Chefchaouen, the famous ‘Blue City’ is a must visit town on any Morocco itinerary. Nestled high up in the Rif Mountains in Northern Morocco, Chefchaouen is known for the pale blue colour that locals have painted the walls of every building and pathway for the last few centuries. Compared to Marrakech and Fes, the quiet town of Chefchaouen offers a pleasant and calm visit, with the striking backdrop of a mountain range behind.
There are photo opportunities aplenty in Chefchaouen, from tiny kittens lazing in the sun, to the quaint and colourful doorways and staircases. One thing to always remember however, is that the doors and pathways are part of peoples’ homes so it’s important to be mindful of this when exploring. Don’t be too nosy. In fact, one of the best things to do in Chefchaouen is to simply walk and explore the medina.
We found three days to be the ideal time to see the town. So read on for guide to all of the best things to do and see in Chefchaouen, as well as all the essential things to know before going.
Visiting Chefchaouen, Morocco: Essential Things to Know
I was really surprised by Chefchaouen and by how calm it was. I’d heard so much before arriving and saw the town all over Instagram, I felt like it would be so crowded but it wasn’t at all. Some people say Chefchaouen is Morocco’s ‘best-kept secret’ and maybe they are right.
Although our accommodation had other guests, we did find the town to be quite quiet. Almost eerie at times! The town also has quite a hippie vibe and seems to rebel against the rest of Morocco a little. Weed is smoked widely here and you may be offered it whilst walking around the town. The smell actually lingers around some of the laneways a little. Like Tangier, Spanish is spoken widely here so the town has a very interesting mix of Spanish, French, English and Arabic.
When is the best time to go to Chefchaouen
As Chefchaouen is located at altitude, it is definitely cooler than the rest of Morocco. The summer months will naturally be warmer, but the evenings are noticeably cooler. Visiting Chefchaouen in the winter months will make for cold days and even colder evenings, and with a significantly increased chance of rain. I went in April which made for warm days, but we did experience some rain.
How to get to Chefchaouen
There are no airports near Chefchaouen, which helps the town from being overcrowded or affected by mass tourism. The only way is to arrive by road, whether in a taxi, car or bus. The two nearest towns are Tangier, along on the Mediterranean Coast and then Fes which is further south. Tangier is where the ferries come in from Spain and the drive from Tangier to Chefchaouen is a hilly 2-3 hours.
We came via bus from Fes, which was a bumpy but fine 4 hour drive to Chefchaouen. There are only a handful of buses a day in either direction, so it’s important to buy your tickets a day or two in advance if you’re working on a tight time frame in your Morocco itinerary.
Getting Around Chefchaouen
The most important thing to know is that the town is very hilly and the main way to explore the blue streets of Chefchaouen is by foot. This means it is not accessible for many people, as a certain level of fitness would be needed for all of the stairs and steep pathways. It’s a real cat and mouse maze of small staircases and tunnels.
If you want to visit any of the attractions near Chefchaouen, such as the Rif Mountains, it would be best to take a taxi for ease.
Where to stay in Chefchaouen
If you’re looking to stay in Chefchaouen on a budget, you’ll be pleased to know that most of the hotels or riads are highly affordable. There aren’t really any luxury hotels in Chefchaouen.
We stayed at Dar ElRio, and loved it. I would highly recommend staying here – our host was so kind and helpful. The breakfast was great, with the roof terrace offered spectacular views across the whole town. You can check rates here.
You can check for rates for all the hotels and riads in Chefchaouen on Booking.com here.
Best Things to Do in Chefchaouen
The very best thing to do in Chefchaouen is to walk around and to explore slowly. It’s a joy to wander the laneways and you never know what you might see. Around every corner is another shade of blue, another paint shop, another local going about their daily life.
You can’t really get lost here and it’s a lot smaller than Fes and Marrakech. Ambling slowly around Chefchaouen means stumbling across tiny shops with the friendliest owners, finding yourself in the middle of children playing games in the streets or finding yourself outside of a small primary school and overhearing a choir rehearsal taking place. Chefchaouen offers a unique opportunity for tourists to find themselves at the heart of daily life in Morocco.
You could explore the centre of Chefchaouen, with its souk and medina in one or two days. However, its mountainous location means there are many excellent outdoor activities to do nearby, such as hiking in the Rif Mountains.
Here’s my guide to the top things to do and see in Chefchaouen:
Witness a beautiful sunrise and sunset
Chefchaouen is one place that it is definitely worth timing your day around the sun. A hazy morning sunrise from your hotel’s roof terrace with a hot coffee is the best way to start the day in Chefchaouen.
In the evenings, most tourists climb the 10 minute hike from the centre of town to the Spanish Mosque on the hill. Here crowds gather to witness the sun set dramatically over the town. This spot is definitely the best vantage point in the whole of Chefchaouen.
Interact and meet the locals
The locals in Chefchaouen are really friendly and keen to converse. I actually think they’re quite bemused by the tourists wandering by. I would definitely recommend striking up a conversation up with your waiter or hotel staff. Also, Chefchaouen is literally full of cats. There might even be more cats than locals in Chefchaouen.
Shopping in Chefchaouen
The shopping in Chefchaouen is excellent and is one of the town’s biggest tourist attractions. People come from all over to pick up traditional souvenirs in Chefchaouen. Compared to the vast souks of Fes and Marrakech for example, Chefchaouen offers a relaxed and pleasant shopping experience. Some of the local handicrafts that Chefchaouen is best known for are things such as excellent handpainted art, quirky woollen jumpers and of course, powdered paint! The locals expect you to haggle on the prices. There’s also very little hassle and the whole souk is welcoming and friendly towards tourists.
Sample the local Moroccan cuisine
Chefchaouen has some really lovely cafes and restaurants dotted throughout the medina. Many offer beautfiul atmospheric dining experiences, or rooftop terraces with stunning views. During three weeks in Morocco, we found we ate some of our favourite meals here in Chefchaouen.
Once we discovered the chicken pastilla, that was it – we were hooked! This is chicken flavoured with cinammon and almonds, wrapped in flakey pastry and topped with icing sugar. I highly recommend trying it! After trying the chicken pastilla at most restaurants in town, Chez Hicham proved to be our absolute favourite. Together with its lovely atmosphere and friendly staff, we kept on returning each evening. It is definitely one of the best restaurants in Chefchaouen and worth a visit.
A close second for best cafe in Chefchaouen would be Chez Aladdin. Also known for its excellent rooftop views and great food. Both of these excellent places to eat are located off the main square in Chefchaouen.
Enjoy a guided tour in Chefchaouen
One of the best things to do in Chefchaouen is to join a day tour led by a local guide so you can really understand the town better and uncover the history. The guide will also help you find the best photos spots in Chefchaouen, as many are tucked away and hard to find in the labyrinth of the medina.
One way to arrange a guided tour in Chefchaouen is through GetYourGuide, so I’ve popped some suggestions below:
Hike in the Rif Mountains
As mentioned earlier, if you can spare more than one or two in days in Chefchaouen, then I would highly recommend exploring and hiking in the nearby Rif Mountains. Located around 30 mins away by car, it’s a great way to explore the beautiful landscape near to Chefchaouen through either a self-guided hike or with a local tour guide.
Have you been to Chefchaouen before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
Chefchaouen is one of the most charming Moroccan towns, which we enjoyed even more than we expected. It offered great food, friendly locals and of course, sweet playful kittens. We were so glad we included it Chefchaouen in our Moroccan itinerary.
If you are planning a longer trip around Morocco of a week or two, you might find some of my other blog posts useful. I’ve written detailed guides to Rabat, Fes, spending 3 days in Marrakech, Essaouira, exploring the Sahara desert and enjoying a beach break in Taghazout and Paradise Valley. I’ve also written some more specific blog posts on hiking the Rif Mountains in Morocco, visiting La Mamounia in Marrakech as a day visitor, visiting Le Jardin Majorelle and a guide to some of the best places to eat in Marrakech.
I do hope my post on all of the best things to see and do in Chefchaouen, Morocco has been useful. Feel free to ask any further questions and I’d love if you shared on any of the below links!
Disclaimer: This visit to Chefchaouen in Morocco was entirely paid for by myself and there was no involvement from the tourism board or a hotel. This is an independent guide
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