Road tripping through Morocco was the highlight of my 6-week Moroccan excursion. Though renting a car in Marrakesh was nerve wracking (to say the least), traveling by car to the Sahara is the most economical and practical way to see the countryside in Morocco. Not only will you meet locals by way of hitchhiking, but you have the opportunity to experience authentic Moroccan villages, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, and explore parts unknown.
A 5-day Itinerary through the Desert by way of Merzouga
Beginning in Marrakesh and ending in Fez, Brandon and I spent 5 days road tripping through the beautiful Moroccan countryside and Sahara Desert.
Here is our 5 day itinerary:
Table of contents
- A 5-day Itinerary through the Desert by way of Merzouga
- Road-Tripping the Sahara Desert, Morocco
- Road Trip Tips
- Day 1: Marrakesh to Ouarzazate
- Day 2: Ouarzazate to Merzouga
- Day 3: Sahara
- Day 4: Sahara to Azrou
- Day 5: Azrou to Fez
Road-Tripping the Sahara Desert, Morocco
Fun fact! “sahra” means desert in arabic, so saying “the Sahara desert” is a bit like saying “Chai Tea”… the desert desert….tea tea…
It’s Morocco, so you can be assured that you will be bombarded by tour guides to join a Sahara tour, or get a guide from Marrakesh to Merzouga, or something of the like.
If you would rather have an awesome DIY tour like we did, here’s your chance! No pushy guides trying to make you buy useless knick-knacks, no forceful “tipping” for things you probably already paid for….no shenanigans.
Check out: The Ultimate Vegan Guide to Morocco
Road Trip Tips
Just a few things (and people) we picked up along the way…
Pick up ‘hikers
You will have the option of picking up a few hitchhikers as you make your way across the country. We picked up about 8, the youngest being about 4 years old. It’s extremely common in Morocco, so make sure your back seat is clean, and enjoy a few authentic interactions with locals!
A ticket will cost you around $20 USD, and yes, they will give you one for going just 5 over. You can normally see the police stops coming, but we got pulled over on our way into Azrou. Some of the desert places are easier to go a little over the limit.
You might be able to talk your way into a lower ticket, but if you are caught without cash, your registration will be confiscated and the fee will be exponentially higher at the station!
Carry 1000dh Cash on You (In a Spare wallet/Secret Location)
The police require cash payment up front for any and all tickets, or else they might confiscate your passport to take to the station, where it will be 3x’s more expensive to pay your infraction
You can get away with paying quite a bit less for your tickets if you are savvy.
Brandon told the cops I was a hitchhiker (so he couldn’t “ask me” to pay the difference) ….and showed them the inside of his wallet with only 100dh ($10), which they took in lieu of the full 400dh amount.
If you get a flat, or something goes wrong, a friendly helper might also want a bit of cash for their time. It’s just the Moroccan entrepreneurial way. Can you blame them?
Day 1: Marrakesh to Ouarzazate
Renting a car in Marrakesh is best done early in the morning before the roads get busy with crazy drivers
Leave early in the morning. Take N9 through the Atlas gorge (Tizi N’Tichka). Turn left before you reach Aguelmoss to reach a smaller and less-developed road with awesome views:
Places to stop:
- Telouet Kasbah
- Aît Benhaddou
- CLA Studios** (Ouarzazate)
*Movie studio if you reach before dark
Places to stay:
- Hotel Azoul
- By far one of the best hotels I stayed at while in Morocco. At $26USD/night, the suite cant be beat
- Le Petit Riad
- super cute little hotel with a pool! $60 US / night
- Le Temple Des Arts
- 5-star resort with 5-star service. Excellent spa on site
Day 2: Ouarzazate to Merzouga
This is going to be your longest day driving. You will need to leave early from Ouarzazate. Either choose to relax and spend the day there, or leave early in the morning for a full 9+ hour day behind the wheel (including stops).
The last segment of your trip, from Alnif to Rissani is a vast, empty straight road. Although its flat and not very windy, I would not recommend driving this after dark. There are no street lights, and it’s very hard to see even at dusk.
Places to Stop:
- Taourirt Kasbah
- Kasbah Amridil / Palms of Skoura
- Boumalne Dades
- Dades Gorge
- Tinghir & Todra river
Across the desert to Merzouga! There’s lots of cool things to do and see along the way. If you want to extend the trip, I recommend staying near the Dades Gorge.You can hike and see this awesome view:
Places to stay
- Hotel Panorama ($20)(Rissani, if you don’t make it to Merzouga)
- Quaint place, pretty bare bones, but what the hotel lacks in style, the hosts make up for in hospitality. I’ve never felt more welcomed by anyone than Mustafa and his family. They took care of me while I was sick, cooked and drank tea with us, and generally had a great time chatting and being friends!
- Borj Merzouga Luxury Camping ($100/night)
- On the cheaper side for “luxury camping”, yet I don’t think it could have been any more perfect. Ali, the owner, was a fossil import/export expert, so the tents are fully decked out in marbled stone bathrooms. The shower is hot and steamy, beds are super comfortable. 10/10 would stay again
- Riad Nezha (35/night)
- Great option for something inside Merzouga city before you head off-roading to the desert.
Day 3: Sahara
There are tons of options to camp and play in the Sahara. I chose to “glamp”…and would say it’s worth every penny. The comfortable ambiance and high-quality food made me feel like I was staying at a resort rather than the middle of the largest desert in Africa.
We stayed with Borj Merzouga, and noticed that everyone seems to know everyone here….or at least, everyone knew Ali!
Things to do
There is a giant lake in the middle of the desert, right next to the Sahara! ….and there are even flamingos there!
- Merzouga Lake (Bird Watching)
- Sunset in Sahara
- Stargazing (saw milky way!)
Day 4: Sahara to Azrou
Things to do/ Places to Stop:
- Watch the sunrise @ Dunes
- Quad or motorbiking tours
- Get to Azrou to Watch Sunset behind Atlas Mountains
Leave late AM from Merzouga after an ATV or motorcycle tour. Each run about $40 USD/hour and are honestly really fun! I would recommend the motorcycle tour over the quad as they seem to be more relaxed and don’t make you follow in a straight line, however, both seem to be equally entertaining.
We drove all the way through to Azrou and enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner at the hotel. You will feel transported into another world by the time you reach the lush mountains! There are wild monkeys, trees(!!!) and very exotic-looking architecture. It felt almost like we were in Switzerland!
Where to Stay
- Ferme D’hôte La Vallée (60/night)
- I was in love with this hotel as soon as we rolled up! It’s so cute, nicely decorated, and I had by far the best home-cooked meal I’ve ever had in Morocco !!
- Le Palais des Cerisiers ($85/night)
- Feel like treating yourself like royalty for the night? Pretend you are a lord/lady and sleep in a castle!
Day 5: Azrou to Fez
This is your last leg of the trip! Lucky, it’s short and sweet. There’s not so much to see and do along this trip….though Ifran has a giant lion statue that might be worth a quick drive-by if you like history. It was built by a POW in order to evade jail sentence. Kinda cool, no?
Things To Do/ Places to Stop:
- Hiking in Ifran
Ifran has a crazy amount of nature, and their parks and national parks are phenomenal. Theres loads of trails and some incredible views to be had!
After a short hike in Ifran National Park (watch out for monkeys!) , its just a short hour drive to Fes, where we dropped our rental car off. It’s easy to take a bus from Fes to Chefchaoen and up into the mountainous region of Morocco (which I prefer GREATLY to Fez….)
Let me know if you’ve done this road trip or have anything to add <3 Thank you!