“Don’t go chasing waterfalls”…. Well actually, we recommend you do!
Updated: May 1, 2020
Ouzoud falls is 157km from Marrakech and located in the High Atlas Mountains. It is a solid 2.5hour drive there and the same back so it’s a day trip not to be taken lightly if you are short on time. That said the travel is total worth it and you can easily spend a full day there exploring and taking photos.
The falls are 361 feet high and are Morocco’s tallest waterfalls. This combined with the fact the waterfalls are three tiered and surrounded by lush greenery makes it so picturesque for taking photos or just sitting back and taking it all in.
We initially had another excursion booked to get closer to the Atlas Mountains but we had an issue contacting our tour operator and ended up cancelling and scheduling this instead… a blessing in disguise for sure as we found out shortly afterwards the drive to the Atlas Mountains is double that of Ouzoud! Almost 10 hours in a mini bus would make for a very grumpy Steffan and Emma!!
How to book?
We booked through our Riad, but it’s a popular day trip, so it’s easy to book on trip advisor or viator before you get there or book with one of the many tour operators in central Marrakech. At the halfway point where we stopped off there were a ton of coaches and mini vans going to the falls although you wouldn’t know it once you arrived as it was so big. We booked a private driver and it was fairly cheap, around £65 for the two of us and for us it made so much sense as we were only there three nights and didn’t want to waste time waiting for other people to be collected or dropped off at their hotels. He also offered to stop pretty much anywhere we wanted, a local market, any restaurants for coffee we wanted and even managed to negotiate a photograph with a local berber who was just riding his donkey home from work! Score!
Things you should know about the falls
1) There are a ton of people literally waiting for you to get out of your van to try and be your ‘tour guide’ and I say this in the loosest sense of the word. They will follow you insistently and really try and spark a conversation about something you are most likely not interested in at all. One guy talked at Steffan for a solid ten minutes ignoring the polite declination's continuously until I turned around, grabbed Steff’s arm and walked him into a coffee shop. They are just doing their jobs, yes its annoying, and they are extremely persistent but stick with it and they will get the message. You 1 million percent do not need a tour guide to visit the falls.
2) It is free to enter the falls! Winner! Aside from getting there, the cost of food and if you want to buy souvenirs its completely free.
3) It can get chilly! When we arrived, it was warm but the weather quickly changed and this is apparently typical of Morocco in spring and Autumn. It started to make sense why so many stalls and shops were selling zip up jackets and jumpers which Steffan quickly purchased to keep himself warm. So no matter the weather when you leave it is worth taking layers. Unless you fancy yourself in one of these zip up jumpers which we thought were pretty cool!
4) It might be orange. Okay so when you see the photographs in that little booklet or online the water looks sparkling clear. So picturesque. When we arrived it was not at all what we expected, the water was dark and murky looking and it was, well just not what we envisaged. We are yet to discover whether this is a permanent thing and all the photographs have been edited or whether this was due to weather conditions. We are thinking the latter as after some research it seems its browner in the winter months and clearer in the summer months. Either way the initial disappointment made way for the appreciation of such a unique waterfall and a love for the fact it was so orange in what is known as the red city of Morocco.
5) Wear walking boots! Or at the very least sensible shoes. I made a huge error, I wore sandals. In my defence they were walking sandals (yes I am that cool!) but even so, some parts were really hard work. As you make your way down the other side some of it is not really like a well walked path and more like an off the beaten track mountain hike. Okay slight exaggeration. But save yourself the trouble and embarrassment of walking like a constipated penguin and wear boots or trainers.
6) Buy the fresh orange juice! There are a few small stalls as you walk around the falls, and I mean small. We didn’t even notice them at first as it was just a guy sat on a stool and then a little way past him on the opposite side a small fold out table and some glasses. It’s really cheap, around 1 dirham which is around 0.25 euros! He squeezes it and prepares it right in front of you and gives you a takeaway cup so you can keep it on you whilst you walk. And it is delicious!
7) There is a cave you can visit but we didn’t have the time. We don’t know much about it, we saw a sign and the driver mentioned it to us, but it seems rather elusive online, but time allowing may be worth checking out.
8) One of the most exciting things (for us anyway!) is the fact there are a ton of monkeys living there freely and they seemed quite friendly. We encountered them on our way back up the other side of the mountain and they were happily jumping on people’s shoulders in return for a crisp or two meaning people got some amazing photos and an up close and personal encounter with a Moroccan monkey for free! After seeing how they were treated in central Marrakech this made a refreshing change and was lovely to see them just doing their thing.
9) You can get in on the action with the waterfall on the rafts for 1.60 euros! When you reach the bottom of the mountain you will see a huge open pool and lots of brightly decorated wooden rafts floating around. They take you right up to the falls so you can get a Niagara falls type experience minus the rain coats and then drop you off at the other side so you can continue your walk back up the top. Word of warning, you are likely to get wet! But most of the time its warm in the sun so this didn’t bother us too much.
10) Or you can take the steppingstones dressed up as a bridge for free – this is the second option. If you don’t fancy the rafts there is a makeshift ‘bridge’. It is literally steppingstones with a few pieces of wood roped to them and is about a foot or two wide with water flowing through it. We saw lots of people making their way across it, giggling nervously as they went. But with all of the camera equipment and me having the balance of a new-born baby deer we decided against it and opted for the raft.
11) As you make your way back up the other side you will see there are restaurants dotted around and a fair few have waterfall views. They are selling anything from chips through to tajine and are decently priced for the location. Service is quick and whilst the food wasn’t the best we had it did the job of providing us energy for the walk back up.
12) Carry toilet roll and small change! There are a few toilets dotted around but they are pretty much sheds, and most are squat toilets with no toilet roll or basins. Not as easy for us girls but after travelling some of Asia I wasn’t too upset about it. Its also worth nothing they do charge you. Only a small amount, around 1 dirham but they don’t provide change so its worth ensuring you have small change and toilet roll in your bag.
13) On the way back up the mountain there are a huge amount of shops selling tea, spices and various souvenirs. We didn’t purchase anything, but it seemed like there was a lot of choice and we loved the fact there were all these little shops built into the mountain side where you just didn’t expect to see them.
14) The walk back up is a little bit of a trek. And saying that the walk down is a little bit of a trek. We have covered walking shoes but, in all seriousness, if you have mobility issues, bad knees, young children or push chairs then you may find it difficult. There are over 600 steps back up, a lot uneven, overcrowded and parts with no handrails so its not the easiest if you have issues getting around.
15) The drive there and back can be upsetting. I hadn’t noticed this on the way there as I was fast asleep, usual me when travelling on the road. There were very young children lining the narrow and busy mountain roads asking for money or trying to sell things. These children were no more than five or six years old in some cases, and quite honestly it was heart wrenching to see. We talked with our driver as we were keen to find out what they were asking for and he said that they were asking for water but if you stop, they start to ask for money and can get quite troublesome. As a couple that have been lucky enough to have a normal and privileged childhood it was really upsetting to see. But sadly its part of travelling to different countries and parts of the world to see these things and it does make us just appreciate how lucky we are.
We hope these tips come in handy if you’re planning a trip over to Ouzoud falls.
If you enjoy walking and exploring and have suitable footwear, (don't make the mistakes I made) we would highly recommend a trip!