After a couple of days in Marrakech, we decided to explore some of the areas outside the city. We took a day trip to the Ourika Valley. We booked a private tour guide for 1000 dirhams or about 120 USD.
The Ourika Valley lies at the foot of the Atlas Mountains which on a clear day are visible from Marrakech. There was already snow on some of the mountain tops! It is only about 42 miles Southeast of Marrakech and it was a great change of scenery from the chaotic city. Pretty soon outside the city limits, the land becomes rich with agricultural products. Olives, corn, fruit trees such as lemons and oranges, and the famous Argan trees.
The terrain becomes hilly and there are many of the Berber villages made of the clay in the area that look like they have grown out of the hillside. We stopped along the way at the home of a Berber family to see what it was like. The setting was really lovely along a stream.
They use the power from the water flow to grind wheat and to wash and cook. The home was primitive but much larger than I had expected.
We also stopped at a cooperative which makes the famous Argan oil. We took a walk with a guide through the garden and he explained many of the plants and herbs and their medicinal qualities. We sampled the argan oil used in cooking and for cosmetic purposes.
At the end of the road through the Ourika Valley lies the small town of Setti Fatma. It is a bustling little village with the river running through it making for some very picturesque cafes and restaurants. The guide explained that in the summer it is a crowded tourist spot because it is so much cooler than the surrounding area.
It was green and lush and they had some tables and chairs set up in the shallow running water. I could see that it would be the place to be on a hot summer day! This day was cloudy and drizzling rain, so we decided to skip the hike up to the waterfalls.
The guidebooks indicate there are 7 waterfalls to hike to and the first one is said to be a relatively easy 15-minute walk. However, Tripadvisor and some other sources indicate it is more strenuous than that, and so with the rain and the uncertainty, we chose not to take the hike to the waterfall.
There are many local guides waiting when you arrive to guide you through the trail to the waterfalls.
The guide stopped at a restaurant on the way back and we ate a wonderful meal of fried eggplant, Moroccan salad, tagines, and wine. The trip was about 6 ½ hours long. A very nice day and good break from the city!