Nestled away in the middle Atlas Mountains, only a 45 minute drive from Marrakech lies the enchanting Ourika Valley.

When you think of skiing, perhaps Morocco isn’t one of the first countries that springs to mind. However as the snow builds in the winter months, Ski resorts higher up the peaks of the Atlas Mountains come alive as tourists flock to challenge themselves on the runs.

Yet it’s during summer months that the Ourika valley reveals its brightest colours. As the winter ice begins to thaw, the waterfalls of Ourika spring to life and become remarkable sites of natural wonder.

After arriving just a few days before in Marrakech, resident video blogger Jamie Horton and I quickly learnt that tourists and Marrakshi locals alike were flocking to the falls to bask in the beauty of the valley and of course to seek some respite from the intense Moroccan sun. So we left the red city to learn more.

The first stop on the excursion is the village of Setti Fatma. It lies in a picturesque location along the banks of the River Ourika and you will find restaurant’s and cafe’s scattered across the river banks. On your hike back down after visiting the waterfall this is the perfect spot to enjoy a light lunch. Many of the dinner tables are placed in shallow water, making for a wonderfully atmospheric meal that will leave you with cool toes!

As we begin our ascent, following the trails that lead up to the waterfalls we pass through a patchwork of souvenir shops and cafe restaurants. Nestled in the leafy greens of the mountains, we are interested to see that locals channel the icy waters of the waterfall using aqueducts to keep the cafe refreshments cool from the Moroccan sun.

Setti Fatma bottles

After a short upwards hike, Jamie and I have reached the Setti Fatma waterfalls. Over bottles of Fanta lemon we look back down upon the way we have came and the views of the flatland surrounding the Atlas are truly spectacular.

Setti Fatma view

The owner of the cafe next to the Setti Fatma waterfall introduces himself as Tarik and he informs me as the temperature in nearby Marrakech starts to build over the summer months, more and more Marrakshi locals seek respite in the cascades. Both Jamie and I are native to the country famed for it’s rain and bad weather and the slow realisation creeps over us that if local Moroccans can handle the 20 degree drop in temperature by holding themselves under the icy cascades of Setti Fatma, then so must we.

Setti Fatma Cascade

Both Jamie and I tried to maintain outwardly appearances of masculinity. I’d like to think we held that facade for at least a little while.

A journey to the Ourika valley is perfect for a one day excursion for those staying in Marrakech. The 45 minutes by car that it takes to reach the valley are spent on roads that wind around the stunning landscape of the Atlas mountains so the journey there is breathtaking in itself. Excursions can be booked hassle-free through our luxury Riad hotels, all of which are perfectly located in the heart of the Marrakech Medina. 


Leave a Comment

The Atlas Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to Marrakech. One of the great pleasures of the Red City is to relax on the roof terrace on a clear day enjoying views of the snow covered mountain tops. The mountains themselves are easily accessible for a day trip or excursion.

 A favourite route is the Ourika valley trail either to Setti Fatma a picturesque riverside village behind which there are seven waterfalls. Further up the same route is the winter (February to April) ski resort of Oukaimeden with its 3,273 metre ski lift, at one time the highest in the world. Hiking in the Atlas MountainsOutside the ski season Oukaimeden is the perfect base for trekking. In the summer the pastures below Oukaimeden are used for a gathering of Berber tribes who traditionally bring their whole household including livestock returning each year to their ancestral patch of grazing on the plains.

 An alternative route leads out to Ouarzazate at the confluence of the Draa and Dades valleys. Ourzazate is a base for quad and motor biking, and camel treks on into the Sahara dessert. It is also home to Atlas Studios one of the largest film studios in the world used for films from Lawrence of Arabia to The Man Who Would Be King, Cleopatra and Gladiator.

It is tempting then to follow the Draa river up through fertile palmeraies crammed with date palms, olive and almond groves. The Dades on the other hand passes between the mountains of the High Atlas to the north and the Jbel Saghro range to the south. For a very good reason this route is nicknamed the valley of a thousand Kasbahs and at the end of the valley is the stunning Todra Gorges.

Leave a Comment