From Marrakesh through the High Atlas mountain range to the old kasbahs of Ait Benhaddou and the film studios of Ouarzazate, and further the Atlantic coast, to Agadir and surfing in Taghazout.
This trip is a must have on your list of next destinations. We had an amazing time in a world of 1000 and 1 night, of colors, full of tradition, differences of landscapes, from mountains to dessert, the people, the food and many sites that often makes you think you are in the middle of a movie.
Especially the trip from Marrakesh to Ait Benhaddou via the High Atlas Mountain and the Tizi n´Tichka pass was a wonderful one day drive.
And you don’t have to worry. The road is in very good shape, there are very nice places with small restaurants on the way to take a rest and often have a wonderful view on the mountains.
One good advice we need to give you is – watch the speed limit !!! We were stopped one time and had to pay.
- Marrakkesh to Ait Benhaddou: 185 km / 5 hours
- Ait Benhaddou to Ouarzazate: 30 km / 30 minutes
- Ouarzazate to Taroudant: 290 km / 5 hours
- Taroudant to Agadir: 80 km / 2 hours
- Agadir to Taghazout: 23 km / 30 minutes
Marrakesh at first
What an amazing place and atmosphere on earth. The moment you arrive in Marrakesh you will fall in love with this vibrating city, the light in the street from sand walls, the rich colors, the people, the food and riads, the medina and souks, the scent of spices and mint tea, full of tradition, the merchants on Jemaa el-Fnaa square and the lively crowd on the night market, palaces and well-designed gardens.
We spent 3 days in Marrakesh to have enough time to explore the city and its beautiful sights, sit on the terraces having tea and watch the people passing by.
Places to see in Marrakesh
- The Medina and Souk
- Place Jemaa-el-Fna
- The House of Photography
- Bahia Palace
- El Badi Palace
- Jardin Majorelle
Where to stay in Marrakesh?
Riad Zaouia 44 is an old property of a famous family of Marrakech. It is located in a very old district of the medina, within 5 minutes of the souks, close to the place of Bab Taghzout, the little sister of the place Jemaa el Fna.
Ait Benhaddou for two days
Ait benhaddou is located on the southern slopes of the High Atlas in the Province of Ouarzazatze. The Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is a very good example of southern Moroccan architecture. It is the most famous ksar in the Ounila Valley. Located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh.
The site was one of the many trading posts on the route from Marrakesh to ancient Sudan.
Already kilometers before entering Aït Benhaddou we saw the walls and towers of the old Kasbahs. Amazingly beautiful – like a huge sand castle. We had to stop to take really believe what lies in front of us.
We decided to spend two nights in this valley to have enough time to hike up the old kasbahs, drive out to Ouarzazate to visit the film studios, and surly take time for pictures.
Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Several films have been shot in the area including:
Sodom Aand Gomorrah / Oedipus Rex / The Man Who Would Be King / The Messgae / Jesus of Nazareth / Time Bandits / Marco Polo / The Jewel of the Nil / The Living of Daylights / The Last Temptation of Christ / The Sheltering Sky / Kundun / Gladiator / Alexander / Kingdom of Heaven / Babel / One Night with the King / Prince of Persia / Son of God
Where to stay in Ait Benhaddou?
There are various hotels, riads, or even hostels that you can stay in. We have also passed a campsite, which looked really nice and had a good view.
One really nice hotel that we visited for tea time in the afternoon is KSAR IGHNDA, which indeed was a very good hotel with a beautiful view on the old kasbahs of Ait Benhaddou.
Ouarzazate and the Film Studios
nicknamed “The door of the desert”, is the capital of Ouarzazate Provice in the Draa-Tafilalet region of south central Morocco. To the south of the town is the desert.
The town is chiefly inhabited by Berber-speakers, who constructed many of the prominent kasbahs and buildings for which the area is known.
Ouarzazate is an important holiday destination in Morocco, as a base for excursions across the Draa Valley and into the desert.
So, if you want to walk on sand dunes or visit a real oasis – this is the place. However, please note that those tours can still take an entire day or even two days. Great sites to visit in the wider area are:
- Draa Valley
- Ait Benhaddou
- Dunes of Merzouga
- Dunes of Chigag
- Oasis de Fin
The Ouarzazate area is a noted film-making location, with Morocco’s biggest studios.
You might well remember Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and GAME OF THRONES
Lunch in Taroudant
We left Ait Benhaddou early morning and had a wonderful drive on the southern side of the High Atlas towards Agadir. A 300-km drive but very picturesque. We scheduled an entire day for this drive to have enough time to stop on the way, rest and enjoy those beautiful views you will get in the Atlas Mountains.
For lunch, we stopped at Taroudant for lunch and to visit the old town walls that are nearly 6 kilometers long and are set with bastions and punctuated by nine gates that are still in use. The town is known as the “Grandmother of Marrakesh” because it looks like a smaller Marrakesh with its surrounding.
Unlike Marrakesh, almost the entire city of Taroudant is located inside its walls. A new part of the city is being developed outside the city walls around the campus of a faculty of the Ibn Zohr University of Agadir.
The city in the Sous Valley in southern Morocco is situated 80 kilometers east of Agadir on the road to to/from Ouarzazate and the Sahara dessert. In the sixteenth century, the Saadi dynasty used Taroudant as a capital before it moved its royal seat onwards to Marrakesh.
The town became the capital of the Saadians who used it as a base to attack the Portuguese in Agadir. Although they later made Marrakesh their capital, they made the town prosper through the riches of the Sous plain, marketing goods such as sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo.
The Berber market, called Jnane al-Jaami, sells spices and dried fruits but mostly clothes and household goods. The Arab souk, however, specializes in handicrafts such as terracotta, wrought iron, pottery, brass and copper, leather and carpets, rugs and jewellery.
Taghazout for surfing
“Live is good”
Taghazout-Argana Bay with its small fishing village Taghazout, is located about 20 km north of Agadir. The town that turned from a hippie secret into a surf mecca and it didn’t lose its charm. The village was famous in the late 1960s as a base for young adventurers for exploring southern Morocco.
That’s what inspired us to go. The late 60ties and 70ties hippies to the modern-day hippies waiting for a good wave to surf. And here we go, after a long way touring around from Marrakesh via the Atlas mountain range to Ouarzazate and further to Agadir, we thought it’s time to “hang-out”. Experiencing the easy live of surfing, yoga and a couple mornings playing golf.
Taghazout is a village that offers all you need when in love with ocean, surfing, yoga, a green holiday, camping with international standards, a beautiful 18-hole-golf-course, small seaside cafes and restaurants with a fresh catch of the day, and a mix of Moroccan and Western cuisine.
The call for prayer still wakes you up in the morning and reminds you to get out to see the fisherman going out with their small fisher boats. Later in the day you will meet them at the local fish market when they return with the fresh catch of tuna, sardines, or seabream. All the fisher boats with their beautiful colors are now lined up at the beach front. People are playing beach football in the afternoon, dogs are strolling around, and cats are trying to get some fish from the fishermen. A very picturesque moment.
It’s a small town and thus it didn’t take us long to be known and our names were remembered. The people are amazingly friendly and open to meet or helping you. That’s another magic of this town.
Where to stay in Taghazout?
Salt House Morocco
Is a new established guesthouse, located in the heart of Taghazout Bay in the quiet village of Tamraght. The guesthouse is 3 levels high with a large shared kitchen and spacious living room. The rooftop terrace provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and mountains. Salt House serves you an outstanding Moroccan breakfasts and dinners made with 100% local ingredients.
Yazid has everything in place to ensure your stay is awesome. A guy with an amazing personality and a great surf instructor. Claire is at hand for all your yogic needs having studied yoga in India and travelled the world experiencing various surf retreats.
When walking through the souks you will certainly get hungry of all the good smell of spices, the street food, and the colors and offerings on the local farmer markets. Authentic Moroccan restaurants are all around for you to experience the delicious Moroccan cuisine. The traditional “Tagine” and couscous with vegetables, fish or meat is offered everywhere. Being a vegetarian wasn’t a problem at all to get vegetable dishes in all places.
GOOD TO KNOW
- The best time of the year
Marrakesh is an amazing destination through-out the year. Sommer can be hot and try but the many gardens and riads are great oasis to get out of the sun for refreshing. Winters can get cold but certainly not as cold as in Europe. Therefore, it’s recommended to always carry a light jacket or sweater with you. Check when Ramadan is that you don’t face any logistical difficulties. I could happen, that restaurants are closed or only open in the evening. However, the best time of the year to visit Marrakesh is spring and autumn.
The currency id Dirham. Credit cards are excepted pretty much everywhere, especially in cities. However, it is recommended to always carry some cash with you, which you can easily withdraw at any ATM. But most place will also accept Euro, GBP, and USD.
If you speak French is great because most of Moroccans study French in school but you will also get around with English.
WiFi is everywhere. At least in all cities but also smaller towns. Cafes, restaurants, hotels all offer free WiFi. It happened many times, that we were sitting in a café and the waiter immediately gave us the restaurants code for WiFi.