Morocco, with its rich culture, dramatic landscapes, and historical landmarks, offers travelers an array of experiences. Two destinations that stand out are Ouarzazate, often referred to as the gateway to the Sahara, and Merzouga, a serene village at the edge of the Sahara desert. This guide will walk you through the best activities and sights in these unique locations.

Things to Do in Ouarzazate

Catch Sunrise or Sunset at Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou is perhaps the most renowned site near Ouarzazate, thanks to its frequent appearance in movies and TV shows like "Game of Thrones." Visiting this ancient kasbah during sunrise offers a peaceful and magical experience. The early morning light bathes the kasbah in a golden hue, and you can explore the narrow passageways without the crowds.

Ouarzazate kasbah

Spend the Afternoon at Fint Oasis

Just an hour's drive from Ouarzazate, the Fint Oasis is a hidden gem. This verdant oasis, surrounded by arid landscapes, is home to four small villages. Life here seems to have remained unchanged for centuries, offering a glimpse into traditional Moroccan life. You can enjoy a relaxing lunch at Terasse de Delices or spend a night at one of the local guesthouses.

Visit Telouet Kasbah

Telouet Kasbah, once a grand palace along the trans-Saharan trade route, now lies in partial ruins. Despite this, the remaining halls and reception rooms still display the opulence and intricate designs that once adorned this kasbah. Located about 45 minutes from Ouarzazate, this site offers a fascinating step back in time.

Explore the Film Studios

Ouarzazate is often called the "Hollywood of Morocco," and for good reason. It boasts two major film studios: Atlas Studios and CLA Studios. Atlas Studios, the larger of the two, covers a vast area and has hosted numerous blockbuster productions. Touring these studios, especially the impressive Kingdom of Heaven set, is a must for film enthusiasts.

Have a Quad Adventure

For an adrenaline-filled experience, consider a quad bike adventure. This activity allows you to explore the rugged terrain around Ouarzazate, including the desert tracks, film sets, and the beautiful Fint Oasis. It's a thrilling way to see the best of the region in just a few hours.

Quad biking in Morocco desert

Take a Desert Tour

Ouarzazate serves as a convenient starting point for Sahara desert tours. Many tours include a night in a Bedouin camp, camel rides, and visits to local kasbahs. This is a perfect way to immerse yourself in the unique culture and stunning landscapes of the Sahara.

Camel ride in Morocco desert

Where to Stay in Ouarzazate

Budget Accommodations

    Kasbah Tifaoute Guesthouse:
Located a 15-minute walk from Ait Ben Haddou, this guesthouse is ideal for budget travelers.

    Riad Dar Rita:
A comfortable hotel in the heart of Ouarzazate, featuring a sunny roof terrace and friendly staff.

Mid-Range Accommodations

    Dar Kamar:
This converted 17th-century guesthouse offers spacious rooms, an in-house hammam, and a fantastic breakfast.

    Le Petit Riad:
A family-run guesthouse with large rooms, an outdoor pool, and fantastic views.

Luxury Accommodations

    Le Temple Des Arts:
Each room in this luxurious hotel has a unique film-inspired design. It features beautiful grounds, an on-site hammam, and a highly-rated restaurant.

    Kasbah Dar Daif:
A family-friendly hotel with classic Moroccan design, a wonderful pool, and incredibly helpful staff.

Things to Do in Merzouga

Spend the Night Camping in the Desert

Camping in the Merzouga desert is an unforgettable experience. Imagine pitching your tent among the sand dunes, watching a spectacular sunset, and falling asleep under a blanket of stars. Ensure you have a good tent, warm sleeping bags, and plenty of layers to stay comfortable during the cool desert nights.

Climb the Highest Dune of Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi is famous for its towering sand dunes. The highest dune, which looks like a mountain of sand, offers a challenging but rewarding climb. The best time to reach the top is just before sunset, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the sun setting over the desert.

Watch the Stars in the Sahara Desert

Merzouga's minimal light pollution makes it a prime location for stargazing. The night sky here is incredibly clear, offering stunning views of the Milky Way and countless stars. For a more immersive experience, consider joining a stargazing tour that includes the use of powerful telescopes.

Visit Dayet Srji, the Salt Lake

West of Merzouga lies Dayet Srji, a seasonal salt lake. When the lake is full, it attracts various birds, including flamingos. The sight of flamingos in the desert is surreal and adds a unique touch to your visit. The lake is also a great spot for a sunset picnic.

Go Sandboarding

Sandboarding down the dunes of Erg Chebbi is a fun and adventurous way to experience the desert. You can rent a board from local shops or guesthouses and enjoy sliding down the soft, sandy slopes. This activity is great for families and thrill-seekers alike.

Sandboarding in Morocco desert

Enjoy a 4x4 Desert Tour

For a more comprehensive desert experience, consider a 4x4 tour. These tours can take you deep into the desert, visiting Berber villages and remote dunes. You’ll get to enjoy traditional Berber music, dance, and even learn to prepare local dishes.

4WD in Morocco desert

Listen to Gnawa Music in Khamlia

Khamlia, a small village near Merzouga, is home to the Gnawa people, known for their distinctive music. Visiting this village allows you to experience live Gnawa performances, characterized by hypnotic rhythms and traditional instruments. Supporting these musicians by buying their CDs helps preserve this unique cultural heritage.

Luxury Desert Camp

For a more luxurious desert experience, book a stay at a luxury desert camp. These camps offer comfortable beds, gourmet meals, and even private bathrooms. You can enjoy the tranquility of the desert in style, complete with traditional Moroccan hospitality.

Where to Stay in Merzouga

Budget Accommodations

    Family Moroccan House:
This guesthouse offers a garden, terrace, and fully equipped kitchen. It’s perfect for budget travelers looking for a comfortable stay.

    Sahara Desert Experience:
A country house with a terrace, bar, and free private parking. It offers a relaxed atmosphere close to the dunes.

Mid-Range Accommodations

    Auberge Camping La Liberté:
Located near the dunes, this hotel offers camel and 4x4 tours. It features a restaurant and delicious breakfast.

    Riad Chebbi:
This luxurious riad offers a courtyard with palm trees and a pool, beautifully decorated rooms, and stunning views of the desert.

Luxury Accommodations

    Dar Hassan Merzouga:
This riad provides an indoor pool, air-conditioned rooms with traditional Moroccan decor, and free Wi-Fi. It’s located within walking distance of Erg Chebbi.

    Desert Heart Luxury Camp:
This luxury camp offers beautifully decorated tents, a BBQ, and a children’s playground. It’s perfect for families looking for a serene desert escape.

Getting to Merzouga

From Marrakech

    By Bus:
Supratours and CTM buses run from Marrakech to Merzouga. The journey takes about 12 hours, with stops in Ouarzazate or Tinghir.

    By Car:
Driving allows you to explore at your own pace. Follow highways N9 and N10, stopping at Ouarzazate and Tinghir along the way.

From Fez

    By Bus:
Buses from Fez to Merzouga include overnight options. The Supratour bus departs at 8:30 pm and arrives in Merzouga at 7:15 am.

    By Car:
The drive from Fez to Merzouga takes around 7 hours. Follow highway N13 south, enjoying scenic views along the way.

Nearby Attractions

Tinerhir and the Todra Gorges

Northwest of Merzouga, Tinerhir is famous for its dramatic rock gorges and expansive palm grove. It’s a popular destination for rock climbers and nature lovers.

Dades Gorges

The Dades Gorges, carved by the Dades River, offer stunning landscapes and excellent hiking opportunities. It’s located near Tinghir, making it a convenient stop.

Ait Ben Haddou

This ancient fortified village, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located near Ouarzazate. It’s known for its stunning architecture and historical significance.


Ouarzazate and Merzouga offer a rich tapestry of experiences, from exploring ancient kasbahs and vibrant oases to thrilling desert adventures and serene stargazing. Whether you're a history buff, adventure seeker, or someone looking to immerse in local culture, these Moroccan gems have something for everyone. Plan your trip to uncover the magic of Ouarzazate and Merzouga, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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