Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen 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 is the foreign language mostly spoken by the population, while French is the language of higher education. (less...) (more...)

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  • Metropolis over 100 hotels
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  • Small city 5-20 hotels
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  • Beach Beach
  • Business object Business object
  • Casino Casino
  • Civic property Civic property
  • Education Education
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  • Golf course Golf course
  • Green space Green space
  • Harbor Harbor
  • Historic site Historic site
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  • Medical Medical
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  • Museum Museum
  • Shopping Shopping
  • Skiing Skiing
  • Sports facility Sports facility
  • Theater Theater
  • Winery Winery

Points of Interest in Chefchaouen

  • The medina (maps: [1] [2]) 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 (Ras el Maa) to the east of the medina is a meeting point for local residents who come to cool off, chat and do their laundry (including carpets on sunny sundays). The café nearby is rather expensive, however it's a nice change from the main square.
  • The ruins of an old mosque (Jemaa Bouzafar), on a hill behind the waterfall, overlook the medina and its crumbling tower offers great views of the town.
  • The    Kasbah. Looks quite interesting from the outside, but there isn't much to see inside. The place is well preserved. There's the tower and the prison amongst others that's worth a visit, and the courtyard is green and almost alien amdist the mountain setting. Should only be an option if you're either bored or want to get away from the bustle outside. 20 MAD.
  • The hill of the Hotel Atlas is 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.

Plaza Uta el-Hammam

Chefchaouen Kasbah

Ras Elma Park

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About Chefchaouen

Activities

  • Take a hike through the scenic Rif Mountains. There is a pathway leading up into the mountains just behind the waterfall 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. See "Stay safe" below.
  • A strenuous hike up 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.
  • A two-day hike in the Talasemtane national park via Asilane (Gite, 200 Dh per person incl. meals) to Akchour (Double rooms from 150 Dh) 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 1800m is a camping site. Be advised though that 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 14km 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. See below for getting back to Chaouen. There are more tracks and gites in the area. It is possible to even hike to Oued Laou at the mediterranean.
  • Take a grand taxi to Akchour and do a 1.5h hike in the mountains towards the 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 millenia. 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. Getting back may be a bit of a hassle, as the grand taxi (120Dh per taxi) only runs rarely. On weekends in the afternoon, you may be able to hitch with locals who went there for a weekend trip and will the head back to Tanger. They can drop you at Dar Akouba from where it is easy to get transport back to Chefchoauen.

Food

The local specialty 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 Salada Marroqui 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.

If eating in the medina, avoid restaurants on the Kasbah square (plaza Uta el Hamman) offering tourist menus for 45 dh (drinks not included): they will just serve you very low-quality kofte and harira, for a more than average price.

  • Assadaa (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 50Dh, all included.
  • Granada (2 blocks up from the main square). Great fish tajine, great couscous. Mains ~ 25 Dh.
  • Chez Fuad (opposite Granada). Also do a great fish tajine, and a shrimp tajine, salad and cous-cous are also very good. Great relation quality/price.
  • For a sandwich break, head for the local sandwich dealer on the left of Bab el-Ain gate. Chicken, beef or shrimps sandwiches, with olives, salad and sauces, for 25Dh
  • Snack Aya (Walking towards the central square from Ras El Maa (waterfall gate), take the 5th stairs down to your left.). noonish 'til late. This place opened in March 2012 and the owner Miloud has yet to decide on a name or get a sign for his sandwich shop. It's next to Hostal VallParadis, near Ras El Maa. He makes sandwiches. For 10Dh you get half a baguette packed with ham, tuna, olives, rice, cheese, salad and an omelette! That's less than half the price and more than twice the volume of similar vendors in the Medina. You can also order tagine, couscous and various other dishes at least an hour or two in advance and you'll get some real home cooking for a reasonable price. Expect to wait 30 minutes to an hour longer than the time you ask for. Very different from anything from local restaurants, but the prices aren't fixed. The chicken tagine is fantastic, the meat couscous OK. 10Dh.

Drinks

Alcohol is not readily available but can be found. Mint tea is prevalent (10 Dh the cup).

As for the whole of Morocco, avoid tap water for safety concerns, and drink bottled water (6 Dh for a cold 1 lt bottle) or drinks (8 Dh for 1/2 lt coke). Never pay more than 10 Dh for a bottle, even in restaurants.

Local breakfast includes milk-coffee (café con leche) and pancakes (baghrir) with honey and olive oil or butter, for 10-15 Dh. Good places to have breakfast with the locals are the bar on plaza Hauta, in the Medina, and the bar in front of the Gendarmerie Nationale in av. Mohamed V.

Shopping

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.

Leather

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, or have it shipped home (£6 within Europe).

  • Hassan's Workshop (In the eastern medina, between the old olive tree and the waterfall),  +212 065 00717. 9-6ish. 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 totally 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-off's, which makes for wonderful craftsmanship, great prices and no hassle. Variable prices.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Chefchaouen on Wikivoyage.

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