On the road of a 1,000 kasbahs from Marrakech to the Sahara, one pitstop stands out for its movie-star credentials and sunset-soaked citadels. Ouarzazate is Morocco’s desert-based Hollywood. Here’s how to see it.
While there are loads of great things to do in Marrakech many make the popular road trip to the Saharan sand dunes. Heading passed the Ounila Valley & Aït Ben Haddou almost all travellers spend a night in Ouarzazate. It may look like a sleepy town, but under the surface, this dusty road stop has a few surprises up its sleeve.
The first thing you notice as you approach Ouarzazate is a massive shining beacon of light. Radiating from something similar to a modern lighthouse, the world’s largest solar power complex towers above the desert.
But, Ouarzazate is also the leader in another dazzling field. Atlas Studios, just outside the centre of town, has been churning out Hollywood blockbusters since 1983. Over 200 movies have been filmed in this landscape. It has served as everything from biblical scenes to ancient Egyptian fables.
In addition to being the hub of the Moroccan movie industry, the area surrounding Ouarzazate is home to intriguing kasbahs – both decaying and restored – and a hidden oasis making it one of the most interesting places to visit in Morocco.
Rabat is a cultural city deep-rooted in history. Many masterpieces decorate its streets and squares. Visit the Kasbah des Oudayas which is a majestic and splendid architecture embellished by the surrounding gardens. Not far from the walls, stand the imposing walls of the Chellah ; a necropolis from the time of the Merinids. Crossing the walls is like entering another world ; walk among ancient vestiges, gardens and storks.
Rabat is also a modern eco-responsible capital with its green spaces. Beautiful parks await you, such as the botanical test garden or the Exotic Gardens of Bouknadel which is a few kilometres from the city. Rabat boasts an outstanding coastline; on the Atlantic Ocean shores, it has kilometres of well equipped beaches that lead to the neighbouring city of Casablanca.
Beautiful palm trees lining its paths, with the Atlantic ocean over the horizon, and large business buildings in every corner : Casablanca is the economic lung of Morocco ; a bustling metropolis.
Modern infrastructures are in the middle of charming districts, between Arab-Muslim heritage and legacies of the colonial period. Discover all the possibilities : take a stroll in the medina, which is one of latest medinas built in Morocco, roam through the centre and its art-deco buildings, and join the Hassan II mosque ; the splendid of architecture built on the water.
Let yourself be tempted by the festive side of the city. Take advantage of the cornice, its clubs and festivals too, such as the Casablanca Festival, Jazzablanca or Tremplin L’Boulevard.
The coastline, bordered by beaches equipped to suit all your comfort, invites you to experience the most fun activities that will make your stay more enjoyable, from diving, to jet-skiing to boating.
Fez has a special atmosphere. This 13th-century city is an imperial city of long-lasting multicultural history, that reserves unexpected surprises for its visitors.
Cross the walls of the famous medina of Fez, recognized by UNESCO as an outstanding universal value. Stroll through the streets of the Fez-El-Bali district. The Bab Boujloud is the easiest way to enter the medina.
In early May, the squares and alleys resound with world music, where the Festival of World Sacred Music is held in the former imperial capital, which occurs along with Jazz in Riads, one of the main events in the city’s cultural calendar. Don’t leave without having tasted the city’s gastronomy, reputed to be one of the best in the world.
Located on the edge of the starkly beautiful Sahara Desert, Merzouga is a small, dusty town in eastern Morocco. Although the town itself has little to offer the intrepid traveler (besides a handful of hotels and restaurants), it is famous as the gateway to the vast Erg Chebbi dunes. Here, soaring peaks of sand change color with the shifting light of dawn and dusk. Camel trains create romantic silhouettes, and Berber villages act as remote oases in an environment that has remained unchanged for thousands of years. These are the archetypal Sahara landscapes of which Moroccan dreams are made.
Situated in central Morocco, the Dadès Gorge should be at the top of the bucket list for adventurous souls in search of astonishing scenery and immersion into authentic Berber culture. The gorge (actually a series of separate gorges) was carved out by the passage of the Dades River and is navigable via a road known locally as the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs.
Those that drive its hairpin bends can expect to discover breathtaking rock formations in colors that range from tan and beige to gold, rust red, and dusky mauve. The historic kasbahs and ksour, or fortified villages, of the Berber people overlook the valley, where the river breathes life into groves of palm and almond trees.
Local people still inhabit some of these villages, while many of the kasbahs have been converted into boutique hotels for Dadès Gorge explorers.
Between tradition and modernity, Marrakech is the promise of unequalled sensations. Strolling the Jemaa El-Fna square and the souks with their shimmering colours and oriental smells, the red city offers you a complete change of scenery. Horse-drawn carriage rides, sunny terraces, travelling artists and other day and night activities will give a tates of wishful comeback.
You will be able to admire all the architectural richness of the Medina, upon visiting one of its many riads, small oriental palaces overlooking a beautiful patio. You can also relax and recharge at the Menara, a vast garden with an emblematic basin. Marrakech shower its visitors by its splendour and its diversity, you just have to leave the ramparts to be immersed in modern Morocco. The districts of Gueliz and Hivernage offer the most modern infrastructures, luxury boutiques and international ready-to-wear stores, airy avenues; which all contribute to Marrakech’s unique offering.
Being a growing economic bustling city, Marrakech has special festive and cultural places, such as the « Palais des Congres » and the splendid Royal Theater. Enjoy Marrakech at night by discovering the many themed venues, trendy clubs and traditional evenings that reflect the lively part of the city.
- Hotel pickup / drop-off
- Transfer in comfortable vehicle
- English speaking driver
- Local guides
- Meals as per itinerary
- Tips and personal expenses
What to Expect
On your maiden visit to the Big Apple, be sure to allow a minimum of three days so you can take a breath and enjoy all the city has to offer without being in transit every moment of your trip. The following will only scratch the surface of what to expect but will arm you with information to feel confident during your time in New York City.