Erg Chigaga: Starry nights in Morocco’s lesser-known Sahara Desert

The sun dips below the fiery horizon, casting long shadows over the endless dunes of Erg Chigaga. The quiet of the desert is broken only by the gentle crunch of sand beneath your camel’s hooves. A flicker of light appears on the horizon, getting closer as you conquer each dune. Hundreds of candles bathe your Erg Chigaga desert camp in a warm glow, mirroring the dazzling expanse of stars above. 

This isn’t just any campsite – you’ve arrived at an exclusive luxury desert camp, far from the crowds and light pollution. Tomorrow you could be sandboarding down golden slopes, or trekking the endless Erg Chigaga desert landscape, but after dark it’s time to relax under the blanket of stars, sipping mint tea while listening to stories and the rhythmic pulse of Berber music.

Morocco’s Sahara Desert is a bucket-list destination, and Erg Chigaga invites you to pack your sense of adventure and leave the ordinary behind. Let’s discover the soul of Morocco’s lesser-known desert treasure, how to get there, and what you can do in Erg Chigaga.

Erg Chigaga: What is it and why visit?

Erg Chigaga isn’t your average desert experience. Tucked away in the far reaches of southern Morocco, this vast sea of sand offers a stark contrast to the more popular Erg Chebbi near Merzouga. 

Erg Chigaga is the largest “erg” (sea of sand dunes) in Morocco, and is located about 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of the small town of M’Hamid El Ghizlane. The dunes stretch out like a sea of sand, covering approximately 35 kilometres (22 miles) by 15 kilometres (9 miles), with some dunes reaching heights over 50 metres (164 feet). 

While not as readily accessible, Erg Chigaga rewards more adventurous travelers with unspoiled serenity, authentic Berber culture, and plenty of adventure.

Read Next: The Epic Hot List: The Must-Do Experiences in Morocco in 2024

How to get to your Erg Chigaga luxury desert camp

Arriving to Erg Chigaga by 4×4 vehicle is most common, and the drive from Marrakech takes around 8-10 hours. Along the drive you’ll experience scenic views of the High Atlas Mountains and the Draa Valley and break up the journey with overnight stops and exploration.

Those wanting to follow in the footsteps of Saharan trade routes can venture out by camel. The journey takes several days, and gives you the chance to appreciate the desert’s beauty at a slow pace. This is a real adventure – and a bumpy ride.

The fastest – and most expensive – route is by helicopter, of course. You’ll gain aerial views of the Erg Chigaga desert landscape before landing at your luxury desert camp.

Want to visit the Sahara Desert? Reach out to our team at Epic and we’ll curate a custom trip for your group.

Weather in Erg Chigaga and when to visit

Erg Chigaga has a hot desert climate with average temperatures ranging from 25°C (77°F) in the winter to 45°C (113°F) in the summer. Safe to say, it’s best to avoid the desert heat in the Moroccan summer months – and during this time the luxury desert camps will be closed.

The best time to visit Erg Chigaga is between October and April. This is when temperatures are comfortable to explore. November and December are perfect, while January and February can be a little rainy – you may even see snow in February! March starts to get warm again, with April feeling quite hot by the end.

How many days in Erg Chigaga?

How long you spend exploring Erg Chigaga depends on your interests and budget. You can spend just a night or two in the desert with a jeep or camel tour and stay overnight in a luxury desert camp. Go deeper with a few days giving you time for longer camel treks and to connect with Berber communities in their villages. Or for the truly adventurous, you can trek on foot or camel for even longer and explore remote areas of Iriqui National Park, home to gazelles, striped hyenas, and more.

Best things to do in Erg Chigaga

Beyond simply gazing at the endless expanse of sand and stars, here are the best things to do in Erg Chigaga.


Climb to the top of Erg Chigaga’s massive dunes for a unique and thrilling desert experience. Grab a slick sandboard, wrap a scarf across your face, and launch from the top of a giant dune. Surf down the golden hills, carving sand in every direction. This active adventure is a great workout too. Once you hit the bottom you’ll climb to the top again, and these dunes average between 60 to 80 metres (200 to 260 feet) high. But at an all-inclusive luxury desert camp there’s also a glass of cold water (or wine!) waiting for you.

Camel Trekking

Absorb the vastness of the desert landscape from the top of a camel. This timeless Saharan experience allows you to connect with the ancient traditions of desert travel for an hour or so. Your camel ride will give you a taste of what it may have been like to cross this expansive sand sea during the era of trans-Saharan trading. As you rhythmically sway across the dunes of Erg Chigaga, pay attention to the ever-changing hues of the sky and how they reflect against the endless golden dunes.


Escape light pollution and witness the cosmos in all its glory. Marvel at the Milky Way stretching across the inky cosmos and identify constellations invisible from most places. You’ll feel humbled by the sheer vastness of the universe. In the evening you can sit around a campfire, listening to local stories or rhythmic Berber tunes while gazing at the pollution-free night sky.

Embrace Berber culture

Visit a traditional Berber village and learn about the unique way of life, customs, and rich heritage from locals. Savor a steaming cup of mint tea, listen to captivating music, and witness local art forms.

Nomadic Bread Baking

Learn how the nomads worked with the hot earth to bake “sand bread”. While this traditional Bedouin way of cooking in hot golden sand is less common now, some nomadic locals still continue to make bread this way and you can join a workshop. 

Trek ancient trade routes

Part of the famous 52-day caravan trade route from Zagora to Timbuktu winds through the shifting sands of Erg Chigaga. Follow in the footsteps of nomads and traders as you wander part of the ancient path, considering the history of this gold, salt, and slave route. 

Explore Iriqui National Park

Despite the grand size, Erg Chigaga is just a small part of Iriqui National Park. This 123,000-hectare reserve was created to preserve the desert biodiversity, flora and fauna of south-east Morocco. At its heart lies the temporary wetlands of Lake Iriqui. Here you might see addax and gazelle, plus plenty of birds, on nature adventures.

Savour local cuisine

Delicious Berber dishes like tanjia (slow-cooked meat in clay pots) and mechoui (barbecued lamb) – traditional flavours that connect Morocco’s past with the present.

Desert wellness

From yoga under the stars to a hot sand bath, there are ways to connect with your inner self and the vastness around you. Practice amidst the serenity of the desert as you stretch out under a blanket of stars. Or climb to the top of a dune and find moments of mindfulness.

Luxury desert camps in Erg Chigaga

Forget rough canvas and sleeping bags. Erg Chigaga is home to a handful of luxury desert camps where spacious, permanent structures have been lovingly crafted and decorated with artisanal Moroccan details. Think plush carpet, comfy king-size beds, and private en-suites with hot water. Some camps have multiple tents like a small village, while others offer exclusive locations just for two, with no hints of civilization in sight. 

Each night, as the sun dips below the horizon, Erg Chigaga’s luxury desert camps come alive. Hundreds of flickering candles that cast a warm glowy atmosphere straight from a fairytale. Disconnect with responsibility and connect with others over slow evenings of music, storytelling, and fragrant Moroccan dishes, from tagines to couscous.

Each camp offers desert tours and activities. After breakfast your desert playground awaits with fun like sandboarding, camel rides, or nature walks. Local Berber artisans and musicians are often invited to the camp to share their culture, and each night is spent beneath an endless star-studded sky. Relax and enjoy the peace of the heart of Erg Chigaga.

The Moroccan Sahara: Erg Chebbi Vs Erg Chigaga

The vast Sahara Desert is a legendary destination that every traveller dreams of exploring. It’s the largest hot desert in the world, covering an area almost the same size as China! 

Naturally, the vast landscape is broken up into smaller pieces, and in Morocco two popular destinations to explore the Sahara Desert are Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. But what’s the difference between these two famous desert destinations?

Man running across the desert of Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi, closer to Merzouga, is easier to access and has higher dunes, ideal for sand boarding. Its closer proximity to towns allows for quicker day trips and more accommodation options ranging from camps to hotels. Erg Chebbi’s popularity translates to more crowds and a slightly less “off-the-beaten-path” feel. In 2024 Ryanair has added a roster of domestic flights within Morocco, and flying into Errachidia will reduce travel time to Erg Chebbi.

In contrast, Erg Chigaga, further south near M’hamid, calls to keen adventurers with its remote charm and vast, uncrowded expanses. Its lower yet still impressive dunes offer a serene landscape, ideal for stargazing and cultural immersion with Berber communities. Reaching Erg Chigaga requires commitment, often involving 4×4 journeys and longer camel treks. But for those seeking true desert solitude and authenticity, the reward is an unforgettable escape into the heart of Morocco’s Sahara.

What’s the best Morocco desert tour?

The one we plan for you! Epic has been organising custom trips in Morocco for more than 20 years. We have the connections and contacts to make your once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Sahara exciting, unforgettable and safe. Reach out to team Epic to plan your Moroccan adventure.

Latest Blogs