When thinking of Morocco, most people think of Sahara Desert, long canyons, red sandstones, and mudbrick houses. But, Ifrane is ready to surprise you. Famous as Switzerland of Morocco, the city is nestled in the Middle Atlas. Its A-framed houses with steep-angled side and sloppy roof give the town a European touch.
Its clean, snow-filled streets earned the town, the status of “World’s Second Most Clean City” in the year 2015. Ordered and modern, Ifrane sets a stark contrast against the traditional fortified medinas of Morocco.
Ifrane was constructed in 1930s by the French and their reflection is quite evident in its orderly planning. They built the city, aiming to create an exquisite Alpine-style resort. Blooming flower beds and lake parks lend a very beautiful appeal to the town.
It is a famous vacation venue among picnickers. The town also offers winter sports ranging from snowballing and skiing.
Getting in Ifrane, The Switzerland of Morocco
Take a grand taxi from Fez CTM station in Fes to reach Ifrane. The taxi will leave you at the grand taxi station, which is temporarily located just 300-meter south-west of the market. The rides are more expensive during the weekends. While, you’ll pay Dh25 on weekday, taxis may ask for a good Dh30 on the weekends. If you take a taxi on odd hours (too early in the morning or too late at night), the taxis may charge you even more.
You can hire a taxi from Fez airport as well but, they charge more than the ones leaving from the Fez CTM station (Dh300).
CTM or Compagnie de Transports au Maroc (Transport Company of Morocco) runs many buses from Fes to Ifrane. There is a CTM office at the east end of the Fes market, from where the buses depart. Their buses are admired for being clean and fast compared to other transport companies, thus you can expect a comfortable journey. The buses to Ifrane are likely to depart from new Gare Routière, located opposite the grand taxi station.
Some buses can take more time to reach, owing to more number of stops, but they start early and are easy to catch.
There are no trains for Ifrane, since the city has no railway station.
Getting Around the City of Ifrane
Settled 5,460 feet above sea level in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Ifrane has more than just the panoramic views that surround it.
The Sculpture of Barbary Lion
Located in New Town, this sculpture of a Barbary lion venerates the last lion of the extinct species, which was killed near Ifrane a few years before the statue was made. It was sculpted during the Second World War, in the 1930s. A German soldier was the artisan of this most photographed landmark in Ifrane.
The lion can be seen resting on the ground, with his tail subtly curled up at the back. Although, the sculpture is not in its original form, it still emanates grandeur and continues to be the most sought-for site in the city.
Al Akhawayn University
Located 70 km from the Imperial City of Fes, in the town of Ifrane is possibly Morocco’s most beautiful university of Al Akhawayn. It is an independent, not-for-profit, co-ed university known for its impressive red-roofed buildings. The medium of instruction is English language. Tours can be arranged by contacting the university’s administration.
Ifrane is a gorgeous photogenic city which remains blanketed under snow during the months of December through February. Even during its warmest days in August, July, and June, the city sparkles under the light of the sun.
Its red-roofed A-frame houses stand out against the rest of Morocco. Beautiful lake-studded parks and gardens surround them to create impressive colorful landscape.
Roam around the city to take some classic pictures, ready for to create a sensation on the internet. The city is a haven for photographers, travel bloggers, Instagram-enthusiasts, and orophiles.
Michlifen Ski Resort
Ifrane organizes many fun winter sports when the colder season dawns. Mountaineers and those with an athletic spirit can head to the Michlifen Ski Resort. You can go skiing, sledding, or snowboarding in this resort. One-kilometer long slopes provide plenty of fun. Those who are not sure about these winter sports can snowball. Aki lift offers great views over the surrounding areas.
Nightlife in Ifrane
The nightlife in Ifrane is not as buzzing as its neighboring cities. However, the town offers three decent places for you to go and enjoy the night. Head directly to either Grand Hotel or Les Tilleuls, if you are in for dancing the night away. These two places have dance clubs with House or Techno music booming on full volume. If what you are looking for is live music performances, then, you can go to the Aguelmam Restaurant Bar Cafe.
Souvenir Shopping at the Ifrane Souk
This market is mainly centered around the requirements of the locals, but you will find many shops selling tourist trinkets and other souvenirs. The market is full of Moroccan handicrafts and small sculpted items, and much more than that make great memorable takeaways. Smaller that the neighboring souks of Marrakesh, Meknes, and Fes, the market of Ifrane sees less commotion. Its uncrowded lanes offer relaxed shopping experience.
However, you will find more household items, ornamental items, apparels, and spices at Ifrane’s souk.
Lake Dait Aoua
Boasting crystal-clear water surrounded by Atlas Mountain range, the place is a serene picnic destination where you can go with family and kids. Go there to unwind and relax in the lap of nature, while admiring the picturesque view that surrounds. There are horses that you can rent and go on a ride. You can also go boating in the lane. There are a lot of ducks in the lake and you can spend the afternoon feeding them and watching them paddle along the lake side.
The lake may be a bit crowded on the weekends, but on weekdays you will find the place largely to yourself. From Ifrane, a one-way taxi to the lake costs about Dh250.