• Desertscape Dates, desert, the Dadès
  • Desert life 4x4 touring, oases exploring

South of the High Atlas Mountains, this sunkissed stretch of dusty desert is broken up by sand-coloured kasbahs and palm-fringed fortified villages.

Ouarzazate is a recent addition to the tourist trail and the heritage of this area inhabited over the centuries by Arabs, Berbers and Haratines, is the stuff that movies are made of. Founded originally as a garrison town by the French foreign legion in the Twenties, its history and landscape is suitably dramatic for a destination which today plays host to the Atlas Film Studios.

Do go/Don’t go

The summer months are hot, hot, hot – avoid June, July and August. Christmas here is very popular, snow-capped Atlas in view but often glaring sunshine during the day.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Taourirt Airport 20mins from town; one-hour flight to Casablanca
  • Automobiles A five-hour drive from Marrekech. It’s a good idea to hire a car while you’re out there as the surrounding areas are stunning and many of the roads have been improved by significant recent investment. Avis (www.avis.co.uk) have a branch at Ouarzazate airport, or there are local companies available.
  • Taxis Most people use petit taxis to get around town and it’s perfectly normal for your taxi to stop and pick up other passengers. Don’t be alarmed if they start the cab by popping it into neutral and pushing it down a hill – eventually you’ll make your destination. Drops within Ouarzazate seem to be 10 dirhams regardless – tips not required. The price for a grand taxis (usually old Mercs) jumps to 170 dirhams.