Compared to Fernando, I don’t really prepare my trips. I don’t research much so I can really be surprised and I can keep low expectations also… maybe. We heard the city has been chosen as “Top Destination for Tourists to Visit in 2019” by Australia Vogue Magazine. As we had a long weekend in January, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a trip. So let’s go!
I heard a lot about Chefchaouen. The Blue City, they say. Sounds like a nice place to go to. But is it all it was to see? After spending a night in Tanger, we decided to take a 2-hour bus ride to discover the city. A short trip, mostly to have a taste of the ambiance, to know if it was worth it to come back longer another time.
The bus ride was the first surprise. Two hours of mountain ranges, small villages and clear blue sky. As I said, I am not researching much and it didn’t occur to me that Chefchaouen would be a mountain city. But I was so happy it was.
A city niched on a mountain means uphill streets. The Chefchaouen bus station was at the bottom of the city. So our legs, after a long bus drive, felt the walk. But I am glad we walked instead of taking a taxi as each step was revealing the mountain behind the houses. My smile and my eyes were growing a bit bigger at each curve. My mind was stuck on one thought: “Chefchaouen is the Moroccan Chamonix”. (NDLR: Chamonix is the city at the bottom of Mont Blanc in France. Anywhere you look, the mountain watches over you and makes you feel small.) The Rif Mountains gave me the same feeling.
After 20 minutes of going up (with backpacks), we wandered through the blue narrow streets of the medina, looking for our hotel as if we were in a maze. (NDLR: Tips – Use a map like Waze or Google, to avoid getting lost as all the streets look alike. Remember stores at the corner to come back easily). The medina hosts most of the hotels and it gives a great view of the mountain and the city.
We finally found our hotel and felt overwhelmed by our room. Cozy, functional and with native Moroccan design. But the best place to hang out was the terrace on the upper floor. We took our picnic lunch there, enjoying the wind, the view, and listing down places we could go to.
As I said, we decided to visit the city over the long weekend but time was short. We arrived at our hotel around 2pm and decided to leave with the first and only bus at 7am.
So we decided to take a hike to the Spanish Mosque (aka Mosque Bouzâafar) to have a better view of the medina below and the scenery around. We are always feeling uncomfortable when locals are persistent (and sometimes aggressive) to check their shops or eat at their restaurants. But the locals there are friendly and chill. They are laid back and the walk through the city was so pleasant. Weather was cold (10°C) and the sun was shining high. We made a few stops to take pictures of the famous blue streets. Colors are bright and give a warm and welcoming feeling to the visitors. Each street hides treasures and you will just want to capture every small detail of the medina.
The small hike to the Mosque was beautiful and in touch with nature. The trail is easy and you can stop to have a different angle of the city every minute. Some vendors are proposing their art (ceramic, tiles, paintings) or snacks (kids were selling homemade goodies) but they are not suffocating, only asking. Arriving at the Mosque, we were blown away by the view. Many people were sitting on the edge wall of the property, just looking at the city below, enjoying some music, taking pictures, reading, sharing moments.
The original plan was to stay until sunset (as the Mosque is known to be the perfect spot for sunset lovers) but we started feeling cold as the sun was slowly going down. There was no cloud in the sky so we had the feeling that the sunset would be disappointing… So we started to descend.
We went back down, taking the time to take more pictures, talk a bit more to locals (even answered a survey about the city and how to improve it for the future tourists) and check specialties (but we haven’t had the guts to try the escargot snails…).
Back to the hotel, we tried to warm ourselves up without falling asleep as friends had invited us for dinner. They brought us to a great restaurant in the middle of the medina. We enjoyed tagines, steaks, couscous, and desserts at a small price within a nice Ali Babi’s Cave decor. Our friends had spent the whole day hiking to the Akchour Waterfalls. We shared pictures and stories. It was the best way to finish our trip here.
After visiting their accommodation (an authentic Moroccan riad in the middle of the medina), we parted ways to go back to our warm room. We packed our bags and set up our alarm clocks before falling asleep for a well-deserved rest.
We woke up early to walk back down to the bus station. The bus ride back home was filled with bittersweet emotions. We felt sad to leave a place we wanted to explore more but happy to have new memories and a new-born wish to come back.
The purpose of our visit to Chefchaouen was to discover if the city was more than the blue-stairs-pictures you can see everywhere online… and it totally was. The laid back atmosphere, the friendly locals, the mountains, nature and the views, everything was a great discovery. We will definitely come back, spend more time to stroll, eat and hike more.