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Travel tips, hotels, food, sightseeing in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen (شفشاون) is a city in the Rif in Morocco. 

It's no wonder that tourists flock to Chefchaouen: this humble town is the embodiment of almost every Moroccan cliché. The picturesque medina, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Rif Mountains, is filled with white-washed homes with distinctive, powder-blue accents. Chaouen (another way to call it) was under Spanish influence so a dialect of Spanish is widely spoken. 

Get in
The main bus station is a fifteen minute, uphill walk south-west of the medina. There are usually a couple of petit taxis waiting for a customer at the entry. Don't pay more than Dh 10 to get to the medina. If it is hot, or, as is very likely, you have just endured a long coach drive to the town, you should seriously consider climbing into one of these taxis. With a heavy backpack, the walk up to the hotels of the town can be extremely strenuous! 

Get around
There are plenty of petit taxis to ferry you around town (they are not metered, agree on a price before you start your trip), but most of the town, and certainly the medina are easily traversed by foot. Chaouen Rural organizes really interesting trips to the rural part of the Chaouen province. You can tell them what are your interests and they'll create an affordable plan for you. We were interested in food so we were sent to El Bellouta. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the family, cook with them. A beautiful experience! 

The medina is the focal point of interest for most visitors to Chefchaouen. Walking around the town with its whitewashed walls, originally decorated in this style by Jewish immigrants, can be a nice change to the hustle and bustle of the cities of Marrakech, Rabat, and Fez. 
The waterfall to the east of the medina is a meeting point for local residents who come to cool off, chat and do their laundry. The café nearby is rather expensive, however. The ruins of an old mosque, on a hill behind the waterfall, overlook the medina and its crumbling tower offers great views of the town. 

Take a hike through the fantastic Rif Mountains. There is a pathway leading up into the mountains just behind the waterfall frequented by backpackers. 

They have lots of hippie type clothes and knitwear, and it's a friendly place to bargain. But you can also buy local typical clothes like jellabas, sarwal, leather articles... 

The local specialty is bissara, but you can have all variety of Moroccan food in chaouen: tajines (sheep meat or goat meat), fish tajines
The region is well known also for olives, olive oil. 

Granada (2 blocks up from the main square). Great fish tajine, great couscous (~25dh) 
Chez Chouen opposite to Granada, also, great fish tajine (super! hot and tasty) and shrimp tajine (tastes more Spaniard than Moroccan, but it's great) 

Accommodation can be tight in the peak periods (mid-July to September) so its advisable arrive early or book ahead in these periods. A stroll through the medina will reveal dozens of cheap hotels, starting from Dh 40 per night for a single. Many of these hotels have roof terraces. Pension Castellana (singles from Dh 50) has a lovely roof terrace and is popular with backpackers. On arriving in Chefchaouen, you may be met by touts at the bus station. These will probably try to take you to Pension Castellana - but it is advisable to find the place by yourself, because if you arrive with touts, you'll be charged extra so they can get their commission. for higher quality accommodation : "casa Hassan" (singles from 700 DH) Dar Rass El Maa - Maison de Charme (singles from 500 DH) below the water source, Auberge Dardara' (singles from 490 DH) outside Chefchaouen. Dar Echchaouen (singles from 490 DH) near the Medina and Ras El Ma Hostal Gernika inside the medina, clean, luminous rooms, without bathroom for 140dh, with bathroom for 180dh. Has shared showers, with lots of hot water. Spanish spoken 

Stay safe
As Chefchaouen is located on the edge of Morocco's marijuana growing region, touts desperate to extract money from travelers can be a serious problem. Refusing to accept a polite refusal, they can become threatening in their efforts to sell you hashish or act as unofficial guides. Their slogan seems to be, "You have the paranoia" if you try to get away from them. While many travelers partake in or even come here specifically for the abundance of marijuana, understand that it is definitely illegal and heavily punishable. Travelers hiking in the Rif Mountain area close to the town have had stones thrown at them by armed men to scare them away from areas of marijuana production. 

Get out
Regular buses depart from the long distance bus station (see 'Get Around') to destinations around Morocco: 
Tetouan - hourly buses until 18:00; Dh 15, 90 minutes. 
Tangier - two buses daily; Dh 27, 3 hours. 
Rabat - four buses daily, the last at 13:00; Dh 50, 4 hours. 
Casablanca - three morning buses, the last at 9:00; Dh 60, 5.5 hours. 
Meknes - three buses, the last at 15:30; Dh 45, 4 hours. 
Fez - four buses, the last at 13:30; Dh 50, 4 hours. 
Berbered and Ketama - daily buses at 08:00; Dh 20, 3 hours. 
Grand taxis to Tetouan and Tangier depart from a street just off Plaza Mohammed V. 

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