While many people travel to Morocco on a tour for its imperial cities and vast sand dunes, visitors who appreciate scenic landscapes will also enjoy the country’s mountain ranges. The Rif Mountains, situated in the northernmost part of the country and parallel to the Mediterranean coast, offer picturesque panoramas and trails that can satisfy adventurers seeking a challenging trek as well as sightseers who prefer a casual stroll. Regardless of your preference, consider the following tips when planning your visit.
Where can you spend the night?
Relax in the comfort of a hotel. Those who prefer to sleep in a hotel bed can spend their nights in Chefchaouen. Located on the outskirts of the Rif Mountains and Talassemtane National Park, Chefchaouen offers easy daytrip access to nearby hiking trails through oak, fir and cedar forests with views of hills and streams. While in town, make time to browse through the medina and admire the city’s blue and white buildings.
Experience the culture through evenings with locals. For serious trekkers, Chefchaouen often serves as the starting point for a multi-day adventure through the Rif Mountains. If you want to spend your nights in the small Berber villages located throughout the forests, contact a tour operator—these communities can be difficult to stumble upon independently. Tour operators can often arrange for you to experience a traditional meal in a family’s home or participate in local activities with a cooperative.
Enjoy the serenity of camping. If you prefer to rough it, you can easily find a place to pitch a tent for camping in Morocco off the trails of Talassemtane National Park and the surrounding area, or further west in Al-Hoceima National Park. Formal campsites throughout the area are scarce, so plan to bring all the supplies you need. For your first visit to the Rif Mountains, consider traveling with a guide. Not only can a guide help you plan a route and prevent you from getting lost, but most tour operators provide donkeys, food and cooking supplies, medical supplies and basic camping gear. Even if you prefer to camp independently, you can rent these supplies from tour operators, allowing you to pack relatively light for the journey from your home to Morocco.
What can you see?
Navigate through forested hills and peaks. The Rif Mountains delight trekkers with views of limestone cliffs, gorges, valleys and flowing streams, especially around Talassemtane National Park. The highest peak of the range is Tidirhine at 8,058 feet. Those who travel near Tidirhine may encounter fields of kip (hashish). If you wish to avoid them, consult with a tour operator about where along the trails the fields are located, or travel with a guide.
Observe marine habitat and coastline. Al-Hoceima National Park also possesses an abundance of forested hiking trails. Additionally, the park is renowned for its marine habitats, providing a home to dolphins, seals, turtles and waterfowl. If you follow the trails away from the secluded seaside beaches, you’re likely to encounter limestone cliffs, colonies of osprey and Barbary apes.
What types of hikes are available?
Challenge yourself with a rugged trek. Although the Rif Mountains do not reach the heights of the High Atlas Mountains, even an 8,000-foot peak can challenge a seasoned trekker. The region is hilly enough to ensure that a day’s hike includes varying inclining and declining terrains.
Unwind with casual strolls. Starting daytrips from Chefchaouen gives you access to a variety of trails that ease you into the forest and promises views of the mountains, while also allowing the flexibility to choose less strenuous or shorter routes. Some tour operators also offer transportation to other towns in the mountain range, providing additional outlets for casual exploration.
When is the best time to visit?
Spring is the ideal time to explore the Rif Mountains. The summer months can get quite hot, which can make hiking feel more difficult. Temperatures can drop quite a bit in the fall, which tends to make it a less desirable season for camping.
Written by Shelley A. Gable, instructional designer and freelance writer.
Photo by neiljs.