The Rif Mountains in northern Morocco is a scenic and culturally vibrant area, easy and inexpensive to reach from Europe. The people in this area call themselves Jbala, which means "mountain people" they are very kind people by the way. Most of them are Berber, members of the original inhabitants of North Africa, who adopted the Arabic language from the 10th century, but which is inspired by the Berber Amazigh language and Spanish.
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They are engaged in agriculture, which is operated in a traditional way and on a small scale. There, you will learn about Jbala families and get to know their daily lives and their handicrafts. You will also hike to natural sites such as the summit Jbel Lakkra and through the canyon of crystal clear river, Farda with the Dakchour Falls and the Pont de Dieu rock formation.
The Rif are some good hikes to be had in the region from the most popular town for tourists, Chefchaouen, with its pastel blue architecture. An alternative base in the Rif is Tetouan, which has some fine Spanish colonial architecture.
Places to visit in the Rif
The Rif Mountains rise sharply from the Mediterranean to the east of Tangier. Their foothills lie close to Tetouan, where, contrasting strongly with the low hills and gentle colors of the Tangier hinterland, the landscape is impressively mountainous.
To the immediate east, trees cloak the limestone peaks as you climb towards the central Mount Tidiquin, the highest in the Rif range at 2,448 meters. Squat holm and cork oaks give way to high cedar forests and the kif plantations of Ketama. The further east you travel, the redder the shade of the mountain range, a change that strikes the traveler on the road to Al Hoceima where the terrain becomes stripped and barren. From Al Hoceima to Oujda on the Algerian border, south of a fertile coastal plain the land is desolate, crossed by cracked riverbeds.
On the more inviting coast directly below the range are some of the finest sandy beaches to be found in Morocco. The increasing number of large hotels and holiday villages are fed by the international airport of Tangier and by well-off Moroccans from Fez and elsewhere, who flock to the area. But it is still possible to find gorgeous, unspoiled, secluded beaches between the pockets of development. Some of the country’s best fish restaurants are also found along this stretch of shoreline. The resorts include Mdiq, Cabo Negro (which also has an impressive golf area), and Martil.
Tetouan, flanked on all sides by forest-clad limestone mountains, is arguably the jewel of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. The city stands on a rocky plateau detached from the southern flank of Mount Dersa.
The Roman settlement of Tamuda stood immediately above the present-day city. Tetouan was inhabited in the 9th century by the Idrisid dynasty and in the 14th century was defended by the Marinid dynasty. Its fortress became a corsair center and was later destroyed by the Spanish. In the 16th century, Tetouan was populated by Moorish Andalusian expatriates.
Sometimes called Chaouen, tucked into the hills south of Tetouan, ranks among Morocco’s most attractive places. It is an essential stop on any visit to the Rif region, a vibrant arts and crafts center and generally a relaxed place to relax for a few days and soak up the atmosphere.
Ceuta the corner of Spain
Ceuta is not immediately recognizable as a destination, but it is worth a visit if for nothing else than the surreal feeling of having a quick lunch in Spain, and you could not be anywhere else, with its Spanish banks, restaurants, shop-lined streets, supermarkets, and residents.
Once you have battled your way through customs, you are rewarded with a not uncharming town. Tiny, and perched on a point, every inch of space is crammed with houses and grand Spanish buildings. Its central square, the Plaza de Africa, is beautifully laid out, with mature palms, commanding architecture, and cafes.
There is also plenty to see in Ceuta, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Theory has a museum and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Africa, a church that can also be visited in the Plaza de Africa, contains the 15th-century wooden effigy of Ceuta’s patron saint who is also, oddly, its mayoress, an office granted in perpetuity by a unanimous vote of the municipality. Royal Walls (Los Muralles Reales) on the Avenida Gonzales Tablas are the original walls dating from the 8th century, and the Museo de Los Muralles Reales has an art gallery.
Cabo Negro and Martil
The beautiful hill of Cabo Negro, where its location of Mdiq, what was once a fishing village and is now an upmarket resort nestled on a breathtaking sweep of the white-sand beach to the south, is fast becoming the place to go on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. Restaurants and cafes line the beachfront and there is also a yacht club and an 18-hole golf course.
Set back from the beach are some grand villas, where Morocco’s rich and famous retreat in summer. Once a year in July the yacht club hosts an annual Sailing Week. About 8 km along is the beach town of Martil, which becomes very busy with Moroccan tourists in the summer months.
Hiking in the Rif Mountains near Chefchaouen
Rif Mountains in Morocco is the perfect place for hiking, it was an activity that came highly recommended to you. You will enjoy hiking and doing adventure activities during your travels, so the Rif Mountains seemed a good idea.
How to get to the Rif Mountains
It’s most likely that you’d get to the Rif Mountains from Chefchaouen. However, to get to Chefchaouen, it’s worth noting that there are no nearby airports or train stations. Therefore, the best way to get to Chefchaouen is by road from Fes or from Tangier. For further information on getting to Chefchaouen. You have to start at the village of Akchour as you’d heard there was a wonderful hike starting from here to some stunning waterfalls, and then another route to God’s Bridge.
This is the main starting point indeed, but it will feel a bit odd. There’s basically nothing there and little signage. There is also no phone signal. It was only upon meeting a handful of other hikers turning back that we learned we were also heading the wrong way. To get to the cascading waterfalls, you must walk from the small village of Akchour to the river area.
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