Ouarzazate Travel Guide

Holiday destination in Morocco, as a base for excursions across the Draa Valley and into the desert.

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Ouarzazate (ورزازات‎), nicknamed “The door of the desert”, is a city and capital of Ouarzazate Province in the Souss-Massa-Drâa of southern-central Morocco. Ouarzazate is at an elevation of 1,160 metres (3,810 ft) in the middle of a bare plateau south of the High Atlas Mountains. To the south of the town is the desert. The town is chiefly inhabited by Berber-speakers, who constructed many of the prominent kasbahs and buildings for which the area is known.

Ouarzazate is an important holiday destination in Morocco, as a base for excursions across the Draa Valley and into the desert. The fortified village (ksar) of Ait Benhaddou west of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ouarzazate is relatively small (~60 000 inhabitans) and, for Morocco, a quiet town, built mostly along the main street – Avenue Muhammed V. Ouarzazate is situated at an elevation of 1,135 metres. Its name comes from a Berber phrase meaning “without noise” or “without confusion”. In the past, Ouarzazate was a crossroad for African traders seeking to reach northern cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate expanded considerably as a garrison town and administrative centre. It is the largest town in the Moroccan Sahara.

The Ouarzazate area is a noted film-making location, with Morocco’s biggest studios inviting many international companies to work here. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Kundun (1997), Legionnaire (1998), Hanna (2011), and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) were shot here, as was part of the TV series Game of Thrones.

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Buses from:

  • Inezgane (close to Agadir): Twice a day, 140 dirhams, fixed price with CTM and a similar price with Supratours.
  • Marrakesh: There are three CTM buses a day (80 dirham), along with three local buses (also 80 dirham). You can also reserve a place in a grand taxi for around 100 per person. The drive over Atlas is beautiful.

As at November 2014, the morning CTM bus departs from Agadir at 09:00 and Inezgane at 09:30hrs.


Often two flights a day during the week from Casablanca, occasional flights to Agadir and other cities.

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The area around Mohammad V is very walkable. The CTM station is there as well. The red petit taxis for within the city have a flat rate of 4 dirhams a person from 6am-8pm, and 6 dirhams thereafter. Take advantage of these low rates to avoid walking any distance in the heat, and you will enjoy your experience better and have more energy for touring. Taxis to and from the airport usually cost 50 dirhams a person. The beige Mercedes grand taxis for between cities range in price (200Dh to Ait Benhaddou and back, though you can probably get it lower), including to surrounding Kasbahs.

Don’t be surprised if during a local taxi ride the driver requests you to “transfer taxis” or has “a friend to pick up on the way.” When this happens, a friendly English (or other language) speaking person will start pitching you outings, most of them to Erg Chebbi near Merzouga or Zagora. If you are not interested, just politely tell them so, but if you are, you can negotiate a reasonable price with them. Ouarzazate is very safe, but don’t wander into weird corners at night. Crime throughout the Moroccan south is minimal, but its best not to take (too many) chances.

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Ouarzazate is a good base of operations for local touring. Most of what you want to see is not in Ouarzazate, but around it. You do not need to enter the centrally located Taourirt Kasbah, as it is empty, crumbling and unimpressive (and will overcharge you). You will get the very best impression of it from the street (for free). The kasbahs outside the city, such as Aït-Benhaddou, are far better. Spend your time planning day trips from the city, and you’ll see what the city itself has to offer just by staying there, eating and passing through.

  • Ait Benhaddou – one of the best preserved Kasbahs and a fantastic day trip from Ouarzazate. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A beige grand taxi can take you to Aït-Benhaddou, wait for you for a couple of hours (you pay the full amount when you arrive back in Ouarzazate) and drive you back for 200 dirhams. See Ait-Benhaddou for more infos about bus. Very picturesque place, lots of movies were shot there (Gladiator), and more recently, hit HBO series “Game of Thrones”. 10 dirham to visit kasbahs (or use exit). You don’t need a guide, but locals will follow you pretending to help and at the end will ask for money. Be careful not to get too wet from the river when crossing it, since there’s been reports of Schistosomiasis contracted from the water. Be ready to climb stairs! For the best photos, climb the round hill next to the city. Arriving here during the sunset call to prayer is magical.
  • Walk along the central square behind Muhammad V at night when everyone comes out. Children play football on the square, people go eat and socialise, and you’ll get a feel for the community just walking around.
  • Walk to Taourirt Kasbah (2km), 10 DH.
  • Walk to Cinema Museum (opositte of Taourirt Kasbah), 30 DH.
  • Go to Atlas Studios. It lies about ~ 4km from town centre. Entrance ticket is 50 dirhams. Films such as Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra, Kundun, Gladiator and Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven and Babel were shot there. Most of movie decorations are a bit crumbled, but Egyptian decorations are still impressive but in very poor condition.
  • Plan an expion out to M’Hamid. A night in the Sahara is unforgettable and can be the best part of your Moroccan adventure. Ourzazate is the last big town in the south where this is easy and cheap to do. There are lots of agencies around that can arrange a trek like this, though this is the more expensive way to do it. A cheaper way, if you don’t mind worrying about a few details, is to rent a car, go out there yourself, and negotiate an overnight in the desert with a Merzougan auberge (most of them offer overnights in the desert). Renting a car and driving the way is relatively easy if you drive a stick. The roads out that way are very good and easy to navigate. The overnight in the Dunes should only cost about 300-400Dh. A grand taxi will also take you out that way and back for 150-200Dh. Everything out here is negotiable, so shop around for the best price. Local agencies also offer trips to mountain valley of Dades. Be prepared to negotiate hard otherwise they will rip you off!
  • CLA Studios. CLA Studios aka Dino de Laurentis Cinecitta Studios, is along the same road as Atlas Studios about a kilometer closer to Marrakech. If you can go to only one of the two studios, this is the one to go to. The Atlas Studios tour is mosly TV movies and The Mummy Returns remake. CLA has the Jerusalem set from “Kingdom of Heaven,” and a host of props. 100Dh.
  • Make a half-day trip to beautiful Oasis de Fint. A small paradise of vegetation in the midst of the dry hills surrounding Ouazarzate. Cross the river into Tabount, then take the road direction Agadir. After about1 km there is a signpost, from here it is about 10km by mostly unpaved roads. At the Oasis there is a auberge with restaurant. You can get there by car, taxi or rent a bike in Tabount.
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Trekking in the Sahara is a great experience. Walking, camel, horse treks and ATVs are plentiful and natural to this locale.


  • Caravane de reve, M’Hamid Centre (oposite of the mosque,), ☎ +212 6700 20033. Desert tours, walking tours, camel treks, bivouac camps and sandboarding – short and long duration. Apart from trips and stays in the local area and to erg Chegaga also bigger Morocco tours. Spoken languages are Arabic, English, French and Spanish. Cuisine and the experience of home visits for food & tea time are included.
  • Travel Exploration Morocco, 4 Lot El Hassania La Resistance, ☎ +212 661489960 or +212 618882681 ([email protected]). A variety of Sahara Desert Tours are offered ranging from camel trekking, hiking, to off road discovery in Merzouga, M’hamid, Zagora and Erg Chegaga. Sahara Tours offered are for short and long durations ranging from 3 Days to 7 Days. All drivers are expert licensed tourism guides and speak fluent English, Arabic, Berber and French. 5% of all proceeds are donated to Project Feed Morocco, a charity that assists families in Berber villages.
  • Marrakech Excursions, Tawrirt kasbah , nr 3 (Kasbah Tawrirt), ☎ 00212677632035.
  • Ecolodge Adventures, ☎ 00212677632035. [email protected]
  • Travels Morocco (Excursions & Tours around Morocco), B.P 701 Ouarzazate 45000, ☎ +212 6623 85095. Travels Morocco is a small local tour and transportation company based in the south of Morocco, with office in Ouarzazate.
  • Road Junky Retreat, ☎ +212 6230 35315 ([email protected]). January 27 – Feb 2, 2013 Join up to 30 travellers to camp for a week in the dunes with meditation and dance workshops, as well as music and storytelling around the fire.
  • Ouarzazate xplorer (agenc ede voyage maroc ouarzazate, travel agency morocco), [email protected], ☎ +212 6707 19027. 24. expeditions to the heart of the desert of the south of Morocco, and to the mountains of the Atlas and the gorges of Toudgha and Dades with their canyons. camel rides and bivouac nights. Camel meharees.
  • Transport Tifinagh (Transport Tifinagh), N° 06, Rue Mansour Eddahbi, ☎ +212 5248 86451. Tifinagh Transport is a Tour Operator settled in the city of Ouarzazate, south Morocco. This company promises to provide an excellent service to its customers.
  • Top Morocco tours (Morocco tours), N° 18, Bd Med V, ☎ +212 6624 05579. Top Morocco tours is a Tour Operator based in the city of Ouarzazate, orgnize tours and trips in south of Morocco.
  • Aitbenhaddoutavel, Asfalou, ait ben haddou, ☎ +212618750102. 12/24. Offers hikes, a level accessible to all, depth discovery and personalized cultural treasures of southern Morocco from 40$.
  • Ecolodge Adventures, ☎ 00212677632035. [email protected]
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Whatever you buy, it is likely you won’t find it any cheaper in Marrakech or Fes. It’s important to remember that everything is negotiable! In Ouarzazate, there is souk and some local stores. In the town center, there are two western style shops with fixed (but pretty high) prices, but at these you can buy alcohol including judeo-berber vodka and local wine.

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Plenty of cheap restaurants along Mohammad V street and in central square near market. Normal price for tagine should be about 30Dh.

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Bottled water is cheap (5Dh) and widely available. 5L bottle sold for 9.3 DH.

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Plenty of hotels of all ranges around town. Ask a cabby to bring you to one, but realize he’ll pocket commission for bringing you there.

  • La Gazelle. Clean, cheap hotel, safe parking in the courtyard, ATM just next door, bakery across the road. 156Dhm double room with hot shower.
  • Zaghro Hotel, 1.5 km sur la route de zagora, tabounte Ouarzazate, Ouarzazate, Morocco (From the airport or bus station you have to take a taxi (50 MAD/€5 during daytime or 100 MAD/€10 at night. At anytime you can have the hotel car to bring you to the hotel just call), ☎ +212 5248 54135 ([email protected]). It is located a bit far from the village but is neat and clean, has a restaurant and a pool to enjoy after some time in the desert. €7 to €20 per person with breakfast included.
  • Hotel la Vallée (Hotel Ouarzazate), Km 1 route de Zagora, Taboute Ouarzazate Morocco (Located in Ouarzazate Tabounte district on the way to Zagora), ☎ +212 2485 4034. Offers accommodation, restaurant service, swimming pool, Moroccan caidal tent party lounge, tours and organized excursions in Morocco and 4wd / ATV adventure activities. Rooms decorated in traditional Moroccan style. 20 Euros to 30 Euros per person with breakfast and Dinner included.
  • Hotel Royal. right in the centre (90 dh double with shared bath, 120 dh with bathroom ensuite, 160 dh triple). It can get cold in winter, and the street facing rooms are noisy. Best choice for budget travellers.
  • Hotel Amlal (Hotel Ouarzazate), Rue du Marché Nº24-25 Centre Ville (Located on the town center, right in fron of the big Somalian mosque), ☎ +212 6727 30585. checkin: 11pm; checkout: 12pm. Simple and clean hotel located right on the town center. This is a nice cheap option and great quality price / facilities. All rooms have private bathrooms and tv. Breakfast served on downstairs restaurant. 1 person = 200 dirhams / 20 euros. 2 persons = 250 dirhams / 25 euros. 3 persons = 300 dirhams.
  • Dar Rita (Riad Ouarzazate), Rue de la Mosquée 39 (Located inside Tassoumate old district on the entrance of Ouarzazate coming from Marrakech), ☎ +212 6727 30585. checkin: 11pm; checkout: 12pm. New riad in Ouarzazate located on the typical district of Tassoumate near the river bank and palm trees. 7 Rooms with private bathroom, terrace tend, all amenities. Double room + breakfast + diner = 70 Euros.
  • Hotel el Salam, Mohamed Ave. Hotel el Salam. 70 DH for single room with hot shower inside. Not bad for budget people, however cold in the night. 70.


  • Dar Ahlam is a spectacular 10-room hotel in Skoura, about 40 km from Ouarzazate. It is expensive, but distinctive in every element: architecture, style, service, and food. Possibly the best hotel in Morocco. Ask to stay in one of the villas.
  • I Roccha (Irocha), Tiseldey/Tisselday. Extremely friendly hosts and international mix of travellers. Quiet and relaxing place overseeing a valley in a small village of Tisselday. For New Year holidays, normally confirms booking only for those who visited previously (and hosts liked them).
  • Riad Ksar Ighnda (Ksar Ighnda), Douar Asfalou – Amerzane, ☎ +212 5248 87644 ([email protected], fax: +212 5248 87644). On the edge of the desert, the Riad Ksar Ighnda opens its doors for you onto the Atlas Mountains. In an authentic yet modern setting, our hotel blends in with the environment. Our guests do not arrive at KSAR IGHNDA by chance but they long to return here. ~100-240€.
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Drive further through Zagora to M’Hamid for trips in the desert by camels, 4×4 or quad bikes. There is a bus line which runs from Ouarzazate to Er Rachida, a mid-sized administrative town which can be a good launching pad for Merzouga and the desert, note that on this line touts will join the bus at stops along the way and try to lever you into going on a ‘discounted’ desert tour. They are persistant and will ask you about yourself. Claiming to be a ‘veteran’ of Saharan travel (perhaps more convincing if you can speak French) and already booked into a hotel at your destination may help convince them to let you be. Go to Todra and Dades Gorge.

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Ouarzazate nicknamed “The door of the desert”, is a city and capital of Ouarzazate Province in the Souss-Massa-Drâa of southern-central Morocco. Ouarzazate is at an elevation of 1,160 metres (3,810 ft) in the middle of a bare plateau south of the High Atlas Mountains. To the south of the town is the desert. The town is chiefly inhabited by Berber-speakers, who constructed many of the prominent kasbahs and buildings for which the area is known.

Travel and tourism in Ouarzazate. How to get in, maps, activities to do, where to eat and sleep. Download the Free Ouarzazate Travel Guide.


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Michel Piccaya


As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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