As you see more and more camels and date palms you realise you are somewhere completely different to the snow-capped Atlas mountains en-route – you are now in the gateway to the south and the Sahara desert.
Fee, Original Traveller
Four to five hours south-east of Marrakech by road, the town of Ouarzazate is known as the gateway to the south of the country.
Why we think you’ll love it
- The mud-walled town of Ait ben Haddou is a gem, and has been used in several films
More on Ouarzazate & the Southern Desert: the Detail
As such, Ouarzazate's location and setting are its main highlights, as opposed to the town's charm itself, with its centre being more functional than fascinating. Therefore, we recommend staying in a hotel just outside the town, ideally placed for desert tours and excursions.
Ouarzazate has its own airport, and flights connect via Casablanca from the UK, so it's perfectly easy to begin or end your trip here, without having to return to Marrakech for the journey home.
The scenery around Ouarzazate is filled with valleys and gorges, with the Draa Valley extending southwards and providing plenty of greenery with its date palm oases that line the road to Zagora and beyond, where the Sahara proper begins and the roads and towns run out.
Film buffs can indulge a guilty pleasure between the camel treks and Bedouin cultural experiences; Ouarzazate is home to the Atlas Film Studios, where a host of A-list movies have been made, from Lawrence of Arabia to Gladiator. The region's dramatic scenery and traditional Kasbah buildings do indeed lend themselves wonderfully well to film sets, as visitors will appreciate.