Things to do in Ouarzazate, Morocco

Known as the Door to the Sahara desert, and set high in the Atlas Mountains, Ouarzazate offers plenty of attractions for the tourist

1. Ait Ben Haddou

The settlement of Ait Ben Haddou is one of the best remaining examples of pre 18th century Moroccan architecture.

As a result of this the village has even been used as a setting for many Hollywood films, including Lawrence of Arabia and The Living Daylights.

This fortified village stands on a hill which from the top offers stunning 360° vistas of the Moroccan desert and mountains. The buildings are constructed using tradition North African techniques using only earth and wood. Due to this method of construction the village needs continuing maintenance especially when rain is heavy.

Not just of architectural importance Ait Ben Haddou is geographically significant due to the location on the old trading route between Sudan and Marrakech. In 1987 the village was made a Unesco world heritage site.

Ait Ben Haddou is still home to a handful of modern Moroccan families; although most of the old inhabitants live across the road in a more modern village.

where? Take the N9 toward Marrakech, after 22 km turn right and follow a small road for a further 10 km.

when? Year round

£$€¥ 10 Dirams

2. Atlas Film Studios

Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Cleopatra and Babel.

Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Cleopatra and Babel. These are alll films which have had scenes recorded throughout the years at the Atlas film studios in Ouarzazate. It covers an impressive 200,000 square metres making the studios one of the largest in the world.

Although still a working studio, guided tours for the general public are available every 2 hours. They last around 30 minutes and will take you around some once glorious but now fast decaying film sets.

where? 1 km from Ouarzazate centre towards Marrakech

when? Daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Closed to visitors on Fridays.

£$€¥ 50 Dirams for a guided tour

3. Dades Valley

The Dades valley is situated between the High Atlas and the Jbel Sarhro mountains.

With fertile soil the valley is home to many traditional Berber villages and the area has seen an increase in popularity with tourists over the last decade.

A large draw for visitors are the magical landscapes accessible by winding mountain passes around the valley (pictured).

Cut deep into the Dades valley runs the Dades gorge which was formed by the glacial rivers running from the Atlas mountains, the gorge at its deepest has cliffs of 300 metres.

where? The Dades gorge is within driving distance from Ouarzazate with an early start.

when? Year round

£$€¥ Free

4. Ouarzazate's Main Square

In the centre of Ouarzazate is the large main square which is home to a host of restaurants and shops.

The square is especially atmospheric at sunset, you can enjoy a warm tagine or a sweet cup of mint tea as you soak up this charming Morrocan town.