This American Girl's Guide to Chefchaouen
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Chefchaouen’s Blue Mystery

Chefchaoeun

 

Long before Chefchaouen

came to be a town

 

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this place in the Rif Mountains

was called a sacred zone.

 

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They believed it had supernatural powers

bringing pilgrims and marabouts

 

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it’s no wonder for nearly five hundred years

they fought to keep all foreigners out.

 

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Forgotten by the government

hidden by the hills

 

akchour

 

they lived as free ones

all men exercised their wills.

 

akchour

 

They grew and smoked kif

a transcendental herb

 

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now produced commercially

illegally sold on every curb.

 

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Today Chefchaouen is full

of every kind of tourist

 

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each seeking and finding

his own version of euphoric.

 

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From wanderlust photographers

to “dirty backpacking hippies”

 

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Moroccans on vacation

Chefchaouen is that pretty.

 

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The blue walls and streets and stairs and doors

a reminder of the blue heavens above

 

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getting lost in the Medina’s maze

you may quickly fall in love.

 

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The father of the prophet

whose tomb resides here

 

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nicknamed “little cat”

his spirit is everywhere.

 

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Beyond the medina’s maze

a vast and enchanting landscape

 

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wonderland for hikers and climbers

a paradise of mountain escapes.

 

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But I had my moments of guilt and sadness

considering what tourism took away

 

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on backstreets I was an outsider

faced with children who were angry.

 

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On the walk to the Old Spanish Mosque

where Muslims once went to pray

 

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now shut down entirely

because of too many tourists in the way.

 

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Still when I sat alone in the hillside

with the pureness of simplicity

 

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for the first time in a long time

I felt the magic of mystery.

 

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After feeling lost in Morocco

I felt this place heal me.

 

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From the viewpoint of the mountains

looking down at the city maze

 

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I shifted my perspective

and I finally found my way.

 

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I remembered that nature knows no boundaries

it doesn’t see right or wrong

 

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it loves us all equally

we are all made of God.

 

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What heals us can hurt us

what breaks us can make us strong

 

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when we’re absolute outsiders

we can find where we belong.

 

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So I sat in silence

like the saints and pilgrims before me

 

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honored and blessed by Chefchaouen

receiving and offering loving energy.

 

 

This American Girl’s Guide to Chefchaouen

 

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How to Get to Chefchaouen

 

One a remote village that few Westerners had ever heard of, Chefchaouen is now highly accessible and one of the most popular destinations in Morocco. Buses connect with Tangier (2.5 hours, 3.5 euros), Fes (4.5 hours, 7.5 euros), Tetoun (1.5 hours, 1.5 euros), Casablanca (5.5 hours, 6 euros), and Rabat (4 hours, 5 euros). You can check with CTM bus for the schedule. There are two stops in Chefchaouen, one near the Medina and one at the bus station. If you go all the way to the bus station, the taxi should cost 10 MAD to get to the main square near the Hotel Parador. Don’t bother asking the price, they may try to get you to pay more, just give them 10 MAD. You can also explore Chefchaouen by car, which is a wonderful way to enjoy the countryside and easily visit nearby waterfalls.

 

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Where to Stay in Chefchaouen

 

You will find many inexpensive guesthouses in the medina in Chefchaouen, though do not expect the luxury Riads of Fes and Marrakech. Stay in the medina as it’s the most scenic area. Budget backpackers and solo travelers tend to stay at Pensione Souika (6 euros for a dorm bed). While extremely basic, it’s probably the best place to meet people if you’re young and traveling alone. The rooms are clean, beds are comfy, but the atmosphere is extremely lacking. Expect fluorescent lighting and loud Moroccans shouting and watching football on the television in the lobby until late. Some nice and inexpensive hotels if you’re sharing rooms with friends or have a bigger budget include Dar Dadclief (starting at 25 euros per person), Dar Mounier (33 euros for a private single), and Casa Perleta (starting at 45 euros for a private room).

 

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What to Eat in Chefchaouen

 

Chefchaouen is not exactly known for its culinary arts, and most restaurants serve rather bland Moroccan dishes. What the mountain town is famous for, however, is its exceptionally delicious goat cheese from local farms. It’s some of the best cheese I’ve ever tasted and every restaurant will have it on the menu. You can pick up the cheese from small shops and street vendors, as well as fresh goat milk and organic in season produce sold by Berber women. Chefchoeun is also renowned for its excellent pastries and there are plenty of small pastry shops. Do not leave Chefchaouen without trying one of its signature desserts, a layered fruit parfait with nuts and avocado cream. They sell them at the sandwich shop just across from the Hotel Parador.

 

Basically every restaurant has the exact same breakfast menu (freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee/tea, and toast or eggs with fresh goat cheese and olives for 25 MAD). I recommend picking a place with the best atmosphere since the food and price will be basically the same. I liked Café Mounier, which sits in the main square, but feels much more laid back than the other spots.

 

Aladin’s, in the main square above a bustling café, is probably the best-reviewed and most touristic restaurant in town. Dishes are about double the price of what you’ll find in the street, but the terrace has amazing views and the food is slightly higher quality. It’s worth coming here at least once. I’ve also heard good things about Assadaa.

 

The best culinary experience I’ve ever had in Morocco was two years ago in Chefchaouen, when a local man cooked a delicious meal for my friends and I. One night we passed by a little pastry shop (I don’t know the name) directly next to Hostal VallParadis and I asked the man if he had tagine. He only had pastries, but since there were five of us, he said that for 10 euros each he could prepare us a big dinner the following night. It was some of the best Moroccan food I’ve ever had (and I have Moroccan family and have eaten real Moroccan food many times). If you’re open to a little bit of adventure, seek him out and tell him I sent you.

 

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What to Do in Chefchaouen

 

Wander the Medina

Chefchaouen has, in my opinion, the most beautiful medina of any city in Morocco, with streets all painted in vibrant blue hues. It’s relatively small so even if you get lost you will find your way out. Whether you’re a photographer or not, the medina offers incredible eye candy on every corner.

 

Shopping

For clothing, textiles, and other handicrafts, I much prefer the wares in Chefchaouen to bigger shopping cities like Fes and Marrakech. Because the souks are small, you find consistently higher quality goods, unlike Fes where you have to sift through a lot of crap. The leather bags and woven tablecloths (which make a perfect beach blanket) are my favorite items that are made in Chefchaouen. People are also pretty laid back here, which means you can browse without as much pressure as in other cities. That said, it’s still Morocco, so be prepared to haggle and to be solicited on the street.

 

Walk to the Spanish Mosque

A short hike up from the main town is the lookout point of the old Spanish Mosque. The walk is nice, you pass the local “waterfall” which is a river lined with some cafes and locals washing their laundry. Along the way you will see sheep, goats, and local village people. I recommend bringing a book or a picnic and spending some time sitting at the top and just feeling the energy. Keep in mind, it’s very touristic and don’t be surprised if people try to sell you things along the way.

 

Hiking in the Rif Mountains

It’s easy to take some trails up from the town into the mountains, though I’m not entirely sure where any of them lead. I’ve read that there are marijuana plantations up there, so you do need to be careful. As a woman traveling alone I didn’t feel too comfortable to set off on one on my own, but if you’re with a group I imagine you’d be just fine. Otherwise you can organize a guide through your hotel to take you hiking, and even stay overnight in the mountains, which must be a very special experience.

 

Trip to Akchour

The most popular day trip from Chefchaouen, and a very worthwhile one, is taking a taxi out to the waterfalls of Akchour. It’s about a 40 minute drive, and the taxis will charge 30 euros (300 MAD) round trip. There is a ton to see at Akchour, many hiking trails, so try to go early and spend the entire day there. It takes over 2 hours to hike to the big waterfall and about 1.5 hours to hike to God’s bridge. Bring a swimsuit, especially in the summer, the water is cold but beautiful. You can bring snacks and a picnic, but it’s not necessary as there are local “restaurants” serving tagine cooked over a fire all along the trails.

 

For more information on Chefchaoeun, check out the very comprehensive guide on wikitravel.

 


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Comments

  1. Great article! Makes me want to go there. However I have mixed feelings about traveling there as a woman alone. It sounds like you find solo travel there okay?

    • Loved this! Thanks,
      Mom

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 19, 2015 at 4:06 am

      Yes it’s pretty chill there, though Morocco in general isn’t the easiest for a woman traveling alone. I’ve not felt like I was in danger before, but there is constant attention and harassment even if you’re covered up. Unfortunately some activities like hiking and going to the waterfalls I wouldn’t want to do as a woman alone. This is why it’s nice to stay places where you can meet other travelers and go together, or do an organized tour with a reputable guide.

  2. Beautiful pictures and beautiful story xx

  3. I’m enjoying your blog a lot!

    I’m living in Lapland now, and I have been to Chefchaouen and just loved it there too! I felt a bit anxious through some of Morocco, and then very much at peace in Chefchaouen. It’s a beautiful place with such relaxed people. When I was there, I got myself introduced to a music teacher at the local conservatory, and he taught me some Moroccan scales and music – he had a piano I could play on while he played the violin.

    I also was really taken by how the whole town comes alive in the evening – I believe it’s right after dinner – when everyone goes for a walk/promenade – the whole town goes out (I think it was every day) and walks for an hour or so, and they all see their friends and extended family, the young ones flirt, etc. It was really great.

    Best wishes to you on your amazing journey.

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 20, 2015 at 10:08 am

      Yes I agree! It’s so peaceful there. I’d love to go back to Chefchaouen and go camping at the waterfalls with a group of friends. I didn’t feel safe doing that on my own. Thank you so much, please enjoy Lapland, another magical place :)

  4. Oh my goodness, I can’t get over that BLUE! Gorgeous photographs and words. I had never heard of Chefchaouen before reading your post, but you’ve convinced me that it’s worth a visit someday!

  5. I have just finished a round the world trip for a kickstarter book project I launched on the costs and after effects of US military interventions. wartheafterparty.com. I am in Cambodia after completing the tour (stayed in Otres 2 at the Castaways and now at Vagabond Temple yoga center on Independence Beach). So I know of the big challenge in turning one’s insights and observations into a coherent narrative. You are doing one amazing job of it.

    • Camille Willemain Says: April 21, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Thank you so much! Did you know I stayed in Otres 2 as well?? They’re like my family, they still email me sometimes. I miss them. I heard Otres II has gotten a lot more built up recently…

  6. […] I recommend the bus mostly for short distances and places that you cannot reach by train like Chefchaouen.  Here you can find the timetables for CTM bus and Supratours (make sure it says […]

  7. […] However in smaller towns when I’m harassed, I make it clear that it’s wrong and why. In Chefchaouen a man outside my hostel said “nice ass” as I walked by. When I returned, I explained to him […]

  8. […] I got to the top I realized something. Somewhere between hiking to waterfalls in the mountains, dodging harassment in the souks, and working through my fear of the ocean, I was regaining the […]

  9. […] from the mountains in Chefchaoeun […]

  10. […] Chefchaouan’s Blue Mystery – This American Girl […]

  11. Can travelers in chaoun stay at souika if they r unmarried? Stay on terrace? I’m american traveling with my morrc friend man

  12. Hi! I loved your post. I’m planning a 14 day trip through Morocco, and was wondering how many days to spend in Chefchaouen. How many would you recommend? Is 3 enough,or 4 better? Thank you!

    • Camille Willemain Says: November 5, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Hi dear!! 3 is ok… though maybe 4 if you arrive late on the first day or leave early the first day. I’d plan for one full day at the waterfalls at Akchour, one full day to just wander and enjoy the town, and at least another full day if you want to go hiking in the mountains.

  13. […] I continued on, to Chefchaouen, aware that I might die in Morocco, but at least I stood the chance of feeling alive […]