This surreal, blue-washed city leaves you feeling relaxed – and the prevalence of kif(marijuana) growing freely in fields nearby may contribute to such a sense of peacefulness… Chefchaouen is perched between mountain ranges and with a restored kasbah and beautiful medina, it truly is a stunning Moroccan destination. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of some of the other cities, then this is your place. One of the highlights of our trip was sleeping under the stars on the rooftop of an old blue riad, and waking up in the morning to the sounds of donkeys from the surrounding farmland – a truly breathtaking experience.
Where To Go
- Wandering around the Kasbah and medina is a definite must. With many cafés, shops and blue-washed streets, it is a never-ending marvel to explore.
- See the traditional clothes washing area at the top of the river, where people still go to wash their clothes today
- 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. If you’re lucky – you might even see some goats up a tree, which is a sight that you have to see to believe.
- Nearby there are the Cascades d’Akchour which are quite beautiful but full of people, and ruined a bit by this fact. The Bridge of God is also a Grand Taxi trip away, but with fewer tourists it may be a better alternative to the Cascades.
The view from the Spanish Mosque
The perfect little laneways of Chefchaouen
Where To Stay
This really depends on your scene, I tried two different places here and could easily see that they suited two different kinds of backpacker.
Pension Souika is a smoker’s paradise – so it wasn’t ideal for me from the outset. 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, it did harden 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, we caught the bus directly from Casablanca, 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 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.
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.
- Just on the outskirts of the old town, near the tourist bus ticket office, there is a great local café with super cheap prices. The Moroccan friends that we were 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. Pokey little restaurant which is stacked full of character.
- 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. We booked into one and eventually had to move somewhere else, as it wasn’t our style. But there are definitely kif-free alternatives for backpackers, just read traveller reviews carefully.
- 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.