One of the most breathtaking natural sights in the Middle Atlas, the Friouato Cave complex, 26 km (16 miles) from Taza, includes North Africa's deepest caverns—they extend steeply down 520 stairs to a depth of 590 feet. Explored by the eminent French speleologist Norbert Casteret in 1930, the caves consist of various large chambers filled with enormous stalagmites in strange and fantastic shapes and colors. Chambers such as the Salle de Lixus, the Salle de Draperies,
and the Salle Casteret lead through what has been referred to as an underground palace. This experience is not advised for claustrophobes or the faint of heart (or knee). The caves are muddy and wet, the climb down and back is strenuous, and opportunities for minor injuries are many since you must squeeze through narrow crevices and slick passageways. As with many caves, the Friouato Caves are home to a large colony of bats. Proper hiking footwear and waterproof warm clothes are recommended, as are powerful flashlights; you can rent protective clothing and helmet lights for 50 DH.