The dunes of Erg Chebbi are situated about 40 km from Rissani in southeastern Morocco. In the area around Merzouga, one finds many other erg (seif) dunes like Erg M’hamid. These big areas of moving sands stretch out over regions of thousands of square kilometers.
Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes is located on the edge of the Sahara Desert, near Merzouga village. It is known for its large area of sand dunes which reach a height of approximately 150 meters (492 feet), with a strong wind that blows from the Sahara raising the height of its peaks even more. The tallest dune there reaches around 300 m high. On clear days, it is possible to see the mountain ranges from this place because it creates an illusion that you can touch them with your hand.
This desert area stays extremely hot during the day all year round, even during wintertime when temperatures are still fairly high. At night, however, temperatures fall drastically and it is common to get cold if you aren’t properly dressed.
The best time to visit this desert spot is during the winter season (November – March) when days are sunny and nights are cold. It will be extremely hot during summertime, though, so it would be a good idea to avoid any type of outdoor activities during the day.
This desert area belongs to Morocco but actually extends into Algeria as well. On its border with Algeria, there’s a military outpost for monitoring the place’s borders and people who enter or exit from either country. This place also has a small village on top of some hills near the oasis that provide an amazing view over the desert.
Things to Know Before Visiting Erg Chebbi:
If you traveling by yourself to the Erg Chebbi keep in mind that:
1. There are no trees or buildings to be found in the middle of the wavy dunes.
2. No shade under which you could seek refuge from the burning sun during daytime, only in the edge of the dunes.
3. The only things we find here are roads, towns, hotels, and desert camps – human-made objects basically all in the edge of the dunes.
4. If are something happens out here, it is not easy to find a man who can help you (in case of an accident for example).
5. One day in the desert equals two days without water – your body needs twice as much fluid as usual. However, there are many small shops the nearby villages where you can get your needs.
6. There is a hot wind in the summer that blows over Erg Chebbi and brings along clouds of stinging sand grains that irritate the skin and eyes badly (covering all exposed parts of your skin and wearing sunglasses are therefore mandatory).
7. The most important thing during a tour like this is water – lots of water!
Activities to do in Erg Chebbi:
Take a guided tour:
You can take a guided tour of the erg with a 4×4 that will drive you around several spots to take photos while explaining the different kinds of wildlife and vegetation. The best thing is to do it in one go because 1 day equals half a day – the same applies here.
I’ve seen some other articles on this site mentioning sand boarding which got me thinking… “What’s so fun about sliding down the dunes on rubber boards?” But when I saw someone else doing it, then I just had to give it a try myself! And what can I say? Good thing they let you use their protective clothing including a safety helmet before starting after 45 minutes of endless sliding and jumping: so much fun!
Although camel riding can be done in many places across Morocco, it could only be considered as a relaxing activity in Erg Chebbi because there is nothing else to do out here than just sitting on the back of these animals and enjoying the scenery passing by. One hour or half a day – whatever you prefer.
Stargazing couldn’t be any better when you’re in such an open desert far away from any light pollution of cities or towns where nobody lives for miles around… Just sit down somewhere with your guide after dark, look up at the sky and enjoy all those stars twinkling high above your head – perfect!
Enjoy the silence:
Let’s face it: there is no better place than the desert to enjoy the silence – most people that I know who visited this area were overwhelmed by how quiet and still everything was… The same applies to ghost towns, abandoned villages, and everything else we came across during our journey through Morocco.
Learn about nomads and their culture:
The downside of living in a place like Erg Chebbi is that you must constantly move from one spot to another because you will feel extremely hot during daytime (explaining why wind turbines are also erected here) but apart from that, there isn’t much else to do out here other than riding camels or taking walks around your camp.
Relax at your hotel:
After such an adventurous day, nothing beats arriving back at your campsite where you can sit down on the roof of your tent and enjoy the view overlooking Erg Chebbi or take a quick shower under an outside water tap… Just enjoy it!
Enjoy an oasis:
Although this isn’t exactly something you can plan in advance, I bet that any visitor would appreciate being able to go snorkeling or enjoy a relaxing bath inside one of these beautiful pools… And if you don’t fancy doing so yourselves, just look at the pictures!
Spot one of the last black scorpions in Morocco:
We were lucky enough to spot one on our way to Erg Chebbi – however, I can assure you that it wasn’t exactly something we were expecting or hoping for… We still think about what would’ve happened if it had stung me…
Go horse riding:
Horse riding isn’t exactly an activity one does during a desert trip but since we did happen to pass by some camps where horses are bred and raised, why not go horse riding along the edge of the dunes? It’s another way to explore this beautiful scenery!
Have breakfast in the dunes:
Taking a photo of you and your friends (or loved ones) against the backdrop of Erg Chebbi is probably one of the most exciting things to do during sunrise… Get up early, go for a short walk to catch the first rays of light breaking through and take some nice pictures which you can cherish forever!
Enjoy the sunset on top of Erg Chebbi:
Another perfect time to enjoy our planet is about an hour before sunset when hundreds or even thousands of shades of yellow, red, and orange start appearing in the sky… Take a blanket with you, spread it out somewhere on top of these beautiful sand mountains and watch how everything slowly changes color – magic!
Spot some wildlife
Just like in the rest of Morocco, you should expect to see some wildlife during your trip through Erg Chebbi: gazelles and other small animals can be spotted almost everywhere around there… But for those who really want to see something more than just a desert landscape and some camels here and there, we recommend taking a camel trek.
Visit the Berber Museum:
As for this museum, feel free to skip it or visit it either way – personally, there are enough things to do here without paying an entrance fee but if you must know about their culture before visiting them in their own habitat (or environment), then why not?
You will never want to forget your time spent traveling through Morocco – bring your camera along (but also make sure that it’s protected well against both wind and sand) and make sure to enjoy your time here!
If you’re not afraid of feeling hot during the day and freezing at night with an increased risk of scorpion stings, then I can recommend staying out in Merzouga for at least one or two days – it’s the place where you’ll find the tallest sand dunes in Morocco (Erg Chebbi) and there are many activities to keep you occupied… Plus, it’s located in an oasis so even though you’ll be surrounded by nothing but sand everywhere else, there will always be something green somewhere around.
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