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Which Sahara Desert Dunes to Go to in Morocco?

Should You Visit Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga?

So, you have decided to enjoy a Sahara Desert experience — that’s great! You have made an excellent choice for your trip to Morocco. All travelers, no matter if frequent or just occasional, should take a trip to the Sahara as it is a once-a-lifetime experience!

Morocco has several Sahara Desert dunes regions. You can choose from the Erg Lihoudi dunes in Mhamid, the Tinfou dunes in Zagora, the Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga, and the Erg Chigaga desert dunes by Mhamid. The Tinfou dunes and Erg Lihoudi are not as popular, vast, or beautiful, so we have not included them below. Instead, we have concentrated on the two main desert dunes of Morocco — Erg Chigaga and Erg Chebbi.

You may have read more about Merzouga and Erg Chebbi they are advertised more in photos and guidebooks, and many more Moroccan travel tours offer it in their programs. Erg Chigaga is not mentioned as much, but that doesn’t mean these dunes are any less beautiful. Both of these desert regions are undeniably spectacular — that’s why we visit them on our Morocco Luxury Holiday Packages! Find out more about our luxury desert camps in Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga.

Below, we have listed some differences between the two that may help you decide which desert region is a better fit for you. If you have any questions for us in the meantime, please just get in touch.

How Accessible are Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Merzouga and Erg Chebbi is the best pick for easy-to-reach Saharan desert peaks.

Even with a small rented car, the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi are easy to get to. No 4x4WD off-road vehicle is required. There is also a decent bus service from Marrakech and Fes, albeit with a limited schedule. This ease of access is one of the reasons why these desert dunes are so popular and frequently included on so many desert tour packages of Morocco.

The nearest airport to Erg Chebbi desert dunes is in Errachidia — about two hours away. Royal Air Maroc offers five weekly direct flights from Casablanca. Alternatively, you can choose private helicopter transfers to Merzouga, but they are the most expensive option. A better choice for some could be to hire a private jet to the airport in Errachidia. But then again, the best and most recommended means of getting to Merzouga is on a private desert tour with a local driver, or a combination of flying one way and a private drive the other.

The landscape of Southern Morocco is beautiful and varied. You will not regret driving with your personal private driver or even driving yourself. And here’s a local tip: take your time and don’t rush! Soak in the beauty and awe-inspiring scenery. We are always ready to help with trip planning, so please contact us with details and we will tailor the perfect itinerary for you.

Erg Chigaga is much more difficult to reach! A bus from Marrakech can bring you only as far as M’hamid. Then you must have an off-road vehicle to proceed as the road here vanishes into nothing. If you dare to venture here alone, make sure you have a reliable GPS that you trust! It is so easy to get lost here and this can be very dangerous.

Our advice is to book a desert tour to Erg Chigaga. It will ease the stress of travel, allowing you to enjoy the wonders desert landscape, which is why you are visiting in the first place! The other alternative is to travel in a rented car and have one of our guides meet you in Mhamid or Zagora. If you don’t have an off-road vehicle, we can arrange the transfer for you too.

It takes under two hours to reach the desert peaks of Erg Chigaga from Mhamid. Additionally, the private helicopter transfers from Marrakech to Erg Chigaga are not as pricey as for Merzouga, especially if you have a large group and can split the cost.

The other alternative is using the Royal Air Maroc public flights. The closest airport to Erg Chigaga is in Zagora – about three to four hours away with three weekly direct flights from Casablanca.

Which is More Popular and Crowded, Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Merzouga and Erg Chebbi

We aren’t sure if being labeled as the winner here is a good thing, but the Merzouga desert can become very crowded at times. This is, in part, due to its accessibility. Note, our Erg Chebbi luxury desert camp is in a very secluded area which makes it unique and different from the other desert camps.

Erg Chigaga welcomes far fewer visitors each year in comparison to Erg Chebbi. It is not the first and most popular choice for many travelers heading to the Moroccan Sahara Desert. As a result, the area is less crowded. For many visitors to our Erg Chigaga luxury desert camp, this was a key reason in their final decision.

Which is More Beautiful, Erg Chebbi or Chigaga?

Winner: Merzouga and Erg Chebbi

We can imagine many people arguing and disagreeing with us here! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and will always be a personal choice — but we had to choose one! We picked the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi because they are taller and have breathtaking, striking tones of orange. These dunes rise out of nowhere and you spot them while driving into Hassilbied from the paved road. It is like a distant mountain of sand rising out on the horizon. It is a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moment.

Erg Chigaga is beautiful too, don’t be fooled. It’s just a different journey. These dunes will appear suddenly in front of you after several hours of strenuous off-road driving in the middle of nowhere. They look beautiful and are overpowering as they encircle you, but they are not as tall as those at Erg Chebbi and have darker shades of desert colors.

Check out our blog The Best Way to See the Sahara Desert in Morocco for even more pre-trip advice from local experts.

What is Bigger, Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Erg Chigaga

Yes, Erg Chigaga desert dunes spread over much larger area — over 40 km in size — and one can easily get lost here. No matter where you look, all you can see is a never-ending ocean of desert dunes. There are no village lights, no roosters waking you up in the morning. It’s just infinite desert dunes as far as the eye can see.

The Merzouga dunes are on a much smaller scale. The Erg Chebbi dunes spread for only about 28 km and are 6 km wide on average. At the edge of the desert dunes, you’ll find many hotels and plenty of infrastructure. There is more noise and light pollution. We would like to emphasize again that we are located at the nearby dunes of Erg Zniqui in a completely secluded and quiet area sheltered away from the noise and lights – the reason why the camp here is so unique and special!

If you still need more local tips and recommendations when you have finished here, we think you’ll appreciate our blog Which Morocco Desert Camp is Right for You?

Which is Safer, Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Merzouga and Erg Chebbi

We picked the Merzouga desert because of the easy accessibility to doctors and fast medical help. What’s more, you can also easily find cover in the many nearby hotels around the desert dunes in case of a massive sandstorm. Or, in the worst-case scenario, if you need urgent medical help, the nearest doctor or even hospital isn’t so far away. Therefore, if you are traveling with small children or elderly people, Merzouga is easily the best pick for you.

Erg Chigaga is a vast wilderness with nothing in nearby proximity. Here, in case of any bad weather, you have to almost certainly just stick it out. It’s vital to note that a doctor’s help is several hours away.

Be sure to read our Erg Chebbi Travel Guide when you have finished here. It’s filled with even more local insights to help with your trip planning!

Can I Embrace Adventure More at Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Erg Chigaga

Because of the pure infinite wilderness, open space, and difficulty of access – Erg Chigaga is the winner and there is no doubt for anyone seeking the thrill of desert adventure.

Erg Chebbi will give you the desert quest too but because of the crowds, it may lack some of the excitement and solitude one would seek on a desert escapade. Please keep in mind that Desert Luxury Camp in Merzouga desert is in a remote and isolated location where you get away from it all!

Which is More Luxurious, Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Merzouga/ Erg Chebbi

If you are looking for a sense of high luxury, then Merzouga and Erg Chebbi is the better choice. It goes hand in hand with the proximity of materials, food, and availability of water. Our Erg Chebbi luxury desert camp has adequate heating in winter months and cooling in summer inside glamping tents. There is solar power and an additional generator which produces enough energy to run the machines and deliver electricity right into your tents.

There is also a tented swimming pool in our Main Camp that refreshes you in the hot summer months. Additionally, the lavishness of the Royal Camp is indeed suited for sultans. The Royal Camp is the largest and most comfortable tent you can find in the entire Moroccan desert experience.

The tents at our Erg Chigaga luxury desert camp are beautifully equipped as well, with Moroccan carpeting, ensuite bathrooms with running water, and flushing toilets. But the winter heating may not be as satisfactory here with only gas bottles that must be turned off at night for safety reasons. And in summer months there is only a fan cooler which doesn’t make much difference in the desert heat.

Though, remember, there is proper electricity in tents where one can charge equipment and a fully functional bathroom. There is no roughing it in Erg Chigaga either! We like to point out that we are the only camp at Erg Chigaga at this time that has flushing toilets and running water in your shower.

Are the Camps at Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga Seasonal?

There’s no winner here really. Our Erg Chebbi luxury desert camp is open year-round, including the summer months. We always advise a two-night stay, but in the summer you may find one night is a better option.

Our Erg Chigaga luxury desert camp closes for July and August. The heat can be almost unbearable there and, as mentioned previously, there is no satisfactory cooling to give some relief from the heat during the hottest months. There is no escaping the heat, nowhere to hide against it.

If you are hesitant about traveling to the Moroccan Sahara Desert in summer, don’t be. Please just choose the Merzouga desert camp. It is still worth it!

Which Sahara Desert Luxury Camp Has the Best Activities?

Winner: Merzouga and Erg Chebbi

Due to the proximity of nearby towns, there is much more to do in and around Merzouga. You can do the obvious and most popular desert activities like camel trekking, sand boarding, 4WD bashing the dunes, quad and buggy rides, sunrise/sunset watching, and stargazing. But you can also go horseback riding and fat bike riding in the desert. Or you can visit the seasonal lake of Daye Sergi, head to Rissani market souk, visit Nomads, and take in romantic desert villages.

Erg Chigaga is more limited to the typical desert activities. You can also quad bike, but it is much more expensive, and buggies are really hard to get. However, the fossils search is better here, and you may view the Fata Morgana Lake of Iriqui, which you don’t get in Erg Chebbi, and which is pretty amazing to experience.

Find out more about the experiences available at our luxury desert camps in Morocco.

How is the Internet Access at Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga?

Winner: Merzouga and Erg Chebbi

In today’s world, it’s important to stay connected. If that’s imperative to you, then go to Merzouga desert. There is limited internet service, and the phone connection is fairly good no matter where you are. Some camps here even offer Wi-Fi. We are planning to have an internet hot spot in the camp too. We recommend Maroc Telecom for the best service.

Finding internet access in Erg Chigaga is a challenge. You can connect only by climbing some of the high desert dunes. Even the phone service is not that great either. Maroc Telecom will also be your best phone provider here.

Are Your Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga Camps Sustainable?

Sustainability and ecological aspects will differ from camp to camp rather than the desert landscape itself. It is up to the camp how ecological they want to be. But we like to stress from our personal experience that it is not an easy task and we absolutely love any ideas from travelers and experts on how to make our desert camps more environmentally friendly.

We are already implementing many ways, but the toughest is handling the non-bio waste. In Merzouga, it’s easier as the garbage gets collected; but in Erg Chigaga, everything is so far away. Honestly, the waste collection in the region of the entire Draa Valley is practically nonexistent.

We like to underline that sustainability and responsibility come from each guest as well. If you are staying two or more nights, please keep the same towels instead of getting new ones. Be mindful of the usage of water. We truly thank you for this.

We would like to add once more that no matter which of the desert camping options you end up choosing, you’ll love your Moroccan desert adventure and the beauty and rich culture of Southern Morocco. It’s a wonderful journey with contrasting natural landscapes, sumptuous Kasbahs, and the friendly people of Morocco. It is ten thousand times better and more worthwhile than staying in the rocky desert of Agafay by the outskirts of Marrakech.

Do you have any questions about our Morocco Luxury Holiday Packages? Please just get in touch for the answers you need.