You might recognize Ouarzazate even if you’ve never been here. This desert outpost is Morocco’s Hollywood: Countless movie and television scenes have been filmed in its giant walled, earthen village. If you only have a day to spend in the gateway to the Sahara, here are some tips for how to make the most of your time.
One of this area’s most spectacular attractions is the traditional mud brick ksar (fortified village) Ait Ben Haddou. Spend your morning exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site during a guided half-day tour. Wander through the pathways leading up the hill between buildings for an up-close look at Morocco’s most famous kasbah and filming location. Some excursions to the area also include a visit to the small Berber village of Télouet, set in the High Atlas Mountains. Alternatively, explore the desert scenery around Ait Ben Haddou on an ATV tour.
Dive into Ouarzazate’s Hollywood history this afternoon with a visit to the Atlas Film Studios, where scenes from Game of Thrones, The Mummy, and Jewel of the Nile were shot. A tour of this film studio—one of the world’s largest—takes you through decades’ worth of decaying movie sets and props littered across the desert landscape. Don’t miss the replica kasbah, Egyptian tomb, and the colosseum that featured in the Russell Crowe movie Gladiator. If time permits, head to the Cinema Museum to learn more about Morocco’s role in the movie industry.
No trip to Morocco would be complete without a night spent amid the towering Erg Chebbi dunes of the Merzouga Desert. Set out on camelback to a Berber-style camp of tents, where you can watch the sunset, enjoy a traditional meal, sleep under the stars, and watch the sunrise over the dunes. If you’re looking for something a bit more low key, opt instead for a quiet dinner of tagine and Moroccan salad in an Ouarzazate riad.