Ait Benhaddou is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site located in Morocco, famous for its well-preserved mud-brick ksar (fortified village) and its historical significance as a backdrop for numerous films and TV shows, such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones. Here's a travel guide to help you make the most of your visit to this incredible destination:
1. Getting There
Ait Benhaddou is situated about 30 kilometers from the city of Ouarzazate in southern Morocco. The closest major airport is Ouarzazate Airport (OZZ), which receives domestic flights. From Ouarzazate, you can easily hire a taxi or join a guided tour to reach Ait Benhaddou.
2. Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Ait Benhaddou is during the cooler months of fall (September to November) and spring (March to May). Summers can be scorching, so it's advisable to avoid visiting during that time. Winters are mild but can get quite cold at night, so pack accordingly.
There are limited accommodation options in Ait Benhaddou itself, mostly consisting of guesthouses and small hotels that offer an authentic experience. However, many travelers opt to stay in Ouarzazate, where there is a wider range of hotels and facilities. Consider spending a night in a traditional riad to immerse yourself in Moroccan culture.
4. Exploring Ait Benhaddou
The ksar of Ait Benhaddou is the main attraction. It's a labyrinthine complex of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls. Here's what you can explore:
Guided tours are available and highly recommended. Local guides can provide insights into the history, architecture, and cultural significance of the site.
Climb to the top of the hill for panoramic views of the ksar and the surrounding landscape. This is a great spot for photography, especially during sunrise or sunset.
Film Set Tours
Many guided tours include visits to nearby film studios and sets, showcasing the locations where movies like "Gladiator" and scenes from "Game of Thrones" were filmed.
Exploring the Streets
Wander through the narrow streets of the ksar, admire the intricate architecture, and visit some of the old buildings. Be prepared for a bit of uphill walking.
5. Practical Tips
The sun can be intense, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
Wear comfortable walking shoes as the streets can be uneven.
Respect Local Customs
Ait Benhaddou is a living village with local residents. Respect their privacy and customs, and ask for permission before taking photos of people.
Water and Snacks
Carry water to stay hydrated, especially during hot days. Snacks can be handy since options might be limited.
There are small shops selling local handicrafts and souvenirs. Remember to bargain politely if you're interested in purchasing.
6. Nearby Attractions
If you have extra time, consider exploring other attractions near Ait Benhaddou:
Visit the Atlas Film Studios and Taourirt Kasbah.
Dades Valley and Todra Gorge
Explore the stunning canyons and valleys nearby.
Remember, while exploring Ait Benhaddou, immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the region, and appreciate the breathtaking architecture that has made it a popular filming location.
2 Days Itinerary for Ait Benhaddou
Day 1: Exploring Ait Benhaddou
- Arrive in Ait Benhaddou from Ouarzazate (if you're not staying in Ait Benhaddou itself).
- Check in to your chosen accommodation.
- Start your exploration of Ait Benhaddou.
- Join a guided tour of the ksar to learn about its history and architecture.
- Visit some of the iconic buildings and narrow streets.
- Enjoy a traditional Moroccan lunch at a local restaurant in Ait Benhaddou.
- Continue exploring the ksar at your own pace. Take in the intricate details of the buildings and immerse yourself in the atmosphere.
- Climb to the hilltop viewpoint for stunning panoramic views of Ait Benhaddou and the surrounding landscape.
- Capture the beauty of the site during the golden hours of the late afternoon.
- Return to your accommodation to relax and freshen up.
- Dine at your hotel's restaurant or venture out to a local eatery for a Moroccan dinner.
Day 2: Nearby Attractions and Departure
- Enjoy breakfast at your hotel or riad.
- If you have time, consider visiting the nearby Atlas Film Studios in Ouarzazate to learn about the film industry in the region.
- Check out from your accommodation and prepare to depart.
- Before leaving Ait Benhaddou, do some last-minute exploration or souvenir shopping.
- Have a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant in Ait Benhaddou.
- If time allows, head towards the Dades Valley and Todra Gorge for a scenic drive through stunning landscapes.
- Return to Ouarzazate or continue your journey to your next destination.
La Kasbah des Sables
Offers traditional Moroccan dishes and stunning views of Ait Benhaddou.
Known for its Moroccan and Berber cuisine, with a cozy atmosphere.
Restaurant Ksar Ait Ben Haddou
Offers local and international dishes with a focus on Moroccan flavors.
Local Food to Try
A traditional Moroccan dish cooked in a special clay pot, usually with meat, vegetables, and aromatic spices.
A staple made from steamed semolina wheat granules, often served with vegetables and meat.
A hearty soup made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and various spices.
Riad Ksar Ighnda
A traditional riad with comfortable rooms and Moroccan décor.
Offers a unique stay within the ksar itself, providing an authentic experience.
La Rose du Sable
A charming guesthouse with views of Ait Benhaddou and the surrounding area.
Remember that availability may vary, so it's a good idea to make reservations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Enjoy your time in Ait Benhaddou and immerse yourself in the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site!