A day trip to Akchour – God’s Bridge and the Big and Small Waterfalls – is a MUST if you’re planning to stay two days or more in Chefchaouen and looking for a hidden gem or two.
Just 45 minutes from Chefchaouen, the Rif Mountains are waiting for you… this is the kind of destination you visit if you like off the beaten track travel. Perfect for a day trip, or an overnight stay, a visit to the clear waters and river restaurants of Akchour and the God’s Bridge, is a Moroccan mountainside adventure you just can’t skip!
We had heard a thing or two and seen a couple of photos while exploring things to do in Chefchaouen. But before we ourselves decided to venture to the valleys and rivers of Akchour, we wanted more information. However, it seemed the nitty-gritty details were elusive.
We wanted to know which of the waterfalls were best to visit, which trail led where, and we wanted to know if we could do it all in one day. Despite the lack of information, we decided to explore God’s Bridge and Akchour for ourselves. So consequently… we’re now able to share with you, everything we learnt. This is the post we wish we had for our visit!
If you need to know which trail to take, which turn to make, how to get there by tour, taxi or collective, what to pack, what to wear, where to stay AND the best tagine hut on the trail… then read on!
If you go to Akchour and the God’s Bridge, we know that you’ll have an incredible day exploring the rivers, waterfalls and valleys of the Rif Mountains. And IF you’re visiting the beautiful blue city of Morocco, don’t miss our post on top things to do in Chefchaouen.
Akchour & the Waterfalls – A Hidden Gem
So what exactly is it that makes Akchour and the God’s Bridge special? And is it worth your time?
Well first up, it’s off the beaten track. So if you’re the kind of traveller who seeks to find somewhere a bit different then this may well be the kind of day trip you’ll enjoy. In a nutshell, Akchour and the God’s Bridge is something of a hidden gem.
Secondly, the swimming holes, the waterfalls, the trails… if you love getting out into nature then I’d say do it! This is the day trip for you.
There are two trails, and you can walk both if you have the full day up your sleeve. On one track is the lower small waterfalls and further up the trail the big waterfall, also known as the Grand Cascades. Then on a seperate track is the God’s Bridge. The God’s Bridge is a spectacular natural bridge, which towers over the river some hundred metres below.
But more about the individual trails and what to expect on these walks further down.
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Akchour Weather – When to Visit
It’s possible to visit all year round, but we advise that you check the weather forecast ahead of your visit. If heavy rains are expected, then the river expands and could potentially become a danger.
Most of the year however, the trails are open and ready to explore.
During July and August, you should expect a large number of local tourists. This is the summer school holidays in Morocco and man it gets BUSY! The cooler temperatures of Akchour beckon Moroccans – the mountains and swimming holes are the perfect escape from humid cities.
We happened to visit in August, and were grateful that we arrived earlier in the day which meant fewer people around. As the afternoon approached we started to see more people. However, the locals tend to picnic close to the entrance of the trails, so the further you go the quieter the trail becomes.
SO! What to expect in terms of weather when you visit –
Visiting Akchour in Summer from July to August – It’s busy with domestic tourism and the waterfalls will have less water. The weather is warm, and you can swim in the many many swimming holes – but be warned the water is chilly! Not that our kids noticed it of course.
Visiting Akchour in Winter from December to January – The tracks are quiet, the waterfalls will be impressive but the water will likely be too cold for a swim. Check the rainfall and weather report before you visit.
Visiting Akchour in the mid-season February to June & September to November – The conditions will be great, the trails will be moderate, the falls will look healthy… but likely too cold for a swim. Unless you’re feeling brave!
Getting to Akchour – The Distance
The best way to get to Akchour is by collective (or shared) taxi. This way you only pay for your seat in the taxi, and it leaves when the taxi is full. It might mean you wait for a short time, but never too long. A seat in a collective costs 25 MAD per person.
The collective taxi stand is outside the Medina, near the large central roundabout in Chefchaouen. Opposite the petrol station, where Av. Moulay Abdelsalam meets the R412, is where you’ll find the Akchour collective taxis waiting.
If you’re driving from Chefchaouen to Akchour, leave town to the West on the R412 Highway. Join the N2 highway, then turn onto the P4105 following it all the way to the car park in Akchour. There is a very small car park at the Akchour trail head which gets extremely busy in the peak of summer. The price for a full day car park is 10 MAD, from 8am to 8pm.
Basically it’s a 45 minute drive from Chefchaouen to Akchour. The drive is very picturesque through the Rif Mountains, Moroccan countryside and past fields upon fields of marijuana farms. The drive itself is worth the trip!
Private Day Trips to Akchour & Beyond
We recommend that if you’re travelling with kids, or your time is limited, then consider a private day tour. We had time to figure it, make mistakes and explore. But you might prefer the guided option from a local.
And hey, if you’re on holiday and have the money to spend then this is a great one to splash out on. A local guide will be able to share more information about the region of Akchour. The second tour listed below, comes highly recommended on Viator with a badge of excellence. So I’d start there.
The Start of the Trail
There is a small walk to get from the collective taxi drop off to the carpark. Then beyond the carpark, towards the beginning of the track, you’ll pass many small stalls and restaurants. This is great place to buy some nuts and dried fruit and use the bathroom before you begin the trails.
Note – there is a small fee to use the toilets.
Continue along the path keeping the river to your left side, you need to head in the direction of the mountain. The dam (pictured above) marks the trail head. And this is also where the trail divides.
So here we go – this is where you pay close attention to my instructions. Oh and by the way, there are no signs! In which case, I urge you to listen up!
The trail head begins at the bridge and the dam, as mentioned above. Basically, at this point two valley rivers come together, joining to flow together downstream in the direction you’ve just come. The lower and upper waterfall trails are along the same trail on one of the river valleys, and God’s Bridge is on the other river valley.
From where the track divides –
- One trail veers left, across the bridge, then right towards the mountains – we’ll call this Trail A.
- The second trail continues on straight ahead, keeping the river on your left side. It becomes a narrow path hugging the cliffside – we’ll call this Trail B.
The Small Waterfall Trail – The Petit Cascade
To reach both the lower and upper waterfalls you’ll take Trail A. Read above! This is a beautiful walk through the valley, with views of the Ermitage d’Akchour Hotel on your right. The path is easy to walk, the route follows a gradual incline. As you continue to walk upstream the path becomes a little narrower and the waterholes getting prettier by the minute.
We kept wondering are we nearly there yet?
Eventually we arrived at the biggest of the lower cascades (pictured above). The upper platform of this waterfall had been built up, to form a ledge and small platform to cross to the other side of the river. This is where locals sat in plastic chairs with an orange juice, with the cool water rushing between their legs as they admired the view. This is where the easy track ends, if you continue on it becomes steeper.
We did not hike to the big waterfall as the day was getting on. Instead we made the most of the many swimming holes along the trail, and enjoying them mostly to ourselves I might add.
Hike Time from Trail Head – 30 to 45 minutes one way
Hiking level – easy
The Big Waterfall Hike – The Grand Cascades
Trail A continues to the Grand Cascades. After reaching the larger of the lower cascades the trail begins to head upwards. This is why I call this section of the trail the hike. The walk becomes more challenging and the incline much steeper. I walked a little further up this trail to get an idea of what it was like. But due to limited time, couldn’t go any further. (But I did do all the research for you on what to expect.)
The upper falls and cascades are stunning. And while the Grand Cascades may not generate huge water fall, it certainly impresses visitors by sheer height! The beauty being that you can stand at the base of this 80 to 100 metre waterfall and admire it up close, without getting seriously saturated.
However, in the summer the Grand Cascades run almost completely dry. So between the months of June through to September don’t expect to see this waterfall in all it’s glory.
Hike time from trail head – 2+ hours one way
Hiking level – moderate/difficult
God’s Bridge Trail
The God’s Bridge was my personal favourite! Follow Trail B and walk the picturesque valley. At times your feet will be in the river as you navigate your way over small bridges and around rocks.
There are many small waterholes to swim in, places to eat, orange juice stands to stop at. Then when you turn the final corner and come up over the hill you’ll catch a glimpse of the grand God’s Bridge. This 100m high natural bridge is a thing of beauty.
You can swim directly under the bridge in the warmer months, but as we’ve mentioned above, even in summer the water is very cold. There are no changing rooms here, so it’s a good idea to wear your swimmers under your clothes.
Hike time from trail head – 45 mins to 1 hour one way
Hiking level – easy/moderate
Itinerary for All 3 Sites
You can see all three sites mentioned above in one day, but you’ll need to be physically fit, and ready to get an early start. We recommend visiting God’s Bridge first. Then stop for an early lunch and orange juice in the river, as you make your way back to the trail head, before beginning the second trail to the lower and upper waterfalls.
However, you won’t need to go all the way back to the beginning of the trail head. As you near the point where the valleys join, look for small bridges crossing the river. There are several. Cross one, and keep the river on your left. Continue towards the other valley, pass the entrance to the Ermitage d’Akchour hotel and cross the bridge to the second valley. This will connect with the trail we refer to as Trail A.
Get a move on, making your way towards the two cascades. But be mindful of the time, as you don’t want to miss a collective taxi back to Chefchaouen. If you find yourself running short on time, relax and enjoy the lower cascades.
The Barbary Macaques
Yes, you might see monkeys on the trail! These are the Barbary Macaque monkeys and the Rif Mountains are their home. They are an endangered macaque, due to illegal poaching and forest degradation. So show these special guys lots of respect and if you do see them, don’t feed them or get too close.
We saw monkeys as they traversed together as a big group, across the mountain range on the opposite side of the river. They paid us no attention at all, and it was fun for our kids to see the baby monkeys catching a ride on their mother’s back.
Where to Eat
There are literally food stalls and huts at every turn. As you walk the trails, men stoke small fires and prepare tagines for hungry walkers and hikers. You’ll also find fresh orange juice stalls. And let me tell you… the experience of sitting with your feet in the cool, crystal clear water is heaven. Choose your table and umbrella wisely and you could sit there all day.
On the God’s Bridge trail, just before you arrive at the spectacular rock arch, look for Hicham at the Berber Cuisine restaurant. He’s a good guy and will gladly tell you that he works at the restaurant for his living, but also that he’s Berber from the desert. He’ll also answer any questions you have about Akchour and the trails.
The tagines are super tasty… and it’s only 60 MAD for a large tagine. This was more than enough for our family of four.
What to Bring for the Trail
Below are the following items you’ll need to bring along for the walk –
- Water shoes are best if you have them, otherwise good trainers or walking shoes
- Swimmers and towels – note there are no changing rooms on the trail
- Possibly rain jackets – check the weather forecast before you go
- A few snacks – you can purchase nuts and dried fruit near the carpark in Akchour
- Cash for a tasty tagine lunch – the food along the track is delicious and cheap
- Drinking water – we love our Life Straw filter bottles that we filled from the river
Where to Stay
The Ermitage d’Akchour is the way to go if you’re looking for an Eco-Lodge style of accommodation. Rest and relaxation in the Akchour mountains, surrounded by rivers and trees is a sure fire way to enjoy your time.
If you want back to basics then we have something for you too. For the rugged, down to earth travellers you’ll be happy to know that you can bring in your own tent or rent one for the camping experience. On Trail B, not too far from the trail head lookout for the small stone building on your right (pictured below). You can’t book accommodation, but you can turn up and see what they have available.
There are a few rooms for rent, and tents pitched on the buildings roof. There was a great vibe around the campsite and we met some interesting travellers when we stopped to take photos. They told us camping was strictly on a first come basis and costs 80 MAD per night if you camped with your own tent.
Map to God’s Bridge and Grand Cascades
See the map to the Akchour trails we have described above. We always use the All Trails app when we walk and hike. We use the free version of the app and recommend you do the same. Joining is quick and easy, and guaranteed it will help you navigate your way.
Final Thoughts on Akchour & God’s Bridge
God’s Bridge and the waterfalls of Akchour was one of those beautiful little surprises on our Chefchaouen itinerary. I hope you are staying for more than a night in Chefchaouen so you can take this day trip, because it’s totally worth it!
If you’re looking for other awesome things to do in Morocco, don’t miss our adventure packed guides below.
- The top things to do in Chefchaouen
- Two days in Fes + a self guided walking tour of the Medina
- Unique things to do in Tangier (coming soon)
- An essential guide to three days in Marrakech
- A hiking review of the Atlas Mountains
- A complete travel guide to the coastal Medina of Essaouira
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