After visiting Fes a few years back, we knew Morocco was a country we needed to explore more. So, what better time to go than to celebrate our 5 year anniversary? This time we chose to head up into the Rif Mountains to visit the famous blue town of Chefchaouen, or “Chaouen” as it is known by locals. This picturesque place is located just a bus, ferry, and taxi ride away from our home in Cádiz, Spain. It may seem like a bit of a trek to get there, but it really is quite simple and definitely worth it.
How to Get There:
The easiest way to get to Chefchaouen is by first arriving in Tarifa and taking the ferry across the strait. We set out from Cádiz at about 10:30 AM and took the hour and a half bus to Tarifa, followed by the 1 PM ferry to Tangier. The ferry itself takes less than an hour, but if you don’t get in line for passport check right away (which is on the actual ferry), you could be looking at a much longer trip. My advice is to get in line to get your passport stamped as soon as you board the boat. That way you’ll get off in Tangier in a more timely manner or maybe even have some time to sit and enjoy the remainder of the ferry ride afterwards.
Once you step on Moroccan soil, you have a few options to get to Chefchaouen:
- Bus – by far the cheapest option, but also the longest option. Check out the CTM bus company for times, they have buses to Chefchaouen a couple times a day.
- Local taxi – prices for this option will vary quite a bit depending on your driver and haggling skills, but should still be cheaper than arranging a private taxi. Keep in mind that you’ll need to switch taxis in Tetouan due to driver regulations.
- Private taxi – This is the option we went with as it was the quickest and easiest. 90€ for a 2 1/2 hour ride may be a little pricey, but not having to deal with bargaining prices and possibly getting scammed made it worth it. Not to mention we had a great driver and brand new car, making the ride much more enjoyable. We booked through Tangier Taxi on the way there and arranged a return taxi through our hostel in Chefchaouen (which was considerably cheaper at about 50€ total).
Where to Stay:
You’ll find all types of accommodation in Chefchaouen, including luxury hotels, backpacker hostels, and Airbnbs. No matter which you choose, I recommend staying inside the medina, as that’s the place you’ll spend most of your time exploring. We stayed a great hostel called Riad Baraka, right in the heart of the medina where we booked a private room for 25€ a night. They also had a beautiful rooftop terrace with awesome views and a tasty breakfast for just 2.50€.
What to Do:
The main attraction of Chefchaouen is the city itself, so spend some time getting lost in the winding blue streets, enjoying the tranquil atmosphere, and taking stunning photos. For hiking enthusiasts, there are also a bunch of trails leading into the Rif Mountains that you can access just behind the medina.
One of the big pluses of this town specifically is the laid-back vibe. When compared to Morocco’s bigger cities, you’ll be hassled a lot less and most store vendors will let you browse their goods pressure-free. Not feeling like everyone wants to rip you off or be your “guide” for a small fee made our visit that much less stressful and was a definite added bonus.
Chefchaouen is of course famous for its unique color, but it’s also known for its large feline population. You’d be hard pressed to walk more than a few minutes without coming across a furry friend enjoying a nice cat nap in the sun or scrounging for something to eat. So go ahead and photograph, pet, and play with these friendly street kitties, but just don’t get too attached because you can’t take them with you (trust me, I checked).
One of the main sites to see is Plaza Uta el-Hammam where you’ll find the Grande Mosque and the kasbah. I’d definitely recommend paying the 10 dirham (1€) to enter the kasbah and explore this beautiful walled fortress. Inside you’ll find a small museum and art gallery as well as lush gardens. If you climb to the top, you’ll get an amazing 360º view of the town and surrounding mountains.
Lastly, be sure to spend a good amount of time browsing the hundreds of little shops full of traditional clothing, textiles, pottery, beauty products, and crafts. There’s something for everyone’s taste, just be sure your bargaining skills are on point, because unless you see a fixed price, it’s all negotiable. A few of the souvenirs we picked up included a handmade blanket, Cedar cutting board, handmade soaps, essential oil, and a tajine candle holder. If you’re looking for all natural beauty products, don’t miss La Botica de la Abuela Aladdin just north of the main plaza. You’ll find high quality soaps, lotions, oils, perfumes, and more for very reasonable prices.
What to Eat:
What would a trip to Morocco be without enjoying their delicious cuisine? One of my favorites is the “pastilla”, which is shredded chicken mixed with nuts and seasoning, wrapped in filo dough, and topped with cinnamon and sugar. It may sound strange to mix chicken and sugar, but trust me, it’s the best. Other traditional dishes include kefta, all the tajines your heart desires, and a variety of couscous recipes sure to satisfy your hunger. Finally, your day is never complete without a cup (or five) of mint tea. Even if it’s 100 degrees outside, you’ll still see everyone sipping this hot sugary drink. We liked to start our morning with some mint tea and “msemen”, a crepe-like bread which is usually topped with honey, cheese, or both. Yum!
With all that sightseeing, shopping, and eating, you’re sure to get a good taste of Chefchaouen in just a couple of days. If you’re left wanting more, there are so many other beautiful cities to explore in Morocco, such as Marrakech, Fes, and Essaouira. The only question is, where to next?
Have you visited Morocco or Chefchaouen? Did I miss anything? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!