OuarzazateMorocco and the largest town in the Saharan Morocco.
At an elevation of 1,135 m, built mostly along main street - Avenue Muhammed V. Once in its history, Ouarzazate had been crossing point 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.
CTM Gare Voyage
There are two bus stations in town, the "Gare Routière" where grand taxis and local buses leave from, and the "CTM Gare Voyage" in the center of town. Don't buy CTM tickets at gare routier as their buses don't leave from there.
Buses that pass through Ouarzazate can be badly delayed en-route, and the buses always take a long lunch break, keep this in mind to avoid arriving at your next destination too late.
From specific destinations:
- From Inezgane (suburb of Agadir) twice a day with CTM (09:00 & 23:30), 6.5 hr, 140 dirham (fixed price with CTM and a similar price with Supratours). There are also other companies running this route.
- From Marrakesh there are two 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 dirham per person.
- From Merzouga there is a daily Supratours bus at 07:30, 160 dirham.
By planeOften two flights a day during the week from Casablanca, occasional flights to Agadir and other cities.
The area around Mohammad V is very walkable. The CTM station is there as well. Petits taxis for within the city (no more than 10 dirham from the airport to the hotel), grands taxis for between cities (no more than 150 dirham to Ait Benhaddou and back, though you can probably get it lower), including to Ait Benhaddou and surrounding Kasbahs.
For those traveling by car, note kerb colors: red and white means no parking, green and white means OK to park.
Stay safeDon'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. Avoid!
Kasbah TaourirtA well preserved kasbah inside of the city with a constant exhibition of various artists inside. It is like a little labyrinth, exploring all the rooms and hallways. Sometimes you can sneak in with another group of tourists.
Musée du CinémaNot that exciting and many items are not marked or signed, but a good alternative if you do not want to head out of the city to the other museums/studios.
Outside of town
Aït-BenhaddouOne of the best preserved Kasbahs. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Very picturesque place, lots of movies were shot there (Gladiator). 10 dirham to visit kasbahs. You don't need a guide, but locals will follow you pretending to help and at the end will ask for money. See more information in the specific article. Be careful not to get too wet from the river when crossing it, since there's been reports of schistosomiasis contracted from the water.
Oasis de FintMake a half-day trip to this beautiful and 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 ~1 km there is a signpost, from here it is ~10 km by mostly unpaved roads. At the Oasis there is an auberge with restaurant.
Solar ParkYou might wonder what is that huge tower looming over the hills next to the city, which can be seen from dozens of miles around Ouarzazate going along the highway. It is a solar park tower and it uses the reflections of numerous mirrors to generate electricity. Head out there if you have a bicycle or car and admire this wonder of technology, or just take an impressive picture if you have a good camera and an ND filter. This site compares well with the Planta Solar PS10 in Seville Spain.
Atlas StudiosFilms such as Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra, Kundun, Gladiator, The Living Daylights 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, left to rot.
CLA StudiosCLA Studios aka Dino de Laurentis Cinecitta Studios, is along the same road as Atlas Studios about a km closer to Marrakech. If you have to go to only one of the two studios, this is the one to go to. The Atlas Studios tour is mostly TV movies and The Mummy Returns remake. The sets are unconvincing in person. CLA, on the other hand, has the Jerusalem set from Kingdom of Heaven, which looks real in person, and a host of great props.
- Go for a swim, Public pool between Tammasint and Gar routier bus station on Mohamed V, 20 dirham. Nice break from a road trip. The river is usually full December-January where you can find locals swimming.
- Walk along the central square behind Muhammad V at night when everyone comes out. The kids go out to play football on the square, people go eat and socialize, and you'll get a feel for the community just walking around
There is a large local market every Saturday in El Hay Mohamadi where locals including the nomads sell their crafts and animals a great place to buy carpets.
There is another market across the river in Tabounte on Sunday with the same goods on offer.
There is a supermarket across the road from Place de Mouahidine (main square), including 5 l water bottled for 11.50 dirham.
La Palmeraieaddress: Avenue Al Maghreb Al ArabiNot the most beautiful and best rated hotel, but centrally located, and they have good offers sometimes, which includes a swimming pool, breakfast, AC and a nice room. That makes it a good price-value deal if you get it cheap. Check Booking.com before heading there and quote the price.
La GazelleClean, cheap hotel, safe parking in the courtyard, ATM just next door, bakery across the road.
Hotel Atlasphone: +212 0524887745, +212 0605202817address: Rue du Marche no.13Convenient location, English and French spoken, WiFi, clean rooms, Hassan can guide desert tours.
phone: +212 672-730-585address: Rue du Marché Nº24-25 Centre VilleSimple and clean hotel located right on the town center. This is a nice cheap option and great quality price and facilities. All rooms have private bathrooms and tv. Breakfast served on downstairs restaurant.
Zaghro Hotelphone: +212 524 85 41 35address: 1½ km on the Route de Zagora, Tabounte Ouarzazate,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.
Hotel RoyaleRight in the centre, has ugly rooms. It can get very cold in winter, and the street facing rooms are very noisy.
Hotel el Salamaddress: Mohamed AveNot bad for budget people, however cold in the night.
phone: +212 24-85-40-34address: Km 1 route de Zagora, Taboute Ouarzazate MoroccoOffers 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.
phone: +212 672-730-585address: Rue de la Mosquée 39New 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.
address: Tiseldey/TisseldayExtremely 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).
phone: +212 524895118address: Gorges Todra
Dar Ahlam10-room hotel in Skoura, about 40 km from Ouarzazate. Expensive, but distinctive in every element: architecture, style, service, and food. They also have villas.
phone: +212 5 24 88 76 44address: Douar Asfalou - AmerzaneOn the edge of the desert, the Riad Ksar Ighnda opens its doors onto the Atlas Mountains. Authentic yet modern setting.
- Er Rachida – A mid-sized administrative town which can be a good launching pad for Merzouga and the desert. There is a bus line which runs from Ouarzazate. Touts will join the bus at stops along the way and try to lever you into going on a 'discounted' desert tour. They are persistent 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.
- Valley of Dadès – Local agencies offer trips to this place in the mountain. Be prepared to negotiate hard; otherwise, they will rip you off! Plan a full day tour by 4WD jeep. Make a shortcut off-road in order to avoid a part of the paved N10. The views are spectacular and you have a great chance to meet shepherds (often young girls) with their herd. In the area are many Kasbah's, some inhabited, some abandoned. Don't be surprised if you see a for-sale sign on an abandoned Kasbah.