A photo of local artwork in Chefchaouen Morocco

Chefchaouen, the largest town in Morocco’s Rif region, is an excellent place to get away from the hubbub of Morocco’s imperial cities and enjoy an unhurried day or two. Located in northern Morocco, the town is referred to simply as “Chaouen” by the locals and is known for its picturesque medina, access to the mountains and an abundance of kif. These factors have made Chefchaouen a popular stop on the backpacker itinerary, but all types of tourists come to the town to explore its architecture, learn about Berber culture and take pleasure in its natural setting.

Start the day with an early morning stroll around the old medina. You’ll find it’s not a complicated labyrinth like Fez or Meknes, and you can stop and look at a tourist map without being accosted by faux guides and souvenir peddlers. Be sure to check out the local handicrafts at the Ensemble Artisanal and get some photos of Chefchaouen’s typical blue-wash architecture. Stop by Plaza Hata to purchase goat butter or local mountain honey, or head to Plaza el-Majzen for more typical souvenirs and regional handicrafts.

Order breakfast at a cafe near Plaza Uta el Hammam, the town’s main square. From here you can get a view of the Great Mosque and its 15th-century octagonal tower. Muslim visitors can go inside the mosque, but non-Muslims are not permitted. Spend the rest of the morning checking out the kasbah, the town’s fortress which was restored in the 17th century. Inside you’ll find a garden, a museum and the prison cells used during Spanish rule. From the kasbah’s rooftop, you can get a nice view of the town.

For the afternoon, take a short stroll to the abandoned mosque outside town (15 minutes on foot) and be back in time to have a relaxed lunch at one Chefchaouen’s outdoor cafes. A more ambitious travel itinerary could include packing a picnic and hiring a grand taxi to take you to Au Pont de Dieu (the Bridge of God), an impressive natural rock arc about 30 minutes’ drive from Chaouen. Another way to pass the time is to learn about aromatic and medicinal plants of the region. Contact Chaouen Rural to arrange a half-day trip to La Maison Rurale d’Aghram. You can also see olive groves and learn how regional olive products are made.

You won’t find any real nightlife in Morocco in this region. Instead, have a candlelight dinner at one of the nicer restaurants, such as La Lampe Magique. Play cards, listen to a fellow traveler strum the guitar or read a book atop your hotel’s rooftop terrace. Above all, relax before heading to the next frenetic bus station or embarking on a multi-day trek in the Rif, which is best arranged before your visit with Gite Talassemtane. This gem of a hotel runs Ecotourisme et Randonnées Chefchaouen, a company operating hikes, walks, and treks with a focus on the local culture and environment.

Written by Heather Carreiro.

Photo by blueSkySunHigh.