Road trip in Morocco: 1 week trip itinerary in the Sahara Desert

Road trip in Morocco: 1 week trip itinerary in the Sahara Desert

Morocco is a really wonderful experience. Easily accessible, while being very exotic.

I think it's the perfect country to get the travel bug. There is everything, a rich culture, good food, beaches, mountains and of course the Sahara Desert!

In addition to being so well organized for tourists, it has everything to satisfy both the beginner and the most knowledgeable traveler. You will be constantly dazzled by the landscapes throughout this journey.

For this itinerary, I suggest starting directly from Marrakech or Ouarzazate.

Direction: The Gateway to the Desert in Ouarzazate.

4h from Marrakech (190 km)

This city is the perfect place to start your journey. Ouarzazate, also known as the "door of the desert", is a city in southern Morocco surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. Known for its cultural and historical heritage, it offers stunning landscapes and a unique experience of local Berber culture.

What to do in Ouarzazate?

  • Aït Benhaddou: Located just 30 minutes from Ouarzazate. Visit the ancient ksar (a fortified place in North Africa) on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Oasis of Fint: Enjoy a refreshing drink in the middle of an Oasis while admiring majestic date palms and the abundant orchards growing on the banks.

Where to eat and sleep in Ouarzazate?

It's better to visit Aït Benhaddou and the Oasis of Fint in the same day and spend the night in Ouarzazate. There are more services, choices of hotels and good restaurants.

  • La Gironde (Ouarzazate): The best tagines in the area and the owner is super friendly.
  • Hôtel Atlas (Ouarzazate): Nothing very deluxe, basic yet clean and comfy enough, but close to everything and at a great price.

Explore the Dadès Gorges

2h from Ouarzazate (140 km)

Head to Ait Ouglif shortly after Boumalne Dadès (18 km) for a trek. The landscapes go as far as the eye can see as you discover the hollow silence of the gorges of the upper Dadès valley... As if time had stopped for a moment, it is indescribable. The hospitality of its inhabitants (the Berbers) will make the experience more than pleasant.

Hiking in the Dadès Gorges

  • Going alone: Bring a lot of water and protect yourself from the sun as mush as possible! The trails are well marked, but do not leave without a GPS, the place is hugely vague and very easy to get lost in – maybe permanently!
  • With a guide: Recommended. They are available to choose at the entrance of Ait Ouglif. The price can vary depending on how much time you are willing to explore and whether you are alone or in a group, about US$10 to US$20 per person. Worth every cent for the peace of mind.

Olivier Flambeau, CC BY-SA 4.0

The journey comprises winding, serpentine roads that descend several hundred meters into the picturesque depths of the High Atlas.

Where to eat and sleep in Boumalne Dades?

  • Auberge Tamazirt (Boumalne Dades) : Restaurant / Hostel
  • Hike and chill Hostel (Tinghir) : Hostel / Breakfast

Venture into the golden sand dunes of Merzouga

3.5h from Boumalne Dadès (250 km)

My favorite moment of the trip, when you see appear what seems to be undulating orange mountains all the way to the horizon. We simply said “wow”... The dunes, we're approaching the Sahara!

What to do in Merzouga?

  • The dunes of Merzouga: For the magnificent view of huge sand dunes in the middle of the Moroccan desert. The changing colour of the dunes from orange to gold. A hard to beat experience
  • Camel ride: Go see the sunset on a camel's back and return under the starry sky. Romantic and beautiful memories are made of this.
  • Quad 4X4: It is possible to rent a vehicle and drive yourself through the endless dunes on a quad. Like being on the Paris Dakar.

Which camp to choose in Merzouga for a desert excursion?

Don't take the camel ride offered near the dunes; you will pay full price. Instead, arrange with the local hostels, who often have pre-negotiated deals, by asking for an excursion in the dunes.

For just a few dollars more than a night's accommodation, you will have the chance to leave alone, or in a group with a real Berber guide, the camel ride, the meal, drinks, the night camping in the desert and the breakfast included. Be careful, you may become addicted to mint tea!

Where to eat and sleep in Merzouga?

  • Hostel Riad Hassan (Merzouga): Hostel / Excursion combined US$30-40
  • Rimal Merzouga (Merzouga): Excellent Moroccan cuisine at modest prices

Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Zagora

4h from Merzouga (300 km)

Take a detour to Zagora; it will cut the return trip in half, and there are so many interesting things to do.

What to do in Zagora?

  • Zagora Desert: Where you can go to a bivouac and take excursions, like riding a camel for a trek in the dunes of Tinfou... as expected in the desert, these ships of the desert are everywhere.
  • Tagounite: A tiny village close to the dunes of Tinfou. It is famous for its hand-made and rustic ceramic crafts... You can also visit the tunnels and houses of the incredible underground kasbah as well as the Koranic library including books as old as the early Middle Ages.

Where to eat and sleep in Zagora?

  • Restaurant Marwa (Zagora): Simply tasty and the staff are very friendly.
  • Ba Omar (Zagora): A welcoming guesthouse, lots of quiet space and with breakfast included.

Top practical tips for driving in Morocco

  • Bring warm clothing: the nights are cold, down to 8°C in winter.
  • Refueling: Always check going through a city, there may be only one station in more than 200 km of desert roads.
  • Daytime Traveling: On the road, you may encounter animals, rocks and even sandstorms that will make the road almost invisible. It's best not to venture out there at night.
  • Keep calm: Many people survive with tourism industry in Morocco. So don't be surprised if they offer their services to you relentlessly. Just say no thank you with a smile and stand firm.
  • Water, water and water: Drink often, temperatures can be extreme. Always carry 1-2L of clean water in your backpack and extra reserves in the car. It’s impossible to carry too much in reserve.

Budget Car Rental in Morocco

Use Kayak to find a car, if possible with flexible dates, to get the best price of around 20 to US$35 per day. The recommended reliable car rental companies in Morocco are Budget, Avis and Europcar. These are reputable international companies that will offer you all the best support in the event of a breakdown or accident.

There are buses that travel to Ouarzazate for 95 Dirham (US$10) with a 4 and a half hour ride from Marrakech. The CTM transport company is recommended and you can book online on

Everything can be done by bus in Morocco, but it is better to have a car to fully enjoy the country.

Save Money on Car Rental - Tips and Tricks!

It is important to be insured to avoid paying monstrous sums in case of damage to the vehicle. Rental companies will always try to offer you their own insurance, but this normally comes down to double the price of the rental. You have the right to refuse if you already have your own!

Find out at your bank about a credit card that offers collision and damage insurance (called CDW). Most cost US$80 per year, this way you'll save as much money as possible, as well as get travel insurance and 1-2% discounts on all your purchases!

Round-trip itinerary between Ouarzazate and Merzouga

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