Daytripping from Marrakesh … here’s what you should ask …

Stories of Morocco always include the Souks of Fez and the pulsating rhythms and energy of the Djemma el Fna but they don’t stress of overall beauty of the Morocco, especially when any walk outside Marrakesh has the backdrop of the snow capped Atlas Mountains.

Walking through the Djemma, there were tour companies that advertised available day trips and of the choices I had, which included

  • Day trip to Essaouira
  • Heading the Atlas Mountains
  • Day trip to Ait Ben Haddou
  • Day Trip to Ouarzazate through Ait Ben Haddou
  • Ourika Valley with the Ouzud Waterfalls

After consorting with my Moroccan connection, I decided that I would do the day trip to Ouarzazate. This sounds wonderful as you drive through the snow capped mountains, gazing at magnificent scenery, navigating through twisting ,winding mountain roads, admiring picturesque Berber villages set in the mountains till you get to the red rocks of the Ouarzazate with its film sets for Star Wars, Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.

The pictures look amazing don’t they? The weather looks amazing doesn’t it? You couldn’t ask for better photographic conditions on a marvelously, sunny day, right?

Yes! Yes ! No!

But those aren’t the right questions to be asking when one is attempting to day trip from Marrakech to Ouarzazate. The questions that you should ask are the following:

  • What time does the bus leave? Between 7 and 7:15 am
  • How long is the drive from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, EACH WAY? : About 4 1/2 – 5 hours. Anticipate more like 5 hours
  • Will you have to change buses? : If no, then this is awesome, but since you’re attempting a two day trip in one day, you will have to probably wait at Ouarzazate and change bus companies.
  • If the bus is late, do I get a refund or apology? Fuck no, to both questions unless you start shaming people .. which I have no problem doing in public.
  • Will I have a choice in seating? Hell no, unless you’re first on the bus or you politely suggest to the tour conductor that you will accept nothing but a front seat, by yourself.
  • Will there be stops for lunch? Absolutely but only at the pre-determined restaurant. If you refuse to buy lunch, then you might have to walk for 5 mins … it was amazing to see people pay 80 dirhams for a Tagine, when I walked 5 mins away and paid 25 dirhams.
  • How much will it cost? If you book at your hotel, you will pay between 500 – 800 dirhams for this trip. If you walk into the souks, you can bargain and I paid 250 dirhams.

That being said … the trip to Ouarzazate IS NOT a day trip. You’re spending 10 hours in a van, winding through roads with insane curves, through the mountains. You will have about 3 hours of total time where you are not driving. Unless you have a decent camera and are in the front seat to take great pictures while moving, you are going to have a miserable time.

On the bus, going to Ouarzazate, there were two people doing this day trip, while everyone else was doing at least a two day trip to the mountains. The other person who was day tripping with me, had to suffer for 10 hours in the back seat in the middle of two other people.

If you have two days, the drive through the countryside and to tour the film sets, then this is a wonderful two day trip, but rushing this in one day, is only for the sado masochists.

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About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

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