After we’d exhausted our patience for shopping in the Medina and taking in the sights around Marrakesh we decided to get out of town and see some of the great nature that the area is known for. There are a couple different day trips available from “travel agents” all over town and after much negotiation is broken French and English we had settled on a private car and driver for the trip to Ouzoud Falls. It was a bit more than the shared ride but the added comfort made it worthwhile. Plus it was the only option we had.
Imagine our surprise when – after paying for the private ride – we were dumped into a van with 8 others for the three hour ride out to the falls. More on that later.
It is a long ride to get to the falls making for a reasonably long day but there is not much worth staying out in that area for unless you’re looking for the Bob Marley camps along the river below the falls. After taking in the Atlas mountains for around three hours we finally arrived in town and set out to explore the falls.
There are plenty of local guides around, assuring you that the only way you’ll get to see the falls is by hiring them (~150 dinars for the couple hours). Not surprisingly, that isn’t at all true, though the hike you get with the guides is definitely different than the one you can reasonably find on your own. With the guide you actually head upstream to start and make your way through olive groves on the far side of the river before descending down the side of the falls.
Hiking back up the side of the river brings you along a series of smaller falls and pools. Apparently the pools are quite popular in the summer when folks are camping out along the riverside but the area was rather empty during our visit, save for a handful of folks. Eventually the path makes it back up to the base of the falls, over 100 meters down from the start.
Cross a rickety bridge or take a ride in a small rowboat that will also get you into the pool at the base of the falls and you’re now at lunch. There are a couple restaurants along the side of the falls. The prices are fair, the food was (somewhat surprisingly) good and the view cannot be beat.
Once lunch was finished it was more climbing on paved paths with lookout points offering some of the best views possible of the falls. At the top of the climb are the monkeys, hanging out in the trees on the path and hoping for treats from the visitors.
And then, at the top, even more amazing views before you run the gauntlet of the merchants selling mostly the same schlock that is available on the streets in Marrakesh.
The falls were simply stunning. The photos and video really do not do it justice. It is definitely a long day and you have to be willing to put up with that ride but the scenery on the road is actually pretty nice, too, and the payout is worthwhile. As noted above, it is more of a day trip than a long-term stay for most folks.
If you do not want to deal with the guides the paved paths on the near side of the falls are incredibly easy to navigate, assuming you can find the starting point. Head to the left of the hotel/restaurant at the main square in town, not at the same entrance to the top of the falls as the youth hostel. You will almost certainly want to hike in and out on the same side rather than trying to complete the loop with the olive grove on your own. The far side of the river is not particularly well marked. If you choose that option you mostly miss the pools and smaller falls further down unless you are more willing to get lost or there are more folks around to help guide you.
And to finish the story of the "mispriced" tour from our agent, I am pretty sure he was expecting me when I showed back up that afternoon when we returned from the falls. As soon as I explained that we had a problem he opened up his desk drawer and pulled out the money to refund the cost difference. I made it within 100 dirhams of what I expected the original price to be, down from the 400 extra it started at. I consider that recovery close enough given that, at this point, he did already have my money in his possession. The negotiation involve him making up several stories, each more ridiculous than the previous one, until my French was exasperated and I nearly exploded. Fortunately that was avoided and things ended relatively well.
- Not quite frozen Cameron Falls
- A day trip to Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
- Paddling the fjords of Norway (Part 3)
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