Believe it or not, there is heaven on Earth. Curious? Well, you will witness it for yourself once you visit the Ouzoud Falls of Morocco!
Emptying into the Al-Abid River gorge, the tall Ouzoud waterfalls are one of the most popular sights that tourists seek to visit. The locals agree that the Ouzoud Falls persist as the freshest and most inspiring location in the region for them, too.
If you are planning a trip to experience these gorgeous cascades, then you are in the right place. This travel guide will give you all the information you need in order to plan the perfect visit.
Before embarking on any journey, it is important to be well aware of what it will entail. Theoretical knowledge of the area and other necessary information is crucial so that your trip is smooth. It also ensures that you do not feel underprepared and can enjoy yourselves to the fullest.
You may have questions about the Cascades D’Ouzoud. Be it about nearby hotels, swimming, the presence of wildlife and monkeys, transport, or even the infamous Ozoud Monkeys. This guide will answer them all.
Read on to find out more about the Ouzoud Falls.
Brief list of things you should be ready with before the journey
There are certain essentials that you must be ready with before commencing your journey. Here is a list of those essentials:
- Proof of identity, passport
- Driver’s license
- Health insurance, if any
- Morocco map
- Ouzoud Falls map
- An easy-to-carry backpack
- Water bottle
- First aid kit
- Extra clothing
Cascades D’Ouzoud: What is special about these falls?
The Cascades D’Ouzoud, widely known as Ouzoud Falls, is a collective term for multiple tall waterfalls in Morocco. The former title is the French name of the waterfall.
Ouzoud Falls is truly a paradoxical sight to see!
They are perhaps the most magnificent of all cascades. This can be owed to the fact that they stand out in a region largely perceived as arid. They bring a serene liveliness. The contrasting landscape adds a spark to the whole feature.
With a height of 110 m or 330 ft, the Ouzoud Falls are the tallest waterfalls in North Africa. This makes it the second tallest in all of Africa as well!
The waterfalls are a three-step feature. The uppermost cascade is the tallest with a height of 75 m.
The site is the most visited area in the region.
Where do the cascades get their name from?
A name can tell you a lot about the history or culture of a place.
The name of the falls has its roots in Berber culture. ‘Ouzoud’ roughly translates into ‘the act of grinding grain.’ The beautiful green and red scenery are dotted with little grinding mills, and perhaps that is the reason for the name. The force of the water may be used to operate these mills.
Some sources contradict this and believe that it comes from the word ‘Ozo’ meaning Olive, as there is an abundance of olive trees in the area.
Where are the Ouzoud Falls located?
The Ouzoud Falls are located near a village called Tanaghmeilt in Morocco.
Tanaghmeilt is a Middle Atlas village. The Middle Atlas is a mountain range in the North-Eastern part of Morocco. It is a part of the Atlas mountain range, which is constituted of three main chains. The Middle Atlas is the northernmost.
The village lies in the Azilal Province. It is to the northeast of Marrakech, the fourth largest city in the country. The city is one of the busiest in Africa. It is also a major tourist destination, with good reason. To add to that, it is an economic center as well.
The Ouzoud falls can be reached from there in about 3 hours. The distance is about 93 miles or 150 km.
What is the origin of these waterfalls?
It is believed that at some point in the early history of the landscape, a spring caused the formation of a mass of reddish-brown calcareous tufa.
Calcareous tufa is a type of porous, cellular rock that is formed when calcium carbonate precipitates from hot or cold springs.
This mass hardened over the years and came to be a part of the Middle Atlas region. The river Al-Abid falls over the huge barrage and forms the Ouzoud Waterfalls. They empty into the Al-Abid river gorge.
What is the best time to visit the Ouzoud Cascades?
The Ouzoud Falls remain a spectacular site to behold throughout the year.
They are especially marvelous and at their strongest during the spring and winter season, though. Busiest during the summer season, it is a fulfilling experience to visit the falls during this time to enjoy the cool waters in the scorching heat.
The winter season sees a lot less tourist traffic as compared to the summer season. The water is too cold to swim in.
The color of the waterfalls may be rather brownish in the rainy season. This is due to clay and silt deposits being washed off and carried in the water, giving in a brown hue.
If you visit during the afternoon when the sun is at its peak, you may even be lucky to catch a few waterfall rainbows.
What languages are spoken in the area?
Communication is perhaps the most vital part of any trip. You must be able to interact with the local population to a certain extent for a better experience.
The chief languages spoken in Ouzoud are French, Spanish, Arabic, and Berber. You may want to learn some basic phrases in any of them if you so wish. You can always use translators or dictionaries.
Most of the service people do not speak English, so you should be prepared with ways to communicate with them effectively.
How to get to the Ouzoud Falls
There are a variety of available options for you to choose from to get to the Ouzoud Falls. Ideally, if you wish to visit the cascades, you should journey from the city of Marrakech.
You may be wondering what the distance from Marrakech to Ouzoud is. As mentioned earlier, the distance is about 93 miles (150 km), and the travel time will be almost 3 hours.
You can opt for any of the following:
- Public bus
Traveling to the Ouzoud Falls in your own car
You can use your own car or a rented one to reach the site. Before you embark on the journey, though, make sure to study the route carefully. This will help you navigate better.
In order to reach the waterfalls from Marrakech, you will have to drive in the northeast direction on highway N8. You must continue on the highway N8 to meet highway R208, which will take you to a small town and rural commune called Tanant.
The Cascades D’Ouzoud is about 40 minutes away from Tanant, if you head northeast on R304 and then take a left onto P3105. From there on, you will need to refer to road signs and maps to help you reach the destination.
Here are some tips if you are driving yourself to the site:
- Use a GPS system and keep it handy.
- Carry a roadmap of the area
- Have other maps accessible with the route clearly marked in case of GPS failure
- Drive with caution due to changing landscape
- Slow down while nearing towns and villages
- Stay aware of your surroundings and roads.
- Follow the local traffic rules and regulations.
Renting a car in Marrakech
There are many car rental agencies that you can contact to rent a car in Marrakech for your trip to the Ouzoud Waterfalls.
You will see that there are two types of car rental companies- International and Local. The international agencies have branches in almost all tourist cities. However, their rates are much higher than those of the local companies.
You must take certain things into account when renting a car. Make sure you follow the points below:
- Check out recent reviews of the companies you are considering.
- Inspect the car before accepting it, so that you do not get scammed or wrongfully accused of damage
- Understand how the security deposits and insurance function
- Carry your license, identity and insurance proof, and other relevant documents
You can visit here to easily rent a car in Marrakech, instead of going around hunting for the best agency.
Alternatively, you may also want to consider hiring a local car to support local businesses.
Parking at the Ouzoud Falls
You are advised to park your vehicle somewhere directly near the entrance of the site instead of far off. There are many available parking areas where you can park your car. However, you will have to pay for a spot.
Parking will most likely cost anywhere between 10 MAD and 20 MAD. You can pay the fee directly to the attendant.
Using public transport to get to the Ouzoud Falls
You can take a public bus to reach the site from Marrakech as well. The buses usually go to the city of Beni-Mellal. You can hire a taxi from there on till the Cascades.
The two main companies that operate buses in Morocco are CTM and Supratours. The public buses may cost anything from 50 MAD to 60 MAD.
You can also book a shuttle bus. A lot of local companies run shuttle buses, which usually cost around 300 MAD. You will have to book a shuttle bus a day before you wish to visit the falls. The bus can pick you up from your hotel in the city, too, depending upon its terms of service.
Hiring a taxi for the journey from Marrakech to the Ouzoud Falls
An excellent option that you can consider is to take a taxi to the cascades.
If you choose to opt for a shared taxi, it is best to take it from Bab Doukkala in Marrakech. It will cost about 50 MAD per person if the vehicle is full, the capacity typically being six people. If there are lesser people, you will have to pay more.
The taxi will drop you off in Azilal, a small town very close to the Ouzoud Waterfalls. You will have to take another taxi from there. It will cost about 25 MAD per person in a shared taxi, and 150 MAD for a solo one.
Do the Ouzoud Waterfalls have an entrance fee?
The Ouzoud Falls are free to visit. You do not have to pay any entrance fee. You can just bring yourself to the site and walk right in!
At most, the on-site costs that you will have to account for will include the parking charges and boat charges. You have already learned about the parking fee and what it entails.
There are many small boats at the bottom of the waterfall. You can use these fun boats to cross over to the other side. It will be an interesting experience indeed! You will have to pay around 20 MAD to get a seat on one of these boats.
Activities you can do on-site at the Ouzoud Falls
There are a lot of fun things to do once you are at Ouzoud Falls. You can go hiking, trekking, swimming, boating, or just laze around in the shade of the olive trees. It is like paradise!
You can hire a local tour guide to give structure to your visit if you have not planned anything concrete. A guide may charge you around 30 MAD per person in a group, and 100 to 150 MAD if you are alone.
Hiring a guide is not necessary at all, and you can just wing it as well. Here are a few activities that you can engage in at the Falls:
- Taking a boat ride
- Feeding the indigenous Ouzoud Barbary Monkeys
- Hiking around the waterfall
Swimming at the Ouzoud Falls
If you visit the Ouzoud Falls during the summer season, you will find the water of river Al-Abid to be warm enough to swim in. At the Ouzoud Falls, swimming is a popular activity.
There are many natural pools at the bottom of the waterfalls. These pools are located separately.
Sometimes the current may be a bit strong, so you may want to go for a milder part to swim in. You can always venture out a little farther to calmer parts of the river, away from the visiting crowds.
The Ouzoud swimming area is a hike downwards from the main Falls area.
Taking a boat ride
There are little boats on the pool of water at the bottom of the Falls. These boat rides are incredible because they can bring you extremely close to the cascades. Prepare to get wet, though!
You may want to keep your phones, cameras, and electronic devices in safe, water-proof places. To reiterate, the boat ride costs 20 MAD.
Feeding the indigenous Ouzoud Barbary Monkeys
The Cascades D’Ouzoud are also popular for the frisky little Barbary monkeys that are found in abundance there. They are playful yet mischievous, and these traits make them famous as well as infamous at the same time.
You will find the Ouzoud monkeys playing around in the trees. They are a fun sight to watch too!
The monkeys are wild, but they are used to having a lot of people around. This means that they are very interactive with the tourists. They are usually peaceful but may also engage in alarming activities such as snatching the food.
You can calmly offer food to the Ouzoud monkeys. That way, you can interact with them. You should feed them only natural foods, like fruits and nuts. Giving them junk food, bread, and other such items can affect their health and immune system for the wild.
You must keep in mind that the monkeys are wild, after all, and you should not provoke them in any manner. This can cause them to attack you and display aggression. Maintain a composed and calm body posture. Keep your movements friendly.
Hiking in the area around the Ouzoud Waterfalls
The area in which the waterfalls are situated is rocky and steep. It is a gorge, after all. The hike from the car park, located at the top of the gorge, to the falls below takes about an hour.
The track that runs into the canyon is considerably steep. Therefore, you must maintain caution. This track, in itself, has a spectacular environment. You can enjoy the breezy shade of the olive trees, the sound of the gushing water, and the stark contrast between the red rocks and lush vegetation.
You can choose to go hiking further after you have seen the waterfalls. The area around has many natural trails. Some of them are very steep and rocky, while others are fairly easy to cover while hiking.
These trails have calm groves of olive and pomegranate trees. You can also feed the monkeys in these trees while hiking. Many of them lead to higher spots from where you can witness the cascades below.
Here are some points to keep in mind while hiking:
- Wear comfortable shoes, like sneakers
- Carry a backpack with necessary supplies, like a first aid kit
- Make sure you have enough water.
- Keep a long stick or cane to help with the steep parts.
- Do not put yourself in dangerous spots to click pictures.
- Be wary of your surroundings and the path ahead.
Hotels and places to stay near the Ouzoud Waterfalls
Since the Ouzoud Falls are such a wonderful place to spend time in, it is more than understandable for you to want to stay in the area for a longer time. For this, there is a range of hotel and boarding options available.
Visit this website to get insight into the best available hotels. A few options have been given below.
Maison d’hôtes Amazir
This hotel is located in Ouzoud and has a good experience to offer. It features a restaurant, has its own terrace and garden, and also has free WiFi services all over the property. You can also arrange for private parking.
Visit this website for more information.
Riad Cascades D’Ouzoud
Riad Cascades D’Ouzoud is well-known for its rooftop terrace, which offers a panoramic view. It is fully air-conditioned. It is only 5 minutes away from the waterfall area if you choose to walk.
Dar Aya is an exceptional option. It has great accommodation, sporting a garden and a shared lounge. It has its own restaurant as well.
If you are an adventurous person, you could consider bringing along a tent and the necessary equipment to camp at one of the campsites. This has other benefits too. You will be able to hear the calming hum of the waterfalls all night long.
You can also wake up early and have the Waterfalls all to yourself since the area is usually empty in the mornings. You will be able to get there before the crowds reach for a more personal experience.
Guided Tours of the Ouzoud Falls
Do you enjoy traveling and sightseeing while in good company? Do you want a fully planned experience? If yes, then guided tours are the best choice for you to make.
Organized tours are one of the most popular ways to reach the Ouzoud Falls. A lot of travel and tour agencies offer packages that cover Ouzoud. These can be booked from Marrakech.
The prices of each agency vary greatly. The pricing usually starts around 275 MAD for one person.
The tours include transport but do not always cover the costs of a local guide or food at the cascades. The guided tours help in saving a lot of money that you otherwise would have spent on transport.
The tour will most likely include a smooth ride and refreshments on the way. The tour bus or minivan will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel or boarding.
How should you dress while visiting the Cascades D’Ouzoud?
The Ouzoud Falls are fairly untouched by construction activities. This means that the terrain is rugged and pristine. You will need to dress in comfortable clothes like track pants or jeans for a smooth visit.
You may also want to bring a swimsuit along with you if you want to go swimming. You should always keep an extra set of clothing as well, in case the ones you are wearing get wet or too dirty.
To sum up
The planet is rife with striking natural features. Morocco has one of the best to offer. The Ouzoud Waterfalls are truly a remarkable sight to see.
While traveling, it is important to be up to date with the local news, customs, traditions, and more, so that you have a respectful vacation. It is also equally important to have a knowledge of the area you are in for a smooth and safe experience.
This guide has offered you all the necessary information you need to start planning your trip to Ouzoud Falls.