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Merzouga & Erg Chebbi, Morocco
Fast Facts
Pack & Saddle
Paleo & Archeo
Kid-Friendly Hotels
Points of Interest Nearby

Merzouga Dunes


Photo by Valentina Marconi

Whether you intend to follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, watch the sun rise or set over sand dunes, or share your campfire with a Tuareg, those mysterious desert men dressed in long robes and turbans, a trip to Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi in the Moroccan Sahara is a must for families interested in discovering the secrets of this vast and mystifying land. Ride to the top of the Erg Chebbi dunes on a camel or a quad. Practice the art of climbing in the sand. Roll, slide or sand board nearly 200 meters (650 feet) down. Or wait until it gets dark to count the stars.

But there's more to the desert than sand dunes and camels. Merzouga is a great place to hunt for fossils and watch birds and desert wildlife. Head out to the fossil site on the road to Erfoud, and if you're lucky, discover bones or teeth of a Mosasaur. And while it almost never rains in Merzouga, in spring, a seasonal lake forms just northwest of the town. Take a moment to relax and enjoy the flamingos and migratory birds.

Getting There
Merzouga is located 715 km (443 miles) from Marrakech, 440 km (273 miles) from Ouarzazate and 569 km (353 miles) from Fès. The nearest airport is located in ErRachidia 130 km (80 miles) away. Royal Air Maroc offers flights to/from Casablanca and ErRachidia twice weekly. There are two roads to Merzouga, one via Rissani and the other via Erfoud. Both are roughly a 45-minute drive. And while a 4x4 vehicle is not required, the road is bumpy and the risk of getting stuck in the sand is not small. Bus service from Rissani and Erfoud.
When to Travel
The best time to visit Merzouga or embark on a desert adventure is in April, May and October. In summer, the daytime high can exceed 40°C (105°F) and, in winter, the nighttime low can fall below 0°C (32°F).
Health & Safety
Traveler's diarrhea is the most common aliment afflicting tourists in Morocco. Avoiding tap water is the cornerstones to prevention. Drink bottled water and eat cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables only. Heat exhaustion, dehydration and sunburn are risks in all desert environments. Apply high factor sunscreen to all exposed areas, including your child's nose, ears, and toes, before you set out and repeat applications throughout the day. Encourage the children to drink regularly.
Things to Keep in Mind
The Tanebaums have referred to Erg Chebbi as the biggest and best sand box in the world.
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Travel Trivia
Which of the following are descendents of the Anasazi: