In the Rif Valley of Morocco, 35km outside of Chefchaouen lies the hidden paradise of Akchour. Discover the adventure of hiking in Akchour, Morocco.
Is there anything more fulfilling than being blown away by an experience?
When I arrived in the town Chefchaouen, Morocco nicknamed the Blue City or the Blue Pearl, I immediately set out to explore the streets of the medina to find out: is Chefchaouen actually that blue?
The answer, yes, absolutely! Chefchaouen, Morocco is as blue as it appears, I was thrilled, speechless at it's charm.
During my time in this alluring town, I had made some friends, and together we decided to go to Akchour Waterfalls. I hadn’t heard much, if anything, about the waterfalls, only that they were beautiful.
Of course you know I was into taking a day trip - hiking, waterfalls, canyoneering through the river, and a chance to reconnect with nature after recently spending quite a lot of time in cities like Seville, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Budapest over the past couple months.
Also, I thought it would be a unique opportunity to experience a waterfall hike in a country known for ancient winding streets of medinas, Islamic architecture and the Sahara Desert.
Together the seven of us hopped in a grand taxi first thing the next morning, and set off for a roughly 30-45 drive out of the city. In two cabs, we paid 35 Moroccan Dirham each for the ride one way (roughly $3.70 USD).
Traveler's Tip: A grand taxi is one that leaves the city, a petit taxi must stay inside the city. The name doesn't refer to the size of the taxi.
After a green, scenic drive through the mountains - I had no idea that Morocco was so lush! - we arrived at a small town with only one street.
Men were there, eager to offer their services as a guide. Although you don't need a guide, they can be a great option because they know the land so well; know the routes so you won't get lost, safest places to cliff jump, possibly any cool part that you might miss if you didn't know they were there, etc. Plus it spurs their economy.
We set off on foot, armed with the knowledge that if we went left we would wind up at the waterfall, or if we went straight and followed the river we could go towards God’s Bridge.
Mind you, it’s August, the dead of summer in Africa.
Possibly the worst month to visit Morocco (maybe June is worse with the heat and Ramadan), but Morocco was very high on my travel bucket list and during my European summer I was only allowed to stay in the Schengen for 3 months, so between 2.5 weeks in Croatia and 2.5 weeks in Morocco I wouldn’t overstay my visa.
Note: The Schengen Area is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. Residents outside of the treaty area are only allowed to stay in Schengen countries for any non-consecutive 90 days out of 180.
So here I am. Morocco in August. Not ideal for waterfalls, in fact we heard from other travelers who went a couple days before us that the waterfall was non-existent right now.
Therefore we decided to follow the water to God’s Bridge instead of hiking to the Akchour waterfall.
We quickly found out that the river was actually located in a canyon, and this canyon was covered in trees and foliage. A welcome surprise to be hiking in the shade!
In addition to the treat of shade and trees, the water was cold. Another shocking and very appreciated fact that we could dip or feet and bodies in cold, refreshing water!
Just 10 minutes after getting out of the taxi, I was already elated at our choice.
Certain times early during the hike, we passed a few makeshift stands made of branches and wood. They were empty as it was still early, no later than 9 in the morning. More and more of the stands popped up, with tables nearby. We later discovered that these were restaurants serving traditional mint tea and tajine, a North African stew.
Later, when they were “open” for business, many of the tables and chairs were placed in the water so you could soak your feet in the cold water while you eat and enjoyed your surroundings.
Traveler's Tip: I recommend placing an order on your way to God's Bridge, and then eating on your way back. Especially the vegetarian tajine!
Walking the path along the river proved at times to be quite tricky. The path would end on one side of the river and would begin again on the other, sometimes we were provided with sketchy bridges.
Other times the path would be cut off by a turn in the canyon causing an impromptu wall so we’d take off our shoes and lift our bags with phones or cameras high above the water as we passed through to get back on the path.
Traveler's Tip: Bring a dry bag so you're not worried about keeping your valuables dry and safe!
It was a lovely and enjoyable time; it reminded me a lot of my experience canyoneering in Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua. Except dare I say it, greener here in Morocco! Even in August!
By definition, canyoneering is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and swimming.
These were some of my favorite things; hiking, rivers, cliff jumping, although, at the present time I’ve only jumped off small cliffs of 8 to 10 meters or 26 to 33 feet, and swimming. Canyoneering was quickly climbing the ranks of one of my favorite activities!
Soon God’s Bridge was in sight, a wonderful, grand natural bridge high over the river, connecting the canyon 100+ feet above our heads. A truly spectacular sight!
As we were practically under the bridge, we got to what felt like the end of the dry path. From here on, we had a choice, either follow a man made, haphazard walkway or swim!
Since we were all unprepared to fully submerge ourselves, we used the walkway until we got to what seemed like a fine spot to hang out for a while. There were lots of big rocks to jump off and natural pools to swim in. Very cold pools, but refreshing!
I wish I had brought my dry bag and my waterproof hiking sandals instead of tennis shoes, and my dry bag! The down side to spontaneity.
After a few hours swimming and splashing around we headed back and had lunch riverside at one of those stands. We ate at a restaurant with the benches and table constructed out of stone.
Once back at the road, our group separated; a few went on to find the waterfall (which they didn't find - we guessed either because it's August and the waterfall was dried up, or they got lost), while I along with a few other went back into Chefchaouen.
The day spent hiking between the cool canyon rims, my feet dipped in the ice cold water, swimming and jumping off rocks in Akchour was a perfect, certainly unexpected activity during my time in Morocco.
This place truly is a hidden gem, and one of my highlights during my travels in Morocco since it is such a different experience than what I imagined the country to be.
Note: This article was originally posted in November, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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