Don’t miss these cool things to do in Ouarzazate — Morocco’s mini-Hollywood!
When we originally planned to visit Ouarzazate, it was purely to have a midway stopping point between the Moroccan desert and Marrakech. The bus ride would be 12 hours, and Ouarzazate was right in the middle. We figured we’d just stop in, spend the night, and then continue on. However, once we knew Autumn’s schedule and realized we had a little more wiggle room, we decided to add on an extra night, and it wound up being one of our favorite parts of our trip!
Ouarzazate is something of a mini-Hollywood in Morocco as it’s seen the likes of Gladiator to some earlier “Game of Thrones” scenes! There are so many cool sites to visit, and the views along the way are some of the most beautiful landscapes we saw while in Morocco. If you’re planning similar itinerary to ours, do NOT skip out on Ouarzazate!
Tours for Ouarzazate
While we stayed over, it is possible to do day trips to Ouarzazate and to the major sites while there. Everything is really spread out, so you if you don’t do a tour, you need to either rent a car (more below) or figure something out with a grand taxi.
However, if you want to do a tour, here are some different options:
From Out of Town:
- Day Trip to Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou
- Full-Day Tour to Ouarzazate
- 3-Day Sahara Desert Tour
- Ouarzazate Trip from Agadir
8 Things to Do in Ouarzazate
Rent a Car
If you don’t want to book a tour, the only other way to really enjoy Ouarzazate is to rent a car! It’s pretty straightforward if you have an international license, and it gives you so much freedom. Just know that you need to be able to drive manual and be comfortable with cliffside driving.
I recommend skipping the name brand rental car places because those prices are way higher than normal! Our first stop was to Europcar, and it was 1,600 MAD for the day while the place we rented from was only 520 MAD! Plus our place is less than a 10-minute walk from the CTM Bus Station, so you can drop off your car and then walk over to catch the bus to your next destination.
Eat at La Gironde
We walked here from our riad after we got all settled in, and it was the best! The waiter was the absolute sweetest, and he was so friendly chatting with us.
Walk around the main area
After we feasted at La Gironde, we (okay, Autumn) decided to walk off our food a bit and check out what would be Ouarzazate’s downtown. It’s really just a road and a main square, nothing overwhelming. The buildings are pretty in this rosy, shabby way, and the overall vibe seemed happier than Merzouga.
Check out Ait Benhaddou
By far the biggest thing to do in Ouarzazate is to check out the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Ouarzazate, which is why I recommend renting a car or booking a tour. You can’t easily take public transportation, and the grand taxis will cost just as much as a tour or car rental.
Ait Benhaddou is an ancient village of earthen clay buildings that dates back to the 1600s. Apparently some families still live here, but most people live across the river. Because of its ancient look, it’s been used in a lot of movies and TV Shows. For me, the most notable is as the scene towards the end of “Game of Thrones,” Season 3 when Dany’s just free the slaves of Yunkai.
Basically, you’ll just want to climb into the village and just go up to see the views. There are small shops around the paths but nothing too aggressive. I’d go in the morning if you’re staying in Ouarzazate because we left around noon, and it was when the area started to get a bit more crowded.
TIP: Park in the lot near the signs for the tourist/visitor center. I believe it’s right in front of a hotel too. You’ll need to tip the parking lot attendant like 10-15 MAD when you leave.
Buy some of this artwork
On your way out, stop by one of these art shops! The art is made from natural dyes and then burning them a certain way to bring out the shades. It was pretty cool to watch it all happen. I specifically recommend finding Mendhi because he was so nice and friendly! He didn’t push us to buy anything or breathe down our necks while we were in there. In fact, he pretty much left us alone until we asked him questions and picked out what we wanted to get.
Drive further to Telouet Kasbah
Once you’ve properly explore Ait Benhaddou, hop into your car and drive another hour to the Telouet Kasbah! It’s worth it, I promise!
Stop off to check out all the insane views
Seriously, one the best parts of having a car is being able to stop off on the side and just get out to admire the views. The gorge is incredible, and I swear my jaw was on the group the whole time. We noticed them all on our way to Telouet and then decided to take our time coming back so we could get out and see.
Go to Oscar Hotel to see the Different Film Locations
To really see how Ouarzazate is a mini-Hollywood, you want to go to the Oscar Hotel. I don’t know why everyone recommends going to CLA Studios because that’s NOT where you go! The studios are just a museum from the sounds of it, and the actual film locations are further down. Go to the Oscar Hotel because that’s where they’re playing clips of movies filmed in Morocco and where you can buy tickets to see everything.
There’s also a sort of castle far in the distance that’s where I believe they filmed some “Game of Thrones” scenes. Most blogs say the castle feels quite empty. I wouldn’t know because, as one must expect from a mini-Hollywood at times, they were filming something there! Autumn and I walked all the way there to see if we could at least see anything not being used, and it took a surprisingly long time for someone to finally tell us we couldn’t be there!
The other film spots were pretty cool to see. There’s a mini-Egypt and a mini-China set-up that were particularly cool to walk around.
3 Other Things to Do in Ouarzazate
In town the opposite direction of where we went is the Taourirt Kasbah which looks quite interesting.
Another place to visit for movie buffs is the Cinema Museum. From what I read, it didn’t sound that appealing, and we only really had one full day of sightseeing, so we skipped it. It’s also in the same area as Taourirt.
This is a quirky stop if you have the time! I totally meant to include this in our driving, but it’s a little out of the way, and I forgot since we wanted to get to the film studio before it closed. It was used in The Hills Have Eyes 2, which is probably one of the most random movies I’ve heard of filming in Morocco. The gas station just looks weird and funky, and if you’re already driving around, you might as well check it out!
Ouarzazate Travel Tips
Ouarzazate is still pretty much in the desert, so it’s quite hot and dry. Not as unbearable as Merzouga but still hot! Dress lightly!
Where to Stay
We stayed at Dar Rita and loved it! The owners were so lovely, and the place is beautiful. It’s a bit tucked away, but they can help you find it. The air conditioner was most welcome after Merzouga, and their wifi was surprisingly fast. Like it was probably the best we had in all of Morocco.
Don’t miss popping up to the roof for sunset (photo below). It really was such a lovely place!
How to Get There
From Merzouga, our guesthouse added us to this shuttle bus that went to Ouarzazate and could drop us off right at our hotel. There is a bus that goes to Ouarzazate, but the stations were a bit of a walk.
When we left to Marrakech, we took a CTM bus. If you use the rental car place we did, it’s a short walk to the station. Autumn actually dropped me off with all our suitcases, and then I got the tickets while she returned the car and walked back.
How to Get Around
Walking and driving! It’s a bit more spread out, but we still pretty much walked everywhere downtown and then drove everywhere else. Just stick to the shady spots as much as possible.
What to Wear
Dress in light, breathable fabrics! I mainly wore a yellow dress from Old Navy on our big sightseeing day, and it was perfectly comfortable.
Ouarzazate definitely felt like one of the safer cities we visited. The only time we had a weird moment was when we were driving through one of the villages in the mountains. A bunch of kids just came up to our car (as we were moving!) and tried to open the doors. It was weird, but we had our doors locked (which you should do anywhere), so it was fine.
More Tips for Visiting Morocco
Need more inspiration? Here are my picks for the best cities to visit in Morocco on your first trip, including the very blue Chefchaouen, the cultural capital of Fes, and the chill, seaside town of Essaouira.
If you’re trying to figure out transportation in general, this guide on how to get around Morocco should come in handy. Don’t forget to download Maps.Me and have Morocco saved for offline use. I found it often covers areas in more detail than Google Maps, and it’s what we mainly used for navigation.
It’s a good idea to have some sort of travel insurance in case anything happens that’s too expensive to pay out of pocket. My friend had to get rabies shots, which were luckily free, but you never know what a broken arm or worse could entail! I’d choose between either World Nomads or Safety Wing. WN is better for more technical coverage but Safety Wing is better for longer travel and those on more of a budget. I had Safety Wing for my trip but, luckily, I didn’t need to use it.
Have you been to Ouarzazate? What’d you think?