Ouzoud Falls: Escape to a Moroccan Oasis

Ouzoud Falls

We heard it before we saw it, the rumbling sound of the waterfall just underneath us. We followed the path and soon got our first glimpse of the cascades in all their glory, carefully peering over the edge into the valley, watching the water plummeting into the river below. A rainbow framed the distant rocks beneath us and birds glided to their nests in the sandstone cliffs.

We were standing just outside the village of Tanaghmeilt, above Ouzoud Falls, which at around 110 metres are the highest in North Africa. This was definitely going to be a day trip to remember…

Ouzoud Falls

Earlier that morning, after a quick breakfast, I headed out to catch a taxi to Djemaa el-Fna, the main square in Marrakesh. I flagged down a car and climbed in, only to realise that there was already a passenger in the back seat. Taxis in Morocco often pick up multiple passengers and drop them off in turn. I started putting on my seatbelt when the taxi driver laughed and waved at me to not bother. Clearly safety wasn’t as high on the list of priorities here as it is back home!

We headed away from the Old Town (and from where I needed to be) and I was beginning to glance at the time anxiously but then the other passenger got out and we raced back towards town. I paid the driver and walked across Djemaa el-Fna as it was still waking up to the first morning rays.

I got to the hostel I was staying that for a few nights after arriving in Morocco and met my friends who were just finishing their breakfast. After paying for our tickets, we followed the driver towards the square as cars cannot access many streets and alleyways in the medina. We climbed on the minibus and waited for the other passengers to arrive.

Soon, we were driving out of Marrakech, heading east, through an ever-changing landscape. Flat valleys with sparse vegetation gave way to olive groves and zigzagging switchbacks of the High Atlas mountains. We pressed our faces against the window as we watched flocks of sheep grazing on the steep slopes and sleepy villages flashing by in the morning sunshine.

Ouzoud Falls

We had a couple of bathroom breaks on the way and managed to get some snacks for the rest of the three hour journey.

Eventually, we arrived in Tanaghmeilt and followed our guide, Samir, past the usual cafes and souvenir shops. We looked around but couldn’t figure out where the waterfalls could be but then continued across a small bridge before stopping in our tracks, silently taking in the incredible view with the rainbow that suddenly opened up before us.

Past the falls, mountains stretched out into the distance as the Oued Tissakht river carved its path through the gorge over a 100 metres below us. Olive trees covered red sandstone slopes and figs lined the floor in the nearby orchards.

Ouzoud Falls

We continued along the path at the top of the canyon and stopped in the shade of the trees to learn about the history of the Berber people in this region and their writing systems.

We started making our way down into the canyon, navigating the narrow rocky paths, while trying not to slip up. Some of the others on the tour were having a harder time with this – flip flops were not the best choice of footwear for the terrain! Samir didn’t have any issues though, sweeping up one of the younger kids in the group and running down the hill with him under his arm, before helping others.

Ouzoud Falls

After traversing the switchbacks for a while, we reached the river and headed upstream past small cascades, rock pools and grazing donkeys, crossing plank bridges over the water and climbing ladders to higher ground.

Ouzoud Falls

We stopped for a break and enjoyed a freshly squeezed orange juice in the shade of a covered pavilion. I hopped across some rocks and run my hands through the cold water rushing downstream and took a second to look around me. Everything was very green and didn’t feel like the Morocco I expected to see before I came out here.

Ouzoud Falls

After the break, we continued past more orange juice stands and carpet sellers (I wondered how they managed to get their wares all the way down into the canyon!) and headed up the path that hugged the rock face before descending to the foot of the waterfalls.

Ouzoud Falls

They looked even more impressive from here. We watched as the water crashed down from where we were standing just a while ago, foaming at the pool below and sending clouds of mist in the air. We decided to get closer and jumped on a small boat (well, more like a floating platform with chairs) and let a local Berber man row all 8 of us closer to the falls (20 dirhams each).

We struggled to hear each other over the roar of the waterfall and the guy pretended to row straight under it before pulling us out of the vortex at the last minute. We gazed up at the wall of water before us, squinting from the sun and the spray.

Ouzoud Falls

After about 15 minutes, we climbed out of the boat and headed up to the restaurant perched on the side of the cliff and plonked down in the plastic chairs. We were more tired than we realised and welcomed the ice cold bottles of water that arrived soon afterwards.

We had a prime spot on the terrace overlooking the falls and we enjoyed our chicken kebab skewers and tagines in the warm afternoon sun whilst being almost hypnotised by the falling water.

Ouzoud Falls

Eventually, Samir managed to tear us away from the view and we started climbing steps past shops and stalls up towards the top of the cliff. It was slow going – we suddenly regretted eating so much of the free bread at the restaurant!

We still had time to stop at a flat platform and say hello to the semi-wild Barbary apes relaxing in the shade and snacking on the peanuts that vendors sold to tourists for some loose change. One climbed straight onto my head and proceeded to shell a peanut all over my clothes.

Ouzoud Falls

One of my favourite photos from the trips has to be the moment I made friends with another ape on the edge of the platform, overlooking the green slopes of the mountains in the distance, the thin ribbon of the river snaking through the canyon far below.

Ouzoud Falls

We continued to climb up and soon enough emerged at the top, heading past an imposing concrete hotel that’s being built in this village to attract more tourists to the natural beauty of the area. As we were saying our goodbyes to Samir, I paused to think what will happen to this idyllic spot in a few years’ time. What comforted me was the thought that these falls have been here for millions of years and they will remain as long the water keeps flowing – and that rainbow shimmers at the bottom of the canyon.

The Details

Ouzoud Falls are a popular day trip destination from Marrakech. It takes about 3 hours by mini-bus each way. You can book either via a tour company or through your accommodation. We paid 200 dirhams (about £14.50/$21) for everything and tipped the guide around 50 dirhams (£3.50/$5).

26 thoughts on “Ouzoud Falls: Escape to a Moroccan Oasis

  1. Becky says:

    I would never connect somewhere like this with the hustle and bustle of Morrocco, but it looks absolutely amazing! And that’s such a great photo of you and the monkey at the end 🙂

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thank you! Morocco surprised me in so many ways but the variety of landscapes was particularly amazing! Definitely recommend it!

  2. Angie Briggs says:

    I love waterfalls! There is something so romantic about them but I can’t put my finger on what but either way, I loved this! I have to confess to being a bit of a dime bar myself when it comes to wearing flip-flops on a walk sometimes, clearly I don’t think ahead and just think “waterfall – relax!” forgetting that sometimes there is a trek to get there. Your view of the waterfall is fantastic, and isn’t that cheeky monkey adorable (and the little one shelling peanuts tee hee). Great story, thanks or sharing.

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks Angie – I usually play it safe and have hiking shoes with me as you never know when you’ll want to go off the beaten path! It was definitely worth the 3 hour drive each way! Beautiful place!

  3. Lisa says:

    Would love to visit Morocco. You’re adventure looks great and of course, like you if I can hike somewhere and experience waterfalls and mountains…even better! Love the picture of you and the monkey..sooo cool!!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Lisa, you would definitely love the walk! Nothing strenuous but absolutely beautiful and plenty of time to enjoy the stunning waterfalls! Yeah I love that monkey pic!

  4. Jenn says:

    Wow! This looks amazing! I never would have guessed this to be Morocco! I could spend all day at the waterfalls and hanging out with the monkeys. This is so cool!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks Jenn – I know, not the kind of landscape most people imagine when thinking of Morocco! Was a really cool day out!

  5. Garth says:

    You really did see lots in Morocco! these falls look beautiful, not something I’ve heard people doing as a day trip from Marrakech, so thanks for sharing. Great photos with the apes! and love the taxi story too!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks Garth – it was something a couple of people at the hostel suggested and we just decided to go for it! It’s not the most popular day trip and it’s quieter as a result! Had a great time!

  6. David says:

    Ouzoud Falls was already at the top of my list for a return to Morocco and you’ve cemented it. I was looking at day trips from Marrakesh when I was there but ran out of time. Love me a good waterfall and they look amazing. The photo you and the monkey holding hands is priceless mate!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      David, there are so many so I was definitely happy that I went for this one. Such a stunning place and definitely worth the 3 hour drive in a minivan! The monkey shot is great and the photographer won’t stop reminding me either!

  7. Kelly Turpin says:

    It sounds like a great day and it looks so beautiful. Love that photo of you and the ape. On a different note – don’t you just love it when locals tell you not to worry about your safety! I remember about 6 years ago in Thailand we hired a motorcycle. They gave us one helmet. When I asked for a helmet they told me I didn’t need one, just the person driving the bike. The police didn’t fine you if the passenger had no helmet. It took me a while to explain that my head was worth more to me than a fine, and it (my head) wasn’t shock-proof! I had to wait for another hour or so to get the helmet. Hubby and I now travel with our own helmets when we think we will spend much time on bikes!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Kelly, you’re right, it can be pretty amusing unless it’s actually putting my life in danger! The approach to safety in some countries is interesting to say the least. The helmets are a great idea!

  8. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) says:

    Amazing! Love your adventure hiking there with your guide and the roar of the waterfall before arrived. How fun to hop on a floating platform with real chairs. Great photos and I would love to visit Ouzoud Falls as a day trip from Marrakech. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks, Stephanie. It was a great hike and such an amazing place! The floating platform was fun and I’m still amazed at the guy’s strength!

  9. Barry says:

    Nice monkey pic! I’ve been close but I haven’t had chance to visit Morocco yet. Ouzoud Falls looks like a great chill out spot to relax oat for the day.

  10. Gui says:

    Nice pictures!

    You said you paid 200 dirhams per person, this seems good! As I look online now it seems to be more than that so I guess we should just shop it and book it once we are in Marrakech for better prices? :p thanks!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Thanks Gui and YES absolutely shop around! Most accommodation will give you an option to book tours. I booked mine through the Hostel Riad Marrakech Rouge where I stayed!

  11. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) says:

    Even though we know there are mountains in Morocco, we didn’t expect to see waterfalls, for some reason. We’re just so conditioned to think of souks and the Sahara…just goes to show that you have to be open to a country showing you what it’s all about, instead of thinking you know. Great stuff – thanks for sharing!

  12. Rebecca Taylor says:

    Beautiful pictures! I am hoping to go to the waterfalls in October. Any suggestions on lighting (i.e. does time of day matter), viewpoints or any other “photo helps” you may have? Any other favorite spots in the area?

    Thanks! After seeing your pictures I really want to go!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      Hi Rebecca – we were there in the middle of the day so it was pretty sunny. I would love to have stayed until sunset to see how the light would have changed but we had to get back Marrakech. If you are coming by tour, chances are you will be there during the same time so may have to work with what you’ve got. The cafes on the slopes to the left of the falls are a great place to get shots without the tourists! Hope this helps!

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