A really happy time was had by all our family when we travelled to the desert. We were dealing with Adil, a friendly agent who provided us with plenty of information. The Sahara was great ! The camels were really friendly too.
Its a good proper road to get there and Ive been up it myself - in a car!
Actually its extremely popular with Marrakechis who drive out during the weekends making the roads often bumper to bumper. Its also a very popular day trip out of Marrakech for many tourists with a scenic journey pretty much all the way - through Ourika and up to Oukaimden. There are many shops along the road sides with carpets, pottery, arts and crafts and plants for sale - along with the typical camel ride opportunity.
After the road that winds through the Ourika the road starts to incline and its very scenic almost Himalayan in appearance with mudbrick villages built on hillsides or seen way down in valleys below. Take the opportunity to stop here and there with various roadside clearings available along the way.
I usually recommend rental cars as best way to get about for tourists there - or hire a grande taxi from Marrakech for the day - ie go down to the big grande taxi rank and hire a driver and taxi - usually no more than 750 dirham for the day and you can make a good day of it - otherwise rent a car for whatever days youre around for about 300-350 dirham a day - and see more nice places around the area - such as take the back road that turns off to Tahanout and Asni and go on out to Tin Mal on the way to TiznTest and even keep going over the pass and down to Taroudannt.
During winter Oukaimden is a popular skiifield with North Africa's highest chairlift, with boot and ski rentals near the bottom of the chairlift. There are a number of restaurants and cafes and hotel. A large lake adds to the beauty of the scenery here especially on a sunny day. Generally if the roads get snowed on the snow ploughs are out to clear the roads.
Dont worry too much - just go and see what happens and enjoy the place and your trip - whatever happens people are about to deal with the situation and youll be fine!
This was answering a question in the Morocco forum and elaborating on it to make hopefully a helpful tip about arriving into Marrakech airport and driving from there to Ouirgane or Imlil as a base that night....which is only about 50 km from Marrakech and Imlil about 20km from Asni just before Ouirgane.
Im very experienced with driving around at night in Morocco and have driven the road to Ouirgane a number of times - its good road but drive carefully and defensively - Ive got into the habit too of driving Moroccan style for night driving which is driving more towards the middle of the road to give you a wider visual field and improve your chances of seeing anything on the road or wander into your path in time to stop or veer!! ...all sorts of things to watch out for - people on bicycles with no illumination, rocks, even people suddenly stepping onto the road in the middle of nowhere - and donkeys standing happily in the middle of the road!
You will sensibly need to have been in communication with your hotel so you know where to go and they know how long you will be - but its really not so difficult to do it at night if necessary.
One time I stayed one night at Hotel Sanglier which was lovely - walked around Ouirgane the next day and then went on up to Imlil to use as a base for 3 nights one time
March is beautiful though if it is later March then unfortunately you will have missed the almond flowers along the road from Ouirgane to Tin Mal - several areas in the valleys along that way they are prolific so its a stunning sight along there in February.....but the drive to the ancient fortified mosque of Tin Mal and on further for views from the top of the mountain pass TiznTest that gives views for miles towards Taroudant and Agadir with a couple of cafes there too with good viewing points make a good drive from OUirgane. Also theres a souk day at Ijoukak on Saturdays, the town just before Tin Mal, and its also worth going up to visit the old kasbah on the hill between Ijoukak and Tin Mal.
Also near Ouirgane is a road that takes you to Amizmiz which is a berber village worth visiting - you could make a circuit to see Amizmiz and further on from there Lake Lallatakerkhoust which is a big water supply lake for Marrakech but has rather scenic spots around the lakesides, and then you could come back via Moulay Brahim which is a spectacular drive through lush March pastures and the road winds road around a rocky outcrop with great views and then down the other side coming out at the main road from Marrakech near Asni.
Also just before Tahananoute, the town past Asni on the road to Marrakech is a road to the right signposted to Ourika - this is an absolutely stunning road that takes you past Himalaya like scenes with huge valleys, high hills with Berber villages progressing to panoramic views of the Atlas mountains - you can take the road to the right to Oukaimeden - which in March often still has lots of snow and skiing up at North AFricas highest skifields and chairlifts - skis and boots for hire near the bottom of the chairlift - or continue on down to Ouirika and a lovely drive through the lush fertile areas that supply produce for Marrakech - along with the many carpet and pottery shops geared up for the hundreds and thousands of cars that come out here of Marrakshis on trips out of the city!
but also in March the views along the road to Imlil is becoming greener and flowers appearing along with almond blossoms where they flower much later. Spending some time in Imlil is recommmended too as particularly beautiful - you could move up to Imlil to stay for a night or more as there are some lovely walks and drives up there to enjoy your time - or you continue to travel back and forth from Ouirgane. When I was last in Imlil for a March visit there were many beautiful irises in bloom, almond blossoms and hill sides covered in yellow flowers, the many walnut trees are starting to get their leaves - particularly pretty when taking the walk up to Kasbah Toubkal where you then great views of snow topped mountains and the surrounding valleys....stunning!
If you wanted to go on from Ouirgane to Tizntest and on to Taroudant there are areas around there such as Tioute which is on the back road to Ighrem and Tafraoute or the otheer direction back to the Atlas mountains to Tanaroute where in March these areas also have lots of lovely flowers in the fields and along the roadsides to brighten the countryside.
So you will do well with a week and a car based at Ouirgane - definitely drive up to Imlil - you will see flowers/trees in blossom in March up that way, park in the village and take a walk up to Kasbah Imlil for stunning views 360 degrees. its 25 dirham pp to get in and includes a drink which is well worth it. The mountain guides will be out in the middle of the village to approach you to offer their services - as I have previously found its worth it - to maximise your time and extend your opportunities to meet locals. They are all professional certified/registered guides there and they need money too so its worth it. Nice to go with one up to the kasbah but there is a lovely circuit around the villages that take you past the waterfalls that you will see down below from when you are up the top of the kasbah.
The road also continues on another 5 km on from Imlil and this is a nice drive with some lovely views and scenery and to where some of the oldest villages in Morocco are.
Im yet to finish making my page for Imlil but its great up there esp in March.
See my travel page on Ouirgane with a few more photos - I took a guided tour around the village which was worth the money spent for a couple of hours - and your guide will probably invite you into a locals home for tea and bread and a donation.
Driving from the airport is not really much of a problem - its finding the turnoff to Ouirgane - each time Ive been there the signposts have been covered by trees - you might find that you go past the road and need to turn around to check the road or otherwise get a taxi at the airport to go ahead of you to navigate for you should only be about 10 dirham.
Get some dirhams out from the ATMs at the airport.
If you are at all worried then just stay the night in Marrakech, have a walk around the souks and up to Musee Marrakech or the Majorelle gardens for a few hours to see some sights and then head off to arrive in Ouirgane or Imlil while its still daylight
I like Hotel Toulousain when I have a car as its fairly easy to find and easy for parking. Its not far from the tourist office down a side street/parallel road. You could get a taxi to go ahead of you to find it for you.
YOu could also then drive to the Marjane supermarket to stock up on some good Moroccan red wine supplies etc if you wished also before you head off on your way to Ouirgane.
All the best, a week in March with a car is a delight!
This is a facinating place to visit.
It is a few hours by car/bus out of Marrakesh, but included in some day tours.
It is an ancient kabash town that is currently being restored. There are some families living in the old town and some of them act as guides.
Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987
Several films of note have been shot here, including;
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Man Who Would Be King (film) (1975)
The Message (film) (1976)
Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
Time Bandits (1981)
The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
The Living Daylights (1987)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
The Mummy (1999)
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Well worth a visit
Tin Mal Mosque was built in the year of 1153 by Abd el-Moumen, the successor of the founder of the Almohad dynasty Ibn Toumert. Tin Mal village became the spiritual capital and artistic centre of the Almohads. After the decline of the dynasty, it became again a simple village in the High Atlas and the mosque deteriorated and became more or less a ruin. Nowadays it is largely restored by the UNESCO - there is still no roof - and a rare opportunity for non-Muslims to visit the interior of a mosque in Morocco.
Coming from Marrakech along the Tizi-n-Test road we followed after the village of Ijoukak the N’ffis Valley. Suddenly the mosque appeared, standing on a hill in the valley. It looked from a distance more like a fortress than a religious building.
It seemed like the caretaker was waiting for us, because he welcomed us immediately after leaving our car. He showed us around in the mosque with its impressive interior: beautiful arched pillars of pink stone and plaster stalactites, the original Mihrab with nice decorations, the cedar wooden doors now replaced by new ones, some original water pipes and the nests of two owls. The interior was severely damaged and just the Mihrab and the colonnade in front of it are well maintained. The rest of the pillars were rebuilt.
It was so interesting walking around, getting an impression of a Moroccan mosque and shooting pictures as well. The mosque still doesn’t have a roof and the sun was shining into the building causing mysterious shadow patterns from the horseshoe arches.
From the car park we had stunning views of the snow covered mountains of the High Atlas and the green N’ffis Valley.
Tin Mal Mosque is situated about 10 km’s south of the village of Ijoukak, about 100 km’s from Marrakech along the Tizi-n-Test road (S501). It takes about two hours of driving. The mosque is open daily except Fridays and we had to pay a small entrance fee. We visited Tin Mal with a ‘grand taxi’ on our day trip to the pass.
Asni is a small Berber village along the main road to the Tizi-n-Test Pass. Its location is rather scenic with good views of the Toubkal, with a height of 4167 metres the highest mountain of Morocco. The village is spread along the road with some shops and local cafés along the road.
First we had a Moroccan coffee in one of these local cafés together with our driver, before entering the weekly souk of Asni, which is hold every Saturday. Just behind the gate we reached a completely different world, although having seen the Kasbah and souks of Marrakech.
This rural souk looked like we were back in the ‘middle ages’. Fruit and vegetables are spread out on the ground, paths are muddy and most people look poor. In another part of the market vendors were selling chickens and goats, next to the stall of a (donkey)blacksmith. Perhaps most remarkable was the ‘car park’ with a huge number of donkeys. You may find it turning to the left after the entrance gate.
Such a rural souk is much more authentic (I would say a must see during a Marrakech visit) and we liked it much more than the more commercial souks in the city.
We were more or less alone between locals and after making an overall picture of the market some of them were rather angry. So we accepted the ‘help’ of a conman, although we intended not to accept offers from anybody. To be honest it felt quite comfortable strolling around with him. At the end he offered some Berber souvenirs and after a lot of bargaining (from 400 to 70 Dirhams) we bought one.
Be aware: Asni seems to be well known as hustlers, touts and conmen village.
Asni lies about 50 km’s from Marrakech and is accessible by bus or grand-taxi. We visited the market during our trip to the Tizi-n-Test Pass.
Just the drive from the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass road (coming from Marrakech you have to turn to the left about 5 km’s after the pass) is quite an adventure. It is a narrow road, mostly sealed and on a couple of places we had to drive through a dry stream. We were passing a couple of Berber settlements, all with red/pink houses and people working on the fields, before reaching the tiny village of Telouet.
Telouet lies on an altitude of 1800 metres and is surrounded by snow-capped Atlas Mountains in fantastic scenery.
Telouet has two ‘faces’: the one along the ‘main’ road with some shops (carpets, gifts) and cafés/restaurants and the other off road is the real village with a school, mosque, narrow ‘streets’ and little more or less mud huts.
After parking our car immediately a guide, named Aissa, offered his services and we walked with him through the village, saw the old slave quarters, where still descendants of the slaves of Pasha el-Glaoui live and passed the Mellah River on our way to the Kasbah.
Back in the village we had a cup of tea with him, visited a carpet shop and had a lunch in one of the restaurants (see tip). Telouet has also two small hotels. On Thursdays there is a weekly Berber market in Telouet.
What a peaceful and quite place, such a difference from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.
Turn off from the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass road (signposted) and follow the narrow road into the valley for about 20 km’s.
In the past Telouet was an important stop for camel caravans from Marrakech to the Sahara. The Glaoui brothers built a Kasbah on this place controlling the traffic to/from the south. It was the main residence of Al-Thami el-Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakech. It was built in the 19th and 20th century and housed up to 1000 people. After the independence of Morocco in 1956 the Kasbah deteriorated and nowadays is more or less a ruin, although our guide told the building should be restored.
We were approaching the Kasbah from the (old) village of Telouet along the slave houses and crossing the Mellah River with great of the building. Coming closer and closer the building became more and more impressive with its massive red mud walls.
Through a courtyard with camel stables and a minaret of the former mosque we reached the wooden gate into the palace. Although most of the buildings are really ruins, there are just two rooms, which still gave a good impression of the wealth and power of the Pasha. The central reception and the harem room are beautifully decorated with stucco work, carved cedar wooden ceilings, painted doors and fantastic zellij tiles. Windows do have nice ironworks, which invites shooting a picture of Telouet and the mountains.
These two rooms look like the palaces in Marrakech.
For Telouet turn off from the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass road (signposted) and follow the narrow road into the valley for about 20 km’s. You can not miss the impressive Kasbah, otherwise a ‘guide’ will offer his services bringing you to the palace and showing you around. We had to pay 20 Dirhams for the guide and the entrance fee (10 or 20 Dirhams) to the caretaker.
Two days after my fall, and with one day of our holiday already lost to doctors and clinics, we decided to press ahead with our original plan of a day trip to the coast, as sitting in a taxi watching the scenery go past seemed a lot easier than tackling the streets of Morocco on foot. And so it proved – we had a lovely relaxing, though long, day out which showed us that something at least of our holiday could be retrieved despite the unexpected and unwelcome change in our circumstances.
Leaving after an early breakfast we headed west through a fairly dry and dusty landscape interspersed with villages and small towns. Most of these serve as markets for the Berber farmers in the surrounding area, so were full of life and interest for us. We stopped several times en route – for coffee, to visit a carpet co-operative (and succumb to temptation there!) and to see the local oddity known as “goats in trees”. We arrived in Essaouira in time for a leisurely lunch in the main square. The light was beautiful, the sea air refreshing, the activity around us fascinating but much less frenetic than in Marrakesh. After lunch Chris had a walk around the port area and took lots of photos, while I sat on a bench and did the same in the square. I then managed a short hobble around a few streets in the old town before it was time to head back to Marrakesh. It was dark as we approached the city and a huge red moon was rising – a sign of hope after the mess of the previous day and a wonderful end to our day out.
We travelled by grand taxi and paid 900 dirhams for the whole day (£72) which was good value given how long we were out and how helpful Mokhtar was in making accommodations for my restricted mobility. With more people sharing the taxi it would of course be cheaper, and I believe you can also book tours by minibus, or of course hire a car to drive there yourself. For more about our day out please see my separate page on Essaouira.
I love just wandering around the backstreets of any town or city, and 'getting lost' Never knowing what's around the next corner, and finding those 'hidden gems' Also it doesn't cost anything, and often my memories (and photo's ) last longer than any souvenirs.- oh and it's good exercise too!
Marrakesh was a fantastic place, to wander 'off the beaten path' with it's maze of narrow winding streets. As a lone female, I felt quite safe, and spent most days wandering around the Medina and Mellah areas.
Each corner revealed something new, both on street level, and above. Either in the different architecture, or in local activity.
The boys in the picture were one example of local life, which I encountered, they stopped playing football,and a game pushng this wheel around, to chat with me, before carrying on with their game.
I especially (for some strange reason, but since being on VT realise that others have the same interest!) like old doorways, and Marrakesh has old doorways aplenty!
A few times, I was re- directed to 'The Square' I wasn't sure if the locals thought I was lost and this was where I was looking for, or they didn't want me (and my camera) 'on their land'
Telouet was one of the principal residences of the Al Thami El-Glaoui, the pasha of Marrakech, who served the sultan, Mohammed V, but switched allegiances to the French in 1912, (because he and others like him knew that any independent Moroccan government would soon put an end to his unlimitless power and extravagance) which gave him power and lordship over a large area of Southern Morocco ie the Atlas and High Atlas.
His kasbah at Telouet he named the Kasbah of 1001 nights and it is said that he had workman there constantly building and decorating his palace into a place of opulence and grandeur that he and the Glaoui after him treasured.
His opposition to the King cost dearly as on his death his family were exiled and all possessions dispersed. This kasbah and town with such an illustrious past has been in neglect since 1956.
Of this opulent kasbah, commenced in the 19th century there is only access to one of the buildings built in the 20th century, in my opinion very beautiful but sadly still in neglect and still deteriorating so its time left is sadly running out.
In addition to visiting the kasbah in its lovely valley and mountain surrounds there is the attraction of the weekly Thursday souk bringing berber villagers from miles around, the salt mine on the road to Anmiter, the lovely route with kasbahs to Tasgha and the lovely road to Anmiter which is an unusually well preserved fortified town at the end of the road and start of the 4x4 route of the old pass down to Ait BenHaddou.
About 140 km from Marrakech in the direction of Ouarzazate, this road is a particularly scenic route taking you over two mountain passes, past berber villages built along rivers and up hillsides. In your own car it can be done in 2 hours depending on how many photo stops you make, 4-5 hours by daily bus leaving early afternoon from Marrakech or by grande taxi to the Telouet turnoff where you will need to meet the bus, another grande taxi or flag a lift for the final 21 kms of stunning scenery to the town centre.
Vallée d'Ourika is a narrow valley that cuts through the Atlas Mountains. Like most of the land south of Marrakech, it is inhabited by Berber villagers. The valley is only about 30-45 minutes away from Marrakech, so if time allows, I highly recommend renting a car (with a driver) and driving into the valley (cost is about 60-70 euros for the day). The road ends at an altitude of about 1600 metres in a small village called Setti Fatma. Along the way, there are numerous Berber markets and merchants, along with breathtaking scenery. There is also an old Berber synagogue to visit. At the last village, Setti Fatma, there is a hiking trail that leads to a scenic waterfall. My fellow travellers and I made it all the way to Setti Fatma, but did not have the time or appropriate gear for a hike to the waterfall. Next time!
A trip to the Atlas mountains offers a respite from the baking heat of summer in Marrakesh.
As you travel along the roads into the mountains, the air becomes much cooler and pleasent.
The drive is amazing travelling through Berber Villages and past Kasbahs , and by the time you are half way up the mountain, you can see plenty of Marrakech familes cooling off in the river, and then the riverbank seems to come alive with people offering camel rides, horse rides and various moroccan snacks. Some bars even set up tables in the river to offer the ultimate in riverside dining.
If you are planning to walk up to the waterfalls, take sturdy footwear, as the rocks are very slippy.
The only problem with the river and the Atlas mountains is that whilst it is naturally beautiful, vistors to it are not taking care of this enviroment. The banks and the middle of the river are strewn with empty plastic bottles and plastic bags, and in the areas around the riverside cafes, coke cans and sweet wrappers are everywhere.
Most people i think might miss the Palmeraie, unless they were on a carriage ride or read up and prepared beforehand of the recommended sights to see, or on a tour.
I was with a group of my friends friends who were visiting from Australia, i think if i hadnt asked and recommended that we get taken there as they had a car but with quite unmotivated moroccan driver we wouldnt have got there. in fact we had a fast straight through drive and then dropped off to amuse ourselves at the well known to me amazing Marjorelle gardens.
i got my moroccan friend to take me again later at a better pace, got some good shots and enjoyed the extravagance that could be seen behind the high walls around the residences in the palmeraie. i have excellent architecture books, especially those published by Taschen, including stunning homes in the palmeraie.
This June i had the privilige of taking my best friend around the palmeraie, which she enjoyed as an elite suburb of Marrakech, seeing the camels at hand for the tourists, seeing the very upmarket golf course and homes - and being able to buy the best postcards i have seen for sale in Morocco at cheaper than most other places!!
Essaouira is a lovely contrast to Marrakech in that it is a very relaxed sea-side town and feels more like Africa meets Portugal than the very Arabic Marrakech. In comparison to other resorts on the coast Essaouira is unspoilt and still very charming. It takes about 2 hours to reach it from Marrakech along a straight road across desert-like scenery. The town itself focuses around the old fortified harbour where you can eat grilled sardines freshly from the boats and there are also plenty of seafood restaurants in the town. Wood-carving is famous in this area and the town also has a lovely old souk to explore. Essaouira still has quite a hippy atmosphere as popular in the sixties with Hendrix and the surfing crowd. The beach is a huge crescent of sand enclosing the more modert part of the town. The beach can get quite windy at times and so is popular for windsurfing but is also lovely for long walks in and around the town.