From desert safari tours to hikes up the Atlas mountains, Marrakech has no shortage of great opportunities for excursions outside the city. But whilst the organised group tours on offer throughout the city and its hostels are quite good value for money, the Ourika Valley waterfalls are definitely a trip you can, and should, make without a guide.
We did it… so can you!
From an unsigned path tucked away behind the colourful restaurants of Setti Fatma, slowly we wound our way past souvenir stalls and elaborate displays of tins of Coca Cola being cooled by the water from the stream.
We had been told by one of our roommates in Equity Point Marrakech that the waterfall wasn’t worth the money or the long drive from town. But instead of paying for a tour, our ride on a local bus to Setti Fatma had cost just 50 dirhams (MAD), and for €4.58 we weren’t complaining.
However, with it still in mind that our friend had been unimpressed by the falls, we quickly stumbled across the first small fall and assumed… this must be it.
As it turns out, this fall was one of seven. Each one higher up the mountain and even more beautiful than the fall before. Pushing past this spot, we began to hike in areas less shaded by trees where we caught site of hikers metres above us on the mountains.
So we followed. Heaving ourselves over huge rock formations and trying to avoid slipping in the river when crossing the precarious wooden bridges that rested on the banks, our determination increased the closer we got to reaching the final, seventh waterfall.
The reason I would advise making the day trip to the Ourika Valley Waterfalls without a tour group is that to get to all seven waterfalls, you really need time. We began hiking at around 15:30 and didn’t begin to make our way back down the mountain until 18:00, rushing to reach the bottom before the sun set and we missed the last bus.
If I get the chance to go again (hopefully!) I will definitely begin the hike earlier in the day, as there are so many opportunities to sit and rest and just watch the views and the waterfalls. The reason we arrived so late however was that we had no idea where to get the local bus (or even that we had to get a local bus and not a taxi!) – which is why I’m going to spell it out for you!
How to get a local bus in Marrakech to the Ourika Valley Waterfalls
The local buses in Marrakech are more like collective taxis than your regular bus. The buses are white minivans and they all collect outside the Jemaa el-Fnaa (the main square of the Medina). If you walk out of the square with the medina to your back and the main mosque on your right, take a right at the main road for about five minutes and you will find the local buses.
- There will be lots of men milling around the buses organising the chaos. Just tell them where you want to go (if you’re going to the falls you want to be dropped off at Setti Fatma) and let them direct you to the right minivan
- Don’t be worried to haggle the price. For three of us we were charged 150 MAD (13.72 EUR), but I’m sure you can get lower. However we had been looking for the buses for a good hour in the heat and just wanted to get to the falls
- The buses don’t run on a timetable, but go when the minivan is full so be prepared to wait a little while. I also saw some people moved between vans but don’t worry – they know where you want to go and don’t be nervous to ask them to confirm if you are worried
- Sit back and relax. The ride to Setti Fatma took us over an hour and was very bumpy, but the scenery is awe-inspiring
How to get back to Marrakech from Setti Fatma
You’ll see that as soon as your arrive in Setti Fatma there is a line of taxis and buses ready to take tourists back to Marrakech. However, don’t let time run away with you.
We spent too long up the mountain and were told that we would have to change local buses in another village further down the mountain. Luckily however, one of the taxi drivers was heading home to Marrakech and gave use a ride each for 30 MAD (2.74 EUR)!
In future, I would definitely suggest being back in Setti Fatma by 17:00 in order to catch a direct local bus, as most taxi drivers will charge a hell of a lot more for a ride back to Marrakech.
Total cost and final tips
- Bus ride to Setti Fatma: 50 MAD each (4.58 EUR)
- Taxi ride back to Marrakech: 30 MAD (2.74 EUR)
- Lunch in Setti Fatma: 120 MAD (10.98 EUR)
- Total = 18.30 EUR
- Total without lunch = 7.32 EUR – the best €10 Marrakech day trip ever!
- Take a packed lunch. As you can see we spent a fair bit on lunch, and 120 MAD seemed to be the standard price in most restaurants there, so I would suggest packing yourself a sandwich and plenty of snacks to keep you going
- Avoid the guides. As with every tourist destination in Morocco, there will be guides trying to direct you up the mountain. They will want paying at the end, and it might amount to a lot as it’s a good few hours of hiking, so do your best to shrug them off. The path, whilst a little rough at times, is clear enough and you should be fine without them
- Take plenty of water and sunscreen! This should go without saying, and you can buy drinks at various restaurants up the path, but if you get caught on a hot day you’ll definitely be gasping for water as at some point the path is very steep
- Get down before sunset. If you’re not worried about getting home (perhaps you’ve arranged return transport already) I’d still highly suggest getting down before dark to avoid losing your way or slipping on loose rocks
This day stood out as one of the best days I’ve had in Morocco – I really hope this inspires you to take the plunge and get your own group together for a hike up the Ourika Valley waterfalls!
If you do – make sure to let me know!
Lots of love,