Are you planning a trip to Ouarzazate city in Morocco? This post contains everything you need to know about this beautiful African destination including the best things to do and see, where to stay, and how to get around. Enjoy!
Ouarzazate at a Glance!
The epic desert gem of Ouarzazate in Morocco is a city that has attracted people from far and wide for centuries. In the days of old Ouarzazate served as a resting point for travelers taking the perilous desert journey from the South towards the Northern parts of Morocco.
Ouarzazate has been nicknamed “the gateway to the Sahara Desert”. More recently, the great city has become known for its many elegant Kasbahs and is even home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ait Benhaddou. There are so many things to do in Ouarzazate, which has also become the default desert film set for Hollywood films, notable among them is Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
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Top Things to Do in Ouarzazate for First-Timers
There isn’t much to see or to do in central Ouarzazate. Most of the recommended places are around the city not in it. One of the central attractions of Ouarzazate is Taourirt Kasbah which is obviously one of Morocco’s amazing Kasbahs from the outside but unfortunately, the Kasbah is totally empty from the inside and I don’t think it’s worth it paying to enter. However, there are many breathtaking Kasbahs in Ouarzazate surroundings that are definitely worth a visit.
1. Watch the Sunrise at Ait Ben Haddou
Ait Ben Haddou is where Khaleesi from Games of Thrones drank Moroccan mint tea. Yeah, a scene in Season 3 of the HBO series that was shot in this fascinating Kasbah. It was almost as if this great structure was built specifically as the set of this renowned T.V. show. Such is the charm and grandeur of Ait Ben Haddou.
Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most well preserved Kasbahs in Morocco. This picturesque place was used to film many other international movies such as Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and many more.
You can get to Ait Ben Haddou in a big beige taxi called “Grand Taxi”. The price is around 200 Dirhams roundtrip. The taxi driver will take you to the village and wait for you for a few hours to visit the Kasbah and the surroundings, then take you back. The payment is done when you get back to Ouarzazate.
The best time to visit Ait Ben Haddou is sunrise time. No words can describe the views. There is ought left to say on the matter.
2. Visit Telouet Kasbah
Telouet Kasbah is another fascinating Kasbah to visit in Ouarzazate. Located about 45 minutes away from the city, in a small Berber village of Télouet. Telouet Kasbah recently became one of the historical buildings in Ouarzazate to attract local and international tourism interest.
This amazing Kasbah was once home to the El Glaoui family, a wealthy Moroccan family. The Kasbah was located in a strategic location, a busy passage of merchant caravans and the proximity of salt mines which contributed to the excessive wealth of the owners of Telouet Kasbah.
Telouet Kasbah is now open to the public and can be visited at low entry fees, from 10 to 20 Dirhams. The Kasbah isn’t really far from the city, a cab can take you there.
3. Take a Tour at one of Ouarzazate’s Movie Studios
Morocco has long been a favorite location for many international movie producers but the interesting thing about Ouarzazate is being a home for two film studios Atlas Studios, and CLA Studios where many international movies were produced.
Visiting one of these Studios isn’t really a must unless you are a movie buff. If you can go to only one of these two studios, choose CLA Studios. It is located outside Ouarzazate city. The entrance fee is around 100 Dirhams.
4. Spend an Afternoon in Fint Oasis
Fint Oasis is a great place to have lunch or an evening break. If you like nature, this place is for you. There are palm trees everywhere, water streams, and mountains. You can relax and chill under the trees or walk around the oasis to see a glimpse of the wandering Mountain-Berber lifestyle in Morocco.
Fint Oasis is located approximately an hour outside Ouarzazate. So, you can choose either to stay a night there or just make it a few hour’s stop on your way to Ouarzazate. If you decide to spend a night in Fint Oasis, Terrasse de Delices is a great place to stay in for an authentic experience. They also have a restaurant if you just want to stay for lunch.
In case you are driving to Fint Oasis, be careful. The roads are tricky and it can be dangerous to drive down to the Oasis.
Best Time to Visit Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate is a living oasis lost in the dry desert in Morocco. Therefore, the weather can be unbearable in the summertime, especially in June and July, featuring up to 40 degrees. Since visiting Ouarzazate will be mostly about sightseeing and outdoor activities, peak summer isn’t the best time to visit.
Winter on the other hand can be harshly cold, reaching below zero between December and February, due to the proximity to the high Atlas Mountains. To benefit from a convenient climate, one should visit Ouarzazate between April and May or September and October. During this time, the temperature varies between 13C to 19C. However, September and October can have some rainy days.
How Many Days to Spend in Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate is a small city with a few iconic sites that can be covered in two days easily. However, adding an extra day to explore the desert is highly recommended.
Where to Stay in Ouarzazate
When it comes to accommodation in Ouarzazate, there are many options and honestly it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The town-like city is very small, and all attractions are easily accessed from wherever you are. To make it easier for you to make the best choice in terms of price, I’ve listed 3 options: Budget-friendly, Mid-range, and Luxury accommodation in Ouarzazate.
Budget Friendly Accomodation in Ouarzazate
La Baraka Auberge is located just 400 meters from Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah, this hotel is a well-rated accommodation for budget travelers, and backpackers. La Baraka Auberge has a restaurant, free private parking, a shared lounge, and a terrace. Click here to check current availability and prices.
Mid Range Accomodation in Ouarzazate
If you want to enjoy a Moroccan authentic stay but still you don’t want to break your bank accounts, I’ve listed a few hotels that can provide that.
Ksar Lamane Ait Ben Haddou is one of these options. It’s a 3-star hotel located just 5 kilometers from Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah. The hotel provides private bathrooms equipped with all the necessary toiletries and providing a pool view. Ksar Lamane Ait Ben Haddou has an incredibly friendly and helpful staff. Click here to check current availability and prices.
Le Petit Riad Maison d’hôtes is a Berber style Riad with a beautiful central fountain. The Riad is located just 1.3 kilometers from Ouarzazate Airport. Le Petit Riad Maison d’hôtes has an outdoor swimming pool. The hotel has great service, spacious rooms, and by all accounts, a fantastic breakfast. Click here to check current availability and prices.
Luxury Accomodation in Ouarzazate
If you prefer luxury hotels, Le Temple Des Arts is the best. Located in the heart of Ouarzazate, the luxurious 5-star hotel offers fascinating themed rooms and suites, each with a unique film-inspired design. Le Temple Des Arts rooms are decorated with unique features, such as hand-painted walls, fireplaces, Buddha statues, and marble bathrooms. Some of them are with huge balconies overlooking the garden or swimming pool. Click here to check current availability and prices.
Kasbah Dar Daif is another luxury hotel in Ouarzazate. Similar to Le Temple Des Arts, Dar Daif’s rooms are individually designed in a traditional Moroccan way. Most of them have views of the Atlas Mountains and the lake. Kasbah Dar Daif offers an acclaimed restaurant with local specialties, a fire-heated hammam, hiking tours, and many more. Click here to check current availability and prices.
Berbère Palace provides world-class service and celebrity treatment. Well placed in Ouarzazate town center, Berbère Palace has 4 different restaurants serving dishes from around the world. Click here to check current availability and prices.
How to Get Around Ouarzazate
It is possible to rent a car in Ouarzazate. However, a 4X4 is recommended if you are planning to go on a desert trip, nearby. In the city, buses and taxis are easily found. To avoid walking long distances in the heat you can use the red taxis (Small Taxi)
Ouarzazate Airport is located just a few kilometers away from the city center, thus you can take shuttle buses to the city center. The CTM bus company is located in the Mohammed V central area, which is very walkable.
Transport Average prices:
- The small red taxis (Petit Taxi) are used within the city only and they are very cheap. 4 Dirhams a person during the day and 6 Dirhams at night
- Taxis to and from the airport usually cost 50 Dirhams a person
- The beige Mercedes (Grand taxi) are used between cities. The price depends on the destination but bargaining is A MUST. You could pay 200 Dirhams or less to Ait Benhaddou and back, including to surrounding Kasbahs.
Day Trips from Ouarzazate
All the attractions around Ouarzazate can be considered day trips. To add to our selection of what to do while in Ouarzazate, I added a few experiences that are worth having when visiting Morocco.
Merzouga is a small town in the Sahara desert. The town is very close to the Algerian border and it’s the entrance to the Erg Chebbi Desert sand dunes. Merzouga is famous among tourists for camel treks into the dunes, and night camping trips under the stars in the Sahara. While it’s possible to visit Merzouga as a day trip, you shouldn’t miss out on experiencing a night under the magical stars. Merzouga is about 300 kilometers from Ouarzazate.
2. Kelaat Mgouna
Kelaat Mgouna is a small city in Tinghir Province, known for its Rose Festival that takes place every year in May. Kelaat Mgouna is a 2 hour’s drive from Ouarzazate. Every year people visit Kelaat Mgouna to experience the 7-day celebration of the season of roses in Dadès and M’Goun. Except the festival, there isn’t much to do in the area, so try and visit during the Rose Festival time.
3. Dades Gorges
Dades Gorges should be on your bucket list. Take a drive through the picturesque rocky mountain formations and the stunning tight roads to reach the top of the gorge where the real surprise is.
How to Get to Ouarzazate
Ouarzazate (war-za-zat) is located in The High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, somewhere between Marrakech and Agadir. Ouarzazate is easily accessed from central cities in Morocco by buses, planes or cars.
Royal Air Maroc, the national Airline, provides direct flights from Paris to Ouarzazate throughout the year. Also, there are regular flights from Casablanca to Ouarzazate.
I recommend checking the Royal Air Maroc airline website for more information.
Getting from Marrakech to Ouarzazate using intercity buses is great if you want to enjoy a long road trip while chilling in a cool bus. There are two companies running regularly between Marrakech and Ouarzazate, CTM and Supratour. Both companies provide a good service at an affordable price that ranges between 95 to 100 Dirhams. The trip takes around 4-5 hours.
The same companies provide trips to Ouazazate from other cities such as Agadir and Casablanca. Check their website for more information about the price and availability.
In Morocco, life can be much easier if you have your own car. You can get around easily and on your own terms. The drive to Ouarzazate from Marrakech will take about 4 hours and you will get to enjoy the breathtaking views, even before getting there.
Ouarzazate is more than a tongue twister. It’s a magical city that neither words nor pictures can do justice to. This city has been around for ages and endured the tough desert storms until the current day. It has become an iconic location for world-famous films and T.V series. The best part is that you don’t need to be Lawrence of Arabia to get to experience all that Ouarzazate has to offer from desert Kasbahs to traditional Berber food.