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.
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.
Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco is a beautiful, fortified village in the southeast of the country and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The small town was built around 1,000 years ago and was an important point along the caravan route back then. Today, Ait-Ben-Haddou is one of the most visited attractions in Morocco and probably the most attractive stop on round trips across the country. Due to its unique architecture and incredibly magical ambience, Ait-Ben-Haddou has already served as a movie set for many well-known films. Game of Thrones, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia were all filmed here, for example! Yes, a visit to this pretty village is worthwhile, and so every Morocco traveler should have seen the largest Kasbah in the country.
- Hotel pickup / drop-off
- Transfer in comfortable vehicle
- English speaking driver
- Local guides
- Meals as per itinerary
- Tips and personal expenses