Chefchaouen

Hi, friends!  

Just starting?  Or looking for information about Tanger?  Check out Tangier Part I and Part II.

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Today’s post will describe exactly how you can get from Tangier to Chefchaouen on your own and just for the day.  I knew that two days in Tangier was more than enough to experience it and really see it, so I wanted to use our third day as an opportunity to travel to another city.  After some quick research, it looked like Chefchaouen was the best option (there are other cities to see, but a blue city?  Sounds pretty cool to me.).  I did some research about getting from Tangier to Chefchaouen and I kept getting results for mediocre tour companies that charge ~90 Euros/ person for transport and a tour.  The reviews of these companies kept saying the same thing: the taxi/ bus was great, but the guide and tour are mediocre.  So…pay 180 Euros for a bus ride?  No thanks.  I knew there was a way to get there on our own, and found some information about it via Trip Advisor, but not all that much.  Morocco isn’t exactly known for it’s incredible public transport, so without fancy websites and bus schedules, I knew our best option was to show up, buy some tickets, and hope for the best.  And hey!  we got there safe and sound and had a great day 🙂

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Why is Chefchaouen blue?  Well, there are a few popular theories.  According to Wikipedia, these theories include:

  • The blue keeps mosquitos away.
  • The Jews introduced the blue when they took refuge from Hitler in the 1930s.
  • The blue is said to symbolize the sky and heaven, and serve as a reminder to lead a spiritual life.

Not sure which is was, but there were far fewer mosquitos in Chefchaouen than in Tangier.  Anyway…getting there!

The first thing you’ll want to do is head to the Gare Routiere de Tanger, a.k.a the bus station.  Take a taxi there for 2 Euros or less.  DSC_0353

When you walk in, expect to be bombarded by men asking where you want to go and then pointing you in the direction of their company of choice for you to buy a ticket.  Head to that office, ask when the next bus to Chefchaouen is and then check the other offices.DSC_0360 

Direct tickets should be 3-4 Euros/ person for one way (30-40 Dirham).  The major company is C.T.M, but there are a number of other companies to choose from.  We bought our tickets (with a different company) and waited for 45 minutes.  I asked the guy at the desk if there would be a bathroom on the bus (insert LAUGHING and possibly rolling-on-the-floor-laughing here).  Instead, I used the fancy bathroom in the bus station, which is very similar to the other bathrooms I used during this trip.DSC_0356

My shoes need to be washed…and burned.

Luis was pumped for this adventure 😉DSC_0361

Although they told us the trip would take two hours, between all of the stops the driver made (to pick up other passengers, to buy water, to buy lunch…the usual), it was closer to 3.  Luckily for me (and my bladder), I fell asleep for most of it and woke up when we were in the mountains!  I was truly amazed at how green Morocco was.  You think ‘Africa’, you think ‘brown’.  You think ‘Spain’, you don’t think ‘brown’.  But Spain is brown and Africa is, well, GREEN.DSC_0365

Once we arrived (I was about ready to vomit and go to the bathroom in my seat), we headed straight for the taxi to take us to the Medina (old town).  He charged 2 Euro for the trip, which was probably a lot, but sounded ok to us. (While writing this post, I read a little more on Google and it says do not pay more than 1 Euro.  So, we were swindled a little).  Either way, we had a pretty sweet ride!  I should note that you can, in fact, walk to the Medina.  I read that it takes about 15 minutes, but it’s a steep climb and taxis are cheap.

**PRO TIP:  Before you get a taxi to head to the Medina, BUY YOUR RETURN TICKET FOR TANGER!!!  Our driver asked us on the way to the Medina:  “did you buy a ticket?  The buses will be ‘completo’ tonight when everyone is going home.”  Uh oh.  Take my word for it and BUY your ticket, even if you’re not sure what time you want to go back.  There were only two direct buses that night and guess how many weren’t completo when we finally made our way back down to the station??DSC_0373 DSC_0374

This taxi screams “five-star safety rating!!!”

Chugging and puffing up the steep hills, our little taxi dropped us right at the entrance to the Medina of Chefchaouen, a.k.a… The Blue City.DSC_0380

I had all types of excitement running through me.  It was so pretty and just waiting to be explored!DSC_0383 DSC_0388 

But true to fashion, we only walked for maybe 7 minutes before stopping for food.  ðŸ™‚  We found a place that was bright and blue.  It was full of tourists like yours truly, but the food looked good and reasonably priced (when I say reasonably priced, I mean 3-5 Euros or 30-50 Dirham/ plate).DSC_0509

When the menu is in four languages, you know it’s authentic!  (sarcasm).  We started with olives, an eggplant dip, bread, and spicy harissa.DSC_0412

Loved the salad, but love loved the bowl even more!

For our main courses, we ordered two beef tajines- one was pretty plain and the other was slightly sweet with roasted plums.  I preferred that one, but let Luis enjoy most of both.DSC_0414

He ended up ordered another tajine with chicken and olives and I sipped on some bubbly 😉  Just kidding, I went to town on the bread basket and we shared an avocado smoothie.DSC_0429 DSC_0420That man next to be was enjoying some Kindle reading after his meal, but the owner kicked him out.  We were cracking up…

Full (like, extremely full), we continued the adventure.  We headed through the winding streets of the Medina, stopping for pictures and what-not.DSC_0448 

Chefchaouen was absolutely beautiful, but without all the tourist bags and rugs and trinkets, there isn’t really all that much to see.  It’s a tourist hot-spot because as soon as you step out of the Medina, it’s not as blue and there certainly are not colorful bags hanging on the walls.DSC_0451

But hey, I ate it alllll up.  I loved it!  Chefchaouen was cleaner and more orderly than Tangier.  It felt safer and more lively, in a good sense, but also less authentic.DSC_0455

Eventually, we found the famous Rif mountains, known for their beautiful hiking and accessibility from the city.  You can spend a few hours exploring Chefchaouen and then go for a hike- all in one day.DSC_0441 DSC_0472

There was an area with a small waterfall, full of children playing.  To the sides, there were women washing rugs and clothing, and men selling fresh-squeezed orange juice.DSC_0474

We saw a path leading up from the town, so we walked for a bit to take in the views.DSC_0488 DSC_0485 DSC_0495

I, personally, was so full that unless you pushed me in a wheelbarrow, a hike just wasn’t happening.  We headed back down the mountain and through the Medina, hoping to get to the bus station and buy some direct tickets to Tangier (a girl can dream, right?).DSC_0507

I think I should send this photo to the water bottle company so they can have an advertisement with a handsome guy.

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I absolutely fell IN LOVE with this door.   #doorgoalsDSC_0498

We made it back to the bus station and attempted to buy direct tickets.  No dice.  “completo”, “completo”, “completo” was the response we got.  I had read about this happening before arriving in Morocco so I knew it wasn’t a huge deal.  If this happens to you, all you need to do is: purchase the earliest ticket to Tetuan and then buy another ticket from Tetuan to Tangier, which is more frequent.  We bought a ticket for an hour later, and went on a hunt to find a REAL toilet (one guy in a restaurant told me to pay 5 Dirham/ 50 cents to use their bathroom and I asked if he had a toilet and he said “yes, yes! completo!” but I told him I wanted to see the toilet first.  When I opened the door, there was only one of those disgusting holes.  Noooooooooooooooooo!)  We eventually found a cafe with a toilet (I got locked in the bathroom, but a fine gentleman let me out haha).  We ordered a coffee and a mint tea, and a good 15 minutes later, it showed up.  We were joking that they had to go buy the coffee and tea because none of the other men (always men) in the cafe were drinking anything.  When the drinks did arrive, I don’t think we were too far off on our predictions.  I’m no gardener, but this isn’t mint.DSC_0514

Pretty sure she just put some tree leaves in my tea and called it a day.

As for the bus, it eventually showed up.  We were the only non-Arabs (as told by our clothing) and therefore didn’t know that when the bus comes, everyone will proceed to push and yell to get a seat and you, as the outsiders, will be left standing at the front of the bus while all of the Arab people stare back at you with a slight smirk of satisfaction and you will tightly grip the tickets that you paid for and think…”wtf just happened???”.  If this happens, talk to the bus driver and demand that they give you a seat.  We were given a seat in the back of the bus and he made the non-paying riders sit, basically, in the trunk of the bus.  An hour and 30 minutes later, we arrived in Tetuan, to another suspect bus station.DSC_0515  

Again, we checked that various offices and bought a ticket for the earliest bus to Tangier.  This ticket cost us 15 Dirham (1.5 Euro/each) and the first leg of trip cost 35 Dirham, FYI.  We had about 30 minutes to kill, so we stopped for a delicious salad in the bus station cafe.DSC_0516

Looking at that photo brings back nightmares.  We still aren’t sure what that pink meat was and I tried to ask, but the waiter just gave me a big thumbs up and a smile.  Friends, that’s never good.  Hahaha.

We did eventually make it back to Tanger, grabbed a taxi, had another (more normal-looking) salad, and headed back to the hotel.  I was completely beat from such a long day!

As you can see, it’s a long day to go from Tanger to Chefchaouen, but it’s totally doable and very, very worth it.  If you have enough time, I highly recommend it!DSC_0520

Another pottery piece I wanted.  Next time!

On our final morning in Tangier, we had coffee and bread, then went for one last walk through the Medina and soaked it all in.  For me, this was an incredible trip and with such a close proximity to Spain, I’m already planning to go back- maybe to Marakech- with everyone and their mother.DSC_0524