To be honest, I didn’t actually want to go to Chefchaouen. It’s one of the most touristy places in all of Morocco, and this is further exacerbated by the town’s small size. In the evening, walking through the main streets or plaza is physically challenging because there are SO many tourists! I avoid such places like the plague when I travel, so Chefchaouen wasn’t exactly at the top of my list of places to visit while living in Morocco. But I ultimately changed my mind because “The Blue Pearl of Morocco” is one of the closest and easiest places to visit from my home base in Tangier. Alhamdullilah, Chefchaouen ended up exceeding my (admittedly low) expectations, and I don’t regret my trip! Still, there are some important things to know if you are planning to visit but want to avoid the crowds in Chefchaouen.
1. Get Up Early – How to Avoid the Crowds in Chefchaouen
Whether you want that perfect pic for Instagram or you just want to explore in peace, my most essential tip is to get up early. And when I say early, I mean early. In peak tourist season, you’ll want to be leaving your hostel around 7, if not earlier. Even at 7 or 8 in the morning, there may be lines to take photos in the most picturesque spots.
2. Get Up High – How to Avoid the Crowds in Chefchaouen
Chefchouen is in the mountains of Northern Morocco, and the old medina is on a steep incline. The lower part of the medina is the most touristy, with wider streets and a large plaza beside the Kasbah. However, the further up you climb, the fewer tourists you’ll find! As a bonus, the higher alleyways are narrower and therefore appear more blue. These areas are also more residential, so you can meet some wonderful locals. Make sure to say hello in Arabic/Darija, to be respectful and not block the streets, and to ask for permission before you take a photo that has people in the foreground. Many locals are understandably very frustrated with the inundation of foreigners in their town, so be extra respectful. Try to be understanding and gracious if a few locals are annoyed by your presence!
3. Go Hiking – How to Avoid the Crowds in Chefchaouen
Many people only visit Chefchaouen for the day, explaining why the city is so much emptier in the early morning. In addition, this means that many tourists don’t have the time for hiking in the gorgeous mountains around the city! The easiest hike is to the Spanish Mosque (Mosquée Bouzâafar), with the trail starting from the small bridge at the eastern part of the city. The hike is short, easy to find, and offers beautiful views over the city! If you have more time or want a more challenging hike, consider doing God’s Bridge and/or Akchour Waterfall (both are along the same trail!) These hikes start from outside the city, but the trail head is easily and cheaply accessible by taxi.
4. Stay the Night – How to Avoid the Crowds in Chefchaouen
You may have gathered this from my previous tips, but it’s almost impossible to avoid the crowds with a day trip to Chefchaouen! If you stay the night, you can explore the city in the early morning and have time for hiking. You may even want to stay for two nights so that you can hike before the heat of the day. If you want, you could spend your afternoon shopping with the throngs or recouping from your early morning start!
5. Tips for Shopping in Chefchaouen
This tip is on a slightly different topic, but I think it’s important to include since shopping is the main attraction in the city other than photography. Chefchaouen is touristy, and therefore it is expensive and hard to bargain here. Try to buy from shops on the edge of town where there are fewer tourists, and make sure to ask around about prices A LOT before you buy anything so you know the item’s worth. Also try really hard to learn a few phrases in Darija, Morocco’s dialect of Arabic. This actually makes a significant difference in convincing shopkeepers to bargain with you. I often got the price down by 50% after mentioning that I’m living in Morocco to study Arabic!
Want to know more about my travels in Morocco? Click here to see all my posts about this incredibly country!