Morocco

Chefchaouen – a Blue Fairy Tale

Packed and checked out, we waited at the lobby for our transfer driver to arrive. The staff at the riad gave us a bag of breakfast items – bananas, yogurt, some kind of sweet bread so it was nice of them to at least gave us something unlike the one at Marrakesh. The staff got a call that our driver arrived at the outside of the gate so they helped us to wheel our luggage out to the gate. We tipped them 100 dirhams (two guys). They loaded our luggage into the van and off we go to the CMT bus station in the new part of the city. The drive was probably less than 10 minutes. We arrived at the station, the driver took one of our luggage to “help” us even we said no thanks. He said he’ll show us where to check in for our bus etc. We knew we need to tip him for “showing us” and since the hotel paid for the ride, remember no free lunch in Morocco! Sokunna and I chatted and we decided to tip him 50 dirhams. When I was checking in my bags, Sokunna handed him a 50 dirham bill but that greedy driver demanded more OMG! Sokunna dug into her bag and took out a 100 dirhams bill, that GREEDY driver just took the 100 dirhams bill off her hand without giving her back the 50 and left. So the transfer wasn’t really free, sigh, it was just sad! Those type of people gives a bad reputation of the country!!!

We were seated in the waiting room for the bus and then they made an announcement for boarding. The bus was a relatively comfortable and in good condition coach bus; like any coach bus you see back home. At first, I was thinking rather to book a private transfer or by shared bus, after reading few articles and comments in TripAdvisor, most people recommended the bus because the road to Chefchaouen goes through mountain cliffs so it’s much safer to be on a bus as there is no incentive for the bus driver to speed. On the other hand, some private drivers could be reckless on driving as they want to get there fast and then get another passenger. The bus was much cheaper too and make sure to go with CMT buses as they are newer and in better condition. There are other bus companies operating this route but with older buses, of course, their fare tend to be cheaper as well.

The ride was decent, it passed through small villages and the country side:

It made a stop at the cafe for 15 minutes to use the restroom and buy food. I didn’t use the restroom being an OCD person you know….but we saw someone selling the Moroccan pancake, freshly made, and Jason went down to buy it. It was pretty delicious at less than 5 dirhams.

Next, the bus made another stop at somewhere to drop off and load more people. Not sure what town this is but it looked like a transfer hub.

The total trip took 4 hours passing through more mountains…

Then, houses that are blued colored started to appear, I know we were near…..see Chefchaouen sitting on the mountain with all those blue houses?

The CMT bus station in Chefchaouen is located outside of the town center, it required a short taxi ride to the center and it was pretty cheap at around 15 dirhams for a petite taxi (max 3 passengers). I gave the name of the place to check into our AirBnB: Pizzeria Mandala on a piece of paper. The taxi driver spoke no English and when he looked at the piece of paper, he seemed to know where is the place.

At first, I booked Riad Gharnata months in advanced and then while we were in Switzerland, the riad contacted us and said they overbooked for some “reason not in their control” and harassed us to cancel the booking. It was unbelievable and stressful so do not book Riad Gharnata regardless how nice the place looks in photos! Last minute, we found Carlo’s Airbnb, he was very prompt in responding but he is physically located in Spain so his Airbnb is managed through a 3rd party. He instructed us to Pizzeria Mandala to check-in and get our key. We found the lady who managed his Airbnb but she seemd to be super busy. I waited till she’s done with her business and she said the lady is still cleaning the house so we need to wait. It was time for lunch and Pizzeria Mandala has good reviews in TripAdvisor so why not we have lunch here. We ordered a Hawaiian pizza and spaghetti; the pizza was good (can’t compare to the ones in Italy of course) but the spaghetti was too salty for me.

The lunch was around 40 dirhams per person, not bad! After lunch, our house finally ready and a guy who works for her led us to the house. He barely speaks English though! The house is conveniently located on one of the main roads, like 10 minutes walk from the pizzeria. It was not located up on the hill inside the town so it was very easy to find and only 5 minutes walk from the “center”. There was nothing to brag about the house, it was a 3 story high independent house with basic furniture. The bed was hard and the sheet and comforter looked dirty! It get cold at night so there are electric heaters provided. The listing of the house is here and to see more photos as I didn’t take any photos of it: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1824155

I was actually thankful that we found a place last minute as Chefchaouen was almost completely booked so at least we found a place to sleep for a night……the booking was for 2 nights but we decided to leave on the late afternoon of the 2nd day instead of the early morning on the 3rd day because we figured would be better to spend the night in Tangier where we’ll be flying out the 3rd day morning. It is almost a 2.5 hours drive from Chefchaouen to Tangier so we didn’t want to risk of missing our flight due to traffic, accident, or whatever in the early morning.

We found that the house has no toilet paper urggggg, we told the guy and he didn’t understand what we were talking about! I messaged Carlos and he said he’ll have the cleaning lady to refill it tomorrow….and she didn’t! Luckily, I always pack tissue papers with me in the event of no toilet paper! Without wasting time, we changed and went out to explore the old town center.

For those who have never heard of or never seen photos of Chefchaouen, let me tell you this, it is a blue fairy tale town! When I first stumbled upon photos of it, I was thinking it was a movie set but instead I found it was actually a real place in Morocco! This was the two of the reasons why I decided to visit Morocco: The Sahara Desert and Chefchaouen!!!

We walked out of our house and already surrounded by blue and white architectures!!! Each doors were unique despite they were all blue….all shades of blue! I read that the color blue repel insects and thus the reason they painted their town in shades of blue!!!

Being a matchy matchy person for photos, I chose this long white dress with blue flowers 😀

Chefchaouen was the only place in Morocco that I felt safe in walking and navigating the place by ourselves! We didn’t have a printed map but we loaded Google maps just in case so we know how to get back to our riad; the directions were pretty accurate too! Off we go navgating this blue town. Too cute already!

We walked up few streets to the mountain and then turned left into the town and the first “blue” street we saw, woah just like the photos on the internet. We were surprised by every corner and turn, it really was like in a story book and we didn’t know what to expect next!

More unique doorways, they are all so cute and pretty!

It wasn’t crowded given the afternoon I guess and we just on our own pace stopping every few steps to photograph here and there.

Can you believe this place is real?

They have a lot of souvenir shops selling those handcrafted doorways – they looked so cute. It was definitely a worthy souvenir to bring back home, they are made locally too not from China because we walked by few shops where people n the shop were making those from cutting the base shape from the wood board to painting to screwing those lamps in.

More unique door way:

This reminded me of Greece!

The wall with a street sign, Chefchaouen is better with putting up street signs than Marrakesh or Fes!

I was super happy to made this long journey to Chefchaouen!

The terrace of the houses that offered great views of the mountain and valley.

See the street lamp? It looked the same as the souvenir mini doorway version of it!

The owner of this house really has a business mindset, the owner decorated his/her house and charge people to go in to take photos. It was a clever idea and I am glad to pay the 5 dirhams for photo backdrops. When we walked in, the family was inside watching tv, a lady came out and we paid her, she left us alone there to take all the photos we wanted. I mean it was so much better than to scam people or harrassing the lost people right?

So pretty courtyard!

After the paid photo backdrops, we walked back out to the street for the free backdrops hehe!

It was not the flower season so those pots didn’t have much colorful flowers blooming otherwise would be perfect!

When we lowered our guard and saw those little kids, they said hi to us and we responded thinking village kids are different than the city kids. Guess what, those annoying kids are back! At first, they said hi and started asking questions like curious kids and then with their broken English suddenly popped “two dirhams” WTH seriously? We turned and left with disappointment…I couldn’t believe how those kids were raised, it was just sad, so sad in such a beautiful town. I thought Chefchaouen could leave us a good impression that not everywhere in Moroccan are greedy people, guess not! Sokunna read somewhere that Morocco is one of the friendliest countries, we really wanted to know where the source came from, it was definitely NOT the case the week we were in Morocco traveling through Marrakesh, Fes, and Chefchaouen! I can say that based on my travel experiences, 29 countries so far, Morocco is the least friendly country that I have been to! It was just too bad that Morocco has such a vast variety in landscape from desert to high mountains, to grass plains, to this blue fairy tale like town that the country itself is very photogenic but ruined by those greedy and annoying locals!!!

I didn’t want those kids to destroyed my enjoyment of phototaking so moving on to explore more streets.

Loved this corner, it was postcard perfect!

Then, when we get to this street, right after I finished my photo and it was Sokunna’s turn, those kids appeared again. This time, they jumped into our photos and asked for money, right in front of our face! I have no interest in photographing you sick kids who brought a shame to this beautiful place. I pointed down my camera and ignored them thinking they will leave. Instead, a kid threw a rock at Sokunna OMG OMG OMG!!! There was one point, I yelled at one kid but since their English was poor that they didn’t get what I was saying. We left and very fortunately, we managed to avoid those kids again!

Forget about the kids, we continued to take photos and exploring this town’s every photogenic corner.

Another pretty doorway!

Blue and white combo is perfect no doubt about it, but blue and light orange? Looks good too!

That house on the back with a rocky wall exterior is Riad Gharnata that we booked and got cancelled, I recognized it from the photos online grrrrr. One thing I was glad about that we didn’t stay here was it would be a pain to find and to carry the luggage up the mountain to the riad!

We followed the streets and turning left and right and found this that looked like a fountain, it was so cute!

More photos of Jason and I 😀

The powder they use to paint their walls, so colorful!

More shops…our first half day was to get familarized with the town layout and didn’t spend time to check out the souvenir shops.

This is one of the main souvenir street, so pretty! There was no harassment from the sellers as well!

We eventually got down to the center of the town, this square:

We didn’t stop there since we will head back when time for dinner, all the good restaurants are located near the square.

We ventured again into the backstreets and saw this one….hum a justice building? If it’s a court house or something, it sure the cutest court house ever!

For dinner, we dined at Aladdin Restaurant or Casa Aladdin. The “casa” is the Spanish word for house, the northern part of Morocco has more Spanish influence due to the proximity of it from Spain. The restaurant was easily identified by its design to its name!

We walked all the way up to the rooftop for the view of the town and chose a table there for our dinner. Lovely views! It was only too bad that the 2 days we were in Chefchaouen were cloudy otherwise photos on a sunny day would be so much prettier!

And a view of the main square below:

We ordered from the set menu with a soup as a starter, not bad!

For main, we had choices….Sokunna ordered an eggplate dish, it was good!

The cat also having his dinner from the table behind us. I guess the restaurant was so busy during lunch that they haven’t had the time to clean up the tables yet for the dinner session. The cat must know about this so he came on time for his dinner.

I ordered the meatballs with egg, it tasted so much better than the fast food place in Fes.

Jason ordered the kabab, it was pretty good.

For dessert, we had a choice of crepe or pudding…we tried both! The crepe was better 😉

While we were eating, that cat approached us and guess what, he peed on Jason’s camera backpack omgggg as soon as he started peeing, we were like OMG and Jason pulled his backpack away as quick as he can!!! Grrrr cat and poor hubby 🙁 After dinner, we headed back to our house by Google maps and just made few stops for photos….Jason needs to get back to wash his backpack!

Interesting bakery:

The water from the mountain runs through here:

We got back to our house, Jason went immediately to wash his backpack, good thing we had the portable heater to dry his backpack. The wifi in the house was great! I contacted Carlos to let him know that we’ll be leaving tomorrow afternoon instead and asked him to arrange the private transfer to Tangier hotel near the airport. The transfer price that Carlos quoted was 800 dirhams and then the guy who brought us to the house confirmed with us on the pickup time and then he said no way for 800 dirhams, it cost 1000 dirhams! I said no, Carlos said 800 dirhams! I sent Carlos a message and he sorted out with him afterward….see that guy tried to make money off from us GRRR! I don’t get why Moroccans (the ones we encountered) try to scam tourists like that. I understand that they are poor and much-needed help but that’s not the way to get money. It will only ruin their country’s reputation and scared off future tourists because for sure those who had been scammed wouldn’t recommend their friends and family to visit the country. Rather, if they are friendly and being honest, I would be glad to tip them few extra dollars! It’s not like a few extra dollars would hurt our pockets; I would never get upset if I dropped a few dollars but being scammed is totally a different story! It left negative memories; memories that would be hard to forget! It was such a shame to this beautiful fairy tale town – Chefchaouen!

2 thoughts on “Chefchaouen – a Blue Fairy Tale

  1. So glad to have stumbled on your blog while researching for our trip to Croatia. I really like the way you describe the whole itininary as it gives a clearer idea of the route you took, the places you see, the food .. the cost of everything. .. and the zillion photographs 🙂 Being a good photographer is really an art and your photos tell the full story. Bravo!! And these Chefchaouen photos are simply brilliant. I always had Morocco on my list, but am terrified of tackling it. These photos have bumped it higher on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you Angela, I hope you’ll get to visit Chefchaouen soon and don’t forget the Sahara Desert, it was an amazing experience!

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