How to get to the desert from Marrakech

Explore stunning sand dunes, marvel at the most beautiful sunsets or count a thousand stars under the night sky. The Sahara Desert has a lot to offer and here's how to get there from Marrakech.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

9 min read

How to get to the desert from Marrakech

Postcards from the desert | ©Taryn Elliott

Trips and excursions to the desert are among the most popular experiences for the many hikers who flock to Marrakech year after year. There are several options for getting to the stunning dunes from the red city, but one of the most common is to book a tour. Read on to find out more.

The best option: an organised tour

Morocco's desert| ©Oliver
Morocco's desert| ©Oliver

There are three entrances to the Sahara Desert from Marrakech, one via Agafay, one via Merzouga and one via Zagora. Any of the three options are interesting to choose an excursion and enjoy one of your favourite activities without worrying about how to get there.

The prices of these excursions are affordable and hiring any of them is the most comfortable way to go to the desert because it also optimises your experience by including accommodation, meals and some activities. The most popular excursions are:

How to get to the Agafay Desert from Marrakech

Private transport to the Desert| ©Julia Volk
Private transport to the Desert| ©Julia Volk

Among the options studied, Agafay is the only one that allows you to book a desert travel experience from Marrakech in one day. For this reason, Agafay is the ideal alternative for any traveller who wants to experience the desert from Marrakech and has a tight time schedule, as it is only 40 minutes away by road.

What is the Agafay desert tour like?

Most agencies offering organised tours of the Agafay Desert experience include pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in Marrakech.

This means that all you have to worry about is deciding what activities to do in the desert from the many options available. Some popular alternatives are: camel rides with afternoon tea, water sports on Lake Takerkoust, glamping experiences in luxury tents in the desert, romantic dinners under the stars, lunches and much more.

  • Price: From 34 euros
  • Duration: From 40 minutes for a direct journey to 2 hours if you include stops at tourist attractions before arriving in the desert.

Book your Agafay Desert Tour

How to get to the Merzouga desert from Marrakech

Visiting Merzouga| ©Jeff Jewiss
Visiting Merzouga| ©Jeff Jewiss

The Merzouga desert is the furthest from Marrakech. A road trip will take at least 8.5 hours non-stop. Quite an adventure in Morocco! Fortunately, from Marrakech you will find all-inclusive excursions.

What is the Merzouga desert excursion like?

Several tour operators offer organised tours of the Merzouga desert that will take you from your hotel in Marrakech to the great sandy mountains.

This is by far my favourite option, as as well as avoiding the hassle of planning a long trip in the desert, it also saves a lot of the inconvenience and unforeseen events that can arise. For a few euros you will have the opportunity to relax and enjoy yourself with friendly guides whose job it is to make your experience as enjoyable as possible.

On a guided tour, the road trip will be a little longer, possibly 12 hours of transport. However, it is the perfect opportunity to get to know other destinations of great tourist attraction that are always included in the tours as stopovers.

  • Price: From €96.
  • Duration: A guided tour from Marrakech to Merzouga will take at least 3 days.

Book your Merzouga Desert Tour

How to get to Zagora desert from Marrakech

Zagora Desert| ©puriy
Zagora Desert| ©puriy

The Zagora Desert is located about 6 hours drive from Marrakech; the popular Moroccan city also offers all kinds of transport options to reach the destination.

What is the Zagora desert excursion like?

This is my favourite option for visiting places like the Zagora desert, as the operators who have been organising these tours for decades know how to make the trip a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the tourist.

Starting from the hotel in Marrakech, the trip to Zagora includes: stops at points of interest, transport and accommodation in the desert. Most of your trip will be covered without taking up practically any of your time.

  • Price: From 90€.
  • Duration: The full trip from Marrakech usually takes 2 to 3 days in total.

Book your Zagora Desert Tour

The fastest way to get to the desert: by taxi

Taxis in Marrakech| ©Mike Finn
Taxis in Marrakech| ©Mike Finn

Finding a taxi for transport from the centre of Marrakech to your destination in Agafay is really easy. Taxis are a popular method of transport and those operating around the hotels often speak 2 or 3 languages quite easily.

However, getting to the other entrances to the desert such as Mezourga or Zagora can be much more expensive and not all taxi drivers will be willing to travel that far.

When taking taxis in Morocco you should be very careful and always fix fares in advance and before you get in the car. Taxis here don't use meters and if you don't agree on a fare the driver can charge you whatever he wants at the end of the journey.

  • Price: Approximately 35 € per journey. Remember to allow for the return journey to the hotel.
  • Duration: A maximum of 40 minutes for a non-stop journey.

Book your excursion to the Agafay Desert

The most flexible option to reach the desert: rent a car

Rent a car| ©Brock Wegner
Rent a car| ©Brock Wegner

The car rental business in Marrakech is highly sought after by tourists and local travellers alike, so getting a car is very easy and in certain scenarios can be the most reasonable option.

However, it is not an alternative I recommend for inexperienced travellers who are visiting the city for the first time and are not entirely familiar with its ways and customs. The traffic chaos in Marrakech can be stressful and overwhelming.


Hiring a car can be impractical for short distances such as travelling to the Agafay desert. However, it can be quite useful if you're comfortable driving in any country.

  • Price: A single car in Marrakech costs a minimum of €8 per day. Consider fuel costs as an additional expense.
  • Travel time: The non-stop journey from Marrakech to the Agafay desert will take just 40 minutes.


This alternative way to get to Merzouga offers many advantages, such as the possibility of a 100% personalised itinerary with stops only at your points of interest.

The main drawback is that it requires a lot of planning and organisation on the part of the traveller, which is why I don't recommend it for first-time visitors to Morocco.

If you're taking a road trip from Marrakech to Merzouga, bear in mind that although you'll find plenty of fuel stations, the towns are often separated by long distances, so keep an eye out for the signpost.

  • Price: A vehicle in Marrakech will cost you an average of €8 to €10, plus fuel and tolls.
  • Duration: The direct non-stop road trip to Merzouga will take at least 10 hours.


One important thing to remember is that the policemen and most of the people you meet will not speak English, so be prepared to communicate effectively in other languages. On the plus side, having your own transport will allow you to design your own tour with stops at the main sites to see in Marrakech.

  • Price: A car in Marrakech will cost from €8 per day. Fuel and possible tolls will be added to this.
  • Duration: A direct, non-stop drive from Marrakech to Zagora takes about 7 hours on average.

Book your trip to the Zagora desert

The fastest way to get to the desert: by plane.

Morocco Airport| ©David Berkowitz
Morocco Airport| ©David Berkowitz

Although it is the most expensive, if you don't have much time to enjoy Marrakech you can consider this option for a trip to the desert of Merzouga or Zagora.


If your aim is to get to the Merzouga desert in the shortest possible time, you may want to consider flying part of the way. Although there are currently no direct flights between Merzouga and Marrakech, you can take a flight from the red city to Ouarzazate or to Errachidia. From there you can hire a taxi or take a bus to your final destination in Merzouga.

This is not an option I recommend because of the additional cost involved, but mainly because it limits the desert experience to the final destination.

  • Price: A flight ticket from Marrakech will cost from €130 upwards. To this you'll need to add taxi or bus fares for an average total of €170 per trip.
  • Duration: An average of 10 hours from your destination in Marrakech.


The city of Zagora has its own airport, Zagora Airport (OZG). You can take a flight from Marrakech and, once in the city, hire the services of an excursion tour to reach the desert.

There are two reasons why I don't recommend this option:

1st - flights to Zagora, although short, are difficult to get due to low demand. The company that flies between Marrakech and Zagora isAir Arabia Maroc; most flights include a stopover at Casablanca Airport, a stopover that can take many hours until your next flight.

2- Flying between cities will not allow you to enjoy the beauty of Morocco, which is the ultimate goal of every traveller.

  • Price: The cheapest flights average around €320.
  • Duration: Flight time without stopovers is only 2.5 hours in total.

Book your trip to the Merzouga Desert

The cheapest way to get to the desert: by bus

Bus in Marrakech Menara Airport| ©Tim Adams
Bus in Marrakech Menara Airport| ©Tim Adams

Marrakech is the busiest and busiest city in Morocco, so you can take a bus from the main bus station to almost any destination in the country.


Although the cheapest option of all, it's my least favourite because of the many drawbacks: firstly, it's a long and tiring journey that requires a lot of sitting and secondly, you won't be able to stop and appreciate the beauty Morocco has to offer en route.

  • Price: At a cost of around €35 you can travel all the way to the town of Merzouga. From there you can book a day trip into the desert.
  • Duration: If you decide to travel by bus from Marrakech to Merzouga, be prepared for at least 16 hours of non-stop driving.


The bus is an extremely economical option for travelling from Zagora to Marrakech but the least recommended for tourists. A bus trip will deprive you of enjoying the beauty of Morocco as you won't be able to stop at any points of interest.

If you choose this option, however, the Supratours bus company operatesdaily bus services from Marrakech to Zagora. The bus can be found at the city's main terminal. Be aware that finding operators and service staff who speak English will be extremely difficult.

  • Price: Less than €18 covers the cost of bus travel to Zagora.
  • Duration: Approximate travel time is 8 hours in total.

Book your excursion to the Agafay Desert

Where is the desert of Marrakech?

Night photography in Merzouga| ©Jaanus Jagomägi
Night photography in Merzouga| ©Jaanus Jagomägi

When people popularly talk about the Marrakech desert what they are really referring to is the area of the Sahara Desert that lies within the domain of Morocco. The Moroccan Sahara Desert is divided into two major Ergs or dune complexes: The Erg Chebbi desert in the vicinity of the town of Merzouga and the Erg Chigaga desert in the vicinity of the town of Zagora. The Agafay Desert is an arid, rocky area just outside Marrakech, but not a sandy desert per se.

Marrakech is known worldwide as the city of luxury and charm, thanks to its fabulous architecture and diverse cuisine. It is Morocco' s most popular city, the point where the vast majority of tourists from all over the world converge on this eastern paradise.

Morocco is a vast country that offers travellers several desert areas to choose from. So if you intend to travel to the desert from Marrakech you should choose the alternative that best suits your travel itinerary, the length of your stay, the best time of year to visit Marrakech, your budget and the level of adventure you can handle!

Book your desert tour