Have you heard of a little town in northern Morocco named Chefchaouen? I recently visited Chefchaouen while traveling on G Adventure’s Markets & Mountain tour, and I just fell in love with this place. What makes it so magical? Well, if you’ve ever imagined being inside a Van Gogh painting, I’d say Chefchaouen comes pretty close. Walking through the streets, you will encounter every shade of blue there ever existed. Baby blue, Sky blue, ice blue, teal, the whole city looks straight out of a dream. This was one of the top highlights on our Morocco itinerary and I recommend everyone visiting the country to not miss it. Here are 18 special things to do in Chefchaouen.
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Get lost in the Medina
The medina, AKA the old town, is the main attraction to experience in Chefchaouen. A blue labyrinth of stairs, shops, and alleyways, this medina will get you hopelessly lost. A couple of friends and I wandered through the narrow streets for hours, with no specific destinations in mind, often passing by the same spot repeatedly. Honestly, we did not mind one bit as we were completely enthralled by the town’s beauty.
By the way, if you are wondering why the town is painted blue, there are a couple of theories. Some say that the blue colour keeps mosquitos away. Others say that the Jews introduced the colour in the 30s, as blue symbolizes the sky and heaven. You can decide which one story to believe. 😛
Take a photo on Callejon El Asri
Obviously, Chefchaouen is incredibly photogenic. Every street corner looks like it could be a postcard. If there is one street to you have to search for though, it’s got to be Callejon El Asri. I first saw this stunning staircase lined with flower pots on a blog somewhere and knew I had to find it. It took asking around to finally located it. But once we arrived, it was obvious how popular this pot is by the queue of people in front of it, all waiting to take a picture. Apparently, this is the IT spot to get one for the gram. So wait patiently, that result pic is worth it.
Scavenger hunt all the best Insta worthy spots!
While you are at it, why not have a little game during your wandering? Check out this blog post for all the best Insta worthy spots and see if you can find them all. Best to not refer to the map coordinates and try to discover the places organically. I came across pretty much all the places on the list, minus the paid set where you have to give someone 5 MAD to take photos on their intentionally decorated patio (meh, many other free places IMO). I would like to add to the scavenger hunt list the Amazigh alphabet wall painting (My Instagram post above) and the Said Ayach orange juice stand (More details later on in the post). If you find more spots you think should be included, slide into my DM on Insta and let me know.
Admire the beautiful doorways
There’s something about doorways, they make you feel some kind of way…Is it just me? They may be an unusual suggestion but I really loved looking at all the doorways in Morocco, especially in Chefchaouen. Some of them are extravagant and opulent, others are simple and give off the charm of daily living. I did a photo series of all the doors I adored, inspired by a different artist who actually did sketches of doors while traveling. Go on and pay attention to the arches, tiles, brass handles…Sometimes, the beauty of travel comes in forms of details. 🙂
Browse the shops
The souk is a great place to window shop (except there are not really any windows, you get it, figure of speech). I found that Chefchaouen differs a bit from the big medinas of Fes and Marrakech. The shop keepers here are relatively more laid back than the ones in big cities, where people come up with all sorts of ways to get your attention and attempt to lure you into their stores. In Chefchaouen, you can browse at your leisure. From paintings, to potteries, to carpets, to traditional clothing, your eyes will be very busy.
Try your hands at haggling
If you do come across something you like, make sure to haggle before you buy it. Haggling is a part of Moroccan shopping culture. It seems intimidating for some but can really be kind of fun once you get used to it. Admittedly, I still need to work on my skills, but I’ve seen my friend haggle a painting from an asking price of 900 MAD down to 300 MAD. That’s one-third of the price! Some tips:
Don’t look too excited about the thing you want. You know, stay cool. Play a little hard to get. When you start negotiating about the price, don’t start with your bottom line and refuse to budge. The seller wants to reach a deal with you. So offer a bit below your bottom to start, and then increase your price a little to show you are compromising. Finally, be prepared to walk away if an agreement doesn’t seem to be happening. Often than not actually, the gesture that you are leaving will send the shop keeper into a panic mode and lead them to finally give in to your offer. It’s a manipulative move but it works!
Hang out with the cats
Morocco seems to be run by cats. Everywhere you go, you will come across these adorable felines. They do not belong to anyone. According to our guide, people leave leftovers outside daily so any kitties can find food to eat. Cats are sacred in Muslim culture and they live harmoniously together with the people of Morocco. Chefchaouen is a unique place to photograph these furry friends as the blue backdrop is so unique. If you want, you can take some food to feed them as well. A word of caution though, rabies does exist so be careful if you decide to touch a cat. You will come across some cats that look sick, which is sad to see. Send them your love but for your own health, it’s best to leave them alone.
Have the best orange juice at Said Ayach’s stall
I had a lot of orange juice in Morocco (it’s one of the things the country is famous for), and I can say that this little juice stall in Chefchaouen that we randomly found had the best OJ I ever tasted. For 15 MAD, you get juice freshly squeezed in front of you. Boy, is it good! What makes it better is the adorable set up the owner created for you to sit and take some pics with your beverage. Very clever marketing, I’d say. I’m not sure if this stall is recent, but not many people seem to know about it yet at the time I visited. Better hurry up and go find this place before it blows up on Instagram.
Hunting for some good authentic Moroccan cuisine? Chefchaouen has lots of options. Aladdin Restaurant is a popular choice in the main square as it has a great view overlooking the town and offers tasty traditional fare at a reasonable price. I also recommend Restaurant Twins. Their kefta, aka meatball, tagine is really delicious. Try the avocado shake as well.
Get a crepe at Chez Toda
This little creperie is actually owned by the wife of our G Adventures guide in Morocco. We got to visit and it is just the cutest little shop. They sell drool-inducing crepes with unique flavours like dates and Nutella, caramel and salty butter, caramelized apples, lemon and sugar. All of them are so GOOD! For those with a sweet tooth, you can’t miss Chez Toda. Pssst for the record, there are savory choices as well.
People watch in Plaza Uta el-Hammam
Plaza Uta el-Hammam is the beating heart of Chefchaouen medina. Here, you can grab a coffee at one of the cafes or restaurants, sit outside on the cobbled street, and spend a relaxing afternoon people watching. It’s fun to be a quiet observer sometimes. You can see many characters passing through Plaza Uta el-Hammam as it is the busiest part of town. Vendors trying to hustle for customers, buskers, old men sitting on the side of streets in their pointy hat long robes. By the way, you’ll see men in these robes a lot. They are called Djellaba, and they are traditional Moroccan clothing that are very cozy. See here.
Visit the Kasbah Museum
The Kasbah Museum is right in Plaza Uta el-Hammam. Set in a tranquil green garden, the building houses a collection of artifacts that showcases Chefchaouen’s past. The entry fee is only 1 euro. Here, you can learn in-depth about the history and culture of the town. Perhaps this is where you can find the true answers to why the town is blue.
Listen to the daily prayer calls from the Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque of Chefchaouen is also right by the main plaza. The architecture dates back all the way to the 15th century and has a beautiful octagonal minaret. Keep in mind only Muslims can enter the mosque. However, anyone can definitely admire the gorgeous structure from the outside. Five times a day, you can hear beautiful calls to prayer from the mosque. Take a moment to really listen. It is a very peaceful experience, one that may even bring you into a trance state, like it did for me.
Watch the sunset at the Spanish mosque
When the day is approaching the end, get on a short hike to the Spanish mosque at the top of the old medina. The walk up is quite easy and takes less than 15 minutes. This is a popular viewpoint so there will be lots of tourists there with you. The panoramic view of the blue-washed houses as the sun sets behind the mountain is absolutely exquisite.
Stay in a Moroccan design hotel
I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again. Moroccan interior design is simply to die for. The tiles, the colourful carpets, the pretty lamps…I so wish I call pull off some of these decors in my own house back home, but it just won’t be the same. So it’s a must-do to stay in a Moroccan riad, or at least a hotel that is traditional Moroccan style. Where to stay in Chefchaouen for that experience? Lina Riad and Spa is perhaps the most famous hotel in town. It has a rooftop terrace with a view of the medina, a ridiculously good looking pool, and just an overall atmosphere that will make you feel like royalty. If you are looking for something on a low to midrange budget though, check out Hotel Madrid. While not as bougie as Lina, it also offers a charming Moroccan setting. The rooms here are vividly decorated and very comfortable. For a reasonable price, this is an excellent choice.
Go to a hammam
Scrubbed off the day at a hammam, traditional Moroccan bathhouse. If you’ve never gone to a hammam before, be warned that it is nothing like your typical spa experience. I had done hammam before in Turkey and thought I was mentally prepared when we went to one in Morocco. It ended up being just as awkward and funny as the first time I tried it. Basically, you get naked, and a lady (maybe a man if you are a guy) will scrub your whole body with an exfoliating pad. It can be quite rough but the smooth baby soft skin you come out with after is worth it. Chefchaouen has a couple of hammams such as Hammam El Harras and Hammam Elrahma If you are in the mood to treat yourself and splurge though, Lina Riad and Spa is where you can have the ultimate luxurious hammam experience.
Do the Rif Valley Mountain hike
For active adventurers, the Rif Mountains is an awesome day trip to do from Chefchaouen. A couple of people in our tour group did this hike and loved it. You will see beautifully lush mountains, small waterfalls and streams, and get some great views of the blue town from above. Also, there are plantations on the mountain that produce some *cough cough special plants…Yes, cannabis. Chefchaouen is infamously known for its production of hashish. Although it’s not technically legal, you will come across people smoking and selling it all the time. So if you are interested in an opportunity to witness a marijuana farm, this is your chance.
Visit Cascades d’Akchour
People don’t usually know about all the stunning natural scenery surrounding the town when they think about what to do in Chefchaouen. I certainly had no idea. Cascades d’Akchour is a beautiful waterfall about 30 minutes drive outside the city. During the summertime, this is a good place to take a refreshing dip in the rock pools. I only found out about this waterfall after I left Chefchaouen, but the photos look sublime. If you do ever visit Cascades d’Akchour, let me know about your experience!
How to get to Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is a city tucked in the mountains, with no airports and train stations, which makes getting here a bit tricky. I visited Chefchaouen as a part of a tour with G Adventures, my favourite small group tour company. G Adventures is a well-reputed company that runs trips all over the world. I also went to India with G and had a great experience there. For Morocco, I highly recommend the Markets & Mountains itinerary. This is the one we did and we got to see all the best highlights of the country. From Casablanca, we drove to Chefchaouen in a private van. It was comfortable, stress-free, and we got to see lovely sceneries along the way.
For those planning to get to Chefchaouen independently, Tangier and Fes are the closest cities to travel from.
From Tangier, you can rent a car (App. 2 hours and 15 minutes drive), take a bus (App. 3 hours and 30 minutes, 45 dirhams with CTM buses), or get on a guided day tour.
Same thing from Fes, you can rent a car (App. 3 hours and 30 minutes drive), take a bus (App. 4 hours, 75 dirhams with CTM buses), or get on a guided day tour.
Things to do in Chefchaouen Summary
Well that’s it for my what to do in Chefchaouen guide. I have no doubt that this charming blue city will steal your heart like it did mine. Lastly, I’m just going to leave you with this French Montana video that was shot in Smurf town. Say what? I know…check it out 😛
More inspiration for your Morocco trip planning
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