Before Leaving America, The Language, and What to Pack
What to pack depends on what time of year you’re visiting. Chefchaouen is in the Atlas mountains and the weather is dry. During the summer it’s cooler than the rest of Morocco due to altitude, while in the winter it isn’t freezing cold, due to who knows? Bring a jacket.
Spanish, French, or Arabic is acceptable here. Although when I tried to speak the little Arabic I knew, they didn’t know what the fuck I was saying since Moroccan Arabic is different than classical Arabic. English speakers are harder to come by.
Transportation to and from Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is accessible from Tangier and Fes and smaller cities in between. You can go by bus or taxi. (There is a train option, but you’ll still have to take the bus in between cities.)
Bus from Tangier: Leaves every 1.5 hours starting at 5:30. You can take the bus from the Gare Routiere. Here you’ll find like 8 different buses taking you to any and all cities. The price for a ticket is $2 + $1/bag of luggage. The ride lasts approximately 2 hours because it stops in Tetouan.
Grand Taxi from Tangier: Outside of the Gare Routiere there are taxis waiting under signs declaring where they are traveling to that transport up to 6 people for double the price of a bus ticket, although not really significant. Expect to pay $6/$7 for the ride. The ride lasts approximately 45 minutes-1 hour.
Bus from Chefchaouen: Chefchaouen is one large hill and the Gare Routiere is at the bottom of the hill and is quite small. You’ll need to visit the bus stop to check the times for each bus company. But here’s CTM’s:
Private taxi: Most people do this as a day trip by private taxi or rental car. Totally do-able.
Things to do in Chefchaouen
I think there’s really only 2 things to do in Chefchaouen: explore the medina and smoke some hash. There’s a waterfall nearby also, but I’ve seen so many waterfalls in my life, I’m over it. If you’re new to the waterfall experience and it’s a hot day, go for it.
The medina reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s Salvation Mountain in Southern California except that everything is blue and people actually lived inside. It’s pretty hard not to take a bad picture. The most basic of objects look amazing with the blue background. However, I think the inhabitants are 100% over tourists taking pictures in front of their homes, doors, and stairs. I can imagine it is annoying and they definitely express it with hand gestures.
The merchandise isn’t anything I hadn’t seen in other cities. I really enjoyed the l’artisant Berber where they had entire rooms made of carpet and explained the differences in carpet designs between Nomad, Berber, and Arab, pointing out symbolism in the weaving. However, they’re gonna pull some shit like they’re part of a cooperative that lives in the mountains and women are weaving these things day in and day out and deserve more money. You can just go for the lesson, you don’t need to buy anything. Literally this lesson will be repeated to you in every carpet shop in Morocco and the prices in Chefchaouen are jacked up. See How Not To Shop In Morocco Like A Basic Bitch for more information regarding shopping.
The second thing to do is smoke some hash. Chefchaouen is self-proclaimed the Colombia of Morocco. People were saying it like it was so cool, but obviously had never been to Colombia since Colombians main product ain’t hash. So if someone DOESN’T offer you drugs, you’re actually basic. But the 10 years in jail rule for being caught with drugs still applies (although I didn’t see one police car so I think you’re good). Everyone knows if you’re coming here, there’s a good chance you’re gonna smoke some hash. (I did not.)
What to avoid in Chefchaouen
I mean, I think if someone shakes their finger at you or motions you to get the fuck out of their doorway, you should probably do so to avoid fighting a little old lady. I mean, or you could fight her.
Also, this is not a handicap friendly city as everything is uphill and the floors are not level.
I would not shop in this medina. It’s total tourist trap and most things in the shops are imported from other cities. Unless you see someone making a product himself, I would just avoid buying anything. But really that’s it.
I personally avoided the drugs. But that was a personal choice.
Where to Stay and Where to Eat in Chefchaouen
Casa Annasr is a hotel literally 10 steps from the bus station. It’s super easy to get to and hella convenient if you have bags. They have 3 levels of terraces and it has an absolutely stunning view of the mountains. The décor is great, the wifi is strong, and the people are extremely helpful. I had to cancel a charge on my credit card and they let me use their phone to call The States 3 or 4 times. They will help you with whatever you need, but just know they don’t check in until around 3PM. So you can just leave your bags and then go exploring if you arrive earlier.
The only drawback is it is at the bottom of the hill and you’ll have to constantly walk up-hill to get to the medina or places to eat. But you better enjoy that ass workout. I did it in heels like a boss so don’t come here complaining. There are plenty of little boutique hotels within the medina, but I really liked that I wasn’t stuck in that little blue area. I liked walking around outside where the rest of the people operate.
Most people do Chefchaouenn as a 4-hour day trip and that’s completely acceptable. There’s literally nothing to do but walk around, shop, snap a photo, go home. Obviously there are some hole-in-the-wall local things to do, which is great, but for the purposes of trying to maximize your trip I would just move on unless you have a ton of time.
We consistently ate at a restaurant titled Twins because it was the only place that didn’t serve cold food and was outside of the medina since everything inside of the medina is way more expensive. There are also bakeries that are open 24/7 as well as cafes all around the city. The cafes are normally full of men, and I felt awkward at first since as a girl I was being eaten alive with a bunch of eyes, but then I didn’t give a shit. So don’t feel bad, you would stare at you too, right?
Life & Culture
Chefchaouen is a super chill city; laid back with no guides bothering the shit out of you. I understand why people rave about it. I would too if you’ve been fucking around in the rest of exhausting ass Morocco. But I mean, it’s not a place I would ever return to and I wouldn’t plan a trip just to see it.
The walls are painted blue because this used to be an all-Jewish city and it represents the sea and sky (and now the color of Israel). But apparently it’s a specific color of indigo to ward off mosquitos? Not sure if that is true considering there aren’t any mosquitoes. It is no longer exclusively Jewish.
Check my blog post on An Overview of Morocco for tips on the country as a whole.