Located 40 minutes southeast of Fez, Morocco, Bhalil village is not on the beaten track of tourism. Nestled in the Middle Atlas mountains at 1,000m a.s.l., the village is distinguished for its unique cave houses and coloured homes. It reminds me of Chefchaouen, but much more calm, peaceful, and not as touristy.
I discovered Bhalil in Morocco by accident, exploring what to see close to Fez. The cave houses, playfully coloured streets, and funky objects hung on the walls were worth a day’s visit. When I asked my friends from Fez to visit Bhalil, they asked: “Why? What is there to see?” Even the local guide in Bhalil told me that Moroccans rarely visit Bhalil; they prefer the nearby Sefrou or the European-looking Ifrane.
How to get to Bhalil, Morocco?
The easiest way to reach Bhalil is to rent a car or hire a private driver. There’s no bus from Fez to Bhalil, but you could get a local bus to Sefrou and then take the shared taxi (around 4 Dh one way).
Alternatively, in Fez you can take a shared taxi to Sefrou, departing near Menzeh ZALAGH boutique hôtel&sky in the Ville Nouvelle.
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Where to stay in Bhalil?
Bhalil has just one hotel called Dar Kamal Chaoui (you can book here). The hotel is in the centre with views over the hills and neighbouring houses. Is it worth spending a night in Bhalil? If you want to escape the chaotic city life, stay off the beaten path.
Probably, you will be the only tourist spending a night in Bhalil. Dar Kamal Chaoui owner Kamal can give you a guided tour of local life in Bhalil, exploring the cave houses.
Bhalil’s cave houses
How do you visit these cave houses? You can’t just knock on the door of the cave house and come inside; you will need a local guide. After entering Bhalil, you will probably see them standing at the roundabout and offering to visit their cave houses and have a tour of the village. That’s how we met our guide. His primary income comes from guiding travellers in Bhalil. Karim speaks good English and knows a lot about Bhalil and its surroundings.
Karim brought us to his cave house and introduced us to the living conditions. According to Karim, his family lived in this cave house for 12 generations, around 500 years. I’m not sure how much the fact that he is still living in the cave house is true and how much is more of a story for tourists.
Update 2023: I received many emails asking for Karim’s contact – I will not share it as I don’t know if he is still working there. Therefore, simply find local guides in Bhalil directly, ask around in any small shop.
Bhalil in Morocco – cozy village
After Karim’s cave house, we continued our visit to the village, walking around and exploring the local life. As Karim explained, there are 4 mosques and 5 Koranic schools, 3 primary schools and 1 high school in the village.
I fell in love with Bhalil’s playfully coloured streets and funky objects hung on the walls. Such a photogenic and peaceful town. During our visit, we didn’t see any tourists. As Karim explained, Bhalil attracts different kinds of travellers, the ones who want to explore off-beaten path places and even stay in Bhalil for a few days.
Bhalil is famous for its production of woven Djellaba buttons. Djellaba is a long, traditional hooded cape with around 100 waved buttons. While walking in the village, I saw local women everywhere sitting in the streets, alleyways, and terraces and making these buttons. They were not very keen on being in pictures, so ask before taking one.
Why should you visit Bhalil soon? The 4th-century village will not stay a unique place for long. The village is slowly modernizing, and locals have changed their cave homes to modern ones. These cave houses I believe already are more an attraction for tourists, not for living.
We spent a half-day exploring Bhalil and after Karim offered to visit the waterfall in the nearby Sefrou town. Sefrou is known for its historical Jewish population and its annual cherry festival held annually every June. Karim also told us about the beauty contest during the festival where Moroccan women participate to win the title of Miss Cherry.
Apart from the festival, Sefrou is also renowned for its modest waterfall (Cascades de Sefrou), a 1.5km walk west of town. Honestly, the waterfall is nothing, wow, but it was worth visiting another panoramic stop on the way back to Sefrou.
I enjoyed our short visit to the peaceful Bhalil and its surroundings. Next time, I will stay there overnight to feel the daily rhythm and mingle with the locals.