Long before Chefchaouen
came to be a town
this place in the Rif Mountains
was called a sacred zone.
They believed it had supernatural powers
bringing pilgrims and marabouts
it’s no wonder for nearly five hundred years
they fought to keep all foreigners out.
Forgotten by the government
hidden by the hills
they lived as free ones
all men exercised their wills.
They grew and smoked kif
a transcendental herb
now produced commercially
illegally sold on every curb.
Today Chefchaouen is full
of every kind of tourist
each seeking and finding
his own version of euphoric.
From wanderlust photographers
to “dirty backpacking hippies”
Moroccans on vacation
Chefchaouen is that pretty.
The blue walls and streets and stairs and doors
a reminder of the blue heavens above
getting lost in the Medina’s maze
you may quickly fall in love.
The father of the prophet
whose tomb resides here
nicknamed “little cat”
his spirit is everywhere.
Beyond the medina’s maze
a vast and enchanting landscape
wonderland for hikers and climbers
a paradise of mountain escapes.
But I had my moments of guilt and sadness
considering what tourism took away
on backstreets I was an outsider
faced with children who were angry.
On the walk to the Old Spanish Mosque
where Muslims once went to pray
now shut down entirely
because of too many tourists in the way.
Still when I sat alone in the hillside
with the pureness of simplicity
for the first time in a long time
I felt the magic of mystery.
After feeling lost in Morocco
I felt this place heal me.
From the viewpoint of the mountains
looking down at the city maze
I shifted my perspective
and I finally found my way.
I remembered that nature knows no boundaries
it doesn’t see right or wrong
it loves us all equally
we are all made of God.
What heals us can hurt us
what breaks us can make us strong
when we’re absolute outsiders
we can find where we belong.
So I sat in silence
like the saints and pilgrims before me
honored and blessed by Chefchaouen
receiving and offering loving energy.
This American Girl’s Guide to Chefchaouen
How to Get to Chefchaouen
Once 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), Fez (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.
Where to Stay in Chefchaouen
You will find many inexpensive guesthouses in the medina in Chefchaouen, though do not expect the luxury Riads of Fez 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).
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.
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.
For clothing, textiles, and other handicrafts, I much prefer the wares in Chefchaouen to bigger shopping cities like Fez and Marrakech. Because the souks are small, you find consistently higher quality goods, unlike Fez 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.