Chefchaouen is perched between mountain ranges and with a restored kasbah and beautiful medina, it truly is a stunning destination. The encircling old town walls are a reminder of the city's past, being founded in the 1400s as a fortress. Nobody really knows why all the walls here are painted blue, although there are a few popular theories, but it is supposed to represent the sky and heaven. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of some of the other Moroccan cities, like Marrakech, then this is your place. The blue-washed walls give a sense of surrealism, and the omnipresent kif growing in the surrounding fields contributes to the relaxed atmos. One of the highlights of my trip to Morocco was sleeping under the stars on the rooftop of a beautiful blue riad in the old town of Chefchaouen, and waking up in the morning to the sounds of donkeys from the surrounding farmland.
Although with the rise of Instagram it seems as though Chefchaouen may not be the same under-explored destination as it was when I visited several years ago, the charm here remains. The real magic of this city lies not so much in the attractions, but the atmosphere. Wandering through the blue-washed streets while sipping freshly-squeezed orange juice feels like being in an entirely different world. Being located in the northern area of Morocco means that there is a lot of Spanish influence in the realms of food and language.
If you are visiting Morocco then a trip to Chefchaouen is strongly recommended. It is a unique part of the country, and the world, alike. Take your time and allow yourself to relax among the charm of the old town, you will not regret it. After falling in love with Chefchaouen, I really wanted to share my experiences so have written this quick guide to the city, highlighting the things that I particularly enjoyed.
Where To Go in Chefchaouen
Wandering around the Kasbah and medina is a definite must. Dotted with many cafés and shops it is a never-ending marvel to explore. You can also enter the Kasbah itself which is a beautiful building with lovely views.
See the traditional clothes washing area at the top of the river, where people still go to wash their clothes to this day. It is a bustling part of the community.
Cross over the nearby hill where there is the Spanish Mosque, if you hike up in the evening you will be able to see sun set over the town of Chefchaouen. And if you’re especially lucky you might even see some goats up a tree, which is a sight that you really have to see to believe
Nearby there are the Cascades d’Akchour which are beautiful but full of people which can hamper the experience. The Bridge of God is also only a Grand Taxi trip away, but with fewer tourists around it may be a good alternative to the Cascades.
Walk up and around the city walls for a spectacular view over the Rif mountains and the city itself
Washing clothes at the river
Overlooking the city from the Spanish Mosque
The view from the Spanish Mosque at sunset
The perfect little lane ways of Chefchaouen, complete with many sleeping cats
Where To Stay in Chefchaouen
One of the many blue streets
Chefchaoeun accommodation ranges from somewhat shifty backpacker hostels, to rooftops, to stunningly designed riads; so there really is something for everyone. The type you choose really depends on your scene, I tried two different places here and could easily see that they suited two different kinds of traveller.
Pension Souika is a kif smoker’s paradise – so it wasn’t ideal for me from the outset as this is not my scene. The rooms were cheap and for an even lesser price, you could sleep upstairs on the roof near the chill out area. As I fell asleep to the sound of developing emphysema, so the main positive about this place was that it hardened my non-smoking resolve. Although for people who do come to Chefchaouen to sample the kif this is probably a good place to meet other similar backpackers and camp up in a cheap location.
Casa Amina is where I moved to when I wanted a break from the hostel. This place was run by a gorgeous old man and had recently been restored. With beautiful rooms and couches to relax on, as well as good WiFi, this place felt like a haven. I slept on the roof here for a very good price and had a marvellous time.
How To Get Around
Getting to Chefchaouen can be done from a variety of Moroccan cities. I caught the bus directly from Casablanca which was closest to where I was working at the time, but it also leaves from most other places. It was about 6.5 hours from Casablanca, but the bus was air-conditioned and quite comfortable. Trying to get back was another story; with buses booked out for days, so I was stranded for longer than I had anticipated. So book a return ticket if you know your dates. The main bus station in Chefchaouen is around 1.5km from the medina.
Getting around the area is easier as Chefchaouen is a small city and most of the sites are within walking distance. To get to nearby locations, such as Cascades d’Akchour and the Bridge of God, it is necessary to take a Grand Taxi. For the best deal, make sure your Grand Taxi is full of people (even if this means waiting at the rank for more travellers to arrive in search of a taxi), and agree on a price before you leave.
READ MORE: Young, Female and Working In Morocco
A colourful laneway with local handicrafts for sale
What To Eat
“Prickly Pears” are cactus fruits and Moroccans are mad for them! There will be vendors at the side of the road that will sell them for very good prices if you know how to barter. If you can, bring a local with you so they can help you pick a good one. They are super delicious.
Just on the outskirts of the old town, near the tourist bus ticket office, there is a great local café with super cheap prices. I can't quite remember the name unfortunately, but the Moroccan friends that I was with at the time said that it was good value and authentic.
Granada Restaurant in the medina is very cute and does amazing food! Run by an old man, it has a variety of tajines, couscous, meats and omelets. It's a pokey little restaurant which is stacked full of character and should be your first port of call for a good feed. Plus the sign out the front is absolutely adorable.
Avoid the main square as it can be a bit of a rip-off and less authentic.
The entrance to Restaurant Granada (complete with adorable menu)
Prickly pears on the side of a walk around the town
- People speak Spanish more commonly here than French (unlike other parts of the country), you are better to try and communicate with people in Spanish than in rusty Arabic!
- Book a return trip on the bus, because once you arrive in Chefchaoeun it is really hard to get bus tickets back – so book in advance!
- If you’re not keen on the dope scene, some of the hostels may not be ideal. The one I stayed at was not my style and I had to leave. But there are definitely kif-free alternatives for backpackers, just read traveller reviews carefully and with a grain of salt.
- Some people don’t like you taking pictures of their front doors/houses, so honour someone’s wish if they ask you to stop snapping away. It’s more important to be respectful than have that mad Instagram, believe me, being yelled at by an old lady in Arabic is not that fun.
Looking over the rooftops from near the city walls
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