Magical Ait Ben Haddou – Day Trip that Takes You Back in Time!
In my opinion Ait Ben Haddou is probably second most famous attraction in Morocco, right after Sahara. It was on the top of my list of things to see in Morocco and I wanted to see it no matter what. Short on time, I opted for a day trip from Marrakech and I will not lie, it was a long, tiring day that included around 8 hours of driving both ways through curvy road in Atlas mountains. But at the end of the day it was totally worth it!
The Door to the Desert
There is no question why this is a World Heritage site. Yes, it has become commercialised with touristy shops and small hotels in the village, but back in times it was very important point on the main caravan road from Marrakesh to Sahara. That’s why it’s called ‘The door to the desert”. Today it’s on the UNESCO heritage list. In last 40 years Ait Ben Haddou also served as filming location. Movie buffs will recognize this place from many Hollywood movies like Indiana Jones, Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Queen of the desert, Asterix, Galavant, Lawrence of Arabia…
Ksar Ait-Ben-Haddou is a typical example of the Berber traditional architecture. Walking through the ‘streets’ and under (kasbah) passes you get a small glimpse of how life once was. Although most of population moved out of ksar, there are still few families there living and working.
Tour of Ait Ben Haddou
Once we arrived to Ait ben Haddou village, my guide led me to the ksar. There are two possible ways to reach ksar, one through the new bridge, but we took the classical route through river crossing. It is a short walk uphill to the top and on the way there are little shops selling carpts, paintings, wood carvings and other cute souvenirs. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the region which was my favourite part of the tour.
The tour itself is not that long, maybe we spent an hour or little more in Ait, afterwards had a lunch in restaurant nearby. On the way back to Marrakech we made a short stop in Ourzazate city.
The easiest way to reach Ait ben Haddou is of course, booking a tour. There is abundance of cheap group tours leaving from Marrakech on a daily basis. These tours have no guiding, they pick up tourists from different locations across Marrakech and then you are on your own in Ait Ben Haddou, usually you will be approached with local guide on arrival to Ait Ben Haddou and have to pay extra guiding fee. Besides, drivers on these tours speak almost no English. What you pay is what you get!
For those who want more from Ait Ben Haddou day trip, book a private tour – its more comfortable and almost four hours ride allows you to discuss Moroccan culture and life with knowledgeable guide. We had several stops along the way in Atlas Mountains that made the trip much more easier. I was guest on Ait Ben Haddou tour with Typique Tours, a local company from Marrakech.
Ait Ben Haddou with Bus from Marrakech
If travelling on your own with public transport is more like your travel style, you can take a CTM bus from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, cost is 80 MAD (plus 5 MAD for luggage) and then ask the driver to make a stop in Taborah at the crossing. If you ask the clerk while buying the ticket in the office, they will tell you this is not possible, but it is. Don’t drive to Ouarzazate and back to Ait, as taxis will set you back up to 300 MAD.
For going back from Ait Ben Haddou to Marrakech, you will first have to reach Ouarzazate with taxi, then take a bus back to Marrakech. There are plenty of buses leaving Ouarzazate every day. Other option is grand taxi, faster than bus but usually takes a couple of hours to leave the city, untill the taxi is full. One way price per seat in collective taxi from Ourazazate is 100 MAD, while front seat is considered more comfortable and costs 200 MAD.
However, doing a day trip from Marrakech to Ait Ben Haddou in one day with public transport is time consuming and you should rather consider adding a day to your Morocco itinerary.
Spending a night is great option and accommodation is cheap. When I visited Ait Ben Haddou for second time on my own, I found mine on Airbnb for 18 EUR per night with included breakfast and the pool.
Get free travel credit of 40 USD with your first booking on Airbnb – click here.
Have you been to any UNESCO sites around the world? Which one impressed you most? Leave a comment!