According to several locals we met Chefchaouen is not the true Moroccan experience – they informed us that it has received too much influence from Spain. That said, having a Spanish influence does in no way detract from this town. This is somewhat of a tourist town – I was here during some far away war, viral outbreak or other scare and there were very few tourists present. Most of the locals I met were very welcoming and some were quite surprised to see an American traveling in an Arab country. Most of the people I met went out their way to welcome me to their town.
This is a quaint town with very narrow streets (no cars allowed except on the main street circling town); many of the homes are white washed with exteriors striking shades of bright blues and some greens. It is intriguing to wander through the narrow streets while stopping to visit some of the numerous craft shops. And of course duck in for a Moroccan meal.
Some of the best times to visit Chefchaouen are in the spring and fall. Spring is nice because there are not a lot of tourists yet and the temperatures are moderate. Unfortunately there can be a lot of rain this time of year, so do come prepared for precipitation. Notice the incredible spray of fava beans planted on the surrounding hillsides during the spring months.
The mountains rise to about 6000 feet behind town – with some excellent hiking trails, especially up in the wooded slopes. A fun short hike is to the Oued Ras el Mar River just east of town.
“Kiff” or basically marijuana will undoubtedly be offered to you if you look like a tourist. This could occur in the rug shops, at the restaurants or pretty much anywhere in this “kiff” saturated town. It is easy enough to refuse and if you refuse enough you will find that because its such a small town you won’t be offered anymore (word gets around).
Chefchaouen has a variety of lodging options – most quite reasonably priced.
If you arrive by bus you most likely will be met at the bus station (in the dirt lot) by people wanting to show you their hotel. This bus station is about a 20 minute walk to the main part of town – the walk is all uphill. This can be a good way to find a hotel – or not. If someone wants to show you a hotel, fine – let them take you. If after they show you the hotel they want to take you to a “rug shop” or another store – at this point its probably wise to refuse. The reason being is that at some point they will demand money for being your tour guide.
A nice boutique hotel that has been highly recommended to us is the Hotel Dar Rass El Maa – www.chefchaouen.ch
Hotel Andaluz is located at 1 Rue Sidi Salem. PHONE (039 986034) – this is clean, comfortable, reasonably priced and located just down from the main square (Outa el Hammam). The rooms on the upper floor surround an interior courtyard as is common in Morocco. This hotel can be quite cold in the winter, similar to other lodging options as it has no centralized heating. Fortunately Hotel Andaluz has a nice selection of thick blankets in each room.
Rooftop access is available with chairs and tables (this is a great place to relax and read a good book). In addition the rooftop area contains a large floor sink for doing laundry. Detergent is included. Cold showers are free – for a hot shower one pays a minimal amount. The owner is a dignified man who has lived in Chefchaouen for many years. He is a good source of information about this town. GPS: N 35 10.124 W 5 15.813
Casa Hassan is a beautiful small guesthouse located in a restored traditional house in the heart of the old Medina. A pretty courtyard and even a hammam (Turkish bath) are located here. More information: www.casahassan.com
Hotel Rif is a bit more expensive than Hotel Andaluz starting at 300 Dirham per night. Its just outside of the Medina walls. PHONE (039 986982)
Pension Cordoba is a good choice for the budget traveler who likes quiet in a beautiful Spanish style house. Rooms run about 150 Dirham per night. There are good views from the rooftop. An added bonus is this hotel is just above the main square – which is within easy walking distance of many restaurants. Showers are included. (061 926759)