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- 21 Feb 2020, 3 nights
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Nicknamed the 'blue city' for being painted entirely in various shades of blue, Chefchaouen is popular among photographers looking for something unusual. Here, you'll wander around old buildings and streets steeped in history – the town was established in 1471 by Moorish and Jewish refugees, and it has a magnificent mix of cultures as a result. It's a low-key spot compared to the better-known Tangier and Fes, making it a relaxing place to slow down after the lively bustle of Morocco's bigger cities.
If you've always wanted to stay in a riad, you're in luck: many hostels in Chefchaouen are housed in these traditional, colourful Moroccan buildings, with grand central courtyards and arched windows. Choose a 600-year-old building restored by local craftsmen or a Chefchaouen hostel with a rooftop terrace for admiring the surrounding green mountains. Free breakfasts often come with traditional treats like mint tea. The temperature varies a lot in the mountains, so look for Chefchaouen hostels with fans for the warmer months and heaters for when it's cooler.
Travellers tend to stick close to the historical medina and the traditional Plaza Uta el-Hammam, the main square. Further out, you'll find a maze of smaller alleyways up winding flights of stairs. These areas are usually quieter, with locals going about their daily business. This is especially true out towards the Ras el-Maa natural water spout to the east of the city walls, where some residents do their laundry and gather to chat to each other.
A top activity in Chefchaouen is strolling around the alleyways, either alone or on a tour, and enjoying the city's vibrant colours. Stop by the souk (market) to browse locally crafted leather products, or take a trip to the Andalusian Gardens in the Kasbah Museum. Outside town, the Rif Mountains are a hikers' paradise – the two-day trek to the Talassemtane National Park is especially popular. For laid-back walks, try the Cascades d'Akchour trail. It starts about a 30-minute taxi ride from Chefchaouen and leads to waterfalls and rock pools for swimming.
The best way to explore Chefchaouen's labyrinthine streets is on foot. If you're arriving from Fes, it's around a 3.5-hour drive, while from Tangier it takes just over 2 hours. Public buses tend to involve slightly longer journeys, but they're convenient and inexpensive options from both cities. Some travellers prefer the CTM line, as you can book in advance on the website (up to 72 hours before). Taxis are available to take you to the outer reaches of Chefchaouen.