The Hanging Rocks of Chefchaouen

The jagged hanging rock of Chefchaouen

photography by: Omri Westmark

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At the far reaches of Morocco's blue city, it is rather the green color which dominates the landscape. Winding through the verdant slopes of the surrounding Rif Mountains, Route de Tisemlale is a narrow dirt road that links Chefchaouen with its rural outskirts. Curiously, this rustic pathway is also home to a cluster of unusual rock formations, better known as the hanging rocks for their gravity defying properties.

Best known for its mesmerizing blue streets, Chefchaouen also has far lesser-known sides which are barely explored by most visitors who come here. In fact, the blue city is surrounded by an incalculable number of secluded nooks, nestled deep within its wooded mountainous surroundings.

 

Branches off the city’s eastern exit road, Route de Tisemlale is a gravel path that meanders through the hilly terrain of Talassemtane National Park, linking Chefchaouen with the town of Bab Taza. This tricky to find road serves as a gateway to many of the natural wonders around Chefchaouen, including a couple of hiking trails that crisscross the nearby Rif Mountains, one of North Africa’s largest mountain ranges.

 

Past the luxuriant pine forest along the route’s first kilometer, you’ll reach an off-road lookout that offers expansive views of the city’s patchwork of blue houses, streets and mosques, as well as a distant glimpse of the green hinterland around. From that point onwards, all signs of civilization become scarcer, with very few tin shacks dotting the landscape.

 

Following a 3.2-kilometer hike (one hour by foot) from the route’s starting point, you’ll finally reach the article’s protagonists, the hanging rocks. Precariously perching on the ragged slopes along the main route, this series of oddly shaped limestone rocks have been sculpted by the elements for quite some time. It seems as if one rock in particular stands out over all the others, featuring a jagged shaped at its tip. Depending on your imagination, the rock’s beak-like crest can look like a bird, a dinosaur or as locals call it, the executioner, in reference to its heading axe-shaped silhouette.

 

Take note that while the route is accessible for cars, it’s extremely not recommended to choose this option. As unless you have a 4WD vehicle, driving along the pothole ridden and shoulder-free road is considered challenging and unsafe.