Like a breath of fresh air between the damp density of Fes’ medina and the tourist saturation of Marrakesh is Chefchaouen, a small city nestled into the Rif Mountains of Morocco. It isn’t the easiest place to get to, as buses are slow and taxis can be expensive, but once you arrive, it will be worth the trek. The buildings are painted white and blue, creating a calm and clean feeling, and when contrasted with the vibrant spices bulging out of the city dwellers’ bags and the mountainous backdrop, it’s a photographer’s dream. Compared to braving the crowds of other major Moroccan cities, it’s a downright pleasure shopping here.
Chefchaouen is a popular spot for short trips, and in Morocco, you’ll find that when making arrangements, you are often booking with someone’s cousin or brother-in-law, and for any further services you may require, may they humbly recommend their great-aunt’s nephew? This is to be expected, and sometimes makes getting around easier. Just be upfront and adamant about the fact that you’ll drink the tea, but that you have no intention of buying rugs to impress your parents or the hashish the region is known for (unless you do want to purchase these items; then drink a lot of tea, do your best bargaining, and err on the side of caution).
From Tangier, you can arrange for a taxi to take you to Chefchaouen and back to Tangier again in true day-trip fashion. I would trust your hostel to arrange this for you, as most will have taxi offers for a round trip at a fixed price. Generally, you can split this between all the people in the taxi; hence, it’s a smart move to find out if other travelers want to make the same trip to cut costs even further. I split the ride with friends and fellow hostel stayers, and our taxi driver ended up being quite the tour guide, passionate about all things from Morocco’s pirate history to bear hunting. We continued south from Chefchaouen to Fes, but if you wish to stay the night, there are an abundance of hotels. Buses to and from Fes, Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier and a few other cities are regular enough, and taxis will take you to and from the bus station cheaply.
The Chefchaouen medina is very walkable, and while wandering, you’ll find pockets that offer different wares including leather, wool, sweets and cheeses. Prices may be a bit higher here than in larger cities, but they say the quality will be better. In the main square, you’ll find more shops and restaurants offering delicious tagine, other tasty Moroccan dishes and, of course, sweet mint tea. When passing street food vendors, just use your best judgment. If the case is swarming with bees, probably keep walking. Otherwise, try one of each, or just ask for what those around you are getting. The tea is always delicious, and the flat and fat breads are filling and tasty.
As always, when wandering and exploring, make sure you keep personal and valuable items safely tucked away. Try not to get sucked into a ‘tour’ you don’t want by being firm and consistent, and be aware that this is a marijuana growing region, so don’t wander through fields uninvited. Overall though, I felt very safe in Chefchaouen and recommend it to any and all.