How Hard Is It To Trek In The Sahara Desert?

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The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world. Encompassing ten countries and at a size of 9.2 MILLION kilometres squared, it’s essentially the same size as China!

Taking in countries including Morocco, Egypt and Sudan, it also played host to the hottest temperature ever recorded – 58°C!

If you’re not already sweating, you soon will be, as we tell you exactly what it feels like to spend time in the greatest desert on earth. 

Over the past few years, intrepid adventurers have journeyed to the Sahara to experience one of the most extreme landscapes in the world. But as the experience becomes increasingly popular, the one question we’re often asked is…

Erg Chigaga Caravan in Sahara Desert
Erg Chigaga Caravan in Sahara Desert

Just how hard is it to trek the Sahara?

Pair hills and heat and you’ve got a recipe for some serious sweat. But you’re a Bucketlister, you love a challenge, you can do this… 

One of the most notorious areas of the Sahara is the climb of Erg Chigaga. At 60 metres, it’s the highest dune in the desert and represents a significant challenge when you factor in the extreme heat AND the fact you’re walking uphill – and on sand! 

We’d suggest that if you’re up for the challenge of Erg Chigaga, then it’s best to do it as early as possible. The earlier you go, the less hot it is. Plus, that sense of achievement when you reach the top is simply immeasurable, so you’ll want to be able to spend some time up there before heading back down the dune. 

Accept that you’re going to have to go without…

Make no mistake, you’re going to have to go without some of the modern comforts you’re usually accustomed to while you’re trekking the Sahara. 

And, yes, we’re talking toilets here.   

It might not surprise you to hear that the Sahara’s not overly well-plumbed, meaning that you’ll most likely be making do with a basic trench (a tent with a hole in it). Leave your dignity at the door to the desert and you’ll be just fine. 

Tent in the Sahara desert

Be prepared – what should you pack for a Sahara Trek?

And while you’re tempering those expectations, make sure you’re properly prepared for the heat. And no, that doesn’t mean shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. Pack sensible clothing or you’ll regret it! 

You might be tempted to wear t-shirts and shorts during the hot days, but keeping your skin covered with lightweight trousers and long sleeves is the best way to avoid sunburn. You’ll want a light jacket or a sweater for evenings in the desert too.

It might seem obvious, but sun cream is absolutely essential. It’s worth bringing an SPF lip balm as well, nobody wants to kiss a chapped pair of lips, not even your camel. A scarf or buff can help protect you from sunburn, dust and sand, but these can be purchased when you arrive.

The sleeping conditions can be basic and there are likely to be times when you’re uncomfortable when trekking or sleeping, so prepare yourself! 

Other things to pack to keep you safe and healthy include:

  • Any essential medication you need
  • A basic first aid kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Basic hygiene supplies (think toothbrush and – PLEASE – deodorant)
  • Torch
  • Refillable water bottle

Remember: You’re doing something completely unique

You might consider yourself an intrepid trekker but trekking the Sahara is totally unique, and it won’t be like anything you’ve done before. 

You’re walking in a wonder of the world, in an environment that’s different to anything you’ve ever experienced, and it truly can be a transformative expedition – so long as you prepared well. 

So savour every moment and enjoy the experience, because even the difficult parts will become treasured memories of an accomplishment that’s challenging, rewarding and life-affirming in equal measure. 

A pollution-free sky

One of the incredible benefits of being in a remote location away from the light pollution in the cities and towns is the amazing view of the night sky. 

If you’ve ever looked up at the vast expanse above from deepest, darkest Wales or Scotland, you’ll already have an idea of just how incredible it really is. But this? This is on a completely different level. 

If you’re an adventurer with a love of astronomy, the Sahara will be like heaven for you. Heck, even if you can’t tell your Ursa Major from your Ursa Major, you’ll be so astonished that you’ll never look at the sky in the same way again. Who said nights were for sleeping anyway?

The Erg Chigaga dune area in the Sahara Desert in Morocco

Great camaraderie 

No matter how challenging the trek may be, your Berber crew will make sure you’re well looked after from start to finish.

They’ll prepare your meals, look after your luggage and keep your morale high by creating a welcoming atmosphere amongst the crew. They’re truly incredible people, and you’ll have a memorable time on your trek with them. 

They’ll even show you how to tie your headscarf properly if you’re nice to them.

And then there’s the rest of the group.

There’s no better way to get to know a person than to swap stories on the sand and discuss those big life questions beneath such vast skies. You’ll pep each other up, celebrate the wins together and marvel at the majesty of the Sahara in all her glory – and end up wondering why you ever thought twice about trekking the desert with new friends.

Camp in sahara desert, morocco

Sure, it’s hard, but it’s bloomin’ rewarding too

There’s no doubt that trekking the Sahara desert is challenging, but it’s rewarding too. 

The reality is that if you do your research, prepare properly and approach the challenge with enthusiasm and determination, it will be one of the most incredible experiences you’ll ever have. 

When you’re kicking back between the dunes, tagine in one hand, fresh mint tea in the other, there’ll be no doubt in your mind that you made the right choice.  

So, should you do it? 

Simply put: YES! 

Trekking in the Sahara puts everything into perspective and takes you away from the Western life you’re used to, giving you an experience that’s simply unforgettable. 

If you’d like to find out more about our sublime Sahara treks, take a peek at The Bucket List Sahara Desert Trek and check out the guide and our upcoming trip dates.

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