Morocco’s Khenifra National Park is a popular destination with locals seeking a serene escape in a rich natural landscape. Two expansive green coloured lakes, Lake Aguelmam Sidi Ali and Lake Aguelmame Aziza have pride of place within the park.
Extending 842 square kilometres across the middle Atlas Mountains, the park is home to a wealth of fauna and flora. The landscape comprises cedar forests and thorny scrub sprawling across rocky cliff faces and limestone reliefs but is most well-known for its beautiful lakes. During the springtime, patches of the park erupt in colour from the wildflowers blooming.
A powerful river that forms the border between Khenifra and Ifrane is home to hot springs and a series of waterfalls—yet another drawcard of visiting the park. This prominent park is ideal for a spot of hiking and tranquil wilderness escape. The closest town to the national park is Khenifra, and Fes is the closest airport town to the national park. The drive from Fes to Khenifra is roughly two hours.
The Khenifra National Park is much more than a pure wildlife destination. Visitors can explore the surroundings by hiring a bike, riding on a horse or cycling through the park.
Travellers can fly into Fes which has the closest airport and then it is an easy two-hour drive to reach Khenifra National Park.
The cedar timberlands covering the hilly terrain support several species of mammal including the rare Barbary macaque, wild boars and polecats. In the thick of the forest, visitors can spot Barbary sheep and stag, Atlas mountain badgers, the elusive Cuvier’s gazelle and other small mammals. Most of these animals can be spotted when hiking through the park.
The two lakes provide the ideal habitat for abundant waterfowl in the area. A few birds to spot include the ruddy shelduck, Algerian nuthatch, dipper, crested coon, Alpine swift, osprey and the golden eagle.
There’s plenty of aquatic life in the area, making it a great destination for fishing excursions. A few fish species include zander, northern pike, trout and carp.
The seasons are extreme. Winter is from October to March, and summer is from June to August. Summer can get extremely hot and the winters cold. It does snow during winter, and pockets of snow can remain right up until spring. Spring is when the flowers are in bloom. Mid-season, autumn and spring, is the perfect time to visit.
Khenifra National Park is a breathtakingly calm park, ideal for visitors seeking a wilderness experience oozing tranquillity. The two shimmering lakes dominating the park have a peaceful effect on their environment. The main activities in the area include hiking and birdwatching. There are trails around the lakes leading into the forested areas where visitors can enjoy a spot of hiking. It’s not uncommon to spot gazelle, herds of sheep and primates while trekking through the varied terrain.
For birdwatching, there are many viewpoints en route to the cliff tops, some of which are wooden walkways with deck areas overlooking small pools. Exploring waterfalls, hidden caves and swimming in mountain pools is part of the experience. If birdwatching and hiking are not on the to-do list, then visitors can also hire bikes, horse ride and cycle through the park. Khenifra features in many middle Atlas Mountains horse riding excursions but is only recommended for highly-experienced riders.
Eager fisherman can arrange a fishing tour with a local fisherman in traditional boats. There are plenty of fish species to catch in this aquatic paradise.
Wild camping on the banks of the lake is popular with hikers and cyclists. There is an area with an outdoor restaurant where visitors can sample local bread made in a wood oven—camping is available here. The surrounding areas have cheap pensions, budget hotels, and inns on the banks of the lake.