Chefchaouen (شفشاون, also Chaouen, Chawen or Xaouen) is a gorgeous mountain city in northeastern Morocco.
It's no wonder that tourists flock here — 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, and the call to prayer rings out of several mosques around the town in chorus. If you've got a few days to relax from the rigors of travel, this is a good place to do it.
Tourism in Chaouen is also driven by its reputation as centre of the marijuana plantations region in North Morocco. Drugs are widespread and somehow tolerated, but touts trying to sell to tourists are also very annoying.
Spanish and French are most popular foreign languages.
Get in edit
By plane edit
Airports around are in Tangier, Fez, Rabat, Casablanca and some flights go to Tetouan. From there you can take an intercity bus to Chefchaouen. From Casablanca it makes also sense to use the low-priced high-speed train to Tangier and continue from there.
By bus edit
There are frequent buses from Fez and Tetouan and also from Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Tangier, Nador, Al Hoceima. Enjoy the sales pitches of vendors who come onto the bus while you wait for more passengers at major stops.
Approximate bus timetable to destinations around Morocco (as of Jan 2017):
- Tetouan - five CTM buses at 04:00, 14:15, 15:15, 18:30 and 20:30; 90 min. Twelve local buses at 06:45, 08:00, 08:15, 08:30, 08:45, 09:45, 11:30, 12:30, 14:45, 16:30, 17:00 and 17:30.
- Tangier - four CTM buses daily, with stopover in Tetouan; 2½-3 hr. Four Nejme Chamal buses daily: 07:00, 10:00, 14:00, 15:15 and 18:00 and one local bus at 10:45.
- Rabat - one CTM bus at 07:00, 4½ hr. Five local buses daily: 06:00, 07:30, 08:15, 09:15 and 12:45; 5-5½ hr.
- Casablanca - one CTM bus at 07:00 (goes to Rabat first), 6 hr. Three local buses: 06:00, 7:30 and 09:00; 6-6½ hr.
- Meknes - three buses, 06:00, 14:30 and 15:30, 4 hr. In the opposite direction buses leave Meknes at 05:00, 12:00, and 24:00. The 05:00 bus is direct while the other two buses stop in Dardara, about 8 km away from the city, so you have to take a petit taxi to Chefchaouen from there.
- Fez - five CTM buses: 08:00, 11:00, 12:00, 14:15 and 23:45; 4¼ hr. These buses are often booked out days in advance. Other companies' bus departs at 07:00, 08:30, 09:30, 11:45 and 12:30.
- If direct buses to Fez and Tetouan are not enough. There are more local buses plying the route from Fez to Tetouan/Tangier stopping at Derdara (8 km from Chefchaouen), where you can get into one of the frequent grand taxis for 5 dirham. This avoids the long uphill walk.
- Berbered and Ketama - daily buses at 08:00; 3 hr.
- Ceuta - no direct buses go to Ceuta, so you'll have to first get to Tetouan, then get a city bus/grand taxi to Fnideq (town bordering Ceuta), from where either walk remaining 3 km to the border or get a shared cab (5 dirham).
1 Bus station (Gare Routière) (a 15-min walk from the medina, along Av. Mohamed V). 06:00-22:00. There are two main bus companies serving Chefchaouen: CTM and Nejme Chamal, plus a few smaller ones. All of them terminate/start from this station. Supratours coaches don't serve Chefchaouen, reaching only as far as Tetouan and Fes. Storing piece of luggage in a bus trunk cost 5 dirham, don't pay more. Bus station hosts ticket offices, basic shop, toilet and a cafe serving simple snacks.
Getting there/away: there are usually a couple of petit taxis waiting for a customer at the entry, 10 dirham to get to the medina (as of Jan 2023). Otherwise it's 15 minutes walk uphill.
By taxi edit
- 2 Grand taxi stand to Tetouan and Tangier (right next to the main bus station). The journey from Tangier to Chefchaouen takes about 2½ hr and takes you down some interesting mountain roads with lots of photo opportunities. About 70 dirham per person. At the same time private day trip from Tangier to Chefchaouen will cost about €100.
- Taxi to Oued Laou costs 30 dirham per passenger/200 dirham pr car, 1 hr, alternatively get a bus to Tetouan and hire a taxi/get on a bus from there. Taxi to Akchour waterfalls costs 30 dirham per passenger/150 dirham per car, 30 min.
- 3 Grand taxi stand to Bab Taza, Ouezzane. There are grand taxis outside of the Meknes Gare Routière (bus station) that will get you to Chefchaouen by way of Ouezzane. The taxi from Meknes to Ouezzane takes about 2 hr and costs 50 dirham per person in a full taxi (6 passengers). It takes about 2 hr from Ouezzane to Chefchaouen and costs 35 dirham per person. It's possible to travel with fewer than 6 people, though you'll have to pay the full fare for 6 people. These taxi drivers do not seem interested in overcharging tourists, and without negotiation you should be able to pay the standard fare that Moroccan passengers pay.
Get around edit
On foot edit
Chefchaouen is compact and easily walkable. This is what many people come here for.
By guide/tout edit
If you are looking for sports or peaceful hiking tours, Chefchaouen is the ideal starting point to branch out in the villages and the surrounding mountains of the Rif with a local guide who knows well the region or just by yourself.
By car edit
If you go to Chefchaouen by car, there are several small car parks on the perimeter of the ancient medina. Car parks are not signposted nor do they have meters, but are tended by people who would claim to be 'guardians'. The going rate seems to be 10 dirham per day—pay when you leave to avoid paying twice.
Also, parking is possible at these specific places:
The medina is the focal point of interest for most visitors to Chefchaouen. Walking around the town with its whitewashed walls, 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.
- 1 Kasbah, Outae Hammam square. 09:00–18:00. One of the first buildings constructed in the city in the Andalusian style. It includes emir's residence, a small mosque for the emir, a prison, a garden, a horse stable, dozens of towers and courtyard, which is green and almost alien amidst the mountain setting. 60 dirham for foreigners, 5 dirham for locals.
- 2 Outae Hammam square. The biggest and the main square of the old Medina. Its name originates from 'outae' meaning "low ground or yard" and 'hammam' - traditional public bath or dove (hamama in Arabic). Its design is similar to the Andalusian public yards of Granada or Cordoba. It was a market before it became a tourist center surrounded by cafes and restaurants.
- 3 Grand Mosque of Chefchaouen, Outae Hammam square. The oldest mosque (built in 1475-76) and the main historic Friday mosque of Chefchaouen. Off limits to non-Muslims.
- 4 Souiqah quarter (Souq quarter). It's the second-oldest residential agglomeration of the houses of old Andalusian families. There are a large number of shops and stalls that sell local products.
- 5 Ras El Ma (east of the medina). A water spring and a meeting point for local residents who come to cool off, chat and do their laundry (including carpets on sunny sundays). There is a café above the spring with plastic chairs offering a nice change from the main square.
- 6 El Haouta square (Al-Hawta square). Small square with a traditional fountain in the middle.
- 7 Jemaa Bouzafar Mosque (Spanish Mosque). A rarely used mosque overlooking the town from a hill behind Ras El Ma. It was built by the Spanish in the 1920s and is now a popular sunset view point. There is a trail leading to another mosque — 8 Lubar Al-Fawqi Mosque further uphill.
- 9 Ecomuseum of Talassemtane National Park. Smallish museum showcasing fauna and flora of Talassemtane National Park. Introduces the park itself as well as provides with hiking maps. Free admission.
- 10 Hill of the Hotel Atlas. A good viewpoint on the town and the valley, especially on sunsets. It can be reached from the south gate of the medina (Bab el-Ain) by climbing the road coasting the medina on the west side until the east gate (Bab Souk), and then uphill, crossing the old cemetery on a rocky path.
- Take a hike through the scenic Rif Mountains. There is 1 a pathway leading up into the mountains just behind the Ras El Ma frequented by backpackers. Don't mind the vast marijuana plantations; the farmers and goat herders that work them are used to tourists and will either ignore you or try to sell you hash.
- A strenuous hike up 2 Jebel al-Kalaa (the peak immediately overlooking the town) is fun, but can take up to 9 hours round trip and goes by (and if you're lucky/unlucky, through) big marijuana plantations. The route is not well marked (with white and yellow), and you might have to trail blaze for parts of it if you lose the trail. Start by following the road up the southeastern valley, from where you'll get a good view of town, and look for the markings up the mountain. Bring plenty of water, and some snacks. There a 3 viewpoint on the way to Jebel al-Kalaa which can be reached in 30 min counting from the city walls.
- A two-day hike in the 4 Talasemtane national park via 1 Asilane to Akchour also starts up the big mountain on a 4WD track which goes of in the north of Chefchaouen just after the camping site. At the peak at about 1,800 m is a camping site. There maybe snow even until April, so be prepared for cold temperatures. There are at least two water sources on the way up, so you'll not need to carry too much water. It's about 14 km until the gite in Asilane. The 4WD track continues until the next village from where one has to cross over a small valley, continue straight after passing a tomb-house and climb down the small path to the village of Inezgane. From there, a mule treck follows the river more or less closely and the gorgeous mountains, cliffs and breathtaking views. After a while the path goes down to the river over an ancient bridge and continues north, passing a source (although this one might dry up in summer) and eventually leads to the village of Akchour which has another Gite, but also cheaper accommodation. There are more tracks and gites in the area.
Akchour waterfalls edit
- Getting there: see #Grand taxi stand to Akchour, Oued Laou, Dar Akouba for information about grand taxi to 4 Akchour taxi stand. Getting back may be a bit of a hassle, as there are not many grand taxi in the evening. On weekends you may be able to hitch with locals.
- Do a 1½-hr hike in the mountains towards the 5 The God's bridge (Pond de Dieu). After the dam, the path lies on the right side of the river and goes up the hill quite steep. The bridge was formed by the river floating underground and carving its way over millennia. There seems also be a way down at the river, so one can see the bridge from below. Don't try this in spring though, as after snow-melt or rain the river may be unpassable. To left over the river starts a path towards the cascades.
- 6 Petit cascades. Easy 40 min, 2 km (one way) hike.
- 7 Grand Cascade D'Akchour. Moderate 6 km (one way) hike.
Have a bath in hammam together with locals for 15 dirham (separate hours for men and women) or rent a private room just for yourself for 100 dirham per hour (as of Jan 2023). There are several hammams scattered around medina, one of them - 8 hammam.
- Hassan's Workshop (In the eastern medina, between the old olive tree and Ras El Ma), ☏ . 09:00-18:00-ish. Run by a tremendously approachable man called Hassan, it can be found towards the eastern end of the medina, between the old olive tree and the waterfall. Once you're in the vicinity, just ask for "El Taller de Hassan" and you'll be pointed in the right direction (or call ahead). He speaks fluent Spanish and good English & French, and is amenable to any peculiarities or requests you might have. He doesn't look for sales out of his workshop, as he makes good trade through the various local stores and a few overseas bulk buyers, but he enjoys making one-offs, which makes for wonderful craftsmanship, great prices and no hassle. Word of caution do not make him ship goods to you, they often "forget" it.
- Gite Talassemtane Tours. Can organise pottery and gastronomy workshops.
All the usuals are on offer in the medina — carpets, leatherwares, spices, metal wares, etc. If you're a seasoned bargainer you can probably get better prices in Fes or Marrakech, but Chefchaouen is undoubtedly a more pleasant place to shop. You'll also find plenty of hippie-wear aimed at budget travelers and marijuana tourists.
Chaouen is particularly renowned for leather artisans, and there are 4 or 5 workshops dotted through the town, whose goods you can find at many of the local stores and in the larger northern cities. Many of the craftsmen in Fes and Tetouan served their apprenticeships here. The choice in local stores is often limited to bags and purses, so if you're up for it take advantage of the workshops where you can tweak a standard design or come up with something entirely your own, even moving beyond traditional leather into snake, crocodile, lizard and more. They can make pretty much anything, from guitar straps and tobacco pouches, to handbags and jackets. It can take a couple of days to make the more complex designs, so head there on your first day.
The local speciality is baissara, but you'll also find the usual staples such as tajine (vegetable stew with goat or sheep), harira (tomato soup), kofte (meatballs) and tagras (fish). The Moroccan salad is a salad of cucumber and tomatoes, while salada variada includes eggs. The region is also well known for olives and olive oil, and for goat cheese, which is sold on display in various shops.
Always busy restaurants near the Kasbah (Outa Hamman square) offer tajines starting from 40 dirham of somewhat subpar quality.
Local breakfast includes fried eggs, cheese, olives, Moroccan mortadella, bread and tea/coffee, all for 20-25 dirham. Pretty much any cafe will be happy to serve it.
Some stalls cook pancakes (baghrir) with honey and olive oil or butter, for 10-15 dirham.
- 1 Assadaa, Rue Abi khancha (from Bab el-Ain, take straight up and then left). This little restaurant occupies both sides of the street, with tables on the road, under a tree, and on a roof terrace. Nice tajine and great cheese salad. Lunch for 50 dirham, all included.
- 2 Chez Foad, Rue Ibn Asskar. Also do a great fish tajine, and a shrimp tajine, salad and cous-cous are also very good. Great relation quality/price.
- 3 Restaurant Populaire Bab Ssour, rue Elkharrazin N°5, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Good food in a quiet room with a friendly owner. Many languages spoken. Good local cheese. 50 dirham.
- 4 Granada (opposite Chez Foad restaurant, 2 blocks up from the main square). Great fish tajine, great couscous. Mains ~25 dirham.
- 5 Chez Aziz snack. For a sandwich break, head for the local sandwich dealer to the left of Bab el-Ain gate. Chicken, beef or shrimps sandwiches, with olives, salad and sauces, 10-25 dirham.
- Cafe Restaurant Sofia, Place Outa Hammam Khadarine Escalier Roumani (3-5 min walk from the main square). Excellent traditional soup (only 10 dirham!), beef and couscous, and vegetable tagine.
- 6 Cafe Clock, 3 Derb Tijani. Cult cafe chain from Fes run by European. It occupies an entire four-floor riad, it has a roof-top terrace, nice atmosphere. But food is only OK, however, this is the only place in Chaouen where you can try Moroccan rfissa. 50-80 dirham per meal.
- 7 Restaurant Hamsa, 32 Place Outa El Hamam. Meeting point for younger people. Great view from the terrace which overlooks central square and mountains. Food is average. From 50 dirham per plate.
- 8 Mandala, Av. Hassan II. Pizza, pasta, salads. Small European-alike pizzeria. OK-ish quality, eastable. 50 dirham per plate.
- 9 Chez Hicham, Rue Targhi. Long waiting time, average food, great view over the main square. 65 dirham tajines.
Alcohol is not readily available but can be found in Restaurant Oum Rabie and Hotel Parador's restaurant. The latter charges some exorbitant prices for alcohol and requires ordering accompanying food. Mint tea is prevalent, 7-10 dirham per cup/pot.
- 1 Restaurant Oum Rabie. Tu-Su 12:00 - 00:00. The only bar in town. Wines, beers, hard liquors. Prices for alcohol is 2-3 times higher than in store (but bear in mind the closest shop selling alcohol is Auchan in Tetouan, 1.5 hr drive away). A few small plates with simple food are served per table free of charge as a complimentary meal from restaurant. 375 ml wine bottle 80 dirham, 0.3 l beer 30 dirham. It's possible to take away alcohol, same price applies.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Budget||under 350 dirham|
|Splurge||1000 dirham and over|
Accommodation can be tight in the peak periods (mid-Jul to Sep) so arrive early or book ahead in these periods. A stroll through the medina will reveal dozens of cheap hotels, starting from 40 dirham per night for a single. Many of these hotels have roof terraces.
Hotels that are fully booked will sometimes deliberately over-book and try to move you to another hotel (for a commission), as always avoid touts who may tell you your hotel is closed, not good, hard to find, etc.
- 1 Dar Antonio, 36 calle Garmata, ☏ , . Nice guesthouse right in the Medina. Clean and quiet with a great view on the top floors. Hot water on demand. Shared facilities. Not for people with mobility problems. Double 330 dirham.
- 2 Harmony Hotel (in the medina). Good value for solo travellers, who pay less but still get double beds. Room 80 dirham per person, 250 dirham double.
- 3 Hotel Andaluz, 1 Rue Sidi Salem, ☏ . A popular little budget hotel with a nice rooftop terrace and cool (occasionally damp if on the ground floor) rooms. It's not far from the main road in the medina, most locals can point the way. There is a shared kitchen and guests can use the washing machine upon request. Double 150 dirham.
- 4 Hotel Ouarzazate. In the medina is a decent choice with a good location. From 160 dirham.
- 5 Hostel Aline, Av Sidi Ahmed el Uafi, 2 (on the eastern side of the medina, a bit away from the central square). A nice, clean place; catch it during low season and you'll likely end up with a room to yourself. Amenities include a big terrace with a hammock, laundry service, kitchen, and 24 hour hot water. The staff don't speak much English. Double 200 dirham, breakfast of a loaf of French bread and jam included.
- 6 Hotel Zerktouni (formerly known as Hostel Sahara), av. Zerktouni (just outside the Medina, near Bab el-Ain, the road on the corner with the Banque Populaire). Check-out: 12:00. Nice and clean, perfect for travelers on a budget, in an interesting building with wooden decorations; the staff speak mostly Spanish, and the reception boy is very kind and enjoys as a painter. The Hostel has a terrace (with rooms facing it). 150 dirham.
- 7 Pension Cordoba (north-east of the main medina square), ☏ . Check-out: 12:00. Very friendly staff, nice welcoming rooms and a big and comfy roof terrace. 170 dirham per double room.
- 8 Pension la Castellana (next to Bank "Credit Agricole" at the south-western end of Place Outa el Hammam - the main tourist square), ☏ . It has a central courtyard and roof terrace. Room 80 dirham per person.
- 9 Casa Perleta, Bab Souk- Medina, ☏ . Inside the medina (Bab Souk entrance), freshly renovated. Most rooms have en suite bathrooms. Run by native Spanish speakers. Double from 550 dirham.
- 10 Dar Meziana, Rue Zagdud nº7, ☏ . A beautiful riad carefully decorated by the owners, giving each bedroom an individual character full of warmth and beauty. The use of Tadlakt in the bathrooms, hammered copper sinks, beautifully painted wooden ceilings and hand crafted doors, modern glass bricks and crooked windows, Moroccan lamps and carpets all come together to give this riad a totally unique feel. It also has a beautiful roof terrace with the most amazing views over the city, mountains and surrounding countryside. Double from 700 dirham.
- 11 Dar Rass El Maa. A charming guest house below the spring. From 490 dirham (singles).
- 12 Dar Lbakal Guesthouse, Derb Mfarej Qu. Onssar, ☏ . Guesthouse with a unique interior, a charming and artistic furniture and amazing scenery that you can enjoy while relaxing on the terrace. From 500 dirham.
- 13 Hotel Madrid (right behind the Kasbah). Great service staff, always willing to help. They have maps and can give information on the town. The rooms aren't special, and have the "cheap hotel" feel. They have hot water - and one cannot stress enough the importance of hot water during the cold months! Ask the desk for your TV remote. The lobby is quaint, and enjoying breakfast while listening to the hotel canary sing (it's a real bird - not a euphemism for a lounge singer) or watching English channels on the lobby TV is a great way to start the day. 500 dirham.
- 14 Hotel Parador, ☏ . From 650 dirham.
- 15 Hostel Gernika, ☏ . Inside the medina, very clean, luminous rooms. Has shared showers, with lots of hot water. Some rooms ensuite. Some rooms have heating (250 dirham) that is a very nice thing to have during rather humid winter. There is a lovely common room with fireplace and small library. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast costs 30 dirham and is worth it. Spanish and French spoken. Double room 350-450 dirham.
- 16 Dar Echchaouen (near Ras El Ma), ☏ . Double 1200 dirham.
- 17 Casa Hassan, ☏ . Popular traveler hotel in the medina, often booked, is wise to call ahead. Breakfast is included. 1050 dirham double.
- 18 Hotel Hicham, Plaza Outahammam (at the entrance of the ancient city of Chefchaouen (plaza Outahammam), next to Al Kasbah), ☏ . It has 7 rooms, very well-decorated and -equipped rooms, and outdoor panoramic terrace to see the mountain views and enjoy a good breakfast and fresh fruit smoothies with a welcome tea. The staff in the hotel are very helpful in advising you on different activities such as excursions, hiking, mountain guides and hammam. From 1500 dirham.
Outside of town edit
- 19 Auberge Dardara, Road to Bab-Taza and Alhoceima (10 km from Chefchaouen), ☏ . With gastronomic restaurant with local specialities and local farm products. Double from 650 dirham.
- 20 Maison d'hôtes Akchour (Dar diafa Akchour), Croisement Rueda Akchour, Commune Rurale El Ouad, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 10-minute drive from downtown, far from city centers in a rural environment. 700 dirham.
Stay safe edit
As Chefchaouen is on the edge of Morocco's marijuana growing region, touts desperate to extract money from travelers can be a serious problem. They can often be quite persistent, however, smiling, remaining calm, and politely refusing (repeatedly) will usually work without a problem.
Travelers hiking in the Rif Mountain area close to the town can run into the areas of marijuana production. While most of the growers may ignore you, some may offer to sell to you as well. While many travelers partake in or even come here specifically for the abundance of marijuana (hashish), understand that it is definitely illegal and heavily punishable.
On arriving in Chefchaouen, you may be met by touts at the bus station. They will claim the hotel you’re looking for is closed or on restoration. Don't trust these at all and insist on going to your planned destination. They will probably try to take you to some cheap and low-quality hostel in the medina - but it is better to find the place by yourself, because if you arrive with touts, you'll be charged extra so they can get their commission. Touts will then insist that you follow them to their house in the medina, and there try to sell you a stash of dope for 300-500 dirham. Refusing to buy is not contemplated, nor safe, if you end up in such a situation, so just say no from the beginning and don't accept their "help".
The tap water in Chefchaouen is fed from local springs, so it's way cleaner than in other places in Morocco and is safe to drink.