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Wonderfully incongruous with the look of the name, Ouarzazate actually means 'without confusion' or 'without noise'. Which is quite true: Ouarzazate is a quiet town at the base of the High Atlas mountains in Saharan Morocco. For a long time a waypoint for traders between Africa and Europe, Ouarzazate has a labyrinthine Kasbah. And the best places to stay in Ouarzazate make a wonderful base from which to dive into the desert or the mountains.
Whatever method of transport you want to take into the desert, or into the mountains, Ouarzazate will set you up. There are numerous agencies here, offering transport by camel, bikes, motorbikes, or assisted trekking. And you've the Sahara in one direction and the High Atlas in the other. And after your journey Ouarzazate will be your oasis…
The centre of town has been developed quite a lot over the past couple of years, and it's now a spacious pedestrianised plaza. Quite different from the bustling trade capital rife with livestock it was for centuries, or the dusty French garrison town Ouarzazate became in the 1920s.
After the French left in the '50s Ouarzazate became a location darling of the film industry, and still is! - it's played Tibet, Somalia, Ancient Rome and Egypt, among others. You might still recognise Ouarzazate in Game of Thrones. If you fancy a trip to a film set, visit Atlas Studios where you can see sets from Cleopatra, Asterix & Obelix, Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia, to name just a few.
A lot of what people travel to Ouarzazate to see isn't in the town, it's around it.
- Ouarzazate is a day trip's distance from Ait Benhaddou, one of Morocco's best preserved Kasbahs, and a World Heritage Site.
- The Dades Valley runs between Bourmaine and Ouarzazate, and between these two oases are a string of little fortified villages beyond which is rose country, then date and henna country. Then the 300metre high walls of Todra Gorge.
- Ouarzazate is also a good base for an overnight experience in the dunes at M'Hamid, a small village in the Zagora region, and one of the last pockets of civilisation before the vast ocean of the Sahara. After M'Hamid it's just sand, shepherds and caravan trails.
For desert luxury
- Dar Ahlam is a traditional Kasbah, transformed into a luxury retreat. Sumptuous suites and private villas provide the comfortable sleeping arrangements, while the hammam and giant pool will help bring you back to life after time in the desert. Wow. In a Wow setting. Undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in Ouarzazate!
Still not sure? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Ouarzazate, or contact, one of our friendly gurus for advice. Alternatively check out our recommendations for places to stay in the High Atlas.
Best Hotels in Ouarzazate
Sawadi 17 rooms from $72Skoura, Ouarzazate
A charming guesthouse in a gloriously remote location set between the Sahara desert and Atlas mountains. Atmospheric rooms are traditional in style with warm pink walls, fireplaces and woven rugs. Featuring a spa and organic restaurant but it's the laid backed vibes that really make this one.Families - Family suites and plenty of outdoor activities make this ideal for a holiday with children.Back to Nature - Set in a unique landscape offering mountains and deserts, lakes and palm groves.Sights nearby - Walk to the impressive 17th-century Kasbah of Amerhidil.Outstanding locationRecommended by - I Escape
Dar Ahlam 14 rooms from $560Ouarzazate
Traditional kasbah in Skoura's Palmeraie, four hours from Marrakech, transformed into a luxury and spoiling retreat. 14 sumptuous suites & villas, plus hammam, large pool & plenty of activities including quad safaris or hiking. Tailor made excursions including private dining under the desert stars.Swimming Pool - Heated Outdoor PoolSpa - With hammamRomantic - Good for couples.Great walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Kiwi Collection, Relais & Chateaux