Once a caravanserai on the route of trans-Saharan caravans, Ait Ben Haddou is today the most colorful and authentic landmark in Morocco. Besides, Ouarzazate, which has been depicted many times in the works of Hollywood filmmakers. Whatever role this humble village on the slopes of the Atlas mountains has played – Jerusalem in “Jesus of Nazareth”, the desert fortress in “Lawrence of Arabia”, and the abandoned jungle-dwelling in “The Jewel of the Nile”. Ait Benhaddou is truly impressive. Its 11th-century red-walled Kasbah fortress, nestled against a hill, and the emerald date oasis at the foot makes you believe you’re on another planet.
At Ben Haddou, it seems as if it is the 11th century, and another caravan is about to depart for Timbuktu from the gates of the fortress.
How to get there?
The best way to get and visit Ait Ben Haddou is by booking a tour in Morocco. This way, you will have a tour guide included, as well as you will have more time to explore and forget about where to eat and spend the night. Touring In Morocco is an expert in organizing tours across Ait Benhaddou, contact us for more info!
Ait Benhaddou is 32 km from Ouarzazate. To get there on your own is by hiring a grand taxi. A round trip with a two-hour wait at the site will cost around MAD 140-180.
If you want to save money, you can get to Ait Ben Haddu by bus or grand taxi. The fare is around 10 MAD for both. Buses leave from the main bus terminal in Ouarzazate and go to Marrakech. They do not go to Ait Benhaddou itself and the driver can only drop you off at a crossroads, from which there is another 9km to the fortress. There is no transportation to Ait Benhaddou and you have to count on hitchhiking.
You have to walk to Ait Benhaddou itself as the distances are short and there is no public transport. You have to be prepared for a lot of climbing, so you should allow plenty of time for a visit.
1) How to get to Ait-Ben-Haddou and Ouarzazate
If you only have 1 day:
Ait Ben Haddou is located 185 km from Marrakech and Ouarzazate is 32 km from Aït-Ben-Haddou. Therefore, it is possible to visit the region also in a short trip from Marrakech. However, be aware that this is a rather long trip and your day will be quite full.
If you have 2 or 3 days:
A more interesting option is to visit Aït-Ben-Haddou and Ouarzazate in a 3-day tour from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert (Erg Chebbi), returning to Marrakech, or 2 days from Marrakech to the Zagora Desert. These are good options if you have more than 1 day in the country.
If you have more days:
For those who have more time and want to get to know every corner of Morocco, we recommend including these cities in a circular itinerary of 10 or more days. In this case, it is more recommended to book a tour from Casablanca.
Hotels and shops in Ait Ben Haddou
Ait Benhaddou is the perfect place to spend the evening and the night, with around ten hotels in the town, ranging from the simple to the pretentious. The latter include La Fibule d’Or (the ‘golden buckle’) and Kasbah Tebi, where you can stay in complete comfort, free Wi-Fi, and crazy views of the fortress and mountains.
The souvenir shops sell moderately unusual, moderately mystical wooden masks and Dogon handicrafts – Mali is just across the Sahara. In addition to painted plaster replicas of the Ait Benhaddou fortress.
What to see
The medieval castle is the main and only attraction of Ait Ben Haddou. Situated inside the Ksar, it rises up the mountainside and is protected from the outside by thick red fortress walls. Thanks to its UNESCO designation and the close attention of filmmakers, the Ait Ben Haddu kasbah has been well-preserved. The walls are regularly restored, giving the impression of traveling back in time – it seems to be the 11th century, and another caravan is about to leave for Timbuktu from the gates of the citadel. The fortress can be reached through one of the two gates – over the new bridge or across the dried-up river bed.
The walls of Ait Benhaddu are made of adobe bricks, the material for which is common clay soil.
At the top of the hill, there is an ancient grain store, almost entirely in ruins. But it is well worth a climb if only to enjoy the dizzying views over the settlement and the Atlas Mountains to the horizon. Besides, on the opposite side of the hill is the medieval mausoleum and shrine of the reclusive Benhaddou, after whom the town is named.
Why visiting Ait Ben Haddou: A film set in Southern Morocco!
The ksar of Aït Ben Haddou is one of the best known tourist sites in southern Morocco. It is a fortified village of earthen buildings built on a hill in the middle of a valley.
This fortified village, or ksar, is very well preserved and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It is thus considered as one of the best preserved ksars in southern Morocco.
With its original characteristics, the ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou seems to have stopped in time. Even so, some families still live there. The majority of the population now lives in a new city, built outside the ksar fortifications and on the opposite side of the river, where there are hotels, restaurants and shops. But, if you are interested in having a different experience, it is possible to stay inside the ksar itself.
Another option, chosen by most tourists, is to make a round trip and spend just one day in Ait-Ben-Haddou, coming from other larger cities. The ksar is 180 km from Marrakesh and 420 km from Casablanca.
In this article, we share with you the elements to prepare your visit of Ait Ben Haddou.
Info about Ait Ben Haddou
Difference between the ksar and the kasbah
In Morocco, we often hear about kasbahs and ksars. Aït Ben Haddou is a ksar, as it is a fortified village surrounded by a wall, with houses inside. A kasbah is a square building with a tower at each corner. The ksar of Aït Ben Haddou also has several kasbahs.
The beauty of this site lies, in my opinion, above all in its external aspect. It is very photogenic, because of its structure and its ochre-coloured earthen buildings. The walk up to the village is rather pleasant as it allows you to walk in small narrow streets.
To reach the top of the ksar, at the level of the old collective granary, allows having a view on the lower part of the village. But also on the chain of the Atlas. Like most tourist sites in Morocco, the shopkeepers try to get you into their shops to sell you their products. But nothing insistent.
You will reach the ksar after crossing a small river: the Oued Assif Ounila. This crossing is done on some makeshift stones that serve as fords. However, this river can be dry. Indeed, a wadi is a North African watercourse, most often dry, which fills up during heavy rainfall. During the rainy season, therefore. The wadi is then essentially made of mud.
Some information on the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou
- The ksar of Aït Ben Haddou is a village: its visit is therefore free. Access to the car park is also free.
- There are small restaurants and hotels in the vicinity, right next to the site. These sometimes have panoramic terraces with a view of the site and the Atlas Mountains.
- For the hotel, it is necessary to think of booking in advance because this site is touristy and frequented whatever the season. It is necessary to count in general between 30 and 50 € the night.
- One of the best compromises to enjoy both a superb panoramic view and an affordable price is the Chez Brahim hotel. Beyond the stunning view of Ait Ben Haddou, the welcome is warm, the rooms decorated with traditional objects, and the breakfast excellent!
- However, there are no hotels or restaurants inside the ksar. Except for small terraces to have tea. There is also a kasbah with a rudimentary but nice gîte!
- This site, because of its beauty, has been used several times as a set in films or series. For example, Gladiator in 2000, or more recently Prince of Persia and some episodes of season 3 of Game of Thrones. It should also be said that the town of Ouarzazate, located not far away, is home to the Atlas Corporation studios!
- The ksar of Aït Ben Haddou is located in the center of Morocco, in the province of Ouarzazate. It is about 32 kilometers from the town of Ouarzazate.
- To get there, you have to drive along the N9 which links Marrakech and Ouarzazate by crossing the Atlas Mountains. On your way driving from Marrakech and Aït Ben Haddou will be your first stop before continuing further east if you are willing to!
- Your journey will be therefore partly made up of winding mountain roads, but presents some magnificent panoramas! It is then necessary to leave the N9 at the level of Tabourahte, to take the road P1506 on about ten kilometers, towards the North.
- Another possibility of access also, if one comes from Marrakech is to leave the N9 by the P1506, just before Aguelmouss. You can then reach Aït Ben Haddou from the north. This route allows you to pass through the small village of Telouet and visit its kasbah. However, this route is longer.
- The road P1506 is now tarred, which was not always the case. Even if it is not very wide, it is largely practicable for any type of vehicle. So no need for a 4×4 necessarily.
My advice for enjoying the ksar
This site is not very big, it takes about 2 hours to visit it.
Nevertheless, if you wish to take advantage of the sunrise or sunset, or simply to rest during your road trip in Morocco, you can spend a night there. It is then the occasion to discover the ksar and its buildings in colors pulling the orange and the red in the evening.
If you plan to visit this ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, I wish you a good visit, and to take full sight. This site is really magnificent!
Things to do in Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate
A stroll is the ideal way to visit the charming mud town of Ait-Ben-Haddou. Crossing the river gives you an idea of how beautiful this Ksar is. You will visit some of the old houses inside the massive Kasbah by walking through it. The admission fee to these small museums is always just one euro, and they have a unique glimpse into ancient life.
There are many souvenir stores, pubs, and very cool cafes on the way to the top of the village Ait Ben Haddou. You’ll be greeted with an unforgettable view of the desolate desert landscape once you reach the top. The many stunning clay structures can be seen anywhere in the valley along the settlement. From rugged moonscapes to the white peaks of the Atlas Mountains. You can envision Berber life a thousand years ago.
Visit Skoura (on the way from Dades to Ait-Ben-Haddou)
You can wake up in Dades and before visiting the town of Ait Ben Haddou, you can visit Skoura, a region located in the middle of an oasis with some 138,000 palm trees.
In addition to the beautiful vegetation, Skoura has numerous Kasbahs, many of which are intended for tourism. You can visit the Kasbah of Amredhyle, one of the most important of the “Route of the Thousand Kasbahs,” and which was built in the 17th century.
You can visit it on your own or with a guide, which can be hired at the Kasbah. The guide service is available in Spanish, English, French, and Italian. This is a super interesting attraction that should not be missed on any tour of the region!
Generally speaking, the entrance fees in Morocco are very cheap. The ticket to the Kasbah of Amredhyle costs around 20 dirhams per person (approximately 2 euros). The guide fee, regardless of the number of people, is usually 50 Dirham (approximately 5 euros).
Affectionately called the “Moroccan Hollywood,” Ouarzazate has two major film studios (Atlas Cinema and CLA) that can be visited and is increasingly attracting major American productions.
Ouarzazate’s great success is due to the low cost of the location, the sun that shines about 300 days a year, the safety of the country, the goodwill and cheerfulness of the Moroccan people, and the fact that it is one of the most exotic and beautiful arid settings in the world.
In addition to the studios, the city also offers tourists the possibility to visit the Cinema Museum and the Kasbah of Taourirt.
The museum, opened in 2007, was an initiative to preserve Ouarzazate’s cinematographic memory and to promote tourism in the city. The museum is open every day from 08:00 to 18:00 and usually costs 30 Dirham (approximately 3 euros) per person.
The Kasbah of Taourirt, meanwhile, is an ancient palace fortress dating from the mid-18th century.
For those who have more time, there is also the Fint Oasis in the area, which is about 14 km from the city center and looks very interesting.
The scenic road on the way to Marrakech
After your visit to Ouarzazate, you can drive on to Marrakech via National Route 9, a super scenic road through the beautiful High Atlas Mountains awaits you. The highest point on this road is the Tizi n’Tichka, which reaches 2,260 meters in height. From November to March, it is common to see a lot of snow there!
FAQ about Ait Ben Haddou
Ait Ben Haddou is a fortified village in Morocco.
The ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is located in the center of Morocco, in the province of Ouarzazate. It is about 32 kilometers from the town of Ouarzazate.
There is no exact date when it was built, some believe that it was built during the 11th century. However, some archeological researches say that it dates back to the 17th century.
The Kasbah Valentine Restaurant and Auberge Azaddou Tamlalt are among the best restaurants in Ait Ben Haddou.
Ait Ben Haddou is a thing to do itself, so you can go hiking and stroll around its narrow streets.
The best thing to see in Ait Ben Haddou is the fortress itself, its Kasbahs, its clay walls and great towers.
Ait Benhddou’s age is not really known, some say it dates back to the 11th century, others say that it was built during the 17th century.
It depends on what you are really interested in, if you are interested in Berber clay architecture, then go to Ait Ben Haddou. However, if you are interested more in the cinema, then go to Ouarzazate.
Ksar Lamane, Ksar Ljanoub, Riad Caravane, and Riad Tamdakhte are among the best places for a stay in Ait Ben Haddou.
It costs nothing to enter Ait Benhaddou, however, some shops and small museums cost small amounts of money.
A ksar is a fortified village surrounded by a wall, with houses inside. A kasbah is a square building with a tower at each corner. For example, Aït Ben Haddou is a ksar with several kasbahs.