Hassi Labiad, ☎ +212.3557.7039, Mobile:+212.6676.6355 (email@example.com, 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.
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..
Dar el Khamlia, Ksar Khamlia, ☎ +212.7091.4351 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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.
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.
Haven La Chance Desert Hotel, Hassi Lybed, ☎ +212.53557.7269 +212.66859.9340 (email@example.com), . 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,)
Hotel Yasmina, ☎ +212.3557.6783 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Ksar Bicha, ☎ +212.5355.77113 (email@example.com, 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)
Les Portes du Desert, ☎ +212.7369.4601 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Morocco Sahara, El Bourki Lhou, Hassilabied, ☎ +212.1560.5886 (email@example.com), . Made-to-measure camel trekking and tours of the dunes and wadis, sleeping in furnished traditional Berber tents. Camel tours of from 1 to 8 days and more, in groups or individually with a sensitive and knowledgable guide/camel driver from a traditional nomad family. Sleep in Berber and Tuareg encampments or in seclusion. Tailored service. Comfortable clean tents, some with sprung mattress beds. Great traditional food.
Nasser Palace, Ksar Hassilabied, ☎ +212.7078.0028 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Hotel Nomad Palace, Ksar Merzouga 52202 (email@example.com), ☎ +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.
Snack Hassi Labied, center of village Hassi Labied. (Hassi Labied 30 m near the school), ☎ 00212662042881. Snack Hassi Labied located in center of Hassi Labied,just around 30 meter to school. Snack Hassi Labied is probably the best price-performer Moroccan restaurant It's a good place for groups. "The restaurant changes its theme periodically and on this visit, the chef and his cooks were serving up some excellent food inspired by the spices ... the snack serves taggine,couscous,Kalia,jus,sandwich.... Snack Hassi Labied can arrange also a camel trekking into desert,ski with sand boards,rent bike,quads,excursion with 4x4...
Hotel Kasbah Mohayut, Merzouga (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), ☎ +212.666.039.185, . checkin: 12:30 - 11 pm; checkout: 12 - 1 pm. Beautiful hotel with a friendly and knowledgeable staff, fluent in English/French/Arabic/Berber and other languages. Many rooms include terraces overlooking the Erg Chebbi and air conditioning. Rooms are comfortable and clean, with private bathrooms (Western style). Hotel also features a swimming pool, free internet connection, and a restaurant. You can arrange for desert excursions by camel with guides and Berber tent accommodations. (N31º 07.869,W04º 01.034)
Travel Exploration, . Leading Sahara Desert Morocco Travel Agency operated by an Ait Atta Berber who is an expert on the South from the Draa Valley and specializing in Merzouga Sahara Desert Tours. Travel Exploration offers Sahara Desert off road experiences in Merzouga, camel trekking, 4x4 excursions, and comfort / luxury bivouac tent camps.
Supra Tour Buses now travel from the center of Merzouga village north to Meknes, Fes and also over to Ouarzazate and then Marrakech. This is new and an affordable way to get to the desert- but there are no stops to visit the Todra Gorge, Dades valley or Ait Ben Haddaou. Or to take rest stops at your leisure!
The bus for Fes leaves Merzouga at 7pm and arrives around 4-5 in the morning in front of the train station in Fes (150dh).
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!