Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate – The Game of Thrones city of Yunkai

Ait Benhaddou Game Of Thrones

After a long road journey through the Atlas Mountains, I had made it to Ouarzazate, a city in Morocco known as the door of the desert. To get there from Marrakech, you need to travel over the long and winding ‘Tizi n Tichka’ pass. I cameΒ all this way to stay at the fabulous Dar Rita and visit Ait Benhaddou because I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones Travel. Ait Benhaddou was a film site for the city of ‘Yunkai’ from the popular TV show. It is also a Kasbah (Qasaba), which is a fortress, most commonly the citadel or fortified quarter of an old city containing smaller houses.

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Ait Benhaddou – The Yellow City of Yunkai in the Game of Thrones

Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a striking example of a Kasbah or Saharan ksar. A Ksar is a mud and clay city containing small houses and a Mosque inside, protected by fortified walls. There are just a few families left living in this ancient city.

Ait Benhaddou is the city of Yunkai in the Game of Thrones. Queen Danaerys frees the city of Yunkai from slavery, which is filmed at Ait Benhaddou. After her defeat at the Battle of Yunkai, the inhabitants celebrate by calling her Mhysa, meaning mother.

Ait Benhaddou is also the film set for many other movies including the Mummy, Gladiator and the last temptation of Christ.

Kasbah Ait Benhaddou Ouarzazate
Orange is the colour of mud bricks in the hot Moroccan desert sun

History of Ait Benhaddou

The ksar or Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou was built in the 17th century. It is one of the best places in Morocco to see preserved traditional Berber architecture and way of life. Historically, Ait Benhaddou was also a stop on the trans-Saharan trade route, which linked sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean world. On this route, Arab merchants travelled to trade cloth, salt and other goods for gold in West Africa.

When to visit Ait Benhaddou

The best times to visit is March to May (spring) or September to November (Autumn). Avoid December to February when the temperature drop significantly and are now warm enough to enjoy it. Also, do not travel in the heat of the summer – avoid July and August completely. It’s so hot at this time of year that tourists risk suffering heat exhaustion or heat stroke. You would be too hot to do anything – the heat causes headaches and dehydration. Even locals leave Ouarzazate if possible during this time of year.

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah Morocco

Getting to Ait Benhaddou

You can only get to Ait Benhaddou by car, so you will need to book a taxi or hire a driver. If you are bartering for a taxi from Ouarzazate station, they will ask for 300-400Dh. Make sure that you ask locals how much it should be before agreeing a price. Also, make sure that it is an official taxi – official taxis are beige in Ouarzazate. Your hotel will probably be able to book you one if you need them to.

Be aware that some taxis are old and there are a few dangerous drivers about. We got a taxi with a guy called Akhmed who was speeding and taking his hands off the wheel to dance to the Berber music! If you are not so sure about this, book a reliable driver with an air-conditioned vehicle.

If you are coming to Air Benhaddou as a day trip from Marrakech (around 400km round trip), the cost is 1200Dh with Abdul – he is the best driver we have found in Marrakech. Abdul doesn’t speed and he has an air-conditioned vehicle. You can contact Abdellah Hamouch on +212668215861.

I would recommend staying overnight in Ouarzazate or Ait Benhaddou if you can because Tichka Pass is a difficult road and you may feel sick, especially if you try to do it twice a day.

On the journey from Ouarzazate to Ait Benhaddou (about 9k), you can stop off and see camels (or ride them!) If you want pictures with the camels, it is nice to offer the owner a little something. We took pictures with the camels, but couldn’t see the owner, so we left 10Dh on the doorstep of his little clay house.

camel trekking Morocco
Meeting camels on the way to Ait Benhaddou

Arriving at Ait Benhaddou

Try to arrive as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day and get spectacular photos after sunrise. Aim to leave around 7 am and be back at your hotel before midday.

You will arrive near the main road, and then you will need to walk for around 20-30 minutes to get to the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou itself.


Remember to take a marker for where on the road your taxi driver will be waiting – the name of a hotel or a shop. I like to take a photo on my iPhone before I start walking so that I can find my way back easily. You certainly don’t want to make a wrong turn on the way to your taxi, you could find yourself walking aimlessly in desert terrain, which can be very risky, especially in the Moroccan heat.

It is difficult to get lost at Ait Benhaddou itself, because it is a small village and signposted well. You don’t need to pay a local guide, although if you decide to, you shouldn’t pay much more than around 40-50Dh. Some guides are fake, so it is better to book an official guide in advance if you want one.

One hour will be sufficient to explore the ground floor of Ait Benhaddou. If you spend 2-3 hours there, you will have enough time to walk to the top and get some fantastic pictures. Don’t forget to factor in 20-30 minutes to walk back to your taxi on the main road.

Have you ever visited Ait Benhaddou? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts and travel tips.

Further Reading on Morocco

If you enjoyed this article on Ait Benhaddou, you might also like to read the the following articles on travel in Morocco….