Is Agafay Desert Marrakech Worth Visiting? Day Trip Guide
Is Agafay Desert Marrakech Worth Visiting? Day Trip Guide

Is Agafay Desert Marrakech Worth Visiting? Day Trip Guide

Is Agafay Desert worth visiting? As an adventure traveler, for me, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. This is because the Agafay Desert offers an outdoorsy escape from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.

Situated just 1 h from the Moroccan capital, on the outskirts of Marrakesh, at the Agafay Desert, you’ll find Martian-like landscapes to explore, beautiful mountains to admire and adventurous activities to get the blood pumping.

It’s the perfect place for a taste of the insane scenery that Morocco is blessed with and you can easily get to there by bus, taxi or with a tour.

Read on to find out what makes the Agafay Desert one of the best day trips from Marrakech. I’ve covered all of the information you need to know to be able to visit this interesting Moroccan desert including all the activities you can do there.

What is the Agafay Desert?

The Agafay Desert is an arid, rocky plateau located roughly 30 km from Marrakesh at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains. The area spans some several hundred hectares and is best known for its rugged terrain and beautiful views.

But whether the Agafay desert is in fact a real desert is debatable.

To be classed as a desert, an area has to receive no more than 10 inches of rain a year. And depending on which source you look at, some will tell you that the Agafay Desert gets less rain than this, while others will say more.

However, the area is dry and hot all year round, that’s for sure.

Does Agafay Desert have sand dunes?

You won’t find sand dunes at the Agafay Desert as you will at a typical sand desert such as the Sahara Desert. Instead, large rock formations cover the area.

These have a similar shape and colour to sand dunes, but are made of solid rock. They create really beautiful and interesting patterns in the landscape against the backdrop of the High Atlas Mountains.

What to do at Agafay Desert

There are several outdoor activities you can do at the Agafay desert, free and paid. These range from simply walking around the area exploring the terrain and views to paying for a hot air balloon ride from Marrakech.

Each activity has a different price point that’ll suit different budgets.  

Explore the unique landscape on foot

I think that exploring the Agafay Desert on foot is the best way to experience the area. It will cost you absolutely nothing and you’ll be able to take in the stunning scenery at your own pace.

There is a dirt track running through the desert that starts and finishes at the road by which you arrive.

You could follow this track along the top of the rocky outcroppings or you could head down into the gullies created by the rocky terrain and weave your way through these.

Sticking to the track allows you to admire the views while being down in the flat-bottomed gullies makes the walking a little easier.

If you’re going to walk in the Agafay Desert, bring water, food and sun cream. There are no shops or restaurants within walking distance so you’ll need to bring everything with you.

Once the sun is high in the sky the area becomes very hot and dry making the rock dunes more tiring to walk. So make sure that you have enough food and liquids to fuel you for at least a few hours of walking.

Quad biking

Zooming around the Agafay Desert on a quad bike is a thrilling experience and you can journey much further into it than you can on foot.

At the edge of the desert, just off the road, you’ll find a couple of small businesses renting quad bikes and dune buggies. You can’t miss these as you’ll see the quad bikes lined up, but just in case I’ve marked them on the map below.

You have the option to rent for 1 or 2 h and a mandatory guide will accompany you on a separate quad bike to lead you around the track. The quad bikes are automatic so a complete beginner can ride them.

If you choose  to rent for 1 h, then you do a circuit of the Agafay Desert following the dirt track that I previously mentioned. If you rent for 2 h, you’ll follow the same track, but you’ll stop for a tea break halfway.

I recommend the 2 h option as the tea break spot is atop a high point overlooking much of the desert with amazing views.

I visited the Agafay Desert with a friend and we rented one of the more powerful quad bikes between us for 2 h. This cost 150 MAD per person each hour. The price for a single person to rent a quad starts at around 200 MAD per hour.

Camel riding

The rush of quad biking isn’t for everyone and, fortunately, the quad biking businesses also organise camel treks in the Agafay Desert. A camel ride is a good option if you want to explore the area in a more relaxed and sight-see-able way without having to walk.

On a camel riding tour you’ll follow a guide as part of a caravan (group of camel trekkers) into the Agafay Desert for around 1 h. Prices typically start at around 150 MAD per person.

Full package desert tours

There are plenty of tour operators in Marrakesh offering half-day excursions to the Agafay Desert. The itinerary normally includes quad biking, camel riding, dinner in a tent under the starry Agafay night sky and return transport from your accommodation.

The cost of these packages starts at around 800 MAD ($80 US) and the easiest way to book is usually through your accommodation. It’s also pretty easy to find desert tours online by just searching ‘Agafay Desert tour’.

Booking a tour is the most convenient way to sort your day trip if you want to do multiple activities.

But if you’re just interested in camel riding and/or quad biking, then I recommend doing what we did and organise the excursions yourself directly at the rental places.

This way you remove any middle party adding to the cost and get the best possible price. You might be able to negotiate a deal if you want to do both activities too.

Hot air balloon ride

A hot air balloon ride is by far the most unique way to explore the Agafay Desert.

From the air you will be treated to panoramic views of the entire landscape. Thanks to the bird’s-eye view, you’ll be able to see the region in all its glory from Marrakech all the way to the High Atlas Mountains.

If you’re booking online, make sure to read the description carefully. There are a tonne of hot air balloon rides available of differing durations.

You want to make sure that you book a multi-hour flight that includes views of the Agafay Desert and not just a short fight over Marrakech.

The flight should last around 4 h and prices start at roughly 1,800 MAD ($180 US).

Getting to Agafay Desert from Marrakech

The Agafay Desert is accessible from Marrakech and can easily be reached by bus, taxi or private transfer.

Bus

The cheapest way to get to the Agafay Desert is by bus. This costs 7 MAD each way and takes just over 1 h.

Get the ALSA L33 bus from Sidi Mimoun Region bus stop behind the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech to Ait Daoud bus stop in the town of Agafay.

The first bus is at 6:25 am, the last is at 10:30 pm and they run every 10 minutes. Google Maps marks this journey so use that to make sure you get on/off at the right stops.

From Ait Daoud bus stop, walk along the side of the main road in the direction from which you just came on the bus for around 10 minutes.

You’ll then see a road running adjacent to the main road towards the High Atlas Mountains. There is a sign at the start of this road.

Follow the sign and walk down the road towards the High Atlas Mountains for roughly 15 minutes and you’ll come to the Agafay Desert and the quad bike rental businesses.

When catching the bus back to Marrakech, make sure to give yourself enough time to walk back to the bus stop. You’ll likely be tired after exploring the desert.

Taxi

Two yellow taxis parked on the side of a road.

You can take a taxi to the Agafay Desert and this will eliminate the walk from the bus stops. However, this will also massively increase the cost of getting there.

Although it’s a relatively short drive of around 40 minutes, it is still quite a journey for a taxi driver. You should expect to pay a couple of hundred dirhams at least.

Taxi drivers in Marrakech have a reputation for using some sneaky tactics when it comes to charging tourists. I have more on this in my guide to 2 days in Marrakech.

In short, try to barter the journey price and agree on it with the driver before you set off.

Private transfer

A private transfer in an air-conditioned vehicle is usually included if you book a day tour to the Agafay Desert. If not, then you can try to negotiate with tour companies to include a transfer for a reasonable extra cost. Ideally you won’t pay more than you would for a taxi.

When to visit the Agafay Desert

The best time to visit the Agafay Desert is October – February. Temperatures during these months are cooler in Morocco but the weather is still warm and dry.

This period is also outside of the peak tourist season meaning the Agafay Desert will be less busy. Although many tourists do still head to Morocco October – February, the majority come later in the year during March, April and May.

It’s not a good idea to go to the Agafay Desert July through August. This is the Moroccan summer and temperatures can reach around 40°C.

The only place to get some shade in the Agafay Desert is in the gullies between the rocky dunes. However, shade will be difficult to find once the sun rises to its highest point in the sky around midday.

What do you wear to the Agafay Desert?

This depends on the time of year that you visit. But in general it is a good idea to wear lightweight and long-sleeved t-shirts and trousers. This will protect you from the sun while keeping you cool—particularly on hot days.

If you’re hoping to catch the sunset at Agafay, then bring a jacket too. Once the sun goes down, the temperature drops quickly and it gets chilly.

I also recommend wearing a decent pair of supportive shoes. Wearing anything less sturdy than, say, running shoes and you will struggle to walk the rugged and uneven terrain.

I’d definitely avoid wearing sandals in the Agafay Desert. Despite the weather usually being perfect for them, you’ll want something that covers more of your feet. The surface of the Agafay Desert is covered in small stones which will be uncomfortable if they get in your sandals.

Wearing shoes that cover your feet is extra important if you’re going to rent a quad bike. 

Where to stay at Agafay Desert

Although the Agafay Desert can easily be explored as a day trip from Marrakech, you do have the option of spending the night.

There are a few camps and lodges dotted around the desert. Almost all of these are luxury desert camps and prices start at around 750 MAD ($75 US) a night. Some of the accommodation options in the Agafay Desert include:

  • Selina Nomad Camp Agafay ~ $75 USD/night
  • La Ferme nomade Agafay ~ $140 USD/night
  • Caravan by Habitas Agafay ~ $210 USD/night
  • Agafay Luxury Camp ~ $340 USD/night

Agafay Desert camps are not really an option if you are traveling on a budget; it’s much cheaper to stay in Marrakesh and do a day trip. I have budget accommodation recommendations for the city in my guide to 2 days in Marrakech.

More travel guides on A World Over

So, is Agafay Desert worth visiting? Absolutely! It’s an adventure-filled day of breath-taking scenery and fun outdoor activities.

Still a relatively less popular destination within Morocco, the Agafay Desert also makes for a great detour from the beaten track.

If you want more travel inspiration for Morocco, then head to my Morocco landing page.

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