About Rif Mountains
The Rif Mountains of the north of Morocco hide impressive Roman ruins at Volubilis, a thermal spa at Moulay Yacoub and the blue-white mountain town of Chefchaouen, the prettiest town in Morocco.
Chefchaouen is a small tranquil town at the northern edge of the Rif Mountains. It appears as if it is protected by two mountainous peaks, which have given it its name meaning - "the horns" in Berber. Here you'll discover a place, little changed in decades. At the north-east of the medina, the Ras-El-Ma spring is a cool oasis offering a very good view over the valley. On foot or riding a donkey, let yourself be guided around the Talassemtane National Park, around the valley of the monkeys or even the Tissemlal falls. With its clean mountain air, picturesque medina and attractive surrounding areas, Chefchaouen is worthy of a one or two night stay (or longer...!)
Stroll around its cobbled streets and you'll be enchanted by the simple white houses with blue doors. Sitting on the terrace of a cafe, you can enjoy the attractive view of the grand Tarik-Ben-Ziad mosque whose octagonal minaret is inspired by that of the Torre de Oro in Seville. This Andalousian architecture can be found in the kasbah and its gardens, at the centre of the medina. Its walls and its 11 crenellated towers, of which one used to be a dungeon, house an interesting ethnographic museum. The famous djellaba, this long and ample garment worn by the men and women of North Africa, was created here. Besides weaving Chefchaouen is renowned for its basket-making and pottery.
Finally, leaving the town without having first tried its goat's milk cottage cheese from the mountains is simply out of the question - it is perhaps the best in Morocco.
Chefchaouen is an ideal departure point for hiking or rambling as its surrounding areas are crammed with natural curiosities, like the Pont de Dieu at Achkour, a rock archway above a 25m precipice. Springs, fir trees, cedar and native pine forests cover the National Park of Talassemtane. The Talembote park, the mountains, forests and cliffs of Ghmara or the enormous regional nature park of Bouhachem complete this immense playground. Closer to the town, the spring at Ras El Maa, which supplies Chefchaouen with water, is a very pleasant place for a walk, as is the Toughoubit grotto or the waterfalls at Chrafate.
Volubilis is the largest Roman archaeological site in Morocco. Ancient olive presses, mansions, incredible mosaics, monumental arches and Corinthian columns give you a real sense of Roman lifestyle and of that of a subsequent medieval Berber town. The site contains the villa where you are able to view the mosaic of the Labours of Hercules, the Baths of Gallienus and the Forum with their fragmentary mosaics and the House of Orpheus and its Dolphin mosaic and Orpheus Myth. Also at this incredible site are the Triumphal Arch, capitol building and house of Bacchus – everything testifies to the city's ancient splendour.
High up in the Rif Mountains is the "Thermes de Moulay Yacoub" - the hot spa, where a large variety of treatments are on offer. Nearby is the purpose-built Moulay Yacoub Hotel.
Where to stay
A traditional Chaouen house with a friendly atmosphere, just 100 yards from Outa El Hammam Square.
A riad-style house in the centre of Chaouen, just a short walk from the main square.