Are you contemplating a brief getaway to Morocco and eager to immerse yourself in the African desert? Do you wish to swap the bustling energy of Marrakech for a day or even a night, in exchange for the serene tranquility of endless landscapes? Discover the Agafay Desert, a stone’s throw from Marrakech. This breathtaking terrain, rugged and otherworldly beautiful, is a must-visit destination on your Moroccan journey.
The best way to experience this lunar-like landscape? Spend a night in a luxury camp in Agafay – or at the very least, take a day trip to a desert camp. In this blog, uncover more about this hidden gem near Marrakech and our own experiences at Inara Camp in the Agafay Desert.
The Agafay, a Stone Desert near Marrakech
Like many travelers, we had heard about the rolling sand dunes of the Sahara in Morocco, but only discovered the Agafay Desert after thorough research. This hidden gem is conveniently located near Marrakech, making it the perfect desert alternative to the Sahara, which is a full day’s journey from Marrakech. In contrast, the Agafay Desert is just 40 kilometers away.
Imagine a place where space seems infinite and silence is deafening. You are in the Moroccan desert, yet it could easily be mistaken for the moon. It’s a landscape that beckons you to grab your camera, gaze endlessly into the distance, and marvel. Particularly striking are the peaks of the Atlas Mountains – usually capped with white, snow-dusted tops in winter – always looming in the background.
Forget the typical images of sand dunes, though, as Agafay is different. It’s a barren, rocky terrain, more akin to a stone desert. We visited both the Sahara and Agafay. While we agree the Sahara is more traditionally beautiful, the Agafay Desert also boasts a magnificent landscape and is especially a more accessible alternative. We definitely recommend visiting both if possible.
What qualifies the Agafay Desert as a desert? It’s the arid climate, with very little rainfall each year. In the summer, temperatures can soar up to 37°C, but in winter, nights can drop towards freezing. We were there in January during an unusually warm month in Morocco, with daytime temperatures nearly reaching 30°C. It felt quite hot, and it was hard to imagine the intensity of the summer heat! At night, it didn’t get colder than 9°C, which was surprisingly mild.
Visit a Luxury Camp in the Agafay Desert
To explore the Agafay Desert, you can either make a day trip from Marrakech or delve deeper by spending one or more nights in the desert.
A day visit to the Agafay Desert is perfectly feasible. You have the choice of driving there in a rental car or taking a taxi. Along the desert’s main road, you’ll find numerous providers offering thrilling quad and camel tours.
Additionally, you can opt for a lunch package or a day pass at one of the luxury camps. This offers a splendid opportunity to bask in the luxurious and magically beautiful ambiance of such a camp without fully committing your travel budget to an overnight stay. It’s an excellent way to briefly experience the unique charm of a desert camp.
However, we opted for an overnight stay in the Agafay Desert and it’s an experience we wholeheartedly recommend. Staying in the desert grants you the opportunity to witness an unforgettable sunset and a night sky studded with stars. The luxury desert camps, like the Inara Camp where we stayed, feature tents that are comfortably and stylishly appointed, blending modern luxury with amenities. These camps ingeniously combine the rugged beauty of the desert with comfort and luxury, allowing you to savor the raw nature without compromising on comfort.
Yes, such a stay does come with a price tag. But it’s arguably the ultimate way to truly embrace the Agafay Desert experience. However, if your budget or itinerary doesn’t allow for an overnight stay, do consider a day trip to one of the desert camps to taste its special atmosphere.
Our Experience: Staying at Inara Camp
Our overnight stay at Inara Camp was a dreamlike experience in the Agafay Desert. We were invited in what can only be described as a haven of luxury.
Tip: For a great lunch or dinner experience that’s more budget-friendly, consider visiting Inara’s sister venue – Les Terrasses d’Agafay – during the day. It’s a perfect way to experience the Agafay without staying overnight.
The Perfect Glamping Tent
The tent we stayed in was a marvel of luxury: spacious, opulent, and and tastefully furnished. It cleverly split into two sections: the first, a living area complete with an elegant bathroom and a separate, discreet toilet. The second, a grandiose bedroom featuring a bed of generous proportions.
For our little ones, two cozy cribs were thoughtfully placed in the sleeping quarters. The bedroom’s superior insulation was a pleasant surprise, ensuring a snug warmth even during the chill of a desert winter night. And for those balmy summer evenings, the convenience of air conditioning in the bedroom will be a welcome respite.
However, the true crowning glory was the vast terrace stretching across the tent’s entire width. Here, an array of seating options awaited us, each offering a unique perspective of the mesmerizing desert panorama. It was as if we had been granted our own private viewing platform overlooking the boundless Agafay.
A Magical Desert Paradise
The camp’s design was a marvel in itself. Every tent was strategically positioned to create an illusion of secluded solitude, as if each guest had their own private slice of the desert. Our tent, perched on an elevated spot, boasted a breathtaking, panoramic view of the camp set against the majestic Atlas Mountains’ impressive silhouette.
At the camp’s core lay an assortment of restaurant tents, quaint seating arrangements, and a resplendent swimming pool. The pool, slightly heated, was an oasis in itself, perfect for a refreshing dip or playful moments with our toddler on a warm winter’s day.
Scattered throughout the camp were various cozy nooks and plush lounge spots, each offering a sanctuary for relaxation and tranquility. The dining experience was particularly nice. Served in an enchantingly lit tent, the extensive menu catered to every palate. As vegetarians, we were especially delighted by the wide range of vegetarian dishes.
The staff’s attentiveness and warmth were remarkable, particularly in their interactions with our children. While the menu provided ample choice, they even offered to prepare simple delights like fries for our little ones.
And the breakfast – a feast for the senses! A lavish spread awaited us in the morning, ranging from traditional Moroccan pancakes and freshly prepared omelets to a bowl of yoghurt with fruits, and cakes. The presentation was a visual treat, setting the stage for a day of indulgence.
The Best Things to do in the Agafay
The range of activities offered by the camp was the pinnacle of our experience. The camel ride at dawn was nothing short of magical. As the first light of day bathed the mountains in a golden glow, the experience of traversing the desert on camelback was etched in our memories forever. The sky’s tapestry of reds, oranges, and yellows was a breathtaking spectacle.
Pottery-making with the children was a standout activity. Under the guidance of a skilled local artisan, we delved into the ancient craft, transforming clay into art. The ease with which our instructor shaped elegant dishes and tajines was awe-inspiring, though we found the craft to be a delightful challenge.
Our toddler was engaged in the pottery-making in a fun, age-appropriate way, her enthusiasm growing with each touch of clay. She was so captivated by the experience that letting go of her creations seemed almost impossible. These handcrafted treasures made for unique souvenirs – a reminder to schedule this creative endeavor early in your stay to allow for drying time.
Beyond pottery, the Agafay offers an array of activities. From soothing massages and invigorating hikes to exhilarating bike tours, there’s no shortage of ways to immerse oneself in this desert wonderland.
Yet, sometimes, the simple pleasures are the most memorable. Lounging on your private terrace, soaking in the tranquil desert ambiance, or floating in the pool amidst the stark beauty of the desert can make for an equally unforgettable experience.