There’s something mesmerizing about a city painted blue. Something magical about people who purposely paint their doors, walls, and streets blue ‘just because’. I had read about Chefchaouen before moving to Morocco. It was on my list of places to see when I nearly traveled to Morocco three years ago (air miles weren’t available so I ended up in Ecuador). Chefchaouen was no secret, I knew it was going to be lovely, but none of that prepared me for the incredible site as I descended into the blue valley held perfectly in the crevices of the Rif Mountains.
Arriving: Bus, Taxi, or Car Rental
It takes a bit of dedication to arrive in Chefchaouen. Most people visiting Morocco either never make it due to time constraints or don’t want to deal with the transportation hassle in planning a stay. From Tangier it’s possible to arrive by bus or hire a ‘Grand Taxi’ (a white old school Mercedes) for the trip. Although driving in Morocco can be challenging, it’s also possible to rent a car from Tangier or Fes and drive to Chefchaouen. In comparison with driving in the major cities of Morocco, the drive to Chefchaouen is easy – so I told myself.
I foolishly felt overconfident that I wouldn’t have a problem driving there and assumed Garmin would drop me right at the doorstep of my Riad without problem. As per usual I was wrong. Never mind that Google Maps claims it is just over 3 hours, that’s wrong too. The roads are small and bumpy, but the scenery is stunning. The turn off from the A1 to the N1 isn’t properly marked and I later learned that most people (as did I) miss it on their first try. I ended up on route P4238 which consisted of a road wide enough to fit 1 car, dodging sheep herders, goats and packs of dogs.
Wandering and Eating in Chefchaouen
It isn’t possible to drive in the old medina with a car, so I parked at the Parador Hotel and paid the parking lot attendant 10 dirham to watch my car for the evening and hauled myself into the blue alleyways searching for Lena Riad. Someone from the hotel had said they would meet me at the Parador, but no one answered the phone when I called so I wandered.
Chefchaouen’s medina is small and perfect for aimlessly walking about. The powder blue alleyways are compact and filled with the smell of kif smoke intertwined with Turmeric and Cumin rising from cooking tagines. I was lured into a Spanish Tortilleria (by only the name of course) with outdoor bench-seating that was filled with Europeans hovered around a tiny television with terrible reception to watch a soccer game. I was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to learn that there were no real tortillas at all (Mexican food always steals my heart).
The restaurants along the main square are ideal for people watching over a pot of mint tea, but restaurant solicitors hound you in 20 different languages to come and sit at their establishment. Being blonde is highly inconvenient in circumstances such as these because the fact that I’m not a local is clearly apparent. After several recommendations, I tried out Casa Hassan for dinner located on a side street just off the main square. For 80 DH (about $9), they serve a 3 course traditional Moroccan dinner.
Outdoor Festivities (So I’m Told)
Most travelers are drawn to Chefchaouen for the outdoor potential. Considering it was winter and I’m an adopted Californian, I didn’t do any hiking as I refuse to partake in outdoor activities when the temperature dips below 60 Fahrenheit without snow pants and hand warmers. I’m certain Chefchaouen hasn’t seen the last of me – next time (weather permitting of course) I may peruse the local waterfall that is all the rage.