Displaying items by tag: desert luxury camp

Monday, 18 November 2019 00:00

Honeymoon In Morocco - Sahara romance

 

luxury tent erg chigaga

Morocco honeymoon: the ideal getaway destination in 2021.

The one trip you will remember for the rest of your marriage. Why Morocco ? Riads straight out of 1001 nights. A small plane ride to land you next to the Sahara. Tea with the nomads. A lunch on top of the dunes just you, your loved one and your private butler. More than mere glamping. Village markets and secret kasbahs. Romance complimented by authenticity- that's our idea of a honeymoon in Morocco. Picture yourselves watching sunrise over the Sahara dunes: there's no better place to forget all about travel bans, mask wearing or loosing someone close. 

dar ahlam tent

Our idea of a honeymoon tour in Morocco doesn't follow a set itinerary. Think of it rather as connecting different private local experiences and encounters with secret, intimate, authentic accommodations, within your budget and time available. Naturally, we offer a few sample itineraries on our website, to help set some kind of initial structure. Yet, for such a special occasion, why not tailor and customize each and every detail ? While favoring the privacy, remoteness and unique local experiences ?

Best Time of Year for a Morocco honeymoon

 

Overall, the country is best visited all year round. But to strike that fine balance between privacy, relaxation, the right temperatures and adventure, we'd recommend any time between October and May, avoiding if possible Easter and Christmas holidays, when Morocco sees quite an increase in the number of tourists. If you are willing to forego the Sahara desert, Morocco offers plenty to experience and see even during summer. Or maybe temperatures of over 40 Celsius don't scare you. Whatever your dates, send us an enquiry . With 15 years of in- country presence, we will tailor your honeymoon so as to get the best out of your time and budget.

plain and Berber woman

How Much Does a Morocco Honeymoon cost ?

It depends on the planning. Would you like to have your base in one location ( Marrakech or Fez) and move around from there or would you rather tour Morocco and include Marrakech, Fez and the Sahara, among others ? If the latter, a private 8 day tour with most expenses included starts at 1000 USD per person, with 3 star accommodation and can climb all the way to 4000 USD per person and more, with lodging at the likes of La Mamounia and a VIP 30 square meter luxury tent in the Sahara, including ensuite bathroom. It also depends on how much you wish to splash. Morocco is not an expensive country, when compared to Italy or Spain, but if you wish to treat yourselves to a hot air balloon ride or a hammam and massage treatment, it can quickly put a dent in your budget. Marrakech can equally be expensive in terms of accommodation and eating out, but even here you'll be able to get decent value for money.

couple on camels

Accommodation matters: The Best Riads, Lodges, Desert camps and boutique hotels in Morocco.

 

One reason for Morocco being such a popular destination is the design and location of the different riads, desert camps and other eco- lodges. From itinerant desert camps to luscious, lavish riads and eco- lodges running without electricity, the creativity is almost infinite. For a honeymoon though, we'd recommend favoring those places where privacy is almost guaranteed. The last thing you wish on your honeymoon is fractious children bomb- diving in the pool next to your sun- lounge or having to queue for buffet dining. You can find our favorite hideaways by scrolling down to the end of the article.

How Many Days Should You Spend in Morocco ?

 

To allow for adventure and relaxation, but also immerse yourselves into the local culture ? A minimum of 7- 8 days. 9- 10 days is ideal, if you can afford the time and the budget. What is too much ? Over 2 weeks. You'd need at least 2-3 days in each Marrakech and / or Fez. The Sahara is a 9- 10 hour drive from either of those two cities, so minimum a 4 day return trip with one overnight half way both on the way there and the way back.

atlas mountains and bicycle

Must do’s on a Honeymoon in Morocco

 

Marrakech or Fez, Marrakech being the more sensual, cosmopolitan, fashionable while Fez being the more traditional, authentic, discreet. Personally, nothing beats a walk in the medina of Fez. With no motorbikes or other modern wares in sight, it's traveling in time , the bygone era of Harun El Rashid and Aladdin... The Sahara dunes are a must, of course. It would spoil the experience if you didn't stay in a camp deep inside the dunes. And you'd probably want to go for an upgraded tent, with private toilets and showers. While Marrakech, Fez and the Sahara are obvious choices, I believe it's the local experiences that make a honeymoon unique in Morocco. Naturally, it's near impossible to schedule meeting water diviners or snake charmers in the Anti Atlas and share a cup of tea with them or visit a local's home. Most importantly though, a good local agent will design an itinerary where those experiences are likely to happen and they haven't been corrupted by the passage of mass tourism. An area rarely explored by travel agents and tourists altogether is Morocco's south- west, all the way from Zagora to the east to Guelmin to the west. Century- old fortresses, rock engravings, arresting gorges where gazelles sometimes scurry to quench their thirst, baking bread in the village oven with the local ladies, make up for unforgettable memories.

lma lodge skoura

How Do You Get to Morocco from the US ?

 

Royal Air Maroc flies direct from New York and Miami to Casablanca. Based on our 11 years of feedback from guests, the flight and onboard service are decent enough. Delta, American and some other companies fly to Europe where there are plenty of connections with Morocco, especially from Spain, France and Italy, but also from Germany, Netherlands and the UK. We encourage you to first fly into southern Spain if you can afford a few days in Andalucia, where a stir of Morocco still lingers in the architecture, cuisine and local traditions. Connections with Marrakech, Rabat and Casablanca are available from Seville, Malaga and Valencia and the flight takes a little over one hour. 

Morocco Packing List

 

There really isn't much that you can't purchase locally, if you forgot to pack it, whether it is sun screen, straw hats or iPhone charger. Unless you are into hardcore trekking or Bitcoin mining, you should pack as light as you feel comfortable, especially if you consider moving around the country. If you decide for a private Morocco tour, things are different. With pick- up from and drop off to the airport and a large boot that goes with the Toyota 4x4, you can almost pack your whole wardrobe. Do remember to leave some empty space in your suitcases if you plan to shop around. And even if you don't. Over the years, we've seen a few converts.

amtoudi ighrem

Privacy over Popularity

Jemaa El Fna square ? Majorelle Gardens ? Game of Thrones location ? Yes, we think they should be on everyone's Best Places to visit Morocco travel list. But remember, you are likely to jostle with many other travelers. You may want to intersperse those with lengthy moments of privacy. How ? Even within the madness of Marrakech's medina and its hustle and bustle you can find islets of tranquility. It can be your own Riad. It can be in the gardens of La Mamounia, if you happen to be there at sunset. And don't always believe the titles. Le Jardin Secret is not really secret. But most of the time, privacy and exploration will reward couples outside the big cities, on the way to or from the Sahara desert.

Adventure and Relaxation

 

As carefully as we curate every private tour to suit and exceed our guests' expectations, their most cherished memories are those special spontaneous moments on their trip. Impromptu visit to a local family that turned into lunch or an unexpected climb up to a brow from where a beguiling panorama unfolded, it's easy to always look for the next best experience. Relaxation should be factored in, and by that we don't mean a visit to the spa every other day. It may entail spending more than just one overnight at each location, so as to avoid packing every morning and unpacking every evening. Or cut out social media and being ‘connected to the world’. It may imply spending the morning by the pool and put off that thought of locating the most intricate bronze lamp in the whole souk. At least for a while.

sahara private lunch

Is Morocco Safe ?

In a nutshell, yes. Recent years have proven that Europe and other parts of the world are less likely to preclude or forestall a terrorist attack. Years ago, a special division has been created ( dubbed Moroccan FBI) whose one and only mission is to make sure that there is no terrorist threat present on Moroccan territory. The BCIJ is frequently consulted by French and European secret services on matters of security and data sharing. In terms of petty crime, Marrakech or Fez rank much better than other tourism hubs like Barcelona or Paris, largely because tourism is one of Morocco's main bread earners and most citizens mean tourists well, from the local policeman to the taxi driver and master craftsman. Moreover, in the light of the recent Covid pandemic, Morocco is the most successful African country in terms of its vaccination campaign, trailing just behind France, Spain or Italy. As of summer 2021, most of the Morocco travel restrictions are now lifted. 

chefchaouen

Where to eat out

 

Although Morocco is still to boast its first Michelin star restaurant, the local food scene in the big cities will satisfy the most demanding gourmets, its influences being French, Italian, Thai and naturally, Moroccan, among others. Our personal favorites are: Fez: Dar Hatim  ( Moroccan ), Dar Roumana ( Moroccan/ French); Marrakech: Dar Rhizlane ( French / International), Al Fassia ( Moroccan), L'O a la bouche ( French). This list is by no means definitive, as the restaurant scene in Morocco sees a high turnover. We try and test and rank local restaurants as often as we can, bar a worldwide pandemic. 

Most Romantic Sahara camp

Not only do you deserve a romantic camp, but ideally, a remote one, with plenty of privacy to admire sunset and sunrise from a top of a dune, the view unencumbered. With Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga, the two dunes locations, we'd urge you to consider the latter. Yes, maybe the dunes of Erg Chebbi are taller, but you are never sheltered from the risk of crossing paths with herds of tourists on a camel group ride or a quad bike outing. In contrast, the dunes of Erg Chigaga are more remote, less transited, possibly due to being simply less accessible. By bus, that is. Not for nothing, Dar Ahlam chose this location for their itinerant camp. Our favorite must be Azalai Camp with its white canvas tents, vintage suitcases and leather club armchairs, like stepping onto the set of Out of Africa...

 

Below, we have selected a few of those addresses that we think best embody the secret hideaway spirit. You can select all or a few of them and have us design a private customized tour around these properties and some hand- picked experiences. They are not limited to honeymooners only. Some couples may merely desire to find themselves again and reconnect with each other. Cut out the white noise around. Yes, that includes social media and being ‘connected to the world’. But that's entirely up to you. The only limit is your budget and the time you can take off to travel around Morocco. 

DAR AHLAM
The house of dreams. And it will certainly fulfill some. More than that, it will consistently leave you rapt. Wonder. Experience. Enchant. The French owner used to create private events in Paris, so the last thing he wished for is a 5 star resort inside a palm grove. What if someone knew your favorite color was purple and you'd arrive in your room to find everything is purple ? What if you didn't know where or what your next meal is going to be ? Perhaps it will be a candlelit table in a tiny room in the labyrinth that you didn’t know existed. Or a set up dining area showing up out of nowhere, complete with your butler, up in the High Atlas, by the riverbed. This 15 suite hideaway sits at the foot of the High Atlas mountains, nested within the 4500- acre palm grove of Skoura. Part of the wonder of staying here is learning the way back to your room. With a staff of 100, you can get an idea of how personal the attention and service is going to be. In the image- based world we live in, where information is instant, this is a world of secrets. A house of dreams. It would make little sense staying here less than two nights, arriving late evening and departing early after breakfast the next day. Magic needs time to operate. If you wish to know more about it, please click here
main kasbah and pool


DAR ZAHIA GARDEN
Marc Belli has just realized his dream: to build sleeping cabins in the rural plot he owns facing the Atlas mountains. If he shares with many of his contemporaries a desire to get back to nature, Marc, a French photographer and art director, is also victim to a certain nostalgia for the ‘paradise garden’ of his youth: that of his grandmother’s villa, where he spent his holidays. Covering nearly 4,000sq m, this narrow plot is enclosed by a rammed-clay wall. It is reached by a dusty track edged by thorn bushes and cacti. Another surprise awaits beyond the patio: an electric-blue raised swimming pool that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see
Picturesque pathways dotted with garden seats wind through the fragrant, bushy undergrowth, opening the way through the eucalyptus, pomegranate, citrus, olive and fig trees, aloes, succulents and more. At the far end of the garden, buried among the vegetation, are the five cabins open to guests. Wooden cubes, the cabins are reminiscent of Balinese gazebos or small Japanese tea houses and have been fabricated out of local materials.

dar zahia garden

TASGUA YAN
South of Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast and north of Agadir lies the small village of Tafedna. This feels remote and at first, it's hard to see the sandy beach, tucked among the Argan cliffs that makes any encounter with the waves of the Atlantic uniquely memorable.
Therein lies Tasgua- Yan, a charming 14-room guest house overlooking the sea, its walls forged out of local stone and timber. The white washed walls and blue framed windows reminisce of the Greek islands rather than Morocco. You come here to disconnect from the world. Take long walks along the deserted beach or through the argan forest. Sit by the fire place or the turquoise pool with your favorite novel. Swim in the ocean. Linger on for dinner over fresh fish and a glass of vin gris. Let time pass. By the Atlantic, in the middle of nowhere. Literally.

Tasgua Yan

AZALAI CAMP

If one could have only one thing, one reason only to visit Morocco, this would be it: a night at Azalai Desert Camp in the dunes of Erg Chigaga. Let your driver arrange for a camel ride just before entering the dunes so you arrive in style at the camp, right about sunset. Four large white canvas tents and three slightly smaller ones, complement each other so that one might think he's on his own in the desert. Two VIP tents, further away, come with their own dedicated butler, club leather armchairs and lounge- library. Inside you'll find king-sized wrought-iron beds, quality mattresses, finest bedspreads, mosquito nets and Fes - ceramic water basins. Berber rugs cover the uneven rattan floors. King-sized beds are heavy with blankets and brocade covers – necessary in the winter – and light is provided by tin battery-powered lanterns. Bathrooms are provided with eco- toilets and pump showers with hot water. Dinner is served by candlelight, wreathed by lanterns placed meticulously atop the dunes. The four course set menu regularly starts with harira soup, Moroccan briouates, continues with a hearty beef or lamb tagine and ends with a French desert. The hardest is to leave.

dunes of erg chigaga

AZALAI BEACH COTTAGE

You really have to know your way to get here. About 20 minutes drive from the dreamy village of Oualidia, the road overhangs the tomato parcels juxtaposing the beach. An unassuming turn and a few miles of off- road take you to the gates of Azalai Cottage. Strong on the heels of Azalai Desert Lodge, arguably the smartest guest house south of Ouarzazate, Bouchaib, the French- born Moroccan owner, an accomplished architect himself, entrusted Helene Bartholdi to create something altogether different. The Out- Of- Africa feel was replaced by something much more Mediterranean, almost Aix-en- Provence vibe, with the occasional Berber carpet thrown- in. Five rooms, two suites and two bungalows all face the Atlantic and the gradient makes it that everyone gets a sea- view. Between the villa and the beach, a generous pool blends smoothly with the garden’s palm grove, near a shaded beach hut providing a bounty of fine shell fish cuisine to be enjoyed under the cool swaying shade of the palm fronds. The well stocked library and board games make up for the lack of any TV or wifi. 

azalai beach cottage

TOUR DES FAUCONS
In the 1960's, long before budget airlines and Trip Advisor, Morocco started to attract a particular kind of crowd. Fashion moguls, actors, artists and writers, settled here or had a secondary home, a Paradise Lost retreat from the disenchantment with a more and more mechanical Europe. Their villas were the epitome of design, mixing the Moroccan- inspired carpets, zellij, fountains or woodwork with modern European art, African masks, Andalusian gardens and Italian chandeliers. La Tour des Faucons is such a place, located just outside Taroudant, but Karl, the very down- to- earth German owner, doesn't throw any opulent parties. What he likes to do nowadays is welcome guests and have good company. The art collection on display should be protected with infra- red laser at night. But don't think for a second that you'll be spending the night in a museum. The suites are immense and fully functional with floor heating and reversible A/C. The bathrooms seem to come out of Architectural Digest. There is a 30 meter long pool to keep you fit, if you manage to not get lost in the gardens. Be there at the right time of year and you can join in to harvest the olives or oranges.

tour des faucons taroudant

LA PAUSE

Short on time while in Marrakech and you don't want to miss the desert experience ? Well, you have Agafay desert, just 45 minutes drive away. In all honesty, Agafay desert is not really a desert. It's a startling revelation, as one is surrounded by nothing but biscuit-colored waves of rock that stretch as far as the eye can see; an isolated palm tree flapping its fronds and a couple of camels grazing peacefully add to the illusion. La Pause is a rustic retreat where you can both get back to nature and keep your comfort intact. And what better example than the wood burning stoves that stand guard keeping the chilly air of those winter nights away from the open fronted rooms ? There is no electricity and scarcely any mobile reception. But perhaps snoozing, stargazing and staring into space are not your thing. Well, worry not. Camel riding, buggy racing, Arab caligraphy, massages or a cooking class can all be arranged on site. The rooms are built of pisé (adobe and straw mix) and the stylish lodges are sublimely illuminated by candles and oil lamps. You will find a sumptuous king sized bed, a strong shower, low sofas, rugs and cushions, plus fireplaces and a patio sun-lounger for morning mint teas. Their comfortably arranged Berber tents let you enjoy magical moments and beautiful evenings under the stars, whilst listening to the captivating and hypnotic rhythms of traditional Gnawa music.

La Pause

CASA JUAN

Juan, an international photographer, wanted to blend his love of photography, India and the Sahara and Casa Juan is the offspring. In the middle of nowehere, this is as remote as you can get, on the edge of the Sahara. Given the coordinates, it is hard to imagine you'd find a manager that speaks fluent English. Or refined Moroccan cuisine. Finding the place is like a treasure hunt. You will sometimes be met by Juan himself and get your luggage carried to your room by donkey. You will truly appreciate having a 4x4 here as you'll need to cross a few small dunes to make it to the house. I've hardly ever stayed in a hotel where the names of the rooms encapsulated this well their respective names: Africa, India ... From the rooms and the public areas, it is clear that the owner has travelled all over the world and has decorated the spaces with some sublime photos and very rare artfacts. Abdel , Hamid and the rest of the team could not make you feel more welcome. Just go up those stairs and come out on the roof terrace to awe at the setting sun over the palm grove and the dunes...

casa juan

Want to start planning your Morocco honeymoon ? Get in touch with our team here or send us an enquiry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  .

Published in Morocco travel blog
Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

Lost Kingdoms (8- 10 days)

IMG 2941

This 9 day off- the- beaten- track private Morocco tour

leaves Marrakech over the High Atlas mountains, reaches the Sahara to then take you deep south into a mystical land where not many have ventured before. We follow the old caravan route from Marrakech over the High Atlas mountains, past UNESCO world site Ait Benhaddou, along the Draa river with its Biblical villages and lush palm grove and into the Sahara desert.  After riding a camel and having dinner under the stars, spend the night in Erg Chigaga dunes, in the safety of your private tent. Then, ride through the desert, have tea with the nomads and pick up milennia- old fossils. Later on, continue south, and uncover some of Morocco's besh hidden secrets, with the distinct feeling that you are the first person to ever walk there. Trekking up a dry river bed to find yourself in the middle of primordial gorges, their wax- like lava walls appearing to have caught time suspended. Century- old granaries, fierce mountain- top fortresses, where the village folks still stock their grains. The ruins of a 17th century mosque, hidden in the middle of a palm grove. The millennia old rock engravings, portraying wild animals, hunters and some of the first letters of the Berber alphabet. Then, we head north into the Anti Atlas and spend a night in the highly picturesque village of Tafraoute, a heaven for trekking, hiking and mountain biking. End the tour with some pristine Atlantic beaches, before reaching the 'small Marrakech' - Taroudant. 

Click here to see detailed map

Most of our guests prefer adding an extra day to either allow for some relaxing time by the beach in Essaouira or trekking in the Atlas Mountains. 

Published in Morocco Private Tours
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 00:00

Morocco desert experience

erg chigaga dunes and tent

Sahara desert - what is the right way to experience it ?

What is it that draws us to the immensity of the dunes ? The oceans of sand. Where does it spark from, this longing to gaze at wave after wave of sand disappearing on the horizon?...  All else irrelevant. There, on top of the highest dune. Minutes ago, you were cresting the dunes on the back of a camel. Presently, you are sitting down and conjuring all the majesty of saffron dunes, changing color as the sun gradually sinks. Nothing compares to waking up at night with the Milky Way above you and falling back asleep. And perhaps, the desert, because of its solitude, is what makes the locals more welcoming. 

Here, by the dunes of Erg Chigaga, despite of all the apparent scarcity, water runs just below the surface, a secret well kept under layers of sand. The desert also makes grown- ups children again. The most reserved of persons can’t resist the urge to climb up the highest dune and jump in the sand, the face lit with a wide childish grin. 

camel ride into the dunes                                              Camels ready for the ride in the dunes

In the collective imaginary, there is hardly anything more exotic, than those tougher- than- life Bedouin men crossing the desert, carrying precious loads of gold, ivory, slaves, textiles, spices or salt on the back of their sturdy camels. Or the bandits constantly threatening to attack the caravan, unless the due tax was paid at different custom points. It used to take the caravans 7 to 8 weeks to cross from one side to the other and some were losing half their personnel on the way. What has become of these men nowadays, when,  not so long ago, camels were replaced by trucks ? Whilst some camel trading still takes place in some parts of Niger where the Azalai sees thousands of camels travel across the vast teritorry, camels in Morocco are not used for caravan trading anymore. In the modern age, the nomads are mostly employed by the on site numerous desert camps that have cropped up on the fringes of the Sahara. Some also went to university, learnt English and became drivers and guides for the numerous foreign visitors taking a private tour of Morocco. We are lucky enough to have some of them work for Sun Trails. And every time they return to the desert, they feel at home, still very much nomads at heart.

erg chigaga dinner                                                   Dinner by candle light in the dunes at Azalai Camp

For some of those travelling to Morocco, spending a night in the Sahara is ticking off a box on a travel notebook. For others, it is a lifelong dream. Naturally then, you don’t want to ruin that experience and so you should carefully choose the right Morocco travel planner. Your agent should make sure you won't have to put up with a party at the camp next to you, the racket of a noisy generator or quad bikers blazing past your tent when you least expect it.

ERG CHEBBI DUNES VERSUS ERG CHIGAGA DUNES

Any forum on Trip Advisor or Fodor will tell you that there are two places in Morocco where you can actually spend a night in the desert: the dunes of Erg Chebbi and the dunes of Erg Chigaga. The route from Marrakech over the High Atlas mountains is one of the most dramatic in Moroco and reaches Ouarzazate on the other side. From here, there are two options: Erg Chebbi dunes– east through Skoura, Dades Gorge, Tinerir, Rissani and finally Merzouga; and Erg Chigaga dunes- west, following the Draa Valley through Agdz, Zagora, Tamegroute and finally Mhamid. From my own experience and feedback over the years, indeed, the dunes of Erg Chigaga get a fair amount less of visitors. The distance and driving time to both these dune locations is more or less similar, about 5- 6 hours drive. 

erg chigaga luxury camp inside tent                                                       Azalai Camp luxury tent interior

The dunes of Erg Chebbi owe their popularity partly to their being easily accessible : a bus will take you to literally the foot of the dunes from Marrakech in a 10 hour drive. When you opt for the classical imperial cities tour, the Erg Chebbi dunes are easier to include in the itinerary, given their location. If you are ready to give Fes a miss, then the dunes of Erg Chigaga are the ones to go for. Especially since they are two hours drive away from the closest bit of tarmac and you would be a fool not to loop your way back to Marrakech on a different route, thus experiencing all different formations of the desert:  sand dunes, stone plateaus, gravel plains, dry valleys and salt flats. To not mention the legendary Draa Valley, a caravan highway for centuries, where the river is flanked by one of the largest palm groves in the world along with Biblical villages and century old kasbahs. Then, is it impossible to experience the desert in a camp at Erg Chebbi ? Not at all. Your travel planner can suggest a more distant camp, deep in the dunes. 

erg chebbi luxury camp                                                    Erg Chebbi luxury camp by dawn

SAFETY

Although the border with Algeria is not far, until this day there has been no registered case of kidnapping or activity of a terrorist organization in these areas. Security at the border is very tough. In the very hot season ( July – August), there may be very rare cases of scorpions or snakes, but they never enter areas where they feel human presence. If you want to be 100 % sure, make sure you spend the night inside your tent and that your mattress is not laid straight on the ground. 

erg chigaga VIP tent                                                       VIP tent with private butler

BASIC DESERT TENT VERSUS LUXURY DESERT TENT

Nowadays, there are more and more luxurious desert camps to complement the regular ones. Most regular camps offer spartan but clean double beds with mattress and frame and plenty of blankets to keep you warm in the night, if chilly. Toilets and showers are shared and running water is scarce. Luxury camps offer wider tents with en suite showers and toilets, extensive furniture and fittings, and king size beds. The dinner menu is also more comprehensive. In the past 2- 3 years, the luxury camps also offer a higher level of standard, the VIP desert tents. These tents tend to be further away from the main camp, more accommodating and complete with a private butler. A normal basic camp accommodates 10- 12 double tents with a larger tent for restaurant. The typical luxury camp accommodates 4- 5 en- suite tents with a restaurant tent.

{ Read: House of Dreams, impromptu romance half way between Marrakech and the Sahara }

Although the typical nomad tents are wool tents secured with wood hooks and ropes, set up in a cone- like pattern, the camp tents nowadays tend to be box- shaped units set up on a solid (usually metal ) frame. Less traditional, they are much more resistant this way to strong winds and provide a better insulation from sand grains or any eventual insects ( mostly flies). However, if your only reason for booking a luxury camp tent is having private showers and toilet, you should know that you can still have a shower both in the afternoon arriving at and the morning departing from the desert lodge. Normally you have that choice, when arriving in the afternoon, before leaving the asphalt. After a 30 – 45 minute camel ride ( optional), you arrive at the desert camp as the sun sets, where you will have your dinner and spend the night. Naturally, the camp is fully staffed. Next morning, you should try and not miss the sunrise. Then, you will be taken back to the same lodge where you had arrived the previous afternoon and have a proper breakfast, before proceeding with your Morocco itinerary.

erg chebbi basic camp                                                Basic camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi

ONE NIGHT OR TWO NIGHTS ?

In winter ( mid November to mid March) days are short and the sun sets around 5- 6 PM. If you're on a tour of Morocco, it is likely you will arrive at the camp just before sunset and will leave after breakfast. Which doesn't leave you with much time to enjoy the dunes. Ideally, forecast two nights in the desert in winter then. If you are worried about not having much to do, you may be wrong: tea with the nomads, rock engravings, prying out fossils, lunch in the oasis, the Black People village, dinosaur sites, quad biking, sand boarding are plenty of choice. The downside is that if a sand storm is blowing in ( very rare but possible), you will have no choice but to spend the morning or afternoon inside your tent. 

ALCOHOL

Given the alcohol regulations in Morocco, very few camps ( even among luxury ones) sell alcohol on site. Therefore the best way to go about it is to get yourself your supplies in Marrakch or Ouarzazate ( cca. half way between Marrakech and the dunes and the largest town in the south). Otherwise, you may end up paying 3 or 4 times the price if you want to acquire it in a hotel by the dunes. All you need to do is ask for your driver to stop you at a special store. He will then stock it for you in the 4x4’s freezer box, if need be.

erg chigaga basic camp inside                                                            Basic tent interior

CLOTHING AND TEMPERATURES

Cotton/ linen clothes and sneakers/ sandals are best for travelling around Morocco including the desert. A fleece or rain jacket is always a good addition for late nights/ early mornings. Outside the summer season, nights in the desert tend to be fresh/ chilly and in December/ January temperatures can get down to 35°F/ 2°C. Even with the basic tent accommodation, you will get as many blankets as necessary to keep you warm. That being said, it’s not a bad idea to bring over your sleeping bag, if space is available in your luggage. Day time, when the sun is out, temperatures can vary from 70°F/20°C in the winter months to the 113°F/ 45°C and more in July and August. In general we will not recommend taking a Morocco tour to the desert in summer but for some, it is the only time of the year they can come. Have you booked to spend the night in the desert in the summer and you find it too hot to be there ? Worry not. Sun Trails will accommodate you at no extra charge, back at the lodge by the dunes, where you will have the comfort of an air conditioned room and a fresh pool giving onto the dunes. Early next morning, you can still enjoy your camel ride over the Sahara dunes while the sun is rising.

Sun Trails offers both basic and luxury camp options in the desert for those booking bespoke tours of Morocco. For more details, please send your enquiry here.

erg chebbi luxury tent inside                                                    Luxury tent Erg Chebbi interior

 © Sun Trails. All rights reserved. No part of this interview may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

 

 

Published in Morocco travel blog

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A desert luxury camp experience in the Moroccan Sahara.

{ There are currently no travel bans in Morocco to stop you from traveling to the Sahara desert }. You want to spend a night in the desert but don’t want to loose on the comfort ? Or perhaps you are considering renting a car and drive there yourself, but are afraid of getting lost, coping with the traffic of Africa or missing out on things to do/ see on the way ? Then this Morocco luxury desert camp experience is just what you need ! Our English fluent driver- guide and comfortable air- conditioned 4x4 will take you from Marrakech to the luxury desert camp in Erg Chigaga and bring you back to Marrakech over 3 nights and 4 days. We will book the luxury accommodation, the meals, camel rides and local guides. We will even take care of all entrance fees and stock your 4x4 with refreshing drinks so that all you have to focus on is laying back and enjoying the breath- taking landscapes. On this private tour you will have the 4x4 all for yourselves and your private driver will often stop for you to visit a local attraction, take a stunning photo or simply stretch your legs. This Morocco private tour is available any day of the year.

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This 4 day private tour leaves Marrakech over the Atlas Mountains and reaches Erg Chigaga's dunes by the second evening. The first and third nights are spent in a suite at the very elegant Azalai Desert Lodge set in the palm grove of Zagora ( it can also be arranged to describe a loop and return to Marrakech via a different route, maintaining the same duration). The second night is spent inside a 20 square meter ( 215 square feet) luxury desert tent with en-suite toilet and shower in the most remote dunes of Moroccan Sahara. On the way to the Sahara, you will cross the High Atlas at 2300 meters ( 7500 feet) high, visit UNESCO world site Ait Benhaddou, the Kasbahs of the south, Biblical adobe villages, wind along mythical Draa Valley, stop by the oasis, walk through the palm groves, watch emerald- colored pottery being baked at Tamegroute, visit the Jewish ksour in Amezrou, uncover honey- combed ksours, ride a camel into the Sahara, sleep in the desert under the starriest sky, awe at the ruined Pasha's pasha’s palace - all highlights of a bespoke trip of Morocco.

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Best time to visit Morocco for a Sahara overnight ? 

February to April, if you can make it. Temperatures are cooler at night and very pleasant day- time. So is October to mid December, but photography- wise there is dust in the air. Mid December to February can be cold at night ( close to 0 Celsius, athough you will be quite warm cuddled up under the duvets), but so rewarding for those that wish to avoid the crowds ( outside of winter holidays).

Is Sahara one of the best places to visit in Morocco ?

You bet. I've stayed in a desert camp a dozen times since I've settled in Morocco back in 2006 and it never gets old. Sahara still stirs up my most intense emotions, sitting there on the top of the dunes, engrossed in the immensity of sand. If anything, it is even more compelling now, after the year we all had in 2020. It is possibly the most befitting location to forget all about virtual museum visits, mask wearing and social distancing. 

Should we include this on our honeymoon ?

Oh yes. If you can, try and spend two nights in a row. The particular dunes of Erg Chigaga offer a complete immersion into the desert setting, unlike the dunes of Erg Chebbi. Visit a nomad school, have tea with a nomad family, look for water wells, pluck out fossils, meander aimlessly around the dunes or try and hike the tallest one, you won't feel time passing you by. To not mention the Mily Way night...

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The rates for the 4 day private tour from Marrakech to the luxury desert camp and back are:

975 €/ 1160 US $/ 835 £ per person ( junior suite & luxury tent with en suite shower and toilet);

Our rates include:

- private use of the English fluent driver- guide & modern air- conditioned Toyota 4x4;
- boutique/ luxury hotel accommodation for 2 nights at Azalai desert lodge, Zagora;
- Sahara camel trek and private luxury tent for 1 night at Azalai desert Camp, Erg Chigaga;
- 3 three- course- meal dinners and 3 breakfasts for 2 persons;
- airport or hotel pick- up and drop- off;
- private guided visit of a palm grove or trek in the High Atlas with local guide;
- refreshing drinks inside the vehicle all along the itinerary;
- local English speaking guides;
- admission fees to all local sites and attractions;
- 24 hours travel assistance;
- gasoline and transport insurance;
- VAT and visitors tax.

WHY SHOULD YOU BOOK WITH US

# We are based in Morocco since 2006 and no, we don’t work from home :). We scout for the most unique sites & local experiences all year round. We present these on our blogFacebook and Instagram  pages. And only a travel agent based in Morocco can keep you up to date with latest travel restrictions within Morocco or how to get the fastest PCR test;

# We anonymously test, hand- pick and continuously update the best boutique and luxury hotels, Riads , eco lodges and Kasbahs across Morocco;

# We strive to bring you most authentic experiences. Some of them are unique: private flight to the Sahara; visit of a medina with a local university teacher; mechoui with a nomad family;

# 1 percent of our receipts go towards local projects, like help educate girls from rural Morocco or restoring the agadirs of southern Morocco;

# we accept payments by credit card, PayPal, bank transfer and, in the near future, alternative coins;

# we are on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, before and during your tour, by email, phone or Skype/ Zoom.

Ready to create your unique Morocco tour? Get in touch here with our on- the- ground team in Morocco.

 

Published in Morocco travel blog
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