Situated in the central Atlas mountains, Ifrane is a mountain town perched at 1713 m of altitude. It’s considered as one of the biggest water reserves in the Kingdom thanks to its numerous natural sites. The province of Ifrane is the ideal place for winter tourism. Focus.
Original name Ourti (garden in Amazigh), Ifrane is the county seat of the province of Ifrane located at the heart of the Atlas mountain with a surface area of 3573 km² , and which, according to the latest administrative division, is part of the Meknes-Tafilalt region.
Rich archaeological past
Created in 1928 by Eirik Labonne, Secretary General of the Moroccan protectorate, the province of Ifrane “had witnessed the first traces of human presence during the Neolithic period”, according to the archaeologists of the Institute of Science, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (INSAP). All the more so as its caves can attest to it, specifically the ones in Tizguite and also the archaeological vestiges of the prehistory, namely at Michelifin, Ain leuh, Zerouka, Al Bahr Itto and many more. It would go on to be inhabited by two big Amazigh tribes: Aït M’guild and aït M’tir.
The Moroccan Switzerland
Nicknamed “little Switzerland”, the province of Ifrane is characterized by its European inspired architecture, to better adapt to the humid and mild climate during summer and freezing during winter. It’s known for its roof tile made houses and chalets, its ski resort, green meadows and fresh air. To discover its architecture, there’s nothing more satisfying than a walk around its gardens, fountains, lakes and especially its famous sculpture; Better known as the Lion of Ifrane, this mythical sculpture is a work of art of Henri Jean Moreau, finely dressed from granite in 1930. It measures 1.50 meters wide and 7 meters in length.
The biodiversity of the Ifrane park
The National Park of Ifrane
Thanks to its natural wealth and the abundance of water resources in the province of Ifrane, city officials have created a national park in 2004 with a surface area of 51.800 hectares which spreads throughout the western part of the central Atlas mountains on the territories of the Ifrane and Boulmane provinces.
At an altitude of about 1400 and 1500 meters, the National Park of Ifrane is a breathtaking site. It’s a real water tower, thanks to its various water reserves, its permanent natural lakes dayet Aoua and Aguelmam Afennourir. Its water sources and rivers made it an inescapable stop for some wintering bird species, in addition to its rich wildlife-about forty mammalian species including Barbary macaques and reptiles.
It also has rich flora, with 1000 species including 250 endemic species. In addition to having the biggest cedar forest in Morocco.
The park is an ideal touristic spot for hikers and fishermen during summer. While in winter, it becomes a ground for skiing fans. Thus, the National Park of Ifrane remains attractive all year long.
The Vittel source and Ras El Ma:
The Vittel source is situated at about 3 Km from downtown Ifrane. In Spring, it’s the ideal place for picnics in the company of family and friends. Each year, the source attracts thousands of people from across Morocco, but also from the world. Not far from the river, there’s a maple and poplar forest, a place that can be reached on horseback especially during summer.
As for the Ras el Ma source, it is about 2 km from the Vittel source, that being 5 km from the town of Ifrane, we discover the basins of the fish farming “Centre National de la Pisciculture et d’élevage des alevins de truites” of the Atlas.
The province of Ifrane is overflowing with Daïats, the most well known is Daïat Aoua which is situated at about 15 km at the north of Ifrane and spreads into 140 hectares for 1460 m of altitude. Surrounded by cedar and green oak forests, the Daïat Aoua lake offers one of the most beautiful natural landscapes. It’s considered in spring and summer as the ideal place to take a walk, ride a bike, or have a picnic and chill.
At the other side of Michelifin, there’s the lake Daït Hachlaf located at 16 km from downtown Ifrane. This natural lake of about 4km of paremeter is in a swamp zone and green meadows. It’s an area frequented by fishing enthusiasts.
At 30 Km, there’s another site of breathtaking beauty. It’s the lake Daït Ifrah. With a surface area of about 250 hectares, it’s actually one of the biggest lakes of the Atlas mountains. It’s primarily fed by ground water and snowmelt.
A top touristic destination
The touristic sites to be visited are varied, and meet nature loving tourists’ expectations, and everything the family needs to spend an unforgettable vacation. Here are (in no particular order) the best touristic spots not to be missed:
National Park of Ifrane, Downtown garden, Univeristy of Al Akhawayn, Lake of Ifrane, Lake Aoua, Mohamed V Garden, Ain Vittel River, Main Square, Stone Lion, Refuge waterfall.
The hike: Many walks to take in the region, especially in the forest of Ifrane.
For thrill seekers, nothing more exciting than a day in the ski resort of Michlifin. The latter is equipped with infrastructures that are on an equal footing with European ski resorts ,with equipments at prices to suit all pockets.
Fishing/Hunting: Natural lakes and abundant rivers. The fauna overflows with rare fish like trouts and so on. Hunting aficionados will find what they’re looking for (boars, hares, and young partridges etc...)
Among world’s cleanest cities
Ranked in 2015 as the second cleanest city in the world, according to a survey conducted by “MBC Times”, Ifrane has become a world reference in terms of cleanliness, but also for other factors such as water abundance, ecosystem-based approach, but also for the fluidity of road traffic. According to Mr. Rachid Ihdem, tourism official”the secret of Ifrane’s cleanliness resides in the fact it has always refused to be home to industrial constructions, thus preserving the fauna and the flora of the city. All these criteria have been determining in the ranking of Ifrane as second cleanest city in the world, surpassing many western capitals”
Current context and repercussions on the tourism sector
According to the tourism official “the tourism activity in the city has not been negatively affected. In the province of Ifrane, tourism is not going through a crisis.”
Each year, visitors are growing by the numbers, and take interest in the treasures and beauties of our territory. The positive results announced in the last years by the tourism sector in the province of Ifrane prove that it’s one of the most sought after destinations by tourists. In figures, 73.349 tourists have visited Ifrane in 2015 Versus 30.751 in 2010, which corresponds to three figures, that’s 207%. (2010 being the reference year of the Vision 2010.)
The same upward trend has seen overnight stays on the rise. The numbers of overnight stays by visitors have reached 196.471 in 2015 versus 63.819 in 2010, reflecting an increase of 138%.
Impact of Al Akhawayn University
The University of Al Akhawayn of Ifrane is a unique university in the Arab World. The site where the University is located is exceptional: A campus of 75 hectares equipped with leading-edge facilities. The university offers an international environment with a teaching staff and student body representing different nationalities.
2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the University. Twenty years have passed since the inauguration of the university by His late Majesty King Hassan II. It was an opportunity to remember the milestones achieved since the creation of this university in the city.
Al Akhawayn functions as a local, regional and national development agent. Beyond this role, it undertakes social actions through clubs and associations created and managed by the students like “Hand in Hand”, “Rotaract”, “Leo”, “Design for Change”. These student associations have succeeded in financing their projects for the benefit of education in rural areas.
The university also has a Center for Community Development in Azrou, which provides the population with important social services: Free medical consultations, medical campaigns and distribution of medications, skills training for graduates seeking job opportunities, women’s and girls’ literacy in rural areas,and development of income-generating activities, etc.
The university has helped put Morocco on the map of international English speaking institutes. Its reputation has been established on national and international levels, and remains amongst the best institutions in Africa, training leaders-citizens of Morocco and the world.