Chefchaouen; the blue city. Rich in history and buzzing with culture, Chefchaouen is carving out it’s own chunk of the tourist Dirham with good reason. Gorgeous blue rinsed buildings are set against the towering mountains which give the city its name; nestled amongst the clouds of the northern tip of the Atlas mountain range.
There’s a laid back mood, likely attributed to by the booming cannabis industry in the Rif Mountains behind the city, and it’s that atmosphere which endears tourists. The Chefchaouen buzz is quickly spreading throughout the chill seekers in Europe.
Heading to Chefchaouen from Tangier as we were, there are two realistic options; bus and Grand Taxi. Due to time constraints and a desire for immediate relaxation, we chose the taxi option.
Bus – There will be numerous buses departing from Tangier bus station (Gare Routiére), most of which are privately run (quality not guaranteed). You can turn up on the day to buy tickets if you like the risk factor, but if you prefer to pre-book you can buy tickets online through national bus service CTM. CTM buses depart from Tangier to Chefchaouen 1-2 times per day, cost around 45MAD (£3) per person and take 3-4 hours, including a stop in Tetouan. CTM busses are of a fair quality and will run not too far from their advertised times, however they do run on Morocco time, ‘god willing’ (Insha’Allah), which is very relaxed so expect to depart anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour after the scheduled time.
Taxi – Read the guide to Moroccan taxis HERE. Since we wanted to get to Chefchaouen ASAP we decided to just pay the extra and hire a car to take us. Our host in Chaouen helped us with getting a local car rather than haggle in Tangier and we arranged to pay 500MAD (£35) for the roughly two hour trip, including collection from our Airbnb in Tangier; which saved us a taxi outside the Medina. As explained in the guide, you can get it for much cheaper if you want to wait for others to join you and share the car.
The trip was comfortable and fast, although most cars (ours included) don’t have seat-belts. Our tourist ignorance was taken advantage of for the second time on our trip when our driver demanded we pay an extra 100MAD once we had arrived. Everyone will always pressure you to pay more for everything, so be prepared to argue for the agreed price and stick to it. Our ride cost 600MAD (£42) for two of us and this was the last time we were such easy pushovers.
Using Airbnb we found a shared house with a balcony overlooking the Medina for 610MAD (£43) per night, including service fees and an excellent breakfast both mornings. If you come across Ricardo & Nieves in your searches you shouldn’t go past them, they are exceptional hosts and we were very happy staying with them.
There are a plethora of accommodation options in and around the Medina, each with their pros & cons, it just depends on what your budget and preference is. Chefchaouen is small enough to walk around so don’t be deterred if a place is slightly outside the Medina walls; nowhere is more than a 20-25 minute walk away.
Hostels are very cheap in Chefchaouen: dorm rooms start from around 70MAD (£5) and private rooms start from 100MAD (£7).
Hotels are often just b&b’s and prices start at 355MAD (£25) per night, but legitimate hotels like the Parador have double rooms from 500MAD (£35) to 1420MAD (£100) per night.
Hint – The Hotel Parador has one of the few bars serving alcohol in the city and is open to the public.
The main features in the Medina are the Castle, and the Mosque in the main square. Spend half a day wandering around the Souks, markets and cafes. We stopped at ‘Sofia’; a restaurant locally famous for being run by women (a rarity), and had an incredible lunch. We thought we splurged and our bill came to 110MAD (£8) for both of us.
Take a walk east to the water supply and continue up towards the abandoned Mosque that overlooks the city. If you time it right you will get a beautiful view of the sun setting over the mountain range. There is also a river flowing through the city to take advantage of, with cafes and seating amongst some gorgeous landscaped gardens, paths and bridges.
Dinner at a good local restaurant will set you back around 120MAD (£8.50) for two people; we visited ‘Bab Ssour’ and ate an exceptional meal on their beautiful terrace. They also sell the delicious tea they make on site, dry, in a good sized bag for 10MAD (£0.70).
The Rif Mountains behind the city offer some spectacular walks for those who are keen. A Taxi will get you to Akchour in about 40 minutes and cost around 300MAD (£21) return for the whole car. You need a fair level of fitness and good shoes for some of the best views, and it’s about 3-4 hours of walking. It’s also worth getting a guide in Akchour (ask for Fadal); we hired Fadal for 150Dirhams (£10.50) via a recommendation from our Airbnb host, and it was one of the best experiences of our trip. He takes you through hundreds of acres of Marijuana fields high up to his village where he shows you the local trade. From there you walk to the bridge of God, which is an impressive natural bridge, swim in the crystal clear river, visit a waterfall and finish up with a lunch at his friends café. Good stuff!
Hint – Don’t be intimidated by the Marijuana and hash trade, it’s how these people make a living and although not strictly legal, it’s common knowledge what goes on there. Be respectful and polite, and partake if you wish, or decline all the same.
Chefchaouen for two nights;
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