Morocco, a country in mysterious Africa, the land of “A Thousand and One Nights” – is famous for its “white city” of Casablanca in the movie of the same name, the Sahara desert appeared in countless films from classic Cleopatra to blockbuster Aquaman. But did you know that Morocco also owns a “blue pearl” named Chefchaouen?! Dubbed “blue city” and a must-visit place in Morocco. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Chefchaouen Morocco for the first-time? Let’s check out our Chefchaouen travel blog (Chefchaouen blog) with the fullest Chefchaouen travel guide from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do in Chefchaouen find out the answer!
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Chefchaouen travel guide: Overview of Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is an ancient town of more than 500 years old. You might not have heard of this name, but with almost travel lovers, coming to Morocco without going to Chefchaouen proves that you do not know much about this country. The city is located on a hillside with two high jutting peaks (the twin peaks). Therefore, in the Berber language, the name of Chefchaouen also means “two horns”.
The town is located about 250km to the north of the Moroccan capital Rabat. Chefchaouen has undergone a long history since the 12th century. Not only that, it is also famous for the Medina old town that dominating by blue color, from houses to streets, in every nook and cranny. For many visitors, Medina is like a maze because the blue color fills every street corner between houses with similar architecture.
The city’s predecessor was an ancient fortress from the last years of the 16th century during the period when the country resisted the invasion of the Portuguese. Chefchaouen today is the only place in Morocco once occupied by Spain, so the architecture here is imbued with the Moorish style and culture of Spain. Before the 19th century, this was the land of the Muslims, anyone who was a pagan who came here was executed.
The whole town is inhabited by about 40,000 people but only 2,000 are resident in the Medina area. Chefchaouen is not too large, so most tourists only visit here during the day. Compared to many other tourist destinations in Morocco, Chefchaouen still retains its peaceful beauty without the noise and bustle like other tourist cities.
Chefchaouen travel blog: When is the best time to visit Chefchaouen?
Chefchaouen in the summer is the most bustling and crowded time due to the significant number of tourists from all over the world flocking here. Since becoming famous on Instagram earlier in 2019, Chefchaouen has become one of the most notable Moroccan tourist attractions.
If in the past, most tourists were European, now there are many American, Chinese, Japanese and Korean visitors. Therefore, in addition to summer, which is the peak tourist time, tourist season in Chefchaouen lasts all year round.
But spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit Chefchaouen because the weather will be pleasant at that time. Summer here is so hot that even locals can’t go for a walk.
Chefchaouen travel guide: How to get to Chefchaouen?
Chefchaouen is located in the northern part of Morocco, you need to determine which city you will depart from to find the most suitable route. To get to Chefchaouen, you can start from Tangier (nearest), or Fes.
By CTM bus
The cheapest way to reach Chefchaouen is by bus. There are several bus routes to the city from Fez (Fes), Tetouan, Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier and Ceuta. The main bus company serving tourists is CTM.
This is the most convenient and cheapest way to get to Chefchaouen. You can book tickets in advance via the bus company’s website: http://www.ctm.ma/en or go to the ticket counters in Fes or in Tangier.
From Tangier, heading to the Routiere Gate and look for the next bus trip – there are usually at least 2 bus trips a day, with one departing at noon.
The fare to Chefchaouen is 45 Dirham ($5 USD).
Travel time: 3.5 hours/way.
Fez will be the right city for you to travel to Chefchaouen because Tangier is located at the northern tip, so that city is only suitable if you take a ferry from Spain to Tangier. Normally, for Southeast Asean visitor, we will fly to Casablanca or Marrakech and take a desert tour, you will have the option to go to Fes as the final destination after ending that desert tour. So coming Chefchaouen from Fez is also more convenient. Bus to Fes as follows:
Ticket price: 85 Dh (about $9.54)
Travel time: 4.5 hours/way
Take the train from Marrakesh
You can take the night train from Marrakesh to Tangier, then getting to Chefchaouen by bus or taxi. Trains usually leave Marrakesh at 9pm and arrive in Tangier at 7:25am. You can sleep on the train to save a hotel night. Then getting to Chefchaouen from Tangier as above.
The standard price of a taxi ride from Tangier to Chefchaouen is around 300 – 500 Dirham ($33 – $56 USD).
Chefchaouen blog: Getting to the center of Chefchaouen
However, CTM Bus only drops you at its CTM Bus station. You will need an additional 8 minute taxi ride to reach the center of Chefchaouen. Taxi price is also quite cheap from 15 – 20 Dh ($2.24), you can be overcharged about 30 Dh but it’s not really expensive, for me who don’t like to bargain, just go haha. Once upon arrive in the center, you are free to enjoy this enchanting blue city. You should look for Petit Taxis (Small Taxis) they are usually painted in blue, the price will be the cheapest. Only these taxis are operated in Medina area (Moroccan Old Town).
Why is Chefchaouen blue?
Until now, the question of why Chefchaouen has a characteristic blue color is still a mystery, although there have been many different explanations, it is still not satisfactory. Many people say that when the Jews came here as refugees in 1930, they painted the walls blue because it was the color of the sky and heaven. Another reason is this blue color to show people’s respect for Mediterranean Sea.
Or blue represents submission to Ras el-Ma – who brings life to this land. Besides, blue is associated with eye health diseases because it will reduce sunlight reflection. Some people believe that this blue color repels mosquitoes. Whatever the reason, it is undeniable that thanks to the blue color, Chefchaouen has become an attractive tourist destination in Morocco.
Chefchaouen travel guide: Where to go, what to do in Chefchaouen?
Coming here, you will have the opportunity to see the mosques in Chefchaouen and of course these buildings are also painted blue. Uta Hammam is one of the town’s most important mosques. Or visit the Kasbah Museum to learn more about the history of the town. If you stand on the roof of the building, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Chefchaouen with a blend of Moroccan and Andalusian architecture styles: Red-tile roofs with intricate wood carving details.
Don’t miss the local market with exquisite crafts, souvenir items. You will find a lot of things like wool, camel blankets, pottery, jewelry, and more, all made with the unique Moroccan ways.
However, what makes visitors remember Chefchaouen is its signature blue color with various dark and light tones covering everywhere from the doors, walls to small roads, jars, shops, houses, in every nook and cranny… Historically, this place used to be a shelter for the Jews who were expelled from Spain and they painted the entire city in blue – their holy site with this brilliant blue.
Wandering around the city, you will walk on small, slightly steep roads because the whole city is located on a hill surrounded by majestic Rif mountains. So, the roads are winding with many narrow alleys. Therefore, the things people like most are the extremely peaceful space and quiet atmostphere, so even if they are lost, they still want to enjoy it as much as possible. Every street corner, alley, daily life scene of residents makes you want to watch forever…
In such a great atmosphere, you can stop by a nice little cafe by the roadside or street corner to sipping Moroccan coffee, mint tea and watching people passby. The cafes are not too spacious or luxurious, but they have open spaces, light and simple design but still very beautiful. Besides drinks, visitors should try the city’s specialty, Naan bread served with Tagines stews which is national dish of Morocco.
It can not help but to mention another “specialty” of Chefchaouen which is cats. There are many cats here and they are extremely friendly and not afraid of strangers. The houses here are built quite close together and follow the style of stairs gradually rising from the foothill to the top of the hill, so locals raise their cats to “suppress” raging rats. It is not difficult to spotting cats or a whole family of cats lying in the sun on the steps or by the roadsides.
Another must-see beautiful sight is the hill in the north of Chefchaouen city. Visitors can ask for a walking path to see the beautiful sunset here, or if you come in spring, you can see a lot of cherry blossoms in bloom. From the top of this small hill, you can take in your eyes the beautiful city of Chefchaouen…
Chefchaouen travel blog: What to eat?
UNESCO has recognized the diet in Chefchaouen as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Try the bottled fresh juices and salted lamb with prunes or the Moroccan Pita Bread (Batbout) served with goat’s milk cheese, honey and black olive oil, or specialty Naan bread served with stewed Tagine. Food and ingredients in Chefchaouen are considered superior to many other Moroccan regions.
Early in the morning when dawn breaks, do it the way the locals do: Sipping a cup of mint tea in the central square, sure to be extremely enjoyable.
Chefchaouen blog: Tips for photo hunting in Chefchaouen
Wearing clothes with colors that contrast with blue. Yellow, orange, red, pink, warm colors will make you stand out in the background of the city.
Wear neutral colors. After the warm colors are black, white, and gray to help you not too stand out but still have beautiful pictures.
Strolling around the city to find the nice angles. Chefchaouen is not small, remember to go around every corner to find unique shooting angles.
Don’t shoot locals. Moroccans generally don’t like being photographed. There was a spot where I took a photo of me and accidentally caught a man standing very far away, but he also ran over to ask me to delete the picture. So remember, don’t take photos of locals unless it’s your guide.
The city of “Cannabis”
That’s right, you didn’t hear wrong. There are many cannabis farms in the Rif Mountains. If you are coming to this city and want to try a bit, it is not difficult to find, the locals here will offer you a lot. And rest assured that smoking marijuana in Chefchaouen is completely legal. Remember do not to bring marijuana out of town. Of course I didn’t try it so I don’t know the price to review, haha.
Chefchaouen travel guide: Is Chefchaouen safe?
Overall, the city is quite safe and friendly, anyway, it’s a tourist destination, so the local authority tries its best to keep the crime rate very low to attract tourists.
Locals will just try to invite you to buy and eat as much as possible. If you have no need just say no and go. Cannabis sellers will also be enthusiastically invite, so just say “no thanks” and go, don’t be silent.
For women, it is recommended to wear maxim skirts, jeans, in general, pants and skirts cover the legs, taking photos that are both beautiful and safer. Men here have a habit of teasing women who dress too sexy, so you should pay attention this.
Chefchaouen blog: Where to stay in Chefchaouen?
There are many hotels, in Chefchaouen, but you should try staying in a traditional Moroccan house called riad. It’s like a mix between a house in town and a hotel.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Casa Sabila
- Hotel Riad Cherifa (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Lina Ryad & Spa (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Dar Echchaouen (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Chefchaouen travel guide: Some notes before you go
- Morocco is a Muslim country, so you should dress modestly when you come here, women do not wear short skirts, men do not wear tank tops or shorts, remove shoes outside when entering mosques. However, Chefchaouen is a bit more laid-back and relax than other cities, but don’t show too much skin.
- In the Rif mountains, it gets quite cold at night, so bring some warm clothing like a sweater or light jacket.
- When buying souvenirs, you should bargain to get a good price. However, the food here is super cheap, so you don’t have to haggle anymore.
- Many people only visit the blue city for just one day, but I recommend staying here for at least 2-3 days to fully explore the city.
- Many locals in Chefchaouen speak Spanish, while the rest of Morocco speak Arabic and French.
- In a country known to be a bit chaotic like Morocco, the blue city of Chefchaouen is a pleasant oasis.
Hope these above guides will help you make a perfect plan for a wonderful trip to Chefchaouen. Happy traveling!