I’ll be honest. Ifrane, nestled in Morocco’s Mid Atlas Mountains, was perhaps our least favourite stop on our Morocco self-drive itinerary. The guide books inform that it’s the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’ due to its Alpine-like housing built by the French, and if you visit during winter you are likely to see snow. It sounds like a fascinating contrast to the sweeping desert dunes of the Sahara and the hot, bustling souks of Morocco’s cities. It’s also very popular with local tourists. We decided to stop for two nights.
Disclaimer: Our visit to Ifrane was entirely self-funded. This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission towards the running of this blog.
In reality, the town didn’t live up to expectation. The layout around the centre of town is more like a British new housing estate, and the buildings and streets are VERY tired and poorly maintained. Plus, it was cold and drizzly, not helped by the lack of heating in our dank Airbnb. It was indeed an interesting contrast to elsewhere in Morocco, but an afternoon stopover would have sufficed.
If you do, however, find yourself staying a couple of days, these are our suggestions of things to do in Ifrane, Morocco, with kids (or without!). There are woodfire pizzas, a tourist mini-train, and a statue of a lion, so our boys (who were aged 3 and 5 at the time) had a great time!
Ride the tourist train around town
For a nominal fare, jump on the tourist train opposite the lion statue. It’s open-sided and is an easy way to see a larger part of the town without walking. The route follows the main road and back again, and moves at an extremely slow pace. But it lasts half an hour and is super fun for any young train enthusiast.
Take a snap next to the lion statue
The large stone lion sits proudly next to the Hotel Chamonix, and local tourists will be found jostling for space to snap their picture next to him. Seemingly you haven’t been to Ifrane if you haven’t got a photo with this lion. We couldn’t be bothered to wait in line, and instead went to find some pizza.
Eat woodfire pizza
There are a handful of European-style restaurants here, serving woodfire pizzas and pasta dishes. We dined at Forest Restaurant, which is a little on the pricey side for us budget travellers, but the ‘proper’ pizzas were a welcome change and it was one of the few places that was warm.
Walk around the gardens
If it’s not raining, the main park makes for a lovely stroll. Opposite the mosque there is a small kids’ amusement park (Le Parc Joux), although this wasn’t open during our visit and there is an entrance fee. Alternatively, head to the playground here.
Enjoy a picnic on the shores of Lac Aoua
Arguably, the nature around Ifrane is more appealing than the town itself. You will need a car to get to Lac Aoua, north of Ifrane National Park. There is a pleasant circuit drive and basic picnic spots around the lake, although bring a blanket to sit on. You may be approached by locals offering to take a photo of you next to their horse, or you could arrange a small horse ride through the surrounding forest.
There are also walking tracks through the forest of Ifrane National Park, although we found these to be more of a litter picking exercise.
Dine on fresh croissants at La Paix
As you step over the threshold to Café Restaurant La Paix, you could be mistaken for feeling like you have stepped out of Morocco and into an upmarket Parisian café. This is the place to come for breakfast, or maybe just pop in for a croissant and coffee to admire its stylish décor.
Treat yourself to a European style hotel
We booked in to an Airbnb in Ifrane that was rather disappointing. It was cold and dark, the heating wasn’t switched on, and we wouldn’t recommend it. If we had our time again, we would splash out a little and stay at one of the European-style hotels close to the lion statue, and would ensure there was heating!
Some (pricey) recommendations are:
Michlifen Resort (€€€): One of Morocco’s most luxurious and stunning hotels. It feels like a oversized ski-lodge and the view from the pool is divine. If it’s a bit out of your budget, consider popping in for a drink.
If you are self-catering, head to the city market to stock up on food.
Getting to Ifrane
We were travelling Morocco by car and drove from Moulay Idriss via Meknes, and then on to Merzouga and the Sahara Desert. Read whether you should hire a car in Morocco. Ifrane is also a good stop to break up the drive between Fez and Merzouga.