South Morocco is an enticing blend of quiet traditional life and frenetic tourist haunts. A place where atmospheric souks and sublime scenery converge to create enthralling travel experiences.

South Morocco holds an enduring fascination that few other regions can compete with. While only a few hours from Europe, it remains firmly rooted in its medieval past.

Bustling night markets and colourful souks give the cities an unmistakable energy. Sleepy mountain villages nestled into burnt landscapes of rocky canyons, hum to the ebb and flow of daily life. Alongside rivers fringed by swathes of fertile green, crumbling kasbahs betray an ancient powerful Morocco, strategically located along once-prosperous caravan routes.

Despite the many popular tourist-driven things to do in South Morocco, the region still holds a few surprises. Hiking in remote villages in the Atlas Mountains; exploring rose-filled valleys; day trips to hidden desert oases.  

There are few places in the world that capture the exotic more poignantly than on a road trip through South Morocco. It’s a culturally diverse region with a host of wonderful things to do. Here are some of our favourites.

BOOKING / If this article helps you travel, please book your trip via the links on this page or on our book page. This will earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you and help keep Anywhere We Roam on the road. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.


Medinas & Cities

The noisy, cramped, bustling medinas of Morocco are a sensory overload. Tranquil mosques with exquisite details compete with the clamour of busy souks in the labyrinth of tight laneways. They are the most intoxicating places to visit in Morocco.


The medina of Essaouira oozes charm and buzzes with energy. Local markets favour a traditional way of life and the Game of Thrones-famous port sings to the hubbub of fishermen hauling in the morning’s catch.

And yet beneath the energy, a chilled vibe spreads throughout the small town. Art galleries hide down narrow side streets and cafes line shaded pavements.

After the craziness of Fez, strolling around the streets of Essaouira, stopping for sundowner drinks by the port and discovering fresh regional food was one of our favourite things to do in South Morocco.


Life in Marrakech is lived on the street. Narrow alleyways are lined with endless rows of stallholders selling handmade lanterns, colourful embroidered fabric and tacky tourist souvenirs.

Just strolling around the central souks in the heart of the medina is an experience worth savouring. Our highlights were the edgy jewellery in Souk des Bijoutiers, craftsmen hammering out metal pots in Souk Haddadine, wool dying in Souk des Teinturiers and leather in Souk Cherratine.

In a town whose architecture radiated across the world in the form of Moorish influences, the Marrakech medina is a rich tapestry of design and artistic influence. See it all with our Marrakech itinerary.


In & around Ouarzazate

Ouarzazate is a popular stop on the way from Marrakech to the sand dunes of the Sahara.  With intriguing kasbahs, a hidden oasis and mountain villages ideal for getting off the beaten track, it’s an area well worth exploring.


Aït Benhaddou is a fortified town on the banks of the Ounila River. Built from local mud bricks, it’s one of the best places in Morocco for a thoroughly captivating sunset.

Having been partially rebuilt as a set for iconic films such as Gladiator, Jewel in the Nile and Jesus of Nazareth, it’s not an authentic look at rural Morocco life. But exploring in the late afternoon is an experience worth grabbing.

As the crowds start to thin and the stallholders disband, it’s not uncommon to have the place completely to yourself. At this time of day, Aït Ben Haddou shimmers in soft golden light. From the top of one of the surrounding hills, beautiful desolate mountain scenery stretches on for miles.


The remnants of Moroccan power can still be discovered on a road trip through the Ounila Valley. The decaying homes of Telouet Kasbah and Tamdaght Kasbah show just how prosperous the caravan route was to this part of the country.

Carving its way from the high Atlas Mountains to the barren plains just north of the Sahara Desert, the Ounila river has transformed the landscape. A rich variety of green crops line the valley floor, contrasting with the rusty red rock of the canyon-like walls.

It’s a thoroughly beautiful part of South Morocco. On route from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, stop and stroll around some of the beautifully set villages including Tajeguite, Assaka and Taïfaste.


Atlas Studios, based just outside Ouarzazate, has been churning out Hollywood movies since 1983, making the small desert town the centre of the movie industry in the region. Over 200 movies from biblical scenes to ancient Egyptian fables have been filmed here. But the highlight is complete set of Kingdom of Heaven rising out of the barren landscape.

In addition to a tour of Atlas Studios, the Cinema Museum in town has a quirky collection of old film sets. Find the cell Russel Crowe emerged from in Gladiator, a very convincing looking Egyptian palace, and remnants from the Star Wars movies.

Being central to the caravan routes, Ouarzazate also has impressive kasbahs. Stroll through the 300 room Kasbah Taourirt and get lost in the maze of passageways.


A community of 150 people live in the 4 villages that line the palm-fringed river at the Fint Oasis. It’s an idyllic spot where little seems to have changed for centuries. Women work small fields; men herd goats and children pull faces from the backs of donkeys carrying them and their produce between the villages.

Wide red rock canyon walls swirl overhead with the small valley ablaze with lush green crops and bright pink flowers. There is one café in the oasis to enjoy a scenic cup of mint tea, however, other than that, there is very little to do. Just stroll around and explore life as it once was in this hidden corner of South Morocco.


The 15-mile palm grove that makes up the Skoura Palmeraie is 1 hour from Ouarzazate. Even from the road, the dense collection of palms is an impressive view, framed beautifully between the red rock of the valley. Deep inside, a confusing network of roads leads through small hidden fields and over an ingenious ancient watering system.

There are several kasbahs to visit, the most impressive being Kasbah Ameridil which appears on travel brochures worldwide thanks to its extravagant decorations. A few excellent hotels are based in the palmeraie, so the real attraction is spending a night in relaxing oasis comfort. We recommend Le Jardin de Skoura for a slice of heaven in the desert. 


The Atlas Mountains

The High Atlas Mountains are dotted with Berber villages where small crops are tended by farm animals and women working long, tiring days. It’s a privilege to witness this traditional way of life, Berber hospitality and spectacular scenery.  


The Berber villages along the Ouirgane Valley are still relatively untouched by tourism, but the area is rich in foods that have become staples for its inhabitants.

On our trip, we organised a guide to hike through several of the villages in the valley, the most memorable being the hilltop town of Tikhfist. Here we sat in a small mud hut with incredible views over the valley and met 105-year-old Mohammed. His daughter made us a delicious tagine while we cracked fresh walnuts and discussed Berber life – thanks to the help of our translator and guide – another Mohammed.

Appreciating the simple life in Ouirgane was a thoroughly rewarding way to experience South Morocco hospitality.


In the northern reaches of the Atlas Mountains, Aït Bouguemez is considered by many to be the most beautiful valley in Morocco. And it’s easy to believe. Shepherds and goatherders usher their flocks from one green patch to the next. Women hurry across fields, scything crops and carrying the day’s work on their backs. In the villages, the scent of Berber tagines – a recipe unchanged for centuries – wafts from clay ovens.

Village to village hiking in the Aït Bouguemez valley is a fantastic way to experience rural Moroccan life; a far cry from the bustling cities frequented by most tourists. Out here, the relaxed, slow pace of life entices visitors with sublime scenery, encounters with cheeky kids and some excellent hiking trails.

10 / IMLIL

It’s hard to think of too many nice things to say about Imlil; little more than a roadside settlement high in the Atlas Mountains with guest houses lining a busy thoroughfare. The purpose of being here is to use it as a base for hiking the highest point in the Atlas Mountains, Mount Toubkal.

From Imlil to basecamp, it’s a relatively straight forward 5-7 hour walk to the summit. Overnight is spent at basecamp before tackling the summit the following day. Guides can be organised at Imlil for Toubkal and other walks in the area.


The drive up the Tizi n’Tichka pass in the Atlas Mountains is one of the most scenic in the country and a popular place to visit in South Morocco. A series of hairpin turns carves its way up the valley rising to the 2,260 metre summit, with impressive views over the rugged, rocky mountains below.

To continue on from Tizi n’Tichka, take the P1506 through the valley. This was once the main caravan route from Marrakech to Timbuktu and the drive is breath-taking. Stop at the Telouet Kasbah, one of the most remarkable in the area.


For centuries, the Ounila Valley was the main passageway between Marrakech and the caravan routes of the Sahara. The remnants of their power can still be discovered in the magnificent decaying home of Telouet Kasbah.

As the fortified home of the Glaoui family – who ran the trade routes to South Morocco – the kasbah was once an expression of the extreme wealth of the family. It’s thought that the decorations on the ceiling took 300 workers 3 years to complete. Looking up at the remarkable stucco plasterwork and inlaid cedar ceilings, it’s easy to believe.

Due to the Glaoui family’s connections with the French occupation of Morocco, Telouet Kasbah has been left to decay and is almost abandoned. See it before it’s too late.


Canyons and Deserts

South Morocco is a land of canyons and deserts. Thin stretches of lush green valleys are wedged between imposing walls of red rock. It’s a mesmerising landscape that finishes at the sands of the Sahara Desert.


What most people are looking for in the Dadès Valley are a set of tight zig-zags that rise dramatically from the valley floor to Aït Oufi. Head a little past Café Timzillite where you’ll get the best possible view of the valley disappearing in front of you with the road twisting its way down.

But for us, the highlight of the Dadès Valley is the remarkable feature of Monkey Fingers, where streams of water have cut rivulets and slot canyons in the rock. There is a good view from Isabel Guesthouse café, directly in front of the strange bulbous rock formations. However, the best way to see Monkey Fingers is on a 3-hour guided walk – all the details are in our Morocco Itinerary.


At almost 200 metres high and only 10 metres wide at its narrowest point, the Todra Gorge is a spectacle. The massive wall of rock that magically changes colour as the sun fades is one of the most popular destinations to visit in Morocco. Although slightly tarnished by the tourist vendors at the bottom of the gorge, there’s still plenty of good reasons to come to Todra.

The best being the excellent half-day hiking around the gorge. The route takes you along the back of the canyon walls and past nomad camps. It takes about 4 hours and the views are ever-changing and excellent. All the details can be found on our Todra Gorge hike article.


The Erg Chebbi dunes at Merzouga come mesmerizingly close to fulfilling most people’s expectations of what a desert environment should look like. Large, symmetrical curves of sand that catch the light and glow with reddish-golden wonderment. The dunes are a tiny 7 kilometres wide, so the camel ride out to stay overnight in a tented camp is more theatre than genuine travel experience, but it maintains the illusion in all the right ways.

The highlight is Berber singing under starlight as the underground barbeque sizzles with Moroccan delights. Despite all our scepticism, it remains a wonderful Morocco memory. To avoid the Bedouin caravan turning into a desert circus, try and visit off-season if possible.


Valleys & Waterfalls

In a land mostly parched with desert and scarred by rippling red rock, water seems to spring from nowhere. Creating lush green valleys and towering waterfalls, they are some of the most beautiful, and surprising, places to visit in Morocco. 


The thin ribbon of green formed by the 125-kilometre stretch of date palms in the Drâa Valley is one of the most exotic places in South Morocco. The circular road trip between Ouarzazate and the town of Zagora is the most picturesque section of the valley with several great highlights.

Tamnougalt is one of the oldest standing fortified villages in Morocco. Dramatic and extravagant in design, mud brick towers rise over masses of palms beside crumbling buildings where history oozes from lavish decorations. The Berbers who live in Tamnougalt will be happy to negotiate a very informative tour of the city.

Nearby, the village of Tinzouline has a much more lived-in feel with a thriving souk on Mondays.


The Valley of the Roses has been carved by the Assif M’Goun river as it twists and turns its way down to the town of Kalaat M’Gouna. An exhilarating 30 kilometre paved road runs alongside the river, with excellent views of the red rock that frames the green of the valley floor.

Each April and May, the valley is flooded with roses being picked by local women to be shipped off to factories in nearby Kalaat. But even outside of flower season, we had a wonderful time exploring the Valley of the Roses. The impressive dramatic scenery is as mesmerising as the complete absence of tourists.


The sight of the green ribbon of the Tinghir Oasis as it curves through the landscape and snakes around this otherwise barren region is remarkable. There are several viewing platforms along the popular N10 road, however the best way to see the oasis is on foot.

Walk along the west side to find a world hidden under the canopy of palms. Olives, figs, almonds and alfalfa grow in the fertile soil of the valley under the shady protection of the palmery. The restored ksar is impressive but it’s the many crumbling kasbars that really hold the appeal. The Monday souk is a thriving marketplace and the best place in Morocco for handmade pottery.


Set in the dramatic El-Abid River gorge, Ouzoud Falls are beautifully nestled in a jungle paradise that’s a cool relaxing relief from the harsh Moroccan sun.

A path zigzags down the valley wall as spray from the falls clings to dense green foliage and cools the air. It’s a beautiful part of Morocco. A tribe of mischievous macaque monkeys roam the trees beside the falls looking for objects to steal from unsuspecting tourists.

At the bottom, the lush jungle opens up to an inviting pool with the 3 cascades of the falls plunging into the water. Despite the no swimming signs dotted around the water, both tourists and locals alike take the opportunity to cool off.


Places to visit in South Morocco

Our favourite places to visit in South Morocco are spread out over a large area, so having your own car is the best way to see them. Fortunately, driving in Morocco is relatively easy and it’s the best way to experience everything this fascinating country has to offer.

We recommend Auto Europe as our trusted hire car partner. All our travel resources are on our booking page. Alternatively, we have lots of road trip tips in our diving in Morocco guide.


The dramatic scenery and exotic medinas of Morocco keep up going back for more. Here are some more of our guides to help you get the most out of this beautiful country.

Our self-guided walking tour of Fez medina

Driving in Morocco – 12 really useful road trip tips (updated Mar-20)

Explore Aït Ben Haddou on a road trip through the Ounila Valley

Sleepy villages and buzzing cities on our 10-day Morocco itinerary

Superb half-day Tinghir Oasis & Todra Gorge hike

Three Mohammeds and changing life in a Berber village


First, if you found this useful, please follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with our travels.


Pin this article and follow us on Pinterest to get all our travel guides.