Chefchaouen, also known as Chaouen or Xaouen, is one of the most special places that I've ever visited. Located in the middle of the Rif Mountains, this town is well known worldwide thanks to the bright blue colour used to decorate its houses and streets.
However, its remote location and distance from other major cities or airports can make it difficult visit. Is Chefchaouen really worth the long drive across winding roads? Should you save some time during your time to Morocco for this hidden gem? Absolutely!
How to get there
Chefchaouen is right in the heart of the Rif Mountains. It doesn't have a major airport nearby, so you'll probably need to travel from a different city if you want to visit this picturesque town. There are two common routes to get there:
Arrive from Tangier or Tetouan. Tangier is only 114km north of Chefchaouen, while Tetouan is located merely 70km away. When I visited, I decided to stop in Tetouan for a couple of days before continuing south, which made it a fairly quick journey. However, be warned, highways in Morocco are quite poor, and the fact that Chefchaouen is located up in the mountains makes the trip much longer than you'd expect considering the distance.
Arrive from Fes. The distance between Fes and Chefchaouen is approximately 200km, so the distance is much bigger than if you're coming from the north of Morocco.
There's no train between Chefchaouen and the aforementioned cities, you will need to travel by bus, taxi, or by car. I wouldn't recommend the car at all unless you're feeling adventurous and you're a very good driver, which isn't my case. The taxi is probably the most convenient transport, but it might be hard to find a driver that will do the entire journey. Travelling by taxi in Morocco is extremely cheap, but for this trip, you might end up having to stop in one or even two towns on the way, which can cause some unwanted delays.
For all these reasons, I decided to go by bus. The journey might be slightly longer, but I found Moroccans coaches to be very comfortable and safe, so I don’t regret my choice at all. CTM is the main coach company in Morocco and my experience with them was just perfect. In high season buses can get full pretty quickly, so I'd recommend buying your tickets online in advance through their site.
Now, for how long should you visit? Considering the distance, I wouldn’t recommend Chefchaouen for a one day trip. If you’re travelling across Morocco, I'd try to visit Chefhchaouen while you’re travelling between cities, for instance from Tangier to Fes or vice-versa. If doing a roundtrip, it’s always a good idea to stay at least for one night. Getting back on the same day won’t give enough time to enjoy such a special place.
Things to do in Chefchaouen
Get lost in the medina
Chefchaouen's medina is one of the most beautiful, best-preserved ensembles that you can find in Morocco. The streets are well taken care of and extremely clean compared to other Moroccan cities, which makes it the perfect town to get lost among its narrow streets.
As you may already know, all houses and streets are painted in vivid shades of blue. The city was established back in the 15th century by Moorish and Jewish refugees fleeing the Reconquista in Spain, and it was the Jews that started this tradition. The reasons behind this are unknown, but this peculiar tradition has made the city one of the most unique places in the world.
Find all the blue doors
Chefchaouen is one of the oldest cities in Morocco, and its beautiful medina has been preserved unchanged for centuries. Just like the buildings and the streets, doors in Chefchaouen are also blue, and most of them have been left unchanged since the origins of the city.
Something that stood out for me was the old doors of all houses, decorated following the traditional Andalusian style, many of them with the hand of Fatima as the knocker. While you're exploring the medina, don't forget to pay attention to the doors as well!
Explore the fortress of the Kasbah
The kasbah was built in the 18th century as a fortress to protect the old town. The building also worked as a prison, and you can still visit the dungeons and cells. Today, the rest of the building houses a museum with exhibitions of local dresses and musical instruments, as well as weapons and old photographs.
The kasbah offers great views from the top, so it’s well worth climbing the medieval walls: you will be able to see the entire city with the mountains on the background.
Relax in Outa el-Hammam Square
Outa el-Hammam is the heart of the medina, facing the Kasbah and the Great Mosque.
It is also the perfect place to enjoy the traditional Moroccan mint tea or the exotic cuisine of the Rif Mountains. The square is lined with cafes and restaurants, so there's no better place to relax after exploring the labyrinthine medina!
Chefchaouen is ideal for the most adventurous travellers. Trekking in the Rif Mountains, jumping from the Akchour waterfall... you can do pretty much anything!
This region is the perfect place if you're into some outdoor activities, so don't forget to check out some of the available activities with a local travel agency before your trip.