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.
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 Lybed, a smaller village about 4km before Merzouga.
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 MAD60. If you arrive before sunrise (if you come on the 06:00-07:00bus from Fez) you can pay up to MAD00dh for a grand taxi.
Beware of guides in Rissani or Erfoud who offer to take you to Merzouga for MAD5 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.
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.
Supratours buses from Marrakech and also from Fez have daily trips that stop in Merzouga village.
There are also public buses going to Errachidia and Rissani from Marrakech main bus station near 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 is another bus 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Auberge Soleil Bleu, Merzouga-Hassilabied, ☎ +212661792455 or +212670362697 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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 wellkept and clean. English, French, and Spanish are spoken. In our experience, great value for money.Double rooms starting at 90MD. edit
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)edit
Complexe touristique de Merzouga, B.pn 49 merzouga centre taouz cercle rissani (500 m from the centre of merzouga), ☎ +212.535576322 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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. edit
Les pyramides hotel, Ksar Merzouga 52202 BP 41 Errachidia MAROC, ☎ +212.67013.7673 (email@example.com), . 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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@example.com, 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 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@example.com), . 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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@example.com, 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 (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. edit
Nasser Palace, Ksar Hassilabied, ☎ +212.7078.0028 (email@example.com, 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), ☎ +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@example.com), 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), firstname.lastname@example.org (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
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 19:00 and arrives around 4-5 in the morning in front of the train station in Fes (MAD190).
The bus for Marrakech via Er-Rachidia and Ouarzazate leaves at 08:00.
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!