Ifrane is one of the most beautiful places in Morocco, residing on the Atlas mountain with a population of roughly 80,000 people. The current Moroccan king and his projects - like the university and huge new hotel - have had a large impact on the town. However, it can not be considered a large town. The majority of the population are farmers, sheepherders, etc, and therefore live outside of the town borders.
The main language in Ifrane is Berber, but you can also hear a great deal of Arabic and French. It is home to Al-Akhawayn University, an American-style university taught in English, French, and Arabic. Nearly all university students will be able to converse fluently in English, but most of the native residents can not.
The climate is mostly cold with a beautiful clement summer, with a great deal of rain in the first few months of the year. The people are overall very friendly.
Overall, there is very little reason to specifically visit Ifrane if you're limited on time in Morocco. Unless you're a student here or a member of the king's entourage when he visits, there's not a huge amount to visit here- a carved lion, some parks, funky roofs, lots of storks, outdoorsy things, and a Sunday souq pretty much summarize the town.
By grand taxi
The easiest way to get into Ifrane is by grand taxi from Fez or Meknes. Both cities are an hour away. Grand taxis in Fez leave near the Fez CTM station.
- grand taxis. Grand taxis arrive in Ifrane at the grand taxi station, which is temporarily located about 300 m southwest of the marché.
A ride to either town costs 25 dirham, but can be more expensive (30 dirham) on weekends, when half of Fez and Meknes come there. If you find yourself to take a whole taxi yourself, multiply the price by six places (i.e. 150 dirham). At some times (very late/early, during strikes), you may have to pay a good bit more.
CTM has an office at the east end of the marché and buses are likely to stop / depart from there. CTM buses are known to being cleaner and slightly quicker, but the sometimes sketchy buses from other companies are equally safe. They most likely depart from the new Gare Routière which is somewhere southwest from the marché. These buses can be a lot dirtier and a little cheaper. Some might have more stops (longer trip), but they also leaving more often and are thus easier to catch.
Most places are within walking distance, but petit taxis are also readily available. The minimum fare is 5 dirham for small distances (e.g. marché → centre ville), longer distances will be 10 dirham.
Grand taxi drivers are a little more unscrupulous, so try to be aware of how much you should be paying for any given trip.
Places to visit:
- Al Akhawayn University. Normally the campus is closed to non-students, but there are occasional events that allow visitors to see the campus. You can also request special permission from the faculty.
- Centre-ville. The newer part of the city. Here, you can find the center for tourism, the iconic Lion statue that many tourists like to take pictures next to, the lake and park, and a number of restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores.
- Marché. The marché or souq, open every day, is where the locals buy their supplies. Anything from books and electronics to meat and fruit can be bought here. There are also many restaurants of varying quality and price.
- Source Vitel. A series of waterfalls, some of which are found inside the forests of Ifrane, others which you should take a taxi to. None are particularly impressive, but all are pretty.
However, Ifrane's main attraction is its natural beauty. It is highly encouraged to hike in the area. You can easily rent a horse and guide for a few hours. It is also only a short distance from Ifrane to a place where you can find and feed wild monkeys.
- L'Apelle. More high class than most restaurants in Ifrane. The only place that serves pastilla in the vicinity.
- Aglemem. Most of the food is only mediocre. Very good chicken tagine. Has alcohol, and sometimes live music. A favorite of the university students. Where international students go to briefly forget they're in Morocco. a bit expensive.
- La Rosa. Normally has mediocre to bad food.
- La Paix. mains around 80 dirham.
- Forest. A new shiny restaurant.
- Various cafes. All of the cafes are priced roughly the same, and have roughly the same quality of food. Normally a safe bet, though you can expect only the standard fare: pizza, tagine, harira, brochettes, etc.
- Restaurant Al-Akhawayn. Good food. More varied menu than many others. decent prices.
- Restaurant Chez Amal. Used to serve excellent Kafta-Tajine, but has lost a bit of its atmosphere since the renovation. mains 40 dirham.
- Chez Said. The sandwiches were famous, but since it moved to a new location, they are not as good anymore. 20 dirham.
- Chicken Restaurant. Serves good chicken. mains 25-40 dirham.
There are three centers of nightlife in Ifrane: Teal, the Grand Hotel, and Aglemem.
- Teal and the Grand Hotel both contain dance clubs, and offer expensively priced alcohol. The clubs are most popular on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, and play only House/Techno music. Teal is currently the better-attended of the two, due to its recent renovation and their promotion of special deals. Be aware that the clubs or hotels may bring prostitutes to the clubs.
- Aglemem is a bar/restaurant that occasionally holds live music events.
There is no budget accommodation in Ifrane. The best is probably to stay in Azrou (15 minutes by grand taxi, ~6 dirham).
Apartments can be rented from 100-150 dirham per day, although finding one with clean sheets seems to be impossible.
Several midrange/splurge hotels are found in the city center:
- Grand Hotel.
- Hotel Michliffen.