Ait-Ben-Haddou: Guide for Morocco’s famous Ksar
Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco is a beautiful, fortified village in the southeast of the country and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The small town was built around 1,000 years ago and was an important point along the caravan route back then. Today, Ait-Ben-Haddou is one of the most visited attractions in Morocco and probably the most attractive stop on round trips across the country. Due to its unique architecture and incredibly magical ambience, Ait-Ben-Haddou has already served as a movie set for many well-known films. Game of Thrones, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia were all filmed here, for example! Yes, a visit to this pretty village is worthwhile, and so every Morocco traveler should have seen the largest Kasbah in the country.
In this travel guide, we give you all the essential info about Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco. In addition, we show you amazing pictures, and give tips about how to get there, accommodation and the most beautiful viewpoints of the mud city.
General info about Ait-Ben-Haddou
Ait-Ben-Haddou, or also known as Aït Benhaddou, is a famous fortified mud town at the shore of the Atlas Mountains, about 30 kilometers from the city of Ouarzazate. The town sits proudly on a hill overlooking the barren landscape, and the river Asif Mellah conjures up a picture-perfect backdrop at the gates of the old town. The historic center of the town, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987, is particularly impressive. At the top of the hill above the fortified old town is the 17th century fortress, from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of the region!
The construction of the brown-red town houses is considered a special feature. Thus, the old mud houses were built close together and sometimes even nested inside each other. Some historic town dwellings are still in good condition and can also be visited from the inside.
In addition, Ait-Ben-Haddou served as the location for many films. Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Asterix and Obelix, Aladdin, Prince of Persia, the Mummie, The Hills Have Eyes II, Babel, Alexander and Laurence of Arabia are just a few of the most famous!
How to get to Ait-Ben-Haddou from Marrakech
Ait-Ben-Haddou is about 180 kilometers southeast of Marrakech and can be reached either by rental car or on a guided tour. Actually, the journey from Marrakech to Ait-Ben-Haddou is fantastically beautiful. Your trip will lead over the High Atlas and past the Tizi n Tichka Pass. You will enjoy grandiose landscapes, a unique mountain world and finally reach the beautiful south of Morocco. If you love taking pictures, then you should allow yourself enough time to drive over this panoramic mountain road.
By car we drove from Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains towards the city of Ouarzazate and on to Ait-Ben-Haddou. The way is the goal, and so it is on this panoramic road. After Marrakech, the landscapes begin to change rapidly, and you marvel at the lush greens that conjure up a breathtaking backdrop. In time, the road begins to rise and you pass the first rustic mountain villages of the Atlas Mountains.
Tip: Make sure you take a break in the café at Tiz Imguer! From there you have a great view of the red rocky mountains and the wide valley. With a little luck, you can see some meerkats here.
Further, the road will take you up to the Atlas mountains and finally, you will get to the Tizi n Tichka Pass. Many amazing photo opportunities and viewpoints can be found right next to the road. One more reason why it is worthwhile to explore Morocco by car. Once at the top, you can admire the High Atlas with its breathtaking white peaks. This zigzag road goes up to 2260 meters. If you are interested in minerals, then you are definitely in the right place because along the Atlas Street there are always stones for sale.
After Tizi n Tichka Pass, as the mountain descends, the landscape changes dramatically again. Dry hills, huge rock formations and ancient kasbahs are the heralds of the Sahara. The area around Ait-Ben-Haddou is already very dry and suddenly, as if from nowhere you can already spot the first camels.
Things to Do in Ait-Ben-Haddou
Taking a walk is the perfect thing to do for exploring the beautiful mud city Ait-Ben-Haddou. As you cross the river, you’ll get an idea of this spectacular city. Walking inside the huge Kasbah, you have the opportunity to explore some of the old houses from the inside. The entrance fee of these small museums often costs only 1 Euro and gives an exclusive insight into the life of earlier times.
On the way to the top of the village Ait-Ben-Haddou you will find plenty of souvenir shops, some restaurants and really lovely cafés. Some of these are really popular spots for Instagram shots. In former days, this fortified town was huge, and it’s hard to believe that 2,500 people lived here until 50 years ago. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with an incredible view over the barren desert landscape. This is, in our opinion, the best part of the tour. You can see all over the valley along the village, the many beautiful clay buildings, rocky lunar landscapes to the white peaks of the Atlas Mountains. One can imagine the Berber life 1000 years ago.
Best Viewpoints of Ait-Ben-Haddou
The entire panorama of this village is just amazingly beautiful, and the colors of the city change depending on the time of day. Ait-Ben-Haddou offers wonderful photo opportunities at morning-lights, and not only professional photographers can look forward to taking unique pictures here.
Tip: The best views of Ait-Ben-Haddou are from one of the many rooftop hotels and accommodations around the desert city.
No wonder this magical place has become that famous. Because Ait-Ben-Haddou served as a movie set of many Hollywood strips. Here are a few of the movies filmed there: Gladiator, Game of Thrones, Asterix and Obelix, Aladdin, Prince of Persia, The Mummie, The Hills Have Eyes II, Babel, Alexander, Laurence of Arabia and many more.
Admission and Opening Hours
The entrance to Ait-Ben-Haddou is completely free. A small admission fee is only for visiting certain private museums. There are no official opening times, so you can visit the town at any time. But especially nice are exploration tours in the late afternoon or early morning, when most of the tourists are gone.
Trips from Marrakech to Ait-Ben-Haddou
Certainly, you can also join a guided tour from Marrakech to visit the mud city of Ait-Ben-Haddou. Either day tours, but also multi-day tours with a subsequent visit to the desert in Merzouga or Zagora are offered. On GetYourGuide you will find a wide range of excursions.
Where to Stay in Ait-Ben-Haddou
In Ait-Ben-Haddou you can find really charming small hotels to stay in. We would recommend that you choose a Kasbah directly in the mud city or, even better, an accommodation with a view of the beautiful mud city. Having breakfast in such an ambience is unbeatable. Here are the hotel tips for Ait-Ben-Haddou…It’s worth a look!
- Kasbah in the Old Town: The Kasbah Tebi is romantically located directly in the old town center of Ait Ben Haddou. In the evening there is no electricity, only a sea of candlelight. A secret tip!
- Hotel with pool: The beautiful accommodation Paradise of Silence inspires its guests with great rooms, a pool and really delicious cuisine!
- Kasbah with a View: As a budget alternative, we can recommend Chez Brahim. The view of the mud city from the roof terrace is simply incredible.
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