Getting from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou
One of the often asked questions is how to get to from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou. I had to do the trip myself so I did some research. An added feature: the region is one of the most scenic in Morocco and there are lots of highlights along the way.
There are 3 different options.
Option 1 – take the bus for Ouarzazate and get out at the crossroads
The cheapest option is to take the bus in Marrakech heading for Ouarzazate. The bus usually takes about 5 hours in all up to Ouarzazate.
There are 2 main companies. One is Supratours. They have 4 buses a day from Marrakech. You can see the schedule here. I’m told that the ticket price is 90 Dirhams (somehow the official ONCF site doesn’t seem to pull up this info). I’m also told that you can only buy tickets online using a Moroccan credit card. So it’s best to pre-buy your ticket the day before at the Supratours terminal which is located next to the Marrakech train station (in a section of town called Gueliz. It is 3 km from the Koutoubia Mosque). The other main bus company is CTM and according to their schedule they have 7 buses/day (including 2 night buses) going to Ouarzazate. Price also 90 Dirhams (about 10 USD). Their terminal is also next to the train station (and next to the Supratours terminal). I’m told that although their website allows you to buy online tickets that few foreigners actually succeed in buying their tickets online. So again, buy your tickets the previous day if you can.
Buses don’t have toilets. They do stop for a 25 minute break about halfway through the journey.
Although the bus ride is scenic through the Tizi-n-Tichka pass you of course won’t be stopping for any photo opportunities. You’ll also be travelling along the less scenic route when coming down from the pass and continuing to Ouarzazate.
If going to Ait Benhaddou, you want to get out of the bus 19 kilometers before Ouarzazate. That’s where the crossroad to Ait Benhaddou is (from here it is 9 km to Ait Benhaddou). Buses regularly stop at this intersection, but you should mention it to the driver before.
Once you’ve gotten off the bus you can take a shared taxi (un grand taxi) to Ait Benhaddou. I’m told there are always taxis at the crossroads during the day (I would not risk however arriving at night. I don’t know if anyone would be waiting there at that time). Worst case you stick your thumb out and hitch a ride, it’s a touristy stretch and I’m sure someone will pick you up.
It should cost 10 dirhams for a Grand Taxi from that intersection and it’ll take 10-15 minutesto get to Ait Benhaddou. As I say, it’s 9 km so it’s not too far.
So that’s the cheapest (but not the easiest) way to get from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou.
* if you’ve had experience taking the bus I would love to hear all about it.
Related: The Ultimate guide to Surviving Morocco
Option 2 – Get a Private Driver
I ended up getting a private driver through Marrakech Airport Transfer. It cost me 950 Dirhams (100 USD). I did it for a few reasons: 1) I was coming from Imlil that day and only arriving in Marrakech around noon. I didn’t know if I’d have issues getting a bus ticket and I didn’t want to arrive at the crossroads in the dark. 2) There is some beautiful geography between Marrakech and Ait Benhaddou that I wanted to see. And it’s especially beautiful when taking the scenic route below the Tizi-n-Tichka pass (which the bus doesn’t take). Along that stretch you’ll pass the town of Telouet and it’s famous Kasbah: Kasbah Glaoui. Taking the driver ended up being a transfer/private tour guide in one. For me it was really worth it. Going the scenic route – with a few stops along the way – resulted in the entire trip taking 6 hours. So I got my money’s worth.
Option 3 – Rent a car in Marrakech
I’ve met many tourists on this trip who’ve rented a car in Marrakech and who’ve used it to drive to Ait Benhaddou and then further into the desert. Having spent the last few weeks in Morocco I think it’s the ideal way to visit this country. And the best thing is that if you rent your car at Marrakech airport you can bypass downtown itself. It’s pretty easy driving, you just have to be careful when passing through little towns on the way because you’ll see locals on bikes or mules pulling carts. But if you’re careful you’ll have no problem driving in Morocco.
But the best thing about driving is what I mention above ie. being able to stop along the way and to see the sights. And as much as I enjoyed Ait Benhaddou and (later) Mergouza, I often wished I had wheels. There’s no other way around this part of the country.
We always use Rentalcars.com when renting a car (they dig up the cheapest rates and best options from all the major car rental companies). Approximate cost? About $32 US/day. If you input a week it comes out to about $120 US/week. So basically $20 more than what I paid for the private driver (excluding gas). I think renting is the best option if visiting Morocco.
There’s actually a 4th option…
You can take a day trip that will take you from Marrakesh to Telouet to Ait Benhaddou…and then back to Marrakesh for the evening. Great for those with limited time – plus you get to see Telouet which I cover below.
Highlights between Marrakech and Ait Ben Haddou
The mountain views in the Tizi-n-Tichka pass are impressive. You’ll see different tones of colours, browns, greens, greys and reds. There are quite a lot of places along the road where you can pull over for photos.
But for me the most impressive stretch of road was when we left the main road for the “scenic road” towards Telouet. Here the geography becomes semi-desert, with canyons and plateaus. The colours are more reddish, interrupted by green in the valleys and the occasional white snow on far away mountains. You’ll see more and more traditional villages where buildings are made of earth, camouflaged by the similarly coloured background.
A highlight of the entire region is the Kasbah Glaoui in Telouet. It was built in the 1800’s by the Glaoui family. Thami Glaoui was a rich and powerful man, made even more so during the French occupation when he was Pasha of Marrakech. The position of the Kasbah meant he looked over the trade route coming through the region. His position and power ensured that he received “gifts” from the travellers and merchants making their way through the valley. Many saw him as a brutal warlord.
When Morocco pushed for independence he was labelled a traitor. Glaoui died in his Kasbah a few months after independence in 1956. Because of the stigma of the Kasbah it was abandoned and left to ruin. In the last few years there’s been a bit of restoration but most of the Kasbah is falling apart.
I thought it was quite spectacular. I was the only visitor and it was eerie walking through the empty palace. A few photos.
Back on the road after Telouet, you follow a long, winding gorge dotted with earthen towns. The vistas are spectacular.
6 km before Ait Benhaddou is the Kasbah Tamedakhte. It looks spectacular from the outside (and can be visited. But we were running short of time).
From Tamedakhte it takes about 10 minutes get to Ait Benhaddou. All together – with many stops along the way – it had taken 6 hours to get from Marrakech to Ait Benhaddou.
Accommodation in Ait Benhaddou: I stayed at Kasbah Valentine which was excellent. Most comfortable room I’ve had to date in Morocco. And the restaurant is the highest rated in Ait Benhaddou. Recommended. I paid 350 dirhams/night including breakfast (That’s $37 US).
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My boyfriend and I did this route recently and I would not recommend getting off at the crossroads, it’s a barren street with a couple of houses – definitely not somewhere to stop off, little traffic and no taxis to be seen.
We went all the way to Ouarzazate which also meant we could book our bus tickets for the next leg of our journey. Grand taxis were readily available next to the bus stop.
Thank you Lucy. Surprised, no taxis at all? During the day?
Thank you for the feedback, I’m sure it’s helpful for people thinking of doing it this way.
How did you return home to Marresh?
Hi Yvonne. I didn’t, I continued on to Merzouga (I was in Morocco for 5 weeks so did a big circuit). My itinerary here.
But if going back to Marrakesh from Ait Benhaddou I’m sure you can get a bus at the crossroads, there’s a lot of traffic on the Ouarzazate – Marrakesh route. I’d recommend asking when there.
YVONNE RENAE WILLIAMS
Awesome Frank- do you think I should purchase a roundtrip ticket and go back to the crossroads to catch a bus back to Marrakesh? I can ask when I purchase the ticket as well.
i will probably see if some other people want to share a Private car. If we can get two to four people that would make a great trip. Thanks so very much for posting these options. Yvonne
YVONNE RENAE WILLIAMS
SORRY – I just found the answer how you must return from Ait Benhaddou to Marrakesh:
To avoid that backtracking mentioned earlier, some travelers ask the bus driver to stop at Tazentout for them – travelers claim bus drivers do this in spite of what the ticket office says. From Tazentout, grab a taxi for the 9 km to Ait Ben Haddou. This saves you 40 km of driving time, and will lower your taxi fare.
You would not be able to do this in reverse if you are returning directly to Marrakech. You would need to buy a CTM ticket from the office in Ait Ben Haddou, and then take a taxi to Ouarzazate to board the CTM bus back to Marrakech. But if you are not returning directly to Marrakech (i.e. seeing Atlas Studios, Fint Oasis, or continuing even further east to the Sahara), then you do not need to worry about this.
WHAT SAY YOU?
It’s the “correct” thing to do. But I’m willing to bet anything that you can go back to that crossroads (at Tazentout) and get a bus back to Marrakesh. Because there are lots of different buses on that route and people get off there coming from the other direction as well.
YVONNE RENAE WILLIAMS
I was thinking just that. I would purchase a roundtrip ticket when from the start and go back to the Cross Roads spot from Ait Benhhadou and try to get a bus out. I would arrive early before the time of the departure. Like minds thinking in sync! Also, the website says you can purchase bus tickets from Ait Benhaddou. The bus tickets start you from Ouarzazate as well. Did you purchase a bus ticket at Ait Benhaddou to continue on your journey towards the Sahara?
I am excited to go back to Ait Benhaddou. I have been there many times on a bus tour, but I never have enough time to really explore and shop. I was going to spend 3 nights considering the first day I will arrive in the afternoon from Marrakesh and last morning I need to depart early just in case I experience a hiccup at the Cross Roads. This would give me 2 full days of exploration and shop with the Berbers. I absolutely love their silver jewelry. I plan to visit in September when there are fewer tourists. Do you feel that is enough time? How many nights did you spend on your adventure? Thanks so much for sharing this information and posting about your experience. I am sure you have gotten so many responses. Yvonne
2 full days in Ait Benhaddou is more than enough. I was there for 4 days and spent 1 of those visiting Ouarzazate. I wrote on both in this post. I also really recommend (if you can) seeing the Kasbah Glaoui. It’s maybe 45 min from Ait Benhaddou but really worth it. I’d get a private guide for that.
I had a private driver from Air Ben Haddou to Merzouga. I wrote about that here. It was expensive (200 Euros) but I was glad I did because there’s a lot of beauty along the way and we did a lot of stops. It’s also a long way.
Enjoy your trip!
Beautiful scenery for a road trip, renting a car would be the best option for sure, as you have pointed out. The Kasbah Glaoui must have been quite a sight and wonderful to have it all to yourself? Have you felt safe there? Gorgeous views to enjoy your tea and cookies ?
Yes, I’ve been feeling safe. I don’t really like Moroccan cities much because there is so much hassle/hustle, but if you do it with a guide you’re protected. But out in the countryside I haven’t had any issues, people much more relaxed.
it looks like it’s quite the adventure with seriously dramatic scenery whatever route and method you take!
Yes, it really is incredible scenery!
Soooo glad you enjoyed that leg of the journey, and thought the private driver was worth the money. As you know that stretch (particularly the Telouet loop) is one of our favourite spots in Morocco, so it’s great that you got to see it too. We keep considering renting a car…the roads out of the city are fine, and now they’ve improved the Tizi n Tichka it’s a lot safer, but to be frank (no, sorry, that’s you, ha ha), we just don’t want the stress of potential breakdowns and accidentally running over goats. We’ve seen lots of people do it in a camper van which looks fun (driving, not running goats over)…though still think I’d prefer to spend the night in a palace somewhere 😉 Looking forward to hearing what you thought of Chebbi and the drive east!
You are right Heather, it’s a great route and I especially enjoyed seeing the Kasbah and having it all to myself.
They’re doing a lot of construction on the pass and I’m told it won’t be finished for a year or so. Yes, my major worry would be the goats and sheep running across the street. But hey, you can stick it in the trunk and have the riad cook it for dinner.
I’m surprised by all the travellers I’m met who’ve been driving around: French, Belgian, Spanish…met some interesting people.
Just finished my time in Merzouga and I’ll be writing about that real soon.
Thanks again Heather for all the advice, I owe my itinerary to you!
Perfect timing, I was looking at places to stay in Ait Benhaddou today. Does it have heat? Totally worth a few extra bucks to not shiver all night.
My other question is about entering Morocco. What documents/info do they ask for? Reading customs info online reminds me of Tanzania. Originally I was leaving my leave date open, in case I love it hate it, but read that doesn’t work. Plus, to leave country requires your ticket to be printed, not on app.
Hi Paula. YES! It does have heat. It is the 1st place I’ve had where there was heat so I was happy to have a nice warm room (with a small desk even). Yeah, I was shivering in the mountains in Aroumd…
When you arrive you’ll have to fill out a document (I’m surprised they didn’t hand them out on the plane). Very easy. They didn’t ask for the departure date but they ask (if I recall properly) your residence in Morocco and the address. So I gave them my Marrakech Riad address which was fine. It was actually easy – showed them my passport and the card I had filled out and I breezed through…
Let me know if you have any other question Paula.
Well, it has heat and it’s Frank approved, so good enough for me? Thanks for quick reply
I don’t know how long you’re planning Paula but a day is enough to see Ait Benhaddou.
I’ll be writing about that soon, popping the posts out a bit quicker than usual these days while all fresh in my mind.