The Cascades d’Ouzoud are the most spectacular in Morocco, their ampitheatre of waterfalls falling into pools in a lush valley that remains invisible till the last moment. The wide spread of cataracts at the top isn’t entirely natural – water from the river is funnelled through a variety of irrigation channels towards the rim of the falls – but the result is an image that is not too far removed from the Muslim idea of Paradise depicted on gaudy prints throughout the nation. Nor has the site been overcommercialized – despite the cascades appearing in every national tourism brochure, the atmosphere remains laidback and relaxing. That there are pleasant walks in the locale is just another reason to stay overnight: to swim in pools below the cascades by moonlight (technically forbidden) is something special, and in late afternoon, arching rainbows appear in the mist around the falls.
The path to the base of the falls starts from the top of Ouzoud, to the left of the Dar Essalam, then zigzags past cafés and souvenir stalls to the great basins below the cascades, where boatmen in rickety rafts row visitors to the main pool; the first viewpoint, halfway down the path, is the best place to see the largest rainbows and is close enough to feel the spray on your face. Before you descend, however, take a look at the lip of the falls just past the Riad Cascades d’Ouzoud at the top of the village. The little concrete huts here shelter small watermills, some still grinding wheat into flour as the river is diverted through the wheels before it plunges over the edge. Although strictly speaking it’s not permitted, you can swim in one of the lower pools – currents are dangerous in the main pool beneath the falls – and you might spot the occasional Barbary ape under the oak and pomegranate trees; your best chance is at daybreak or an hour or so before dusk, when they come to drink in the river.