The Rif is the most northerly of Morocco's mountain chains. There are some good hikes to be had in the region from the most popular town for tourists, Chefchaouen, with its pastel blue medina. An alternative base in the Rif is Tetouan, which has some fine Spanish colonial architecture.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Rif Mountains.
Winding alleyways, cute doorways and charming plazas all in many shades of blue – this is what has attracted millions to this tiny village in the Rif Mountains, and there's no sign tourism will let up. Despite overcrowding, Chefchaouen's medina is still well worth the visit.
About 45 minutes from Akchour (1.5km), a huge reddish-brown stone arch towers 25m above the river Oued Farda. Unbelievably, the bridge wasn't carved by human hand, but rather by the river's flow over countless millennia. As the river carved a path deeper and deeper, it left the bridge high and dry.
Cascading over smooth jagged rocks, the Akchour waterfall feeds into a turquoise pool. The view is breathtaking, especially when enjoyed with a fresh juice or tea supplied by vendors who make the two-hour trek here every morning.
Just outside Bab El Okla is the best artisan centre in northern Morocco. This is a fascinating opportunity to see masters teaching apprentices traditional arts, including ornamental woodwork, silk costumes, carved plaster, intricate mosaics and decorative rifles. A fantastic central treasury holds the best of the best – don’t miss the ceiling. Staff will open it upon request.
Tetouan's medina is an authentic time machine, with buildings that have witnessed centuries of history. The medina is also very traveller-friendly, with moped-free lanes, few street hustlers, amiable residents and a general lack of congestion. Luckily for you, it doesn't get the attention it deserves.
The broad and empty Place Hassan II, which is mostly roped off for security reasons, links the medina to the Ensanche. It looks like it houses the Wizard of Oz, with guards standing in front of the long flat facade of the Royal Palace, and four somewhat bizarre columns towering all around.
One of the plazas de soberanía (places of sovereignty), this extraordinary white island fortress can be seen a few hundred metres off Plage Sfiha, along with the uninhabited Isla de Mar and Isla de Tierra, which fly the Spanish flag. Spanish rule dates back to 1559, when the Saadi dynasty gave it to Spain in exchange for military assistance. In 1673 the Spanish military established a garrison there and never left.
A short retreat from the city, wide horseshoe-shaped Plage Sfiha looks out on the Spanish-controlled post-colonial relic, El Peñon de Alhucemas. A couple of other Spanish islands are also visible to the west. The beach is well maintained and lined with umbrella seating and restaurants in summer. Pedalos and jet skis are available for hire.
One of two parks in the Rif Mountains, Bouhachem is exceptionally beautiful and covers an enormous territory. The forest has various species of oak and maritime pine, and is home to an important number of birds, mammals (including the rare Barbary macaque) and reptiles. Less visited than neighbouring Talassemtane, hikers can trek to local villages and explore the mountains and forests. Several gîtes are available for overnight stays.