Ifrane (إفران), Morocco is one of the few places in the African continent where snow falls almost every winter. For this very reason, the French developed this town after an Alpine village in the early 20th century (Protectorate Era), which explains the village’s extremely European flair. And at an elevation of 5,460 ft., this Moroccan town also happens to be a popular ski resort in the Middle Atlas region, thus nicknamed Little Switzerland.
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Ifrane: Quaint village or college town?
Due to its size, it is easy to describe this town in the Atlas mountains as a quaint village and retreat. I lived there for 4 months as a transient student at Al Al Akhawayn University and all I remember are tranquil, fresh days.
While most people would then think of Ifrane as a college town, this could not be farther from the truth. The Al Akhawayn campus is quite small, plus most students simply chill at the university or go grab a meal & tea close to the market in the center. Moreover, this Alpine village is quite small, which makes students want take road trips around the rest of Morocco almost every weekend. In turn, Ifrane’s calm oasis aura remains unspoiled.
Another reason why Ifrane remains so calm year-round is because the ski season is hit or miss. Snow does not fall frequently every winter, so the term “seasonal” resonates greatly when it comes to some of its hotels! In fact, some smaller guesthouses and motels shut completely during the winter months with no snowfall.
You might see the odd tourist bus every couple of weeks (foreigners stopping for a brief break in town during a Morocco grand tour). They leave Ifrane after a few hours, though. What about those who actually stay in the hotels? They either enjoy the facilities of their hotels and grounds or use Ifrane as a base (aka sleeping quarters) to explore other hectic, more popular towns such as Fes. The result? A calm oasis still!
What happens when it does snow a lot in Ifrane, though? Well…
…the most beautiful Little Switzerland comes to life! You will totally forget you are in the middle of North Africa, just km’s away from the hot Sahara desert.
Just a little over an hour away from Fes, Ifrane is a nice off-the-beaten-path stop-over that should be added to your Moroccan itinerary. You will feel like visiting both the European and African continents in one day!
Have you ever been to Ifrane, Morocco? Post your photos below!