Driving from Fes to Merzouga by car has to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. The drive will take you from Fes, Morocco’s cultural capital to Merzouga, Morocco’s desert sand dunes. Taking the road by car will save you time and will allow you take in the scenery at your own pace.
According to Google Maps it takes 7 hours solid via Midelt, the Atlas Mountains and Ziz Valley. However, with the regular breaks and sight seeing plan at least one full day, leaving Fes early in the morning and arriving in Merzouga by car late in the evening.
How to Get to Merzouga from Fes
Take highway N13 south from Fes towards Ifran, Azrou and Midelt and carry on through Errachidia and Erfoud until you reach Merzouga. It is basically a straight road, taking between 8-9 hours.
Ifran – Morocco’s Ski Resort
This drive will take you across Morocco, starting in Ifran, a beautiful hilltop town. As you leave Fes you will slowly ascend to Ifran, a university town surrounded by pine forests. In the winter it caters for Moroccan ski enthusiasts, while in the summer it cools down people looking to escape the heat in Fes. After the hussle and bustle of Fes it does feel good to spend an hour or two here. Park up at the town center and walk around the parks and lakes. The only real sight is the lion, carved by a German prisoner of war during WWII. Click images to enlarge.
Azrou Market Town
Driving further on by car you will reach Azrou, a market town. The main market day is on Tuesday so try and plan your road trip across Morocco to visit that day. Everything is cheaper here than in Fes and the locals also sell tasty fruits and veg.
After Azrou the drive becomes more desert like and there will be no vegetation in sight except for dry bushes. Nonetheless, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, more like deserted areas of Texas.
The Ziz Valley in Morocco
Once you pass Midelt the scenery changes again. The region after Midelt is another arid landscape, but passing Er-rich palm trees and oasis will begin to line the side of the road where it meets the river. Not far from here is the Tunnel du Légionnaire, a tunnel built by the French in 1928. A short drive away from Er-Rich is Er-Rachidia, a desert garrison town.
Nothing fascinating here, but the chicken restaurant at the town center is worth a visit. I cannot remember the name now, but it is easy to recognise: there are two massive chicken grills on the terrace and everyone is eating there. Wifi is also free here and the toilet was clean.
The most spectacular sight after Er-Rachidia is the Vallee de Ziz (Ziz Valley). Imagine driving in the desert for hours with nothing on either side of the road. Then all of a sudden you reach the edge of a cliff and below is the most fascinating sight on earth: a palm tree oasis lining both sides of the river between the canyon walls.
Much of the scenery here resembles the Grand Canyon, with the River Ziz running between the hills. The Ziz carved out some huge canyons and the people here started growing date palms and other fruits centuries ago.
Arriving in Hassi Labied / Merzouga
I visited in September and I left Fes early in the morning but I also stopped in quite a few places so by this time the sun was about to set. My arrival in Erfoud was just before sunset, at around 6-7pm. Originally I planned to stay here for the night but a couple of teenagers started chasing me on their scooters offering to take me to a hotel. I told them to get lost but they kept following me around. So I parked my car in front of the police station and started reading until they disappeared.
Related: Things to do in Fes in Morocco
Instead of sticking around I decided to drive further on to Merzouga but I took the wrong turn and ended up in Hassi Labied. I have never made a better mistake in my life! Hassi Labied is literally next to Merzouga – the difference is that here nobody will bother you. It was here that I met Ibrahim, the owner of Riad Aicha, a berber bed and breakfast in the middle of the desert. His house overlooks the sand dunes and offers the most amazing holiday experience ever.