The Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Chefchaouen, Morocco | 2023

Morocco has no shortage of world-renowned travel destinations. Perhaps the most famous is the Blue City of Chefchaouen. Odds are, you’ve seen the bright blue walls of its old city plastered all over your Instagram feeds. Chefchaouen, locally known as Chaouen, has captivated travelers far and wide. Despite its popularity, I was pleasantly surprised that it exceeded the hype. I wrongly assumed that it’d be a tourist trap, attracting influencers for quick photoshoots but offering little else.

Chefchaouen is much more than its blue alleyways and cute photo opportunities. It is a backpacker’s paradise. This budget-friendly destination has laid-back vibes, gorgeous mountain views, and plenty of ways to fill your time. Whether you’re taking to the trails for an epic hike or kicking back on your hostel’s rooftop rolling up a joint of Chefchaouen’s famous hashish, a visit to Chefchaouen is a guaranteed good time. Don’t overlook this destination. It may no longer be a hidden gem, but it retains a chilled out small town vibe and is a must-visit for backpackers and any type of traveler, really. Here’s everything you need to know before traveling to Chefchaouen, Morocco’s Blue Pearl.

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Table of Contents

Is Chefchaouen Worth Visiting?

Like I mentioned earlier, I fully expected Chefchaouen to be one big influencer tourist trap. I envisioned streets filled with photoshoots, selfie sticks and tripods. I planned on stopping by for a day or two and immediately peacing out to lesser-traveled destinations. Thankfully, I was totally mistaken about Chefchaouen. There are quite a few tourists, but even the most touristy place in Morocco has fewer tourists than a non-touristy place over in Europe.

Chefchaouen was so much more than its blue houses and cute alleyways. I mean, the mountainous backdrop alone makes it uniquely beautiful. Posting up on your hostel’s terrace with a joint and some fellow travelers, one doesn’t even have to do anything at all to enjoy their time here. But Chefchaouen is a hiker’s paradise, nestled in the Rif Mountains with plenty of trails and hidden gems to explore.

It has a cozy vibe that I loved, where most restaurants appear to just be a family’s living room, and you become friends as you see the same street vendors and locals on your way to and from the hostel. Oh, and cats. Chefchaouen has lots of cats. I planned on staying two days, and ended up staying five. There’s a reason why Chaouen is one of Morocco’s most famous destinations. It truly lived up to the hype and is well worth a visit.

How To Get to Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is a small town, and considering its popularity, is quite off the beaten track. One can’t simply fly in and fly out, and even the bus rides from the major airports will have you cruising for hours through the Moroccan countryside.

Flying Into Chefchaouen

While Chefchaouen doesn’t have its own airport, it is possible to fly into Tangier or Fes and take a bus into Chefchaouen. If you’re a backpacker looking to stick to your budget, use Skiplagged to find cheap flights you won’t find anywhere else. It’s free to use and I’ve saved thousands of dollars on flights since I started using it religiously.

Taking the Train Into Chefchaoeun

Unfortunately, Chefchaouen isn’t serviced by any railways. The closest train station is in Fes, from where you can hop on a three-hour bus to get to Chefchaouen.

Traveling to Chefchaouen by Bus

The most common way to travel to Chefchaouen would be by bus. CTM is the main bus service in the north of Morocco, and it’s fairly reliable. Buses leave from Fes and Tangier and pass through Chefchaouen along the way. They also stop in Tetouan and Ouezzane, if you’d like to add two hidden gems to your Morocco travel itinerary. I’d recommend using the ONCF website if you want to book your train tickets in advance, or CTM’s website for bus tickets.

Travel Insurance for Morocco

And of course, before you go, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance handy.  I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $45 a month. Their coverage includes Morocco among the 190+ countries that they cover. It’s handy to have travel insurance in Morocco, especially if you plan on hiking in remote areas or taking to those crazy winding roads with even crazier drivers.

Where To Stay in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is home to dozens of hostels, so you’re not strapped for choice. However, some are noticeably a cut above the rest. The best neighborhood to stay in would be the medina, or just outside of it. It’ll put you right in the heart of Chefchaouen’s beauty. There are two properties that seemed to understand that a hostel should be more than just a place to rest your head at night.

Riad Baraka

Riad Baraka was my favorite hostel that I stayed at in Chefchaouen. It is located in a central location in the medina, putting you close to all of the action. The highlights of this hostel are its stunning rooftop views, heated rooms, and amazing breakfasts. It’s a small hostel, so book in advance to make sure you get a spot. The rooftop is a great place to chill, take in the views, meet  your fellow travelers, and smoke some hashish.

Dar Dadicilef

Dar Dadicilef is a mouthful. It is “felicidad”, the Spanish word for happiness, spelled backwards. This is due to it being housed in one of the oldest Andalusian structures in the city. It is very centrally-located and has a cozy feel to it. It’s got a nice garden and organizes tours and outings for their guests. If there isn’t space at Riad Baraka, Dar Dadicilef is a perfectly fine alternative.

Hostel Souika

Aside from Riad Baraka and Dar Dadicilef, I also spent some time at Hostel Souika. It’s just a couple buildings past Dar Dadicilef in the neighborhood of Souika, where it gets its namesake.

I stayed at Hostel Souika for a few nights simply because the private rooms were $10 a night. Do I need to say more? I actually was pleasantly surprised by how nice the hostel was considering its cheap price. It has a huge terrace with beautiful views, good wifi, and the room was basic but nice. The only thing is that there isn’t much of a social vibe, but that’s fine if you need some space to yourself. There are always a couple of travelers hanging out on the rooftop.

You can compare all of the hostels in Chefchaouen by checking out Hostelworld.

How To Get Around Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is a city best explored by foot. The only time you’d maybe need a taxi would be getting to and from the bus station. It was a much steeper hike up to the medina than I was prepared for, although the walk down was just fine. For travelers staying in the medina, you won’t need more than your own two feet to see what Chefchaouen has to offer. Download an offline map otherwise you are guaranteed to get lost in the labyrinthine streets of the city.

If you are planning on taking some trips outside of Chefchaouen, the best way is to take a grand taxi or a bus from CTM. There are a few smaller cities close to Chefchaoeun, such as Tetouan and Ouezzane that I’d recommend visiting.

The Best Things To Do in Chefchaouen

I spent five days in Chefchaouen, with most of my time spent aimlessly wandering through the blue-washed streets of the medina. However, I was pleasantly surprised at just how much there was to do in and around Chefchaouen. I never expected it to be so beautiful, with jagged mountains serving as a striking backdrop to the sea of blue houses. There were no shortage of sunset hikes and hidden roads to fill up my time.

Aimlessly Wander the Blue Streets of the Medina

This is where the heart of the city lies, and where all of the picturesque blue buildings are. Take a stroll through the densely packed alleyways while winding through its labyrinthine streets flanked with ancient houses and fortress walls. Soaking up the atmosphere of this charming city is one of the best things to do, and with so many side streets and alleyways, the small city can feel a lot bigger than it actually is.

You’ll run into bustling markets, or souks, all throughout. Brightly-colored rugs, ceramics, and other artworks contrast beautifully with the endless shades of blue. Keep in mind that some alleyways and houses are private property, and locals can (and rightfully do) charge for pictures. It costs no more than 2-5 dirham for some pictures, a negligible amount if you want to take a killer photo. If you don’t feel like paying for pictures, there are dozens of public streets and alleyways to explore. Typically, the streets where locals clearly go out of their way and spend money to beautify are the ones where you’ll get charged. Streets lined with plants or other cute photo ops will typically cost you money to pose in front of.

Take a Day Trip to Akchour and Hike to God’s Bridge

Perhaps my favorite thing I did in Chefchaouen was take a day trip outside of the city to do some hiking. Akchour is about a 45-minute drive outside of Chefchaouen and can be reached by grand taxi for about $6 per person. The most famous hikes in the area are to the waterfalls and God’s Bridge. Plan to spend about six hours in Akchour if you plan on doing both, and maybe longer if you’re visiting during the summer and want to spend some time relaxing along the river. There are plenty of swimming holes along the hikes, as well as a couple of makeshift restaurants where one can have freshly-cooked tagine in the great outdoors.

Take a Hike Up To the Spanish Mosque

Visit the Spanish Mosque for panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. It’s a short but steep hike up to the Spanish Mosque from the medina, although the views are incredible throughout. There is not much to see at the mosque, so don’t expect any magnificent art or architecture. The highlight is the view, and the cats that roam around the mosque’s grounds.

Enter the Kasbah and the Kasbah Museum in the Center

The Kasbah Museum, also known as the Ethnographic Museum of Chefchaouen, is located in the town’s 15th-century citadel. It’s impossible to miss, considering its the star attraction of the main plaza. It’s home to a small but beautiful garden and a few rooms that serve as a museum. As far as museums go, it isn’t particularly impressive, but it does offer some interesting insight into the history and culture of the region.

For me, the highlight of the museum is the view from its towers. Climb up to get a stunning panoramic view of the city and the surrounding mountains. Entrance for foreigners costs 60 dirham, which is standard for most historical and cultural attractions in Morocco. You don’t need more than an hour to see the whole thing, but with relatively little else to see in Chefchaouen, it’s definitely worth spending some time here.

Check Out The Waterfalls of Ras El Ma

Calling these waterfalls is a bit generous, but it is a nice, scenic spot to hang out. The area is lined with restaurants and vendors and is pretty lively. It’s at the trailhead of the hike up to the Spanish Mosque, so one can visit here before or after the short hike. Ras El Ma would be a great spot to stop for an orange juice before hiking up, or having dinner after watching the sunset from the mosque.

Feast on Some Moroccan Food

morocco food to try tagine

Although the restaurant scene in Chefchaouen isn’t fantastic, there are a few spots that I did enjoy. Clock Cafe is a popular spot among travelers, famed for their camel burger. A great local spot is Bab Ssour, with excellent local dishes in an establishment that feels more like a family’s living room than a restaurant. Another cheap local spot with vegetarian options is Sofia, located right off the main square of the medina. Chefchaouen isn’t particularly known for its nightlife, but one can grab a beer at Bar Oum Rabie just outside the walls of the medina. Medinas are generally considered holy sites, so alcohol isn’t usually served at the restaurants of the medina.

Smoke Some Hashish

Chefchaouen is famed for its hash. Although its legally a gray area, it’s widely accepted in Chefchaouen and many locals partake in the pastime as well. 100 dirham can get you a good chunk of good quality hash. If you plan on traveling the rest of Morocco, be sure to stock up here. It’s regarded as the best in the country, and being close to many of the hash farms, it’s also among the cheapest you’ll buy. Tourists will always be charged more, but in general, 100 dirham is a fair price for good quality hash.

Again, hashish is technically illegal and considered haram, but many locals also smoke it. Police generally turn a blind eye to it, but I’d still recommend only smoking in the privacy of your accommodation. Check with the workers to see if it’s okay to smoke at the terrace. In most cases, you’re fine. Trouble will only find you if you’re out rolling up in public and stumbling down the streets after a few big hits.

Safety Tips for Chefchaouen and Morocco

Chefchaouen is as safe of a destination as it gets. In this small town, there is hardly anything to worry about. The worst that can happen is pushy street vendors trying to sell you stuff, but even here, I didn’t find it as aggressive as in Marrakech or Fes.

As always, it’s good to exercise caution whenever traveling in a foreign country. Morocco can seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t speak the language and clearly stick out as a foreigner. However, Moroccans are very friendly, and aside from the occasional dubious salesman, typically mean well. If you need to find your footing or want to double-check on something so you don’t overpay or get scammed, just chat with a local worker at your hostel to get an idea of what the actual price for things are. Again, as an American or European, your money goes a lot further in Morocco. Don’t let haggling over a few cents here and there ruin your trip, and do your best to support the locals and the local economy.

Aside from avoiding scams, it’s important to respect the cultural and religious norms of Morocco. Morocco is an Islamic country, and despite Chefchaouen being visited by many tourists from all over the world, it remains a relatively conservative town. Dress appropriately, don’t drink in public, and treat the people with respect. If you meet everyone with an open mind and open heart, you’ll have a great experience in Morocco.

Despite extending my stay in Chefchaouen three times, I would have stayed more if I could. It actually resulted in me extending my travels in Morocco, serving as the turning point of when I started truly falling in love with Morocco. The original plan was to visit Chefchaoeun before wrapping things up in Tangier and taking the ferry to Europe.

I ended up realizing that I actually really liked Morocco and wanted to see much more of it than what I’d experienced so far. The chaotic cities of Marrakech and Fes weren’t for me, but the laid-back vibes of Chefchaouen had me wondering what else I was missing out on. I backtracked to Meknes, Rabat, Casablanca before heading up to Tangier and then exploring hidden gems of the north like Tetouan and Martil. All because Chefchaouen gave me a taste of the laid-back vibes of Morocco that I had been missing. I’ve met many travelers who’ve decided to skip over Chefchaouen, imagining it as a tourist trap as I once did. Don’t make this mistake. It’s an incredible destination worthy of anyone’s Morocco travel itinerary.

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