A few years ago, I set out an epic journey to the heart of Morocco with my daughter. We touched down in Marrakech and spent the week exploring the city with my friend Amanda, the voice behind the popular Morocco travel blog MarocMama.com.
Before You Go
Two things about visiting Marrakech. 1. If you do not speak Arabic or French, you’ll need a tour guide to assist you during your time in Morocco’s Red City. 2. Marrakech is a fine destination for families (read these safety tips before you go).
Spending the better part of our week in Marrakech exploring the Medina, the Saadian Tombs, and Menara Gardens, we ventured out in the direction of the Atlas Mountains for a day-long respite from the noise and congestion of the big city.
Finding the Ourika River Waterfalls
Our ultimate destination was the first of a series of waterfalls flowing into the Ourika River; snow melt runs into the Ourika River as it cuts through the Ourika Valley. The River is one of main arteries feeding into the Marrakech water table.
To find the waterfalls, you’ll need to journey approximately 38 km (24 miles) southeast of Marrakech on road P2017. The road passes through the Berber village of Ourika and there isn’t much to do or see here. On the windy, climbing journey you’ll have plenty of opportunities to pull over and shop at the various roadside vendors and shops lining both sides of the road. (see the main photo above)
Continue along the same route until the road ends. Seti Fatima is the end of the valley and is marked by a barricade. Find a place to park; we were directed to a paid parking lot just up the hill.
Hungry from the journey, we dined at one of the many restaurants lining the Ourika River. A highlight of the trip, make sure you order a tajine with Berber bread. The tajine dishes are cooked over coals and everything tastes delicious to the backdrop of roaring water and fresh air. Make sure you do not leave Morocco without eating some of the country’s trademark olives!
At this point, you have the option of walking up the narrow, windy path that leads towards the waterfall. Two young boys offered to guide us to the top (assume this is for a fee and negotiate a price or politely decline). If you need to use the restroom, this is the time. We were unaccustomed to the rustic pit toilet, but in a time of need, figured out how to get the job done (assume there might be a line and don’t let your kids wait until the last minute like mine always do).
As you scamper up the dirt and rock path, you will be presented with the opportunity to purchase water, pop and fresh oranges cooled to delicious perfection in water diverted from the nearby creek. Along the way we secured a small wooden chess set and a necklace (bring a backpack or shoulder purse if you plan to do a bit of shopping).
At a certain point the path became rockier and steeper with areas where you want to keep a sharp eye on your child. I would not take a toddler or a baby on this trip; use your best judgement. At the top you are rewarded with beautiful views and, of course, the waterfall (see photo above). And, no kidding, there’s even a small sit-down restaurant at this first waterfall.
Some people swim and wade in the small pool at the base of the falls; we didn’t have any towels or dry clothes. The same trail continues in a switch-back pattern up a steeper part of the mountain and is not recommended for children. If you take this path, you’ll find more waterfalls. We reversed the journey back to the valley floor (watch your footing; this is not the journey for dress shoes) and felt a sense of accomplishment and adventure. Everyone loved this outing; especially the kids.
For a more complete account of visiting the Ourika Valley read Amanda’s account of the day.