A desert experience shouldn’t be missed on a Moroccan holiday, and the dunes are easier to get to than you may think. The Agafay desert, with its otherworldly landscapes and promises of solitude, lies just outside Marrakech, while the fabled sands of the Sahara and the romance of Ouarzazate beckon from further afield. Turn back the centuries to a simpler way of life, and enjoy an enticing escape from everyday reality.
The vast Sahara is the world’s largest desert, covering an area around the same size as the United States and encompassing several countries. This endless stretch of undulating sand dunes is the stuff of legend and imagination, captured in classic movies and charted by intrepid explorers searching for cities sunken in the sand. Happily, Morocco is home to some of the most accessible parts of the Sahara. Head out from M’Hamid or Merzouga (a day’s journey from Marrakech) to explore the sands on a camel ride or a 4WD tour, settling down in the evenings by the campfire, watching the stars - the night skies here are some of the most spectacular in the world.
The Sahara may be justifiably famous and on many a wishlist, but the lesser-known Agafay desert is a beautiful destination in its own right, and it’s less than an hour from Marrakech, making it perfect for a weekend retreat while you’re on holiday in the city. In the shadow of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, you’ll find perfect ribbons of sand, rocky promontories and vast canyons to explore. In spring, the Agafay desert is full of colourful wildflowers, while at any time of year you can go trekking or horse riding, or enjoy a camel ride at sunset for a quintessential desert experience. Where to stay? We recommend La Pause, a charming Moroccan retreat set amongst palm trees and olive groves, which gives you a true slice of desert life within easy reach of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech – the best of both worlds.
For romantic Arabian nights and a real desert experience, Ouarzazate is the place to go. Having made the four-hour drive from Marrakech, or taken a short flight to Ouarzazate airport, you’ll be greeted by stunning desert landscapes en route to the Sahara. Stay at the exotic Kasbah Dar Ahlam: from here you can go camel trekking, visit the Valley of the Roses and explore the spectacular Gorges du Dades.