The Rif Mountains of Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen city is one of the most hidden small cities in Morocco. Welcome to one of the most splendid towns located near the Mediterranean Coast and smack middle in the Rif Mountains.

The Rif Mountains are not even close in altitude (about 850 meters on average) to the Atlas Mountains (above 2500 meters on average), near Marrakesh. But, they are definitely worthy of a hike. The verdant forest vistas (which make handy spots for a shady break) beat out the the regions of the more-rugged High Atlas any day.

The Rif Mountains are well known for its caves, which have formed from the larger rivers that once occupied the north of Morocco. These caves have historical significance, like the Grottes d’ Hercules near Tangier; a place of refuge for the demi-god. Another cave in the region has yielded the oldest modern human skeletons to be found.

Chefchaouen city at sundownIf you are the outdoorsy type, then trekking in the region is a real draw. One option is the Chefchaouen to Fifi Aghram trek. This walk takes two days and one night, with each day occupying just about five hours of up and down walking. The route takes you past Jebel Karn and to the village of Aghram.

Exploring the Rif Mountains in this manner will mean that you get to experience the true hospitality of the people who live and work here. In the last decades, the area has gotten a bad wrap due to the hashish trade that takes place all throughout the hills. But, once immersed in the serene beauty and kindness of those around, it becomes clear that the area, known as the Talassemtane National Park, is one of Morocco’s true gems.

Talassemtane National Park is just on the outskirts of Chefchaouen. You will find cedar and fir forest with Barbary Macaques hidden in the trees. The Barbary is a form of ape native to Morocco (and found in Azrou and also Gibraltar, in southern Spain). Fox, jackal and bats live in the forest. For the nature and wildlife photographer this place has the potential to lend iteself to some great shots.

Chefchaouen blueDuring your visit in Chefchaouen, be sure to peruse the medina, offering shops selling finely knitted blankets, scarves, and hats. Also, snap a few photos of “Chefchaouen Blue,” a color unique to this region of the country.

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