Ad Dakhla Sahara Desert
Are you wondering what there is to see and do in Ad Dakhla, Morocco besides kitesurfing?
Dakhla also referred to as Ad Dakhla is a fishing and surfing paradise which was once the capital of the Spanish province of Rio de Oro. Dakhla or Ad Dakhla is one of the ultimate places to go where you can witness unspoiled Sahara Desert scenery. Visiting Dakhla is ideal for Moroccan travelers who want to get away from the crowds and visit a place where it is still possible to see the authentic nomad lifestyle nearby. Another place in Morocco where it is possible to see the authentic Nomad lifestyle is in the Bouthgrar region near Mount Mgoun which is often referred to as the Valley of Nomads. The Valley of Nomads can be visited from en route from Ouarzazate when passing the Valley of Roses.
It is possible to fly to Dakhla however an overland trip in a 4×4 Landcruiser is ideal to get the real feel for the Western Sahara of Morocco. The road to Dakhla hugs the cool sea coast where there are some spectacular low cliffs that hang over the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes local fisherman live in huts on the cliffs.
Fishermen's Huts on Morocco's Southern Sahara Desert Coastline, photo by Mary Mimouna
If you can only visit the Sahara Desert in the summer, Dakhla is one of the ideal Sahara Desert tours, rather than the inland Sahara Desert of Merzouga, M’hamid or Zagora which do not have the advantage of the cool Atlantic ocean. It is possible to visit Dakhla on your own or take a 4 x 4 private tour or luxury tour just south from Agadir or Laayoune, all the way to Dakhla. The cold Canary Current off the coast means that the seacoast road (even in July and August) is quite cold most of the way (foggy in the mornings, and 75°F/25°C in the afternoons).
Atlantic Cliffs in the Moroccan Sahara, along the Seacoast Road to Ad Dakhla
In a couple of places, en route to Dakhla, the seacoast road juts inland, into a couple of Saharan towns, where the temperature can shoot up to 120°F/49°C. But it only takes 30 minutes to drive in and out of these areas, and is a fascinating experience to see how quickly and dramatically the temperature changes just a few kilometers in from the seacoast. It also makes clear why most of the road does hug the seacoast. The hot inland excursions are a great reason to make your trip in a comfortable and air-conditioned 4 x 4 to Dakhla.
Driving down to Ad Dakhla, there are several great areas of sand dunes, between the road and the ocean which make great places to climb on. They are close enough to the ocean to be cool in the mornings.
Climbing on Sand Dunes in Morocco's Western Sahara Desert, next to the Seacoast Road
Anyone with even a passing interest in geology will find the trip to Dakhla interesting. Here we collected some naturally occurring gypsum crystals that we found ourselves in a place where we merely stopped to admire the scenery.
Driving down to Ad Dakhla, you are able to drive for great distances without finding any small towns, stores, gas stations, or other evidence of civilization. When you finally arrive in Dakhla, it feels like a secret still-undiscovered oasis.
Dakhla, has a population of 70,000 and is Morocco’s largest southern Sahara city. Formerly known as Villa Cisneros (founded by Spanish settlers in 1502), Dakhla is located just north of the Tropic of Cancer, 550 kilometers south of Laayoune, and 1000 kilometers south of Agadir.
Ad Dakhla, Morocco - Now a city of 70,000
Tourists in Ad Dakhla can enjoy deep sea fishing, fishing from shore, windsurfing, camel riding, visiting an oyster farm (8 km outside of town), and kitesurfing, in addition to year-round sun. Excursions to the famous White Dune in the Bay of Dakhla are popular, where sometimes pink flamingoes can be found.
Deep sea fisherman find that common fish of the area include chad, borinto, mullet, sea perch, marlin, tuna and swordfish. The new port is now home to one of Morocco’s largest fishing fleets.
The Port in Ad Dakhla (1970's)
In Ad Dakhla itself, there is no beach (located in the lagoon about 25 km north of Dakhla, which you will see on the way in to town), but there is an oceanfront promenade.
Ad Dakhla, Morocco Waterfront Promenade
Ad Dakhla itself makes an interesting destination in the Moroccan Sahara for tourists who enjoy vast stretches of beach without crowds. Dahkla is located on a pennisula, and while there are no beaches in the town, very interesting beaches are located in the inland lagoon of water, actually on your left side, which extends for 50 km as you approach Dakhla from the north.
The Lagoon, at Ad Dakhla, Morocco
These beaches are vast and shallow, where at high tide the water comes nearly to the road. Yet, at low tide, you can walk out nearly a kilometer.
A wide range of migrating birds and other wildlife are all over the beach in Dakhla, looking for sand crabs and other delicious morsels to eat. It’s an amazing experience to be able to walk on a vast nearly flat beach empty of humans, yet filled at times with a wide range of migrating birds and other wildlife, looking for sand crabs and other delicious morsels to eat. Occassionally you can find tracks through the wet sand of other small animals. Dolphins can also frequently be seen in the Bay of Dakhla.
The town of Dakhla itself is a nice place to wander around. The Catholic church (left) was built during colonial times. A small souk is also interesting to visit.
The Souk in Ad Dakhla
If you happen to visit Ad Dakhla in February, you can attend their large music festival.
Ad Dakhla Music Festival
Many tourists going to Dakhla are particularly interested in taking an overnight excursion to the Mauritanian border, to take a look around Nouadibou, the Mauritanian town on the other side. This can be done in a bus or in your luxury 4 x 4, but in either case, you need to go as part of the convoy which leaves about three times weekly from Dakhla. (North of Dakhla, there is no need for a convoy.)
Nouadibou, Mauritanea - border town with southern Morocco
Part I – Ad Dakhla, Morocco – Best Kitesurfing in the World
For more information about what to see and do in Dakhla and Morocco’s Sahara Desert
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