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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 many years a way point for traders between Africa and Europe, Ouarzazate has a labyrinthine Kasbah. 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. With the Sahara in one direction and the High Atlas in the other, Ouarzazate will be your oasis in the middle of it all…
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 as it was for centuries, or the dusty French garrison town that 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.
What Not To Miss
- 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. Followed by the 300 metre 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.
Use our guide to the best places to stay in Ouarzazate and start to plan your off-the-beaten track Moroccan adventure.
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!
- Set in a wonderfully remote location between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, Sawadi offers traditional rooms oozing rustic charm - complete with warm pink walls, fireplaces and woven rugs. Plus, there's even a spa and an organic restaurant at this laid back spot.
For A holiday villa
- If you've decided that you'd like the privacy of a self-catering option then browse through the wide variety available online with our partner, booking.com.
- You're probably best off visiting Ouarzazate in the shoulder-season months, from April to May or September to November, when the weather's a comfortable 15-25°C. The summer months are blisteringly hot which makes daily sightseeing a bit of a challenge.
- Another popular option is visiting around Christmas, though this is usually a pretty busy time so expect a number of fellow tourists and to pay more for accommodation.
- International visitors can fly into Ouarzazate Airport, located just 2km outside the city centre. You can take a taxi to the airport for around 50 dirhams per person (£10), or instead prebook a shuttle service.
- There are unfortunately no direct flights from the UK to Ouarzazate, most require at least one changeover - usually at Casablanca Airport. The journey time is anywhere from 6 hours 30 mins plus.
- For car hire prices, we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars.
Still not sure?
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