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Situated in the Atlas Mountains on the route between Fez and Marrakech, the sleepy town of Ifrane is often referred to as the Switzerland of Morocco. It was established during the French colonial era as an alpine ski resort. With lower temperatures than many of the nation’s other cities and towns, distinctive architecture, verdant foliage, and varied outdoor pursuits, here are the best things to experience if visiting Ifrane.
Ifrane National Park covers 500 square kilometres and is home to abundant wildlife, including the endangered Barbary macaque (also sometimes referred to as the Barbary ape). Fragrant Atlas cedar trees cover the ground, providing cover for creatures like wolves, wild pigs, and various rodent species. Diverse bird species inhabit the park, especially the areas around the wetlands and lakes.
A lush, green park, Parc la Prairie is a peaceful spot to spend an hour or so in nature. There are several walking trails through the forest, and you’ll likely spot a variety of birdlife. Unwind alongside the water and soak up the tranquil vibe.
Ifrane’s charming town centre boasts a number of quaint fountains and small gardens. With its soothing and calm atmosphere, the new town is unlike others around Morocco. Pop into one of the restaurants for a traditional Moroccan meal, and soak up the mountain views over a glass of mint tea from one of the lovely roof terraces.
Close to the Visitor Centre you’re more likely to feel as though you’re in a European alpine village than in Morocco. Pointed roofs and wooden details are common on the chalet-like buildings. Look for storks nesting high on the roofs. Twinkling lights are strung through the trees, creating a magical effect after dark.
Located in the New Town, the Lion is one of Ifrane’s most photographed landmarks. Created in the 1930s, the resting lion was carved during the Second World War by a German soldier. According to local legend, the sculpture is in honour of the last remaining wild Atlas lion, which was killed close to Ifrane a few years before the statue was made.
Al Akhawayn University was founded in the early 1990s by Morocco’s King Hassan II. An English-language university, it attracts students from the Moroccan elite. Tours can be arranged by contacting the university’s administration.
During the winter months, skiing, sledding, and snowboarding are popular at Michlifen Ski Resort. One kilometer of slopes provide plenty of fun. Visitors can also enjoy playing in the snow, a contrast to the arid terrain of the Sahara Desert, which can also be found in the country. There is one ski lift, which offers great views over surrounding areas.
Source Vitel is a collection of pretty waterfalls within Ifrane’s leafy forests. Spread over a fairly wide area, some can easily be reached by foot from the town centre, while others will require some form of transportation. See how enterprising locals keep drinks cool with natural refrigeration.
Ifrane’s souk is mainly geared towards local residents rather than tourists, letting you see how Moroccans shop and allowing you to experience a small part of local life. You will still, however, be able to find a selection of Moroccan handicrafts and souvenirs. A lot less frenetic, and much smaller, than the famous souks of Marrakech and Fez, you’ll find household goods, ornamental items, clothing, spices, and more at Ifrane’s marketplace.
Lake Dait Aoua is a big lake that offers a variety of activities and scenic views of the towering mountains. The crisp, clear waters enchantingly reflect scenes from around the water. Whether you hop in a peddle boat, ride around the lake on horseback, or stroll alongside the body of water, you’re sure to have a nice day. Take some bread to feed the friendly ducks too!