The advantage of doing the tour on your own is that you do not have to be with 17 strangers (it’s the typical number of people on the shared tours) and that you can also choose where to stop and how much time you spend there.
Before embarking on going from Marrakesh to the Sahara Desert on your own, know that there are several prearranged excursions that go to the Sahara desert and can be booked directly in Fez or Marrakech. The shared tours are ideal if you are short on time in Morocco because the trip on your own (with the stops we propose) may take you twice as long.
Do I go to the Sahara desert on a shared tour or do I plan it myself?
As for the money, there will not be big differences between doing it on your own with respect to hiring a shared tour which usually around 80-90 euros.
In this guide we recommend a way to reach the Sahara desert from Marrakech continuing on the way to Fez by public transport and on your own. If on the contrary you want to go to the desert on a shared tour. You may be interested in: Odyssey to the Sahara Desert from Marrakech.
From Marrakech or Fez to the Sahara desert at a stretch
Merzouga is the main access point to the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi. From Marrakech to Merzouga there is a bus from the Moroccan public company: Supratours. The bus departs at 8:30 am and is the only bus that currently makes the whole trip. The trip lasts 12 hours and 30 minutes and arrives at 21 hours. From Fez the same company offers a bus at 20.30 with arrival around 7 am.
This long journey can be split with some stops that are very interesting and worthwhile. The itinerary we propose starts from Marrakech but can be done backwards starting with Fez.
DIY Desert Tour, Day 1: Ouarzazate
From Marrakech, you can take a bus from Supratours or CTM to Ouarzazate. The bus station of these companies in Marrakech is located next to the train station. These buses are fairly regular, air conditioned and very comfortable.
- Timetable (Supratour): 8.30 – 15.00 – 15.15.
- Travel time: 4h 30 min.
- Price: 80 Dh.
- Timetable (CTM): 07:30 – 10:00 – 11.15 – 14.30 – 17:00.
- Travel time: 4h 30 min – 5h.
- Price: 90 Dh.
Things to do in Ouarzazate
Kasbah de Tourit: Unlike other Kasbahs, this was a Hollywood backdrop (Gladiator, Prince of Persia).
Atlas Studios Tour: You can see scenes and props form movies filmed here, including Jewel of the Nile, Kingdom of Heaven and Kundun. Guided tours are done every 20 to 40 minutes and take you through some of the stages and workshops.
Film Museum (in front of the Kasbah de Tourit): This small, dusty museum is housed in an old studio and exhibits a collection of old scenarios, props and cinematographic equipment. You can take a guided tour.
Where to stay in Ouarzazate
We leave a list of great accommodations in Ouarzazate:
DIY Desert Tour, Day 2: Aït Benhaddou and arrival to Dades gorge
How to get from Ouarzazate to Aït Benhaddou
The main reason for a stop in Ouarzazate is to visit Aït Benhaddou. The best option is to take a Grand Taxi which leave from the bus station of Ouarzazate when they are full (Dh15 per person). Booking the entire Grand Taxi should cost you Dh 300 round trip and with a couple of hours of waiting. Cycling from Ouarzazate takes three hours.
How to travel from Ouarzazate to Dades Gorge by bus
To get to Dades Gorge you have to arrive first to Boumalene du Dades. With these options:
- Timetable: 13:00 – 20:00.
- Travel time: 2h 50 min.
- Price: 40 Dh.
- Timetable: 12:00.
- Travel time: 2h 50 min
- Price: 40 Dh.
Once you arrive in Boumalene du Dades, you can easily reach the Dades gorge by grand taxi or petit taxi. Taxis leave very frequently. They are 25 kilometers and should not cost more than Dh30 per person.
Where to stay in the Dades gorges
Most of the accommodations listed here are located 28 km from Boumalne du Dades, and kilometer marks refer to the distance from Boumalne.
DIY Desert Tour, Day 3: Dades Gorge on your own
You can trek around the Dades gorges for example the following morning. Hotels in general have agreements with local guides and should cost you about 300 Dh.
DIY Desert Tour, Day 4: Merzouga and Night in the desert
How to get from Dades Gorge to Merzouga
There is only one bus that runs directly from Boulmanes du Dades to Merzouga. It is a Supratours bus departing at 14.45. You can buy the ticket in a store along the west side of the main section of the road. Look for the Supratours logo on the window. This store is also where the Supratour bus stops to pick it up.
- Timetable: 14:45.
- Travel time: 6 hs.
- Price: 90 Dh.
It is highly recommended to book accommodation in advance in Merzouga. Otherwise, you will be received by a horde of resellers at the Merzouga terminal offering accommodations and excursions to the desert.
Where to stay in Merzouga Morocco
- Aubergue Chez Julia: Inn.
- Chez Yussef: Inn.
- Ali & Sara’s Palace dessert: To keep things small, intimate and uncomplicated, the camp (8 km east of Merzouga) only has 12 people and the rates are totally inclusive, including non-alcoholic drinks. Book in advance.
One night excursion to the Sahara desert from Merzouga
There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of operators in the area offering camel treks in the Sahara. In general, for 40 euros, the excursion includes camel trek, breakfast, dinner, guide, accommodation to sleep in tents, etc.
DIY Desert Tour, Day 5: Merzouga – Fez.
- Timetable: 19.00. Arrival: 05.29 am
- Travel time: 10 hs.
- Price: 170 Dh.
- Timetable: 19.30. Arrival: 04.45 am
- Travel time: 10 hs.
- Price: 180 Dh.
We do not recommend arriving in Fez in the middle of the night.
From Rissani (a few kilometers from Merzouga, any taxi takes you for a few Dirhams or even perhaps the owners of your hotel in Merzouga can take you if you arrange it in advance), you can take a local bus to Fez or even Ifrane and get to know the little Switzerland of Morocco.
Take a taxi from Merzouga to Fez
Another option is to arrange through the Riad you are staying in Fez (or the lodging in Merzouga) a taxi directly to Fez. The ride takes no less than 8 hours of travel and the price should not be higher than 120 euros.
In Fez we stayed in Riad Dar Borj, they arranged the taxi ride from Merzouga and we were picked up at the blue door of the Fez medina (where the taxi left us).
Merzouga – Marrakech
- Timetable: 08.00. Arrival: 20.29 am
- Travel time: 12 hs 30 min.
- Price: 220 Dh.
Watch the Sahara Desert Odyssey Wandervideo