I´ve bought my tickets to go to Marrakech for 9 days during Easter. I always regretted not getting there the last time I lived so close in Andalusia and now I´m in Madrid so it´s even easir to get to now. I´m really excited as this will be my first experience in the Arab world.
I´ve been really enticed by the idea of heading into the dessert and I´ve discovered that M´Hamid is the closet place to visit but that means a 12 hour bus journey. I´d like to spend maybe two or three days out in the dessert and avoid a fleeting visit. I´m not entirely sure what is on offer but I´m sure it´s amazing.
Other than this I´m not sure what I´ll be doing, of course I´ll spend a day of two in Marrakech but the rest i need to research and it all depends on the logistics of this trip to the dessert.
First of all, can anyone help me with information to do with the transport to M´Hamid? how long does it really take? and are there any possibilities of travelling by night as to not lose a whole day in transit? When there, are there possibilities of two to three day excursions? and finally, is there anything to see or do between Marrakech and M´Hamid?
I have 9 days in Morocco but with travelling to and from Madrid, this makes a total of 7, so all these trips will make a huge difference on what i can and can´t do.
All Advise welcome
Thanks a lot
M'hamid is perhaps just closer to Marrakech than Erg Chebbi is, but there isn't a great deal in it.
M'hamid is the end of the paved road, and whilst there are a few dunes around the town (notably the Erg Lihoudi just before it), Erg Chegaga is a two and a half hour 4x4 ride from the town, over very rough tracks. Once you take this into account, the dunes are actually further from Marrakech.
The romantic version of this is to use camels, but you'll need a couple of days.
Most guides will want you to visit the dunes and return to M'hamid, which is understandable but a shame. Ideally you want to continue across Lake Iriqi (dry salt, normally) and come out at Foums Zguid.
Erg Chegaga is the largest area of sand in the Moroccan Sahara. There is genuine, very friendly nomad life not far from the tourist camps along the base of the dunes. It's my favourite desert destination.
However, it's really ideal for independent travelers with their own 4x4, or people who've hired a guide and 4x4 in Marrakech or Ouazarzate.
If you are using public transport, there's a CTM and Supratours service to Merzouga, right at the base of Erg Chebbi. It's less extraordinary, but far more easily accessible.
There are also a plethora of local bus services, but... google 'bus crash morocco' before you use them.
As far as what there is to see or do between Marrakech and the desert, you have:
The High Atlas - possibly the most under rated and most interesting part of the country
Ouazarzate - possibly the most over rated...
The Draa valley - pretty mud villages lining the banks of the country's longest river
Traveling at night over the Atlas passes at over 7,000 feet is really only to be recommended to those with no imagination whatsoever. It's still legal to use the roads at night without lights if you don't exceed 20km. Bicycles, old vans, donkeys and more are all over the roads at night near built up areas.
Even with no imagination, you'd surely want to see the scenery?
Hey, thanks for such a detailed reply. I´ve started to think about scrapping the idea of going to the dessert and as you say, looking towards doing a nice trek in the high atlas. I´m reading about heading down to Imlil and trekking from there
The Atlas are my favourite area of Morocco. Imlil used to be great years ago when it was really hard to get to; but since the road was built it's probably the single most popular place in the mountains. It depends what you want. A lot of the backpackers, in particular, seem to get off on each other's company. If, however, you want to go further and actually see how the locals live when the area hasn't been polluted by mass tourism, you'll need to get your map and guide book out... I'd recommend Demnate as a jumping off point.
Just back from 11 days touring around Morocco – I had my connecting flight in Madrid.Morocco is a beautiful and wonderful country. People are friendly,scenery is amazing, riads are awesome!I think 7 days are enough to enjoy the country,especially if you use a touring company,since they will provide a car for you ,and help you avoid the hassle.As for me,i used a company called Desert flying carpet I was able to visit so many cities and interesting places in a very short period,something that wasn’t going to happen if I was travelling on my own.I highly recommend them .My itinerary was Marrakesh-Orika valley-Ouarzazate-Dades valley-Merzouga(desert)-Ouarzazate-Marakesh-Essaouira-El Jadida-Casablanca .