Glamping vs Camping:
Taking camping to an elevated level, “glamping” is a hybrid of the words glamorous and camping. For those who don’t love the basic elements of camping, “glamping” combines the comfort of luxury accommodations or amenities in an otherwise traditional camp setting. And there are cool glamping resorts all over the world including right here in the Moroccan desert!
Morocco Resources & Recommendations
- Accommodations: Find the best prices on Booking.com | Read reviews on TripAdvisor
- Skyscanner: Find the best deals on flights | best deals on rental cars
- Allianz Travel Insurance: Protect yourself and your trip-Get a free quote!
- Lonely Planet Morocco Travel Guide: The best (and my personal favorite) guidebooks out there
About Top Desert
Top Desert is a local Nomad and Berber family run business. They want to share their Berber culture, nomadic lifestyle and their Morocco with people all over the world. They want to take you out into the wild and give you an authentic adventure that incorporates their people and their local culture.
It is their belief that giving you this kind of experience will help you enjoy the true Moroccan spirit, create new friendships and that you will want to return to Morocco!
Photo Credit: Kevin & Amanda
Why Top Desert is the Best Morocco Luxury Desert Camp
We chose Top Desert for glamping in the Sahara Desert for a few reasons that are important to take into consideration:
1. They are a tour company that offers stays in the Sahara Desert. Some companies claim to go “in the Sahara” but in reality, don’t go inside the actual Sahara Desert.
2. They are a family owned and family run business. I usually prefer these because of the family’s passion behind their work. The details and unique touches set them apart. I also like the idea of supporting families directly vs bigger corporate run businesses.
3. They are one of the few companies that operate both the camp and the transportation. Most luxury camps don’t offer transportation. You have to book that yourself whether through another company or hiring a private driver. Top Desert provides both the transportation as well as the luxury camp experience.
4. Our tour was private and we could customize it completely. We could decide the city of origin, city of drop-off as well as which activities we wanted to do at the camp.
Photo taken by our guide and edited by Kevin & Amanda
Our Experience Glamping in the Sahara Desert
We did the Luxury Desert Tour From Marrakech to Fes via Erg Chebbi Luxury Camp in the Merzouga Desert. You can choose anywhere from 3-9 days for your tour length and we did a 2 night/3 day tour. This included hotel pickup in Marrakech, one night in Dadès Valley in the Atlas Mountains, one night at the luxury desert camp, and hotel drop-off in Fes.
DAY 1: Atlas Mountains-Ouarzazate-Skoura-Dadès Gorge
Our guide, Abdou, picked us up from our amazing riad in Marrakech at 8:30 am. Our ride for the next 3 days was a roomy Land Cruiser with 4WD. Not only was the SUV extremely comfortable, but there was always cold bottled water available for us throughout the tour.
From Marrakech, we set out for the Atlas Mountains. Some people are surprised there are mountains in Morocco as it is primarily known for its desert. But the Atlas Mountains (Atlas comes from Atlantic) are a range that spans three countries (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) and separates the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines from the Sahara Desert.
Subranges include High Atlas and Middle Atlas and the population is 99% Berber. The other 1% are people who come in from other cities (such as Marrakech) to work.
The Dadès Valley is also known as the “land of a thousand kasbahs” and there are many! We visited Kasbah Telouet and were given a guided tour.
The kasbah with vast views and beautiful mosaics was built in the 1800s and was the former palatial residence of the Pasha Glaoui family.
In Ouarzazate, I was very excited to get to tour Atlas Studios! Being a huge movie buff and having film and TV set experience, I always love getting to see different filming locations.
The first film studio to open in North Africa and the world’s largest film studio (by acreage), you may recognize some of Atlas’ most famous films. Movies such as Gladiator, Cleopatra, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel and The Passion of the Christ were all filmed right here at Atlas! For Game of Throne fans, Morocco’s famous ksar, Ait-Ben-Haddou served as its film set.
In Skoura, we made our last stop of the day to explore Kasbah Amridil. Built over 300 years ago by the Nassiri family, the kasbah is a living museum where you can see how kasbah life was in general and features a kitchen with working bread ovens and stalls where animals were once kept.
You might also like: VISITOR’S GUIDE TO MOUNT PILATUS IN LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND
Night 1: Hotel Xaluca Dades
We spent our first night at Hotel Xaluca Dades and the rooms were very unique and extremely nice. They included air conditioning, toiletries, a safe, and a mini-bar. The beds were comfortable and we even had a balcony!
The large dining room was where we ate both dinner that night and breakfast the following morning. Both meals were included and were huge buffets with a vast variety of choices. The food was excellent!
DAY 2: Dadès Gorges-Todra Gorges-Luxury Sahara Desert Camp
We left Hotel Xaluca at around 8:30 am after our fabulous breakfast and set out to explore the rest of the Dadès Valley.
The Dadès Gorges is a series of valley gorges carved out by the Dadès River. The river runs from the High Atlas Mountains and ends 220 miles away when it joins the Draa River near the Sahara. The height of its walls ranges from 650 to 1600 feet!
Next, we visited Todra Gorge which is also a series of valley gorges carved out by both the Dadès and Todra Rivers. The height of its walls also vary but can reach 1,312 feet!
Since we visited during the dry season, we were able to walk the canyon floor. It was a different experience to look straight up the massive, limestone walls all while hearing the beautiful rushing of the waters in the nearby stream!
We left the gorges and continued our long drive and finally reached the edge of the Sahara! We got out to take photos to mark the difference in terrain. Can you see those bronze dunes on the horizon?
Night 2: Top Desert’s Luxury Sahara Desert Camp
After a fun 4×4 ride through the sand in the wild desert, we arrived at camp. We were the first ones to arrive since we opted to skip the camel trek to camp. The camp has 10 private tents and one main, dining tent that all surround the center campfire.
Our Luxury Tent
The walk to our tent and our welcome snacks with Moroccan mint tea!
Our tent was beautiful! I was amazed at the decor and the details of this luxury tent out in the middle of the desert!
We had a full, ensuite bathroom including a regular flushing toilet
and a large shower with hot water!
Since we were the first to arrive, we got a sneak peek into some of the other tents
Sunset Camel Trek
This was a moment that one only dreams of. I couldn’t believe I was riding a camel in the middle of the most famous desert in the world!
Views heading into the Sahara
Once we arrived in those rolling, perfectly bronzed sand dunes, we dismounted our camels to explore…
Photo credit: Kevin & Amanda
take lots of photos
and watch that incredible sunset!
Same time, different directions
Afterwards, we mounted our camels once again and headed back to camp with our guide!
Once we returned to camp, we had a little downtime before dinner which wasn’t served until 10:30 pm. This was a bit late for me to start dinner and would be my only negative although really if a late dinner is the only issue, we’re doing just fine!
Subsequently, the entertainment didn’t start until about 11:30 pm and with our early morning, we opted to shower and watch it from our tent. The guests who sang karaoke and danced for the rest of us were talented!
DAY 3: Luxury Sahara Desert Camp-Azrou-Ifrane-Fes
So long Sahara, you were amazing!
After a wonderful breakfast, we left camp between 8 and 8:30 am as we had a long driving day to Fes ahead of us.
We went through a beautiful forest called Cèdre Gouraud Forest. Riding through, you would never guess you were in Morocco. It was so green and lush.
Abdou had told us that it’s rare, but sometimes wild monkeys can be seen along the route and guess what? We got to see a lot of them! How sweet is this mom and her baby? 😍
Monkey butts, proud parents and “here ya go Dad-Mom’s taking a break!”
I absolutely love wildlife and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see this family of monkeys!
After coming through the forest, we stopped quickly in Ifrane to use the restroom and see the iconic Stone Lion before finishing our journey to Fes. I don’t know the exact story of the lion as I have heard different things, but the most popular seems to be that it was carved by a prisoner during WWII when Ifrane was used as a POW camp. It symbolizes the last wild Atlas lion who was killed here in the 1920s.
At the end of the afternoon, we arrived at our riad in Fes around 5:00 pm. It was a long day, but an absolutely beautiful drive!
Know Before You Go
- BOOKING: This tour can be booked from Marrakech to Fes like we did or the reverse from Fes to Marrakech. There are also options from Casablanca or you can customize your pickup location. See options here.
- TIMING: It is a LONG drive to reach the Sahara no matter where you are coming from. Be prepared for 10-12 hour driving days, but there are plenty of stops to see sites along the way as well as stops for food and restrooms. I do recommend bringing snacks or buying some on the way to have in case you get hungry at other times.
- INCLUDED: Drive-bottled water provided from a cooler as many times as we needed it throughout the day. Do stay hydrated especially if you visit during summer like we did. Hotel-dinner and breakfast. Desert Camp-dinner and breakfast (including hot tea, snacks, soft drinks and unlimited bottled water), sunset/sunrise camel trek, musical entertainment.
- EXCLUDED: Not included in the tour are entrance fees to the kasbahs, Atlas Studios, any food/snacks outside of the hotel and desert camp, gratuities for your guide, and a turban if you want to buy one (we did not) before reaching the Sahara.
- INSURANCE: Be sure to purchase good travel insurance. Keep in mind that not only are you in a foreign country, but you are HOURS away from the nearest city which means any kind of medical help. I recommend travel insurance for each and every trip, but for a trip out into the Sahara, it’s a MUST.
- CLOTHING: Believe it or not, it can get cool in the desert after sunset, especially if not summertime. I brought a long-sleeved shirt just in case but never needed it. If you are not visiting during the summer, I would recommend this lightweight jacket I take on every, single trip. Ladies, you will need pants for the camel trek. If you want to look cute and Moroccan, I recommend these harem pants that I wore. If you don’t buy a turban, you might want a lightweight scarf to wrap around your head and mouth to keep the sand out. I wound up not using mine because the wind wasn’t bad the night I was there, but I’ve read it can be bad and it bothers a lot of people.
- CAMEL TREKKING: I highly recommend a sunset trek. We had the choice to ride the camel from the edge of the Sahara to the camp or a sunset trek. Considering the ride to camp was 1.5 hours and it was 105 degrees outside at start time, we opted for a sunset trek. The trek was 20 minutes out to the dunes to watch the sunset. We got off the camels, took photos and then got back on the camels for the 20 min ride back to camp.
- ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: Something to put valuables in during the camel trek. My crossbody bag also held a bottle of water and had a handy pocket to stuff my phone (before I covered it). The sand is fine and gets on and in everything so I recommend a protective pouch for your phone like this one I have. It allows me to operate the phone and take photos through it. Also, a protective cover for your DSLR camera is a lifesaver. I remember the small amount of time I had my computer out (inside my tent) and my keyboard cover still got covered in sand. Thankfully, all I had to do was shake off the cover and put it back on but imagine if all that sand had gotten in my keyboard! Lastly, if you bring a GoPro, I recommend this hand mount for the camel ride for easy control and 360-degree rotation.
And there you have it…my amazing, unreal, once-in-a-lifetime experience spending the night in the Sahara Desert. I am so thankful we did this! And, we enjoyed our experience so much with Top Desert that we booked a day trip with them when we arrived in Fes to Meknes and Volubilis. Be on the lookout for that post coming soon!
Photo credit: Kevin & Amanda
What did you think of our luxury glamping in the Sahara? Would this be something you are interested in? Let me know if you have done it and if you haven’t, what you think your favorite part would be!
‘Til next time…