When I first saw pictures of Ouarzazate and Aït Benhaddou online I knew I simply had to see this beautiful spot for myself. This unique Moroccan town can easily be visited on a day trip from Marrakech.
This trip is all about soaking up the rich history, innovative architecture and the impressive natural landscape of Morocco. There’s a lot to see and take in, and it’s sure to be an unforgettable trip!
My friends and I had an unforgettable time in Morocco, soaking up all the unique experiences Marrakech has to offer.
But this day trip was definitely a big highlight of our trip, and something everyone who visits Marrakech should experience.
So if you’re planning to do a day trip to Ouarzazate from Marrakech, this is the guide for you! With practical information like how to get there, what to expect, what to pack and more.
So let’s dive in, and let’s start planning your Marrakech to Ouarzazate trip!
About Ouarzazate and Aït Benhaddou
The fascinating city of Ouarzazate (pronounced war-zazat) is nicknamed The Door of The Desert, because once you pass it, the Sahara Desert spreads out for 9.2 million km2. It’s a daunting sight, but incredibly beautiful.
Because of its interesting and exotic aesthetic, the Ouarzazate region has been the backdrop for many popular movies and shows. Ouarzazate has lent itself to making adventures seem all the more otherworldly and exciting.
You’ll recognize and remember its dusty appeal from Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, and most recently, parts of Game of Thrones (the cool parts).
Aït Benhaddou is an amazing example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. It’s near Ouarzazate and is part of most tours to the area, since it’s such a bucket list item.
And even though it’s right on the Sahara Desert, Aït Benhaddou is situated in a relatively green valley. It’s believed that Aït Benhaddou was established in 757AD.
How to get from Ouarzazate to Marrakech
Fortunately, if you’re taking a tour, you don’t need to stress about this at all. You can just sit back in the air-conditioned van, and enjoy the scenery as you drive across the Atlas Mountains.
Also in large cities the roads can be pretty chaotic. If you don’t have a license or don’t want the added stress of car rental on your vacation, you can also catch a bus.
The bus from Marrakech to Ouarzazate takes 4h 30 minutes and departs every four hours.
Because it can be frustrating to work your time around the bus schedule, and you don’t want the hassle of a car rental, a tour really is the best way.
The drive will take four hours, and will allow you to soak in the views as you go. Also, vacations are supposed to be stress-free, and a planned tour takes all the pressure off you, which I love.
Our experience doing a day trip from Marrakech to Ouarzazate
I had seen pictures of Ouarzazate on social media while searching for Marrakech photos on Instagram, and I simply knew I wanted to see it for myself.
We started our trip at 7 am, after being picked up from our awesome Marrakech riad. It’s an early start, but getting picked up from your door makes it a lot easier, and you then have the whole day to explore!
Our Marrakech to Ouarzazate trip started with us winding our way through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass in the Atlas Mountains in an air-conditioned van (trust me, the air-conditioning is a big deal).
You can just look out and appreciate the unique landscape as you drive along. Our first stop was at a little village, Ait Ben Barka.
It was interesting to see how people really live in the rural areas of Morocco, so we really liked this stop. The surrounding landscape is also really beautiful. It breaks up the long journey and gives you a chance to stretch your legs.
After driving a while further, we stopped at the top of the Tizi n’Tichka pass. The spot that we stopped at was 2,260 meters above sea level, and gave us an incredible view over the mountains.
If you go in winter, you’ll likely even see snow, which is an odd and unexpected sight. It’s actually really cold in winter!
Given that I was wearing Birkenstock, I clearly wasn’t expecting to find snow on this day trip. So don’t be like me, and pack appropriately.
Our third stop was at the Atlas Film Studios at Ouarzazate. It’s the biggest film studio in the world, and where much of those films and series I mentioned earlier were filmed.
You can explore the sets yourself, so we could take our time on the ones we found really interesting, and just glance into others.
After that we stopped at a great little restaurant for Moroccan food. Their tagines are amazing, and if you’re hankering after couscous, you’re sure to leave very happy.
Last but not least, the amazing Aït Benhaddou! It’s one of the most extraordinary kasbahs in Morocco, and just an amazing thing to see.
While wandering through the streets of Aït Benhaddou you’ll not only marvel at the uniqueness of the architecture that surrounds you, but at the fact that you’re walking the same streets as some of Hollywood’s biggest stars!
Make your way to the top of the village, and you’ll be able to enjoy this epic view over the town and surrounding countryside.
Throughout Morocco you’ll probably want to stick with their general clothing guidelines, so that you don’t get unwanted attention. That means covered shoulders and loose clothing, even in the heat.
You should also avoid low necklines and exposed legs. Keeping your clothing loose and flowing has the added bonus of keeping you cool in the summer!
Other than that, you don’t need much besides the usual travelling essentials. But I’ve listed a few things that it’d be best to have with you.
Comfortable shoes – you’ll be doing a decent amount of walking through the streets of historic Berber villages and kasbahs.
Sunglasses – wow can it get bright out there. The light reflects off the sand, and can be pretty uncomfortable if you don’t have the right eyewear.
Sun hat – this is always a good thing to have on you in Morocco. The sun is fierce, so a hat is a great idea, even in winter.
Is doing a Marrakech to Ouarzazate day trip worth it?
There’s no denying that the windy roads and long journey there and back make this a bit of a tiring day. If you are prone to car-sickness, this drive might be quite challenging, as it winds through the mountains.
Taking into account a 4-hour drive there and 4-hour drive back, you will spend 8 hours of your day just sat in a car, minivan or bus.
Even for those who don’t mind driving, it’s still a long day. The views are incredible and Aït Benhaddou is really a sight to see, just bear in mind it’s a lot of travelling for one day.
If I was to go back I would choose a multi-day tour. That way you can spend more time in the best places, really soaking in the atmosphere of Ouarzazate and Aït Benhaddou, and stretch the journey out a little.
On a longer tour, you have more time to relax and appreciate it all. I have listed some options for 2 day tours that take you to explore also other cool spots in the area.
More Marrakech and Ouarzazate tour options
The Marrakech to Merzouga 3 day tour is really awesome if you have a couple of extra days to spend on an adventure.
You’ll spend a night in a bedouin camp, ride a camel over the desert, and still stop at Ouarzazate, which is definitely the most important part of the one day tour.
You also get to catch sunrises and sunsets over the desert, which is really something special. And the broken up journey is sure to be appreciated.
2 day Zagora Sahara Desert tour – If the long journey suits you just fine but you want to add a smidge more fun in, this tour is perfect. You’ll stop at Aït Benhaddou and head even further, to Zagora.
There you’ll experience an hour-long camel ride during the sunset, and an excellent dinner in the Zagora dunes. It’s a great experience, and you’ll certainly have seen lots of Morocco by the end of it!
Final thoughts on a Marrakech to Ouarzazate day trip
Morocco is different from anywhere I’ve come across before, from the old medinas (marketplaces), which are still as vibrant and bustling as ever, to the striking and unforgiving desert landscape.
Doing a day trip to Ouarzazate from Marrakech makes for a somewhat tiring day. If you have the time try doing a 2-day tour instead and exploring some of the surrounding areas too.
If you don’t have the time then it’s up to you deciding whether it’s worth it. Personally, we loved our time in Ouarzazate, even despite the early morning and long driving.
Ksar Aït Benhaddou especially is simply beautiful, and a must-see for anyone travelling to Morocco. I hope you find this guide useful in planning your Marrakech to Ouarzazate trip!
If you’re looking for more Moroccan desert experiences, check out my Morocco desert glamping guide.
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