Many have heard about the magical city of Marrakech or the blue-city Chefchaouen, but few know about the surreal Erg Chebbi tucked in the southeastern part of Morocco close to the Algerian border. Erg originates from the Arabic word ‘Arq’, which means dune field, and the immense Sahara desert is composed of several ergs. Interestingly, space travelers can find ergs on planets such as Venus and Mars.
What makes Erg Chebbi special is its vast sea of golden dunes that can reach up to 160 meters in height. It’s a place that drags one into a state of awe, and self rumination. The closest village to Erg Chebbi is Merzouga inhabited by Amazighs (Berber). Merzouga is particularly popular among tourists and is known as the gateway to Erg Chebbi. It takes about a 10-hour drive to reach Merzouga from the city of Marrakech. Here, time stands still, and the terracotta dune awaits the next adventurous seekers.
What To Do In Erg Chebbi
Experience A Nomad Lifestyle While Camping
Staying in an Amazigh-styled tent right in the desert is a one-of-a-kind experience. Visitors normally opt to spend two or more days camping in a traditional tent. Imagine drinking sweet mint tea, eating scrumptious couscous, and listening to folklore desert music such as the tribal drumming.
Depending on preference, visitors will have a wide choice of accommodation ranging from basic to luxurious camping tents that have beds, sofas, and private bathrooms. Those who are into experiencing the simple and rustic lifestyle will have the chance to sit on a traditional rug on the floor and sleep on mats. And the best part of camping here is being able to contemplate the unobstructed view of the Milky Way with zero sky pollution.
Enjoy The Breathtaking Sunrise And Sunset View
What makes this place even more beautiful is its glorious view of the sunrise and sunset. The best way to catch the view is to simply take a camel ride and reach a good vantage point on the dune. Camels are generally attached to each other and are led by a walking guide. The camel ride is an adventure in itself.
Arriving at the top of the dune, the next thing is to wait for the real magic to take place. When the right time comes (sunrise or sunset) watch how the sun reflects its light on the golden sand and the contrasting colors of the nearby green oasis. Don’t forget to take some impressive photo snaps.
Experience The Thrill Of Sandboarding At Erg Chebbi
Adrenaline seekers can indulge in the fun and thrilling activity of sandboarding when staying in Erg Chebbi. Make the most of the staggering landscape by hiking right to the top of the sand dune, and from there take a sandboard and speed down at 30 or 40 mph! The soft and warm sand dune is perfect for such an activity. Sandboarders do not need to have any kind of experience, it’s all about fun.
- Tip: Wear long sleeves and trousers to avoid sunburns. The sand can be warm, so it is advisable to wear walking shoes.
How To Reach Erg Chebbi
There are many ways to reach this popular attraction. Visitors will have the choice to travel by car or 4 x 4 (which is ideal) and even by bus. Service providers offer an eclectic range of packages including transport, accommodation, and activities.
- Guided Tours: Most of the guided tours include a 4 x 4 with a local driver, who has tremendous knowledge of the area. Normally, the trip starts from the city of Marrakech (341 miles to Erg Chebbi), but there are many stops along the way, where visitors will get the chance to take a quick tour of popular attractions such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou and the Dades gorges. Those who are short on time can choose to start their trip from Ouarzazate to Erg Chebbi which is about 223 miles. This type of desert-guided tour can take up to two days and one night. Travelers will have the chance to experience a camel trek during sunset time and spend a night in a Berber camp.
- By Bus: There are several bus routes that lead to Erg Chebbi. The Supratours offer trips from various points including from Marrakech to Merzouga (12.5 hours); Fes to Merzouga (11 hours); and Meknes to Merzouga (9 hours).
When To Visit Erg Chebbi
The best time to visit Erg Chebbi is between October to May as the day temperature ranges from 59 °F (15 °C) to 84 °F (29 °C). This time travelers will enjoy the pleasant warmth of the sun and the gentle desert breeze. The hottest month is in July when the temperature reaches up to 107 °F (42 °C) or even further. At night the temperature can drop between 5⁰C (41 °F) to 15⁰C (59 °F).
Tip: It is good to note that many local service providers do not operate during the Ramadan period.