Amazing Day Trip from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou

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If you’ve been soaking up our adventures from ‘6 Days in Marrakech, adding a day trip to Ait Benhaddou to your itinerary is an experience you won’t want to miss.

We’ve journeyed to this iconic red-earthen village ourselves, and it’s not just a visually stunning location; it’s a portal into a storied past.

Nestled in the Atlas Mountains, Ait Benhaddou feels like stepping into another era. Historically a vibrant trading post, it has welcomed countless nomads from the Sahara.

Its ancient mud-brick buildings have also caught the eye of many filmmakers, featuring in epic films like Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.

Join us as we explore why this UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.

Day Trip Overview: Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou

On this day trip, delve deeper into Ait Benhaddou’s history and cinematic charm. Every corner of this ancient ksar tells a story, making it more than just a stunning view—it’s a real-life movie set and a historic gem.

⭐️ Best-rated Day Trips to Ait Benhaddou: Book or learn more here.

This journey offers an opportunity to see, feel, and photograph the landscapes hosting some of Hollywood’s most epic tales while also connecting with the age-old spirit of Morocco’s trading past.

The magnificent Aït Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two

Practical Information: Preparing for Your Trip to Ait Benaddou

Here’s what you need to know to make your visit as smooth as possible:

  • Day Trip: 12 hours duration; 4 hours one-way driving from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou
  • Travel Distance: 180km
  • Best Months to Visit: September to May, avoiding the heat of summer
  • What to Pack: Water, sunscreen, hat, comfortable walking shoes, and a camera.
  • Entrance Fee: A small entrance fee of 20 Dirham (USD$2) for access to the Ksar, although Ait Benhaddou is touted as free to enter.

Additional Stops Between Marrakesh and Ait Benhaddou

  • Roadside markets, Atlas Mountains
  •  Tizi n’Tichka Pass, the highest pass through the Atlas Mountains
  • Argan Oil Co-operative, Atlas Mountains
Driving route: Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou through the Atlas Mountains ©Lifejourney4two


Booking a Day Trip From Marrakech To Ait Benhaddou

The company we used for our private day trip from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou is no longer operational, but many other excellent day trip providers are available.

This Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou tour has fantastic reviews. It includes pickup and a visit to Ouarzazate, the site of a 19th-century kasbah. We didn’t include this stop because we wanted to maximise our time at Ait Benhaddou. 

It’s a full-day excursion, but don’t be put off by the length of time, the experience is really worthwhile.

⭐️ Find out more or Book this Ait Benhaddou Day Trip here
| ⭐️ 4.5/5 Star Reviews | Pickup Incl. | ⏰ 11 hours

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Mint tea with an outstanding view ©Lifejourney4two

Day Trip To Ait Benhaddou Map

Summary of Things to See and Do on an Ait Benhaddou Day Trip

Explore Historical Sites

  • The Ksar of Ait Benhaddou: Wander through the ancient streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site, exploring its iconic earthen buildings, towers, and walls, which have withstood the test of time.
  • Granary on the Hilltop of Ait Benhaddou: Although not accessible inside, climbing to the granary offers panoramic views of the entire area and is a perfect vantage point for understanding the strategic significance of this location.
  • Riads: Discover the merchant houses of Ait Benhaddou that tell the tales of day-to-day life; some of which are still inhabited.
Olive trees fringing the gardens of Ait Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two

Engage in Local Experiences

  • Ait Benhaddou Guided Tours: Opt for a local guide who can provide in-depth historical context and share accounts of life behind these fortress walls. Guides can be sought once you are inside the ksar.
  • Experience Traditional Production: On the way, stop by the local Argan Oil Co-operative to see firsthand how this valuable oil is traditionally extracted from the kernels of the Argan tree. This meticulous process and hard work are mostly done by local women. Don’t miss trying the local bread dipped in Argan oil.

Ait Benhaddou Cuisine Highlights

  • Tawesna Association Tea House: Support this women’s Tea house by serving home-cooked local food and unlimited Berber tea or coffee.
  • Tighramte Restaurant: We ate here and can vouch for the tasty traditional Moroccan dishes. Try a delicious tagine, a slow-cooked savoury stew that is a staple in Moroccan cuisine. The restaurant has grandstand views opposite Ait Benhaddou.

Best Photography Spots

  • Mountain Landscapes: If you visit in winter, the Atlas Mountains landscape will likely be snow-covered. For other landscape photos, shoot early or late afternoon to avoid heat shimmer.
  • Architectural Details: Capture the intricate mud-brick architecture and the play of light and shadow in the ksar’s narrow alleys.
  • Ksar: Shoot Ait Benhaddou from the sandbag river crossing point to capture its magnificence.

Our Experience: Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou Day Trip

Our guide and driver picked us up at our Marrakech riad right on time, 06:00 am. We were told we would need the full day for this excursion. We sure did.

Departing early meant we would avoid the city traffic. It wasn’t long before we were in the countryside and could see the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.

Roadside Markets in The Atlas Mountains

The roads of the Atlas Mountains were generally in good condition, with a few sections undergoing repair. Partway up the mountain, we stopped in one of the resting bays.

A man had set up a market selling mineral rocks, pottery, and wooden wares.

Although some of the crystals looked quite eye-catching, our driver told us that some vendors added dye to the crystals to enhance their colour. Good to know!

markets-in Atlas mountains
Tizi n ‘Tichka mountain roadside markets ©Lifejourney4two

Tizi n Tichka Mountain Pass

We left the roadside market and continued our ascent of the Atlas Mountains. The views were absolutely spectacular.

It had been a particularly cold Moroccan winter and we could see the snow line down as low as 500 metres altitude. We were told that it had even snowed in the Sahara, which was rare.

Cresting a rise, we saw a group of buildings and stopped in front of the monument, Col Du Tichka, meaning ‘Pass of Pasture’, erected to honour the highest point of the Tizi n’Tichka Pass, an altitude of 2260m.

In fact, this is the highest road mountain pass in North Africa and follows an old caravan trail.

Time enough for a few photos, we were on our way, descending towards the Sahara Desert.

Tizi n’Tichka Pass monument
Tizi n’Tichka Pass monument ©Lifejourney4two

Argan Oil Women’s Cooperative

Partway down the mountain, we stopped to visit the Argan Oil Women’s Cooperative. Here you can watch the Berber women use traditional methods of extracting Argan oil from the Argan nut.

This oil can be used to dip bread and as a natural skin product. We were offered a free taste test, which was quite palatable.

As a thank you, we bought some argan oil. The money would help support this local community venture.

Argan Oil Women’s Cooperative shows the process of oil extraction ©Lifejourney4two

Photographic Stops in The Atlas Mountains

The winding road brought different views of the beautiful Atlas Mountains. When we slowed for construction work, the driver would occasionally pull to the side and stop, allowing us to snap some photos.

A benefit of visiting Ait Benhaddou in winter is seeing these snow-capped mountains, which would otherwise be bland in other seasons.

Views of the picturesque Atlas Mountains ©Lifejourney4two

 Ait Benhaddou Arrival

Arriving at our destination, our driver steered us to Restaurant Tighramte, which had awesome views above the Ounila River and Ait Benhaddou. He gave us a meeting time and location and then left us to our own devices.

A pretty awesome backdrop for lunch ©Lifejourney4two

Access to Ait Ben Haddou is either by bridge or by using sandbags to walk across the shallow Ounila River. We chose the sandbags.

Not only was it fun, but fabulous photo opportunities of Ait Benhaddou opened up when choosing this route.

Sandbag crossing of the Ounila River to Ait Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two
bridge-over-river to Ait benhaddou
Alternate access to Ait Benhaddou via the bridge ©Lifejourney4two

A huge facade marks the entrance to Ait Benhaddou. However, this is not part of the original structure but formed part of a movie set that was left standing.

The entrance formed part of a movie set ©Lifejourney4two

After paying the entrance fee, although other visitors have claimed that entry is free, we followed a main pathway that zig-zagged past the merchant houses towards the hilltop. We wanted to get an idea of the size of Ait Benhaddou amid its vast surroundings.

Arriving at the hilltop, we had grandstand views over Ait Benhaddou, the Ounila River and the Sahara Desert. The Atlas Mountains were ever-present in the distance.

view-from-top of Ait Benhaddou
Commanding views from the hilltop, Ait Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two

A single weather-beaten granary was used to store the precious grains harvested from the fields. Not only were the grains protected from the weather, but they were also safe from any marauding tribes.

Granary on top of the hill, protected by Ait Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two

Incredible 360-degree views from the granary.

Fantastic views on the walk up to the granary at Ait Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two

Distracted by music, we stopped nearby to listen to a Berber proudly playing his Ribab (a traditional Moroccan one-stringed instrument).

Moroccan playing a  Ribab at Ait Benhaddou
Looking over the Ait Benhaddou Kasbah roofs to the granary on the very top of the hill ©Lifejourney4two

Descending the hill, we walked around the many riads. Each is a little different to the next.

Our driver had told us that a handful of families still lived in the riads, and others had also returned, drawn by the increase in tourism at Ait Benhaddou.

Kasbah in Ait Benhaddou ©Lifejourney4two

In one of the riad doorways, a person caught our eye. He asked whether we would like to come in and have a look around at the museum for a small fee and to accompany us, for an extra Dhs 50.

We agreed.

The guide’s name was Kachir Jamal. He spoke excellent English and explained that this building was an extension of his family home and now a museum.

Jamal walked us through the different rooms, pointing out and explaining the use of everyday Berber items.

The museum displays ©Lifejourney4two
Berber home with day-to-day household items ©Lifejourney4two

Berber Whisky?

With the museum tour finished, Jamal asked us if we would like to join him for Berber Whisky (his humour for the local Berber herbal tea) at his family’s nearby riad.

We agreed and thought it was a lovely gesture.

Entering his riad, it was obvious this was furnished as a home. Colourful blankets lay about the rooms and the warm feel was palpable.

We met his family, drank mint tea, and tasted a selection of nuts grown on their plot of land in the nearby valley. It was an interesting experience and we learnt a lot about his family and life in the ksar.

He said that although modern conveniences were scarce, with no electricity and a single gas-powered stove in the kitchen, life was simple and one of contentment.

It was a glimpse into a life far different from ours.

Enjoying Berber tea inside a ksar ©Lifejourney4two

Jamal took the opportunity to show us some exquisitely decorated carpets that were for sale. They were handmade by his mother and other women in the area.

Hand-carrying a carpet wasn’t an option as we travel the world with only a couple of bags each.

Before we left his home, Jamal mentioned he had something to show us. We walked down some steps to ground level, where we could see a stable under his home.

He said the sheep and chicken spent the winter here, sheltered from the cold and sometimes inclement weather.

Stables under the riad ©Lifejourney4two

Reflecting on Our Ait Benhaddou Day Trip

We spent roughly three hours wandering Ait Benhaddou, which was the right amount of time and, importantly, not a hurried experience. The highlights were definitely the views from the granary and the interaction with the family inside their riad.

To be honest, everything we experienced on this trip was a memorable experience making the day just that much more rewarding.

Meeting our driver on the opposite side of the river, we drove directly to Marrakech for drop-off at our riad.

Our day trip from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou was fabulous. The experience was interesting, authentic and well worth the time.

Served mint tea and home-grown nuts at Kachir’s home ©Lifejourney4two

Best Times Of Year To Visit Ait Benhaddou

The best time of year to visit Ait Benhaddou is during Spring, Winter or Autumn. Summer temperatures are accompanied by searing heat, which you will likely want to avoid.

Our winter visit was exceptional.

Blue skies and chilly mornings were followed by a warm midday sun. From a photography perspective, the snow covering the Atlas Mountains accentuated them even more.

More Day Trips From Marrakech

Exciting Day Trip to Ouzoud Falls from Marrakech

Another fabulous day trip we took from Marrakech was a visit to Ouzoud waterfalls and the wild Macaque monkeys.

Ouzoud Falls, located in the Atlas Mountains, is one of Morocco’s most spectacular natural wonders. These chocolate-coloured falls tumble over 110 meters into the river below, making them one of the highest and most visually striking waterfalls in North Africa.

That’s not the only wonder; the falls are also populated by native Barbary macaques who don’t mind sharing their space with visitors.

⭐️ Find out more or Book this Ouzoud Waterfall Day Trip here
| ⭐️ 4.5/5 Star Reviews | Pickup Incl. | ⏰ 10 hours

Ouzoud Falls ©Lifejourney4two

Tours From Marrakech

If you’re looking to explore beyond the city, Marrakech serves as an ideal base for various excursions. You can check the different Viator Tours here.

Ait Ben Haddou Granary – this was before the damage caused to it in the 2023 earthquake ©Lifejourney4two

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get from Ait Benhaddou to Marrakech?

To get from Ait Benhaddou to Marrakech, you can take a taxi to Ouarzazate, a bus to Marrakech, or a taxi directly to Marrakech. The two bus companies operating are CTM Bus and Supratours. Alternatively, join a tour and save the transport hassles.

Is Ait Benhaddou worth visiting?

Ait Benhaddou is absolutely worth visiting. This UNESCO World Heritage site showcases well-preserved architecture and is a backdrop for recent films like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Game of Thrones.’
Its historical significance as a trading post and the stunning natural scenery make it a captivating destination for anyone interested in history, architecture, or cinema.

How long to spend in Ait Benhaddou?

Spending three hours in Ait Benhaddou will give you enough time to enjoy much of what this ksar has to offer.

Where to stop between Marrakech and Ait Benhaddou?

Worthwhile stops between Marrakech and Ait Benhaddou are the Tizi n’Tichka Pass – the highest pass in the Atlas Mountains and the Argan Oil Cooperative. The roadside markets are an interesting stop.

Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou … That’s a Wrap

Exploring Ait Benhaddou was like stepping back in time; each ancient building and winding path tells stories of past traders and local Berber life. This day trip is really worthwhile for anyone interested in Morocco’s cultural and historical landscapes.

With this trip complete, our time in Morocco was now at an end. We returned to our campervan in Spain to continue our year-long motorhoming adventure through Europe.

If you plan a trip to Morocco, make sure Ait Benhaddou makes your list of places to visit. It won’t disappoint.

Do you have any favourite Moroccan trips or sites you can recommend?

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For a more thorough list, visit our Travel Resources page here.

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Lars, grew up in the Australian countryside and discovered his love for nature early on. Leaving Australia at 20, he began a life of travel and exploration. As a co-owner of Lifejourney4two with Shelley, Lars captures their journeys through his photography. Join him here and see the world through his lens.

14 thoughts on “Amazing Day Trip from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou”

    • Thanks for your email regarding the whereabouts of the Argan Oil Women’s Cooperative. Unfortunately, I didn’t have internet and the location GPS of our photos wasn’t on. Therefore I’m not sure where it exactly was, just that it was on our way to Ait Benhaddou.

  1. Hi guys

    We ( Michele and I ) are doing a return visit to Marrakech, in March 2020…

    We were there in january this year, and got a fantastic deal to go back.
    I am extremely interested in the this MARRAKECH TO AIT BENHADDOU trip.

    We done a similar trip last month… To Berber family etc..
    However it was via a 12 seater minibus,
    One or two of the others were extremely rude to Ismail are guide along the way… mocking his English etc… \very ignorant.

    Hence, I am very interested in you experience. \it seems you had a ” PRIVATE” trip, Just the two of you.
    Is this how it was… ? We are keen to avoid minibus travel… haha.

    Anyway we would be grateful, if you could provide us with details of where or who we contact do book this as a two only trip.

    Thank You.

  2. Enjoyed reading this as part of research I’m doing fir a novel based in Marrakech – and having lived there myself but never visited Ait Benhaddou. Thank you!

  3. What a gorgeous place to visit. I couldn’t help but smile seeing the picture of the sandbags for crossing the river. Those handmade carpets are gorgeous.

    • Thank you for reading Sarah, it was a really captivating place to visit. So much skill goes into making those carpets. We actually got carried away exploring everywhere and our driver came looking for us because he thought we’d got lost;)

    • Thanks for stopping by the blog Carrie 🙂 It was, the rugs were beautiful, so intricate and detailed. We knew we’d be travelling for a while though, and didn’t know when or where we would be putting down some roots, so logistically it wasn’t going to work.


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