"Chilled Chefchaouen" Top 5 Page for this destination Chefchaouene by kit_mc

Chefchaouene Travel Guide: 91 reviews and 326 photos

Escape to the Mountains

Arriving in Fes we had made no plans as to where we were going to travel in Morocco for the 12 days we had. A couple of days in Fes made it clear that we needed something a bit more laid back than a large city, so on the advice of a friend of mine living in Morocco, we took to the hills.

Chefchaouen, up in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco takes about 3 or so hours to reach by bus from either Fes or Tangier. It has had rather a hippy past but now attracts tourists of all shapes, sizes and wallets. One of the reasons for its hippy past is that it's in the centre of the region of Morocco known for the growing of 'kif'. While the growing of kif, which is essentially hash, has been tolerated in the past, it's now illegal. However, it remains something that attracts tourists here, so expect to smell a certain dodgy aroma now and again on various roof terraces.

The town is made up of the usual 'Ville Nouvelle' and the old town Medina, higher up the hill, all nestled in a valley surrounded by pretty impressive peaks. Of course, as any guide book will tell you, the name Chefchaouen means, 'Look at the Peaks', although the town was previously just known as 'Chaouen', meaning 'Peaks' and the two names are used interchangeably by locals and tourists alike.

As a tourist you're most likely to end up in the old part of Chefchaouen. Arriving by bus, you'll be left off at the bottom of the Ville Nouvelle and, given that it's a bit of an uphill hike to the Medina, you'll no doubt take a petit taxi to the blue walls of the Medina costing you about 15 dhiram.

Over the years, the town has had strong influences from Jewish and Muslim refugees from the Spanish reconquista and the Spanish themselves as colonial occupiers. One of the results of this is that the Spanish language is all over the place and menus are much more likely to be in French and Spanish than have any English. I used Spanish much more than I used English here but it was at least a relief to be able to make myself more easily understood than Fes as I'm fairly lost in French.

The town also has a high Berber population, being up in the mountains, and a few of the locals, namely the ones trying to extract money from us in one way or another, tended to point to the Berber presence as being the reason for Chefchaouen's more laid back nature.

In terms of things to see and do, generally hanging out in cafes and rooftop terraces can keep me occupied for hours! There's also the Kasbah down by the main square. I quite enjoyed strolling round the grounds here, taking in the views from the fortifications and checking out the small local ethnographic museum. There's plenty of the usual carpets, rugs, ceramics and leather goods if shopping is your thing, and you might pick up something slightly cheaper here than in the bigger towns.

One of the best things for me here was actually the price of eating out which was cheaper than places such as Fes, and overall decent enough quality, although we did have one bad experience of being seriously overcharged.

Chefchaouen is also very well known for having whitewashed and bluepainted walls throughout the Medina, making the town that bit more quirky. The blue ranges from very pale to deep aquas, changing colour depending on the time of day. The Medina appeared fairly well cared for, and overall wasn't quite as gross in terms of smell and dirt as Fes.

Chefchaouen is certainly quaint and pretty in many ways. The small size and generally 'lived in' nature of the Medina (ie: not only loads of shops selling carpets) here means that you do overall get less hassles than in, say, Fes. That said though, some (actually most) days I still found myself exhausted by the offers of hash, carpets or who knows what else. If you're here a few days then the touts tend to get used to you and will work out whether or not you're worth the bother so the questions (where are you from? how long you here? do you want hash?) did lessen in the end and I was even able to be cheerful with some of the most persistent ones. I have to say that while the touts and hustlers did completely wind me up to bursting point, none of them were actually aggressive.

I did find too that we were stopped by small children here asking for money more often than in other towns, perhaps just because there were more of them around in such a small, more provincial location. I got the feeling that most of the begging was more opportunist than out of desperation, but it still made me very uncomfortable and on occasion it could be very persistent.

We arrived in Chaouen thinking we might just stay a couple of nights, hang out, take some photos and enjoy the view of the Rif Mountains looming over head. In the end we actually stayed here for 4 night, extending it each day, partly because we liked the quiet, partly because I was beginning to dread moving to somewhere with even more hassles. But after 4 nights, pretty much all the sights having been exhausted and bored of the same touts each day, it was time to move on and get another Moroccan comparison, Atlantic Asilah.

  • Last visit to Chefchaouene: Nov 2006
  • Intro Updated Jan 2, 2008
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Reviews (16)

Comments (6)

  • May 14, 2008 at 11:14 AM

    Nice Page, nice pictures and nice tips about a nice city. very nice really

  • Jan 2, 2008 at 6:52 PM

    Great restaurant reviews. I wish I had read them before going! I have a little VT notebook too! Well actually I'm sure most VTers must have them though they are rarely mentioned! ;)

  • oceania26's Profile Photo
    Aug 17, 2007 at 10:20 AM

    Excellent info....thanks!

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Jan 20, 2007 at 5:13 AM

    what an interesting place - shame you keep being hassled

  • el_ruso's Profile Photo
    Jan 11, 2007 at 12:16 PM

    Great photos and info.

  • barryg23's Profile Photo
    Nov 25, 2006 at 11:38 AM

    Morocco is a great place once you get used to the Faux guides. We missed Chefchaouen on our last trip but I hope to see it in March when we return to Morocco. And we'll watch out for Restaurant Al-Wiam!

kit_mc

“And it hurts with every heartbeat...”

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