Compared to Marrakech of Fes, there are fewer things to do and see in Chefchaouen. Some travelers even choose to limit their visit to only a few hours by turning it into a day trip to Chefchaouen from Fes or Casablanca. But if you do have some time to spare, save it for this unique location just to let yourself explore a different side of Morocco.
By the time we reached Chefchaouen, it was the end of our second week of traveling around the country. Although we’ve gotten quite used to the fact that in Morocco, the scenery, mood, architecture, and people change dramatically from city to city, Chefchaouen, the last stop on our Morocco itinerary, was yet to surprise us.
Why is Chefchaouen blue?
There are a few legends explaining the origins of the blue-washed buildings of Chaouen. Some of them are deeply spiritual and refer to the customs that the Jews of the town brough to the community. There is, however, a much less romantic explanation. The town is spectacularly blue simply because the local government made an arrangement to keep it this way to make it attractive to the tourists. Whichever is the real story, it is hard to deny that Chefchaouen’s colorful blue medina is definitely worth visiting.
Compared to the loud, busy, and hot Fes, Chaouen was quieter and more reserved. Nestled in the Rif Mountains, it was also a bit colder. Our trip to Marrakech taught us a lot about the traffic in this country. Alas, whatever confidence we gained during our 2 weeks in Morocco, it vanished on the very first hairpin turn to Chaouen’s Medina. Try backing up from a truck on a narrow street with cars parked on both sides and maneuvering its hairpin curves, and you’ll get the idea. We later learned that parking in and out when in Chaouen also required new skills and patience.
Why visit Chefchaouen?
The overall vibe of the town is very unique. It certainly differs from other Moroccan destinations. Marrakech is polished by millions of tourists and the city even adjusted to a certain frivolity that thousands of visitors bring to it (it is not frowned upon to wear shirts with spaghetti straps or skirts above the knew among many other things). Essaouira is a very laid-back coastal town with its rooftop terraces (among other great things to do) encouraging one to be a bit lazy and relaxed, while old and busy Fes, on the other hand, immerses into long walks and suggests the rush to take in as much information as possible.
The blue gem of Morocco, Chaouen, is well-equipped to meet the tourists. The colored wash on the walls is kept fresh at all times. The numerous porches and side streets are set to be the perfect backdrop for the pictures. There are souvenir shops on every corner. And yet, the town managed to maintain a very residential feel to it. Not many of its locals are happy with the tourists. There is nothing hostile or aggressive about it, but you will surely grasp that feeling of protection that many of the Medina’s inhabitants have as an attempt to preserve their life while the travelers are flooding the streets.
With this protection come many cute and genuine Chefchaouen activities that the bigger cities turned into well-rehearsed tourist attractions. We soon discovered that one of the best places to visit, as well as one of our most favorite things to do in Chefchaouen, was going to the small barn-of-some-sort where an old Moroccan man was caramelizing and selling peanuts.
As the crowd of locals (and our small company of three delighted travelers) stood patiently in the long line, Dirham coins clinking in our palms, the old man did not seem to be in any rush at all. He slowly melted sugar in a big bowl over a small portable gas stove. When the syrup was ready, he tossed peanuts into it and we all watched the sugar crystallize on them.
The line, of course, attracted passersby to approach, and when they tried distracting the old man with questions about the price or the flavors, he would imperturbably grab some of the cooked nuts and give it to the newcomers. No words. No explanations. Eyes on the syrup and the crystallizing product. Those who asked then tried the freebie and afterward, everyone did the same thing, which was finding the end of the line and joining.
Trust us, it was well worth the wait. Some tourists bring paintings, colorful dishes, or carpets from their Moroccan trips. We were ready to empty our suitcases and to fill them with those caramelized peanuts (but, to be honest, I did manage to buy a carpet, too).
In many ways, Chaouen is very conservative, and for some reason, I feel like it will manage to maintain its authenticity, even with more tourists coming to it. For this feeling alone, the feeling of true authenticity, we write this Chefchaouen travel blog and strongly encourage everyone to include at least 1 day in this town into the Moroccan itinerary.
Chefchaouen, Morocco: top 10 fun things to do
Medina of this centuries-old town is, of course, the main attraction. Without being afraid to state the obvious, we would say that wandering its narrow colorful streets is one of the top things to do in Chefchaouen, Morocco. And as you are wandering, you might also want to try…
…Trekking to the Spanish mosque of Chefchaouen
This is, by all means, the best view of Chefcaouen. A short and easy hike starts right from one of the streets of Medina and takes you atop one of the hills surrounding the town. The Spanish mosque is its main landmark. It was built during the Rif War but never functioned as the shrine.
The views from the mosque are stunning. The entire town with its beautiful blue hues lies below the hill, in the valley. On a clear sunny day, the clouds are the perfect frame for this colorful picture. This is also a great place to head to for the lovely sunsets.
…Finding Chefchaouen’s Ras El Maa Waterfall
This is an easy task as the waterfall is located within the medina, on the way to the Spanish mosque. In the dry season, you may end up finding a weak stream of water, but if you are lucky, and there’s been plenty of rain, the waterfall is strong and powerful. This place gathers both tourists and locals. The residents still come here to do some washing.
…Bargaining in Chefchaouen’s souks
Everyone who comes to Chefchaouen’s markets after Fes and Marrakech notices that the merchants here are more relaxed and lots of dialogue is added to the classic bargaining, which makes this process so much more fun. Shopping comes with less pressure, while the selection of goods is as big and diverse as on the markets in the big cities.
…Taking lots of pictures
The list of places to see in Chefchaouen might be limited to a couple of landmarks, but the blue streets will definitely keep you busy for a while. Even when you think you’ve had enough pictures from this town, there will always be another cute-blue-porch-to-sit-on behind the next corner.
…Trying local food
While most of Morocco was under French influence, Chefchaouen was the Spanish colony, which makes the area’s food very different from something you’d try in other parts of the country. This especially applies to the local pastries. Also, there is nothing like a cold light yogurt with honey for breakfast in a cozy cafe on the main square of the blue city.
….Befriending Chefchaouen cats
This might not be a classic tip on the list of Chefchaouen’s top things to do, but those cats are everywhere, claiming the town, and starring on all the photos.
…Relaxing in Chefchaouen’s SPA
If you are like us, coming to Chaouen in October when it is not very hot in town, then the SPA might be a great idea. The Medina map will point you to quite a few resorts in the old town, and there are also plenty of places to visit outside the Medina.
…Exploring the Kasbah
One of the few not-blue-buildings in this town is the kasbah that dates back to the 15th century. It is located in the center of the Medina and exploring this building with its 11 towers will keep you busy for a couple of hours.
…Enjoying terrace views of the night town…
…and drinking mint tea is another thing that we must mention in this Chefchaouen travel guide. For some reason, we did not enjoy any of the cafes opened in the main square in the evening. However, sipping tea on the terrace of our riad and enjoying the views of the town at night was definitely one of the biggest highlights of our 36 hours in Chefchaouen. It also felt like a well-deserved rest after two busy weeks in Morocco and kept me distracted from wondering how on earth I would fit a carpet I spontaneously bought in one of the souks into my tiny suitcase.
…Hiking to the Akchour waterfall
In Chefchaouen, hiking is possible not only to the town’s mosque on the hill but also to the beautiful cascades of Akchour. These are located outside of town, and you will either need to get there by car or book a guided tour. Also, if there’s only one day in Chefchaouen on your itinerary, and you would still like to check all the must-see places both the Medina and the Rif mountains, you will need to wake up early.
The destination is a bit tricky because there are a few artificial waterfalls not far from the parking. However, those of you who will dare to manage a slightly demanding hike will be able to enjoy scenic views and the beautiful nature falls. Also, if you arrive early enough, you might find time to hike to the God’s Bridge, a unique rock formation located in the area.
The hike of Akchour is about 45 minutes long to get to the lower waterfalls. It will take about two hours to reach the Grand Cascade.
Chefchaouen Trip: Frequently Asked Questions
Is a day trip from Casablanca to Chefchaouen a good idea?
It might be a plan, considering that the distance between the two locations is short and you can reach the blue town quickly by car or with a guided tour. Getting to Chefcaouen from Casablanca by public transportation will take more than seven hours. If you have an extra day to spare, we would recommend turning it into a 2 day trip from Casablanca to Chefchaouen for the sake of enjoying the town at night while sipping on a mint tea on one of its many terraces and spending the night in one of its authentic riads.
How to get to Chefchaouen?
The best and easiest way to get to Chefchaouen is by car. For a Fes to Chefchaouen day trip, you may either opt-in for a guided tour, or try your luck with the public buses leaving from the main station. CTM runs five to six buses a day. In a high season, though, these may be all sold out. There are several other companies, too. By bus, it will be between 4 and a half to 5 hours on the road.
Where to stay in Chefchaouen?
Anywhere in Medina would be great. This area of Chefchaouen offers lots of colorful traditional riad-style AirBnB apartments. If there is an option to get a riad with a terrace, do not hesitate one bit. One of the best things to do in Chefchaouen at night is sitting on one of these terraces, drinking tea, listening to the evening prayer, and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
What else is there to do in Chefchaouen at night?
The town falls asleep quite early. The main square, however, has a few cafes working late hours, and many visitors head there or to any of the big hotels in the Medina (like Parador and Atlas) for a glass of wine and a night panorama. While we are on the subject of alcohol in Chaouen, there are only a couple of places that will serve drinks, and you won’t be able to buy a bottle and take it with you.
What is there to see in Chefchaouen in winter?
For Chefchaouen, the list of must-see places for winter will not differ much. We explored the town in October, and it was relatively cold in the mornings and evenings. Some travelers we met on the road shared their experience about visiting Chefchaouen in winter and admitted that it is predictably colder December through February. The weather is milder during the daytime, however. Also, there were almost no tourists, and the hiking trails were not crowded.
Written by Inessa Rezanova
I am a Kyiv-based screenwriter with 10+ years of experience in producing scripts. I love my job, and no, I did not quit it to travel the world. I see different countries in my spare time. As a storyteller, I believe that it is the emotional journey that matters the most. This is why together with my sister I started this blog to encourage everyone to travel and to do so with a heart and mind opened to adventures.
Images by Natalie Rezanova
I am a photographer based in Kyiv, Ukraine. I am lucky to be able to do what I love the most for a living. Photography is an endless source of inspiration for me. My mission on this blog is to inspire by sharing some of the favorite captions from my journeys. I also provide professional photography tips to help the readers bring home some beautiful photo memories.