I was so excited to be finally going to Morocco and to check it off my list since it has been on my top 10 for quite a while! The only thing I really knew about this country before making the trip was from what I saw in pictures mainly on Instagram and Pinterest. From then on I was addicted to what looked like to be an exotic and culturally rich country. So I was about to find out if what I had saw actually lived up to the idea in my head.
We decide to go to the beautiful city of Chefchauoen, or just Chaouen, also know as the Blue Pearl of Morocco, semi spontaneously after making a day trip to Seville, Spain from Portugal. Looking at a map Morocco is basically next door to Spain and why not make an extra trip was my thinking. Chefchaouen is pretty close to the border and has always been a city I wanted to go within Morocco, so Chefchaouen we went!
Things to do:
1. Get lost walking around aimlessly.
This the perfect thing to do to truly see all the mesmerizing streets this city has to offer and take some beautiful photos. Its also a great way to learn your way around the medina and meet some local vendors.
2. Watch the sunset on the city.
Take a hike up to the Spanish mosque to get a great panoramic view of the city and see the lights go down. The hike up to the mosque is fairly easy, probably taking 20-30 minutes.
3. Go to dinner.
Experience the flavors of Morocco and order something typical! I suggest ordering the Moroccan soup, Moroccan mint tea, sweet tagine chicken (my absolute favorite!), chicken pastilla, couscous, and tabbouleh. All of these dishes are what Morocco is known for and they are all super delicious!
I keep dreaming of that sweet tagine chicken I ate at Restaurant Tissemlal (previously located at Hotel Casa Hassan and now serving their fare across the street at Hotel Barcelona), oh my goodness so good!… for a total of 215 dirham for two people.
There are plenty of good restaurants around the medina and all are pretty affordable. What we found in general was 60 dirham for a complete meal, which includes a basket of bread and olives, an appetizer, entree, and a dessert.
12, Rue Targui
Tel: 05 3998 6153
(Picture above from Hotel Casa Miguel.)
4. Kasbah (Central Plaza).
This place is especially cool at night with the lights on and music playing. There are a lot of restaurants here as well as shops to browse. From cute souvenirs to Moroccan rugs, textiles, lamps and spices… and the conical earthenware used for cooking tagine.
We heard there were some waterfalls pretty close to our hotel, but never had the time to make it out there. It should be an easy excursion if have some time.
We stayed at the 400 year old Hotel Casa Miguel and absolutely loved it! The service was really great, especially coming from the hotel manager, Sana. She was very on top of everything and extremely accommodating.
Our hotel also had breakfast included and it was the perfect spread, including meloui (amazing Moroccan bread), Moroccan mint tea, coffee, milk, croissants, cereal, juices, and Sana even made us an egg every morning we were there. This meal saved us a lot of money because kept us going strong until dinner. The rooms were very cute and comfy. Another thing I loved was the hotel’s terrace, which had a nice view of the city and a cute sitting area with pillows and shade (at the hotel’s annex).
Hotel Casa Miguel
Rue El Hafiane, Quartier Rif Andaluz
Cell: +212 539 882 645
How we got there (on the cheap):
Getting a ferry
First, we drove down from Seville to the Port in Algeciras. When we got there we purchased our round trip tickets for a promotion price of €40, normally double that. When you get to the port there are tons of travel agencies that can offer you these promo prices and from what we found these prices are better than the ones you can find online. We decided to take the FRS boat line which offered us the best price and we hopped on the next boat. This company has a few boats a day that go out but you can easily find their schedule online to plan around.
Catching a bus
After our hour long boat ride we arrived in Ceuta, which is in Africa already but is considered Spain still (so I guess I can say I’ve been in two continents at once now haha. From the port it’s a bit of a walk so you’re going to want take some sort of transportation down there and since we were trying to do this trip on the cheap we took a bus (line 7 for less that €1 and it brought us right to the border.)
Right before we walked across into Morocco we exchanged our money into dirham. There are money exchangers on the corner of the street that apparently official. They looked kinda sketchy to me not being used to anything like this in the U.S, but we had already talked to someone from the tourism office in Ceuta who had instructed us to do this and we also noticed locals exchanging their money so it must be safe and it was. I believe we exchanged $80 American dollars for 700 and something dirham. The exchange rate was about 9.20, so we got exactly what we should have. Also, if you can exchange euros instead, you should. Not only the euro is stronger than the dollar, but since there are more moneychangers dealing in this currency, you’ll get a more favorable rate.
Taxi to Tetouen
We walked right across the border after having our passports checked without a problem. Right after walking across you can catch a cab, this is where I experienced some cultural shock. Moroccans are very into haggling so be prepared for that. You can take what we found out a “shared or alone cab”. shared meaning with other people heading your same direction and you can do this very cheap. We payed 20 dirham each which is about $2 to get to Tetouen and then from Tetouen you have to either do the same thing or take the bus for 25 dirham, about $2.5. The reason why we took a cab from the border to Tetouen and then a bus to Chefchauoen is because the taxis have different territories and you can’t really take just one cab to Chefchaouen unless you are willing to pay 10 times that amount for an “alone cab”.
Bus ride to Chefchaouen
When we got to Tetouen we had our cab driver drop us off at the bus station and from there you can find a cab or take a bus to Chefchaouen. We decided to take a bus because we didn’t know if anyone else would pop up to ride with us, but looking back we should have just taken a cab straight because the bus took quite awhile to get up the mountain.
Finally we made it to the Blue Pearl!
We took one final small taxi from the bus station (Gare Routière) up the hill for 20 dirham, which was very well worth it and walked the rest of the way from the Medina entrance to our hotel. Bring a map if it’s your first time to Chefchaouen or just ask one of the friendly locals if you get lost. The town is very small but its narrow and windy streets make it sorta confusing at first.
During our stay it happened to be the month of Ramadan, which was a very cool experience to be emerised in. 99% of the Moroccan population is Muslim so literally everyone in the city was celebrating. The call to prayer, called the Adhan, is 5 times a day coming from the mosques and places of worship, which alerts the people to stop and turn to the Lord, and bow in a prayer of thanks. The Islamic Adhan is a song, which is very beautiful and you could really feel passion and spirit in it.
All in all, this place lived up to my Moroccan dream and the only thing I wish was different about this trip was being able to stay longer. But I will most definitely be coming back as well as seeing more Moroccan destinations!