Ive got some pages of my visits around the area - the road to Mhamid is fine by normal car - BUT if you want to go into the desert you will need a 4x4 from there - there are agencies with 4x4s to take you into the full on sahara desert of Erg Chigaga or some that just take you into the nearby sandy hamada desert with some small dunes - you will find here in my Zagora travel page that the excellent agency at Riad Malal being one highly recommended.
From numerous visits Ive had the best dunes I would recommend to spend time and soak up the beauty are not at Mhamid but at Merzouga! which i also have a few tips of in my Merzouga and Rissani travel pages - you dont have to do camel trips as you can walk out into the dunes yourself but camel trips can be quite an exciting part of a visit to the sahara!
There is a big advantage of choosing Merzouga to head for to see sahara desert and dunes s - there are a number of auberges that are built right next to the big dunes of Erg Chebbi - the biggest ones in Morocco are at Merzouga - and you can drive right to the auberges on the verge of those dunes despite what local touts will say.
There is a bitumen road all the way to Rissani which is the nearest major town and bitumen ffrom there to Merzouga with piste/gravel/sandy roads signposted to the various auberges off the bitumen road.
1st choice is - Dunes D'or ( definitely NOT Sable D'or)
Auberge du Sud (though they ripped me off a bit)
Erg Chebbi Auberge
Not the Lahmada either. ripped me off. and many reports of others being ripped off also
but theres quite a number of auberges in the desert - spread out over a wide area - so often you will find you might be the only guests during quiet times!...nice and private!...a number of new auberges have been built since the floods in 2005 when 13 auberges were destroyed around the area
but have a look through my pages - you would enjoy the lovely drive down the Draa Valley to Mhamid and stay at the hotel Ive recommmended Riad Malal - some great walking and relaxing around there. they can do a great trip to the dunes of Chigaga if you wanted which is 45 km into the desert from Mhamid 4x4.
or the drive along the Dades Valley from Marrakech to Rissani and Merzouga is also loaded with lovely sights and mustsees - that you can relax at along the way - see my tips on Telouet, Ouarzazate, Dades Gorge, Msemrir, Tamtatouche, Rissani.
but if you only have 2 to 3 days thats really not long enough to do it as a soakd up the beauty for a couple of days! it takes a couple of days to get there and back - depending which direction you are coming from. Id say please try and stay longer! April is such a nice month.
all the best.
HOTELS AND ALTERNATIVES
Zagora has a very good offer of hotels in all price ranges. There is a handful of budget offers, and three 4/5-star hotels. Prices are at a normal Moroccan level.
RESTAURANTS AND ALTERNATIVES
Beyond the restaurants which are found in most hotels, there is little in Zagora to make hungry travellers enthusiastic. But the hotel restaurants offer fairly interesting menus, good food and value for money.
There is a chance of finding activities in the larger hotels.
Zagora has two banks, which offer normal services.
Good connections north, both by buses and taxis. In southern direction, there is far less to choose from, but there are two departures to M'hamid per day.
Zagora can be very hot during the day, but equally cold during night. Bring necessary clothes, perhaps a hat and sunglasses.
During our four day landrovertour we were always in the same area as the king was on tour.
We didn't see him personally, only his portraits like this one at the roundabout in Zagora. Zagora and all the towns and villages on the route were decorated with many red and green flags.
Sometimes the king was very near. Than the road was blocked or we could pass very fast or we had to wait together with hundreds of people along the road, who were waiting allready for hours, dressed in beautiful clothes, dancing and singing.
We were four days in the same area as the king. At the last day on our way back from Zagora to Agadir the king was very nearby.
We got permission to continue our route, just before the king should arrive and pass by. We were only urged to drive very fast.
Passing by in our three landrovers,we were feeling like the king, with so many people along the road.
It was a pity, we not allowed to drive slowly or to stop to have a closer look at the beautifully dressed, singing and dancing women.
Zagora is a nice starting point for exploring the Draa Valley and the desert.
There are many hotels, restaurants, places to book a desert- or cameltrip and shops.
The most are very well signposted.
At the roundabout with the famous ''Timbouctou, 52 days'' sign, we saw this wood of signs, so make your choice!
Zagora was once a confluence of trade routes, in the times of the long distance travel overland. Camel caravans from the south broke their journey here before going further to the north or the east. Or from here started the crossing of the desert.
The signpost declares that Timbuktu is 52 days from here by camel.
I'm used to travel long distances in Africa.
I like it to ride a camel for several days.
But 52 days with a camel to Timbuctu, that is even beyond my borders.
Explore Zagora and beyond...
Once in Zagora, you're still not at the end of the road. You can travel by road as far as the village of M'Hamid. Here, the road ends and locals will even offer to drive your car a bit further into the desert for a small amount of dirhams. It's a good thing to do, because when you drive yourself you will get stuck in the sand inevitably. Ask around in Hotel Sahara.
Should you own a camel, then it's a good thing to know that Tomboctou is only 52 days away from here....
Favorite thing: Here is where all the roads end, that's what they say. After this point, the Sahara begins, you can only go forward in 4x4 or camel!! There are nice landscapes, dunes endless seas... It's aprox 50 kms from Zagora, if you leave at 14:00 you can make an afternoon trip and come back before the sun sets (don't drive by night there!).
From Ouarzazate to Zagora goes this nice valley full of Palm trees. The road is fully paved, though a bit narrow.
The first hour from Ouarzazate (till Agdz) is a bit monotonous, dry landscape, and almost no traffic. After Agdz you enter the palm woods, and there are more little towns on the way.
Favorite thing: Zagora is where the road ends and the desert begins. At first the terrain has shrubs and loose rocks, but eventually all you can see is unending sand.