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Greetings Internet Stranger! It is every Instagrammer’s dream to spend at least 24 hours finding the best things to do in Chefchaouen, Morocco. There’s a reason this city is sometimes called The Blue Pearl, and it has nothing to do with an off-brand version of Pirates of the Caribbean. The walls of the city are entirely white and blue. I’ve been to cities like New Orleans and Santa Fe with strict building codes.

This is different. I’ve never seen anything like Chefchaouen. It feels like stepping into one of the magical kingdoms of Oz. The Winkie Country is entirely yellow, the Emerald City is green, and Chefchaouen is blue. Spend 24 hours with the best things to do in Chefchaouen and you’ll leave with enough gorgeous photos to last a lifetime.

Of course it would be ideal to actually spend the night in Chefchaouen. However, I didn’t have enough time in Morocco to manage this. I took a day trip from Tangier as a private tour with Aziz Saint Laurent’s tour company. It’s obviously more money than a group tour, but everything was handled very professionally and thoroughly. If I hadn’t chosen this tour company, I would have left Morocco without seeing Chefchaouen and I couldn’t have lived with that.

24 Hours in Chefchaouen Morocco: Things to Do

Where to Stay?

I spent my 24 hours in Chefchaouen as a day trip from Tangier, so I’m going to recommend my favorite hotel there. The best kind of place to stay in Tangier is a riad. These are gorgeous private houses with courtyards and gardens that have been converted to hotels. My personal favorite for Tangier is Dar Souran. It’s in a gorgeous historical building, there’s a great breakfast spread, and the breakfast is served on a rooftop with amazing views. You can almost see Spain from the roof!

If you’re looking for a great deal on this hotel click here. And if you want to find great deals on over 700 other hotels in Tangier, click here.

24 Hours in Chefchaouen Morocco: Things to Do

What to Pack?

You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.

Morocco can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.

Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!

24 hours in Chefchaouen

24 Hours in Chefchaouen Morocco: Things to Do

Morning: Explore Chefchaouen

My guide came early in the morning to pick me up from my riad. It was about a two hour drive from Tangier to the Blue Pearl. Unfortunately my driver didn’t really speak English, so there isn’t a lot of tour guiding along the way. But we more than made up for that when we arrived in Chefchaouen.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

In Morocco, there are two kinds of guides. Some are entitled to take you all around the country. Others are certified as experts in a particular city. So usually if you take a guided tour that goes to more than one city, you will pick up a local guide for a walking tour once you arrive in each city. My guide for my 24 hours in Chefchaouen was an older gentleman with a cane, but he still managed to keep pace with me, a young lady. He also helped me get to know more than…

Three fun facts: 24 hours in chefchaouen

24 hours in Chefchaouen
1) why is it blue?

No one knows exactly why Chefchaouen is painted blue. My guide said he believed it was brought by the Jewish residents of Chefchaouen. I’ve done my own research and this is definitely a popular theory for the color. In Judaism, blue symbolizes the divine because it’s the color of the sky. That’s one reason the flag of Israel is blue and white.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

Many Moroccan cities like Chefchaouen have a mellah, aka a Jewish quarter. The mellahs were walled and kept the Jewish community separate from the Muslim community. They were similar in some ways to the Jewish ghettos of Europe. In fact the reason Chefchaouen had a sizable Jewish community is because northern Morocco is so close to Spain. After the Jewish people and Muslims were evicted from Spain, many of them immigrated to northern Morocco together. My guide told me that Jews, Spaniards, and Muslim Moroccans are able to live together peacefully in Chefchaouen.

things to do in Chefchaouen

Proof! I was visiting in December and I found this adorable Christmas tree!

Nowadays Jewish people in Morocco don’t live in ghettos anymore. Either they live in big cities like Casablanca or Marrakech, or more likely they have relocated to Israel.

24 hours in Chefchaouen
2) what kind of mosques are in chefchaouen?

My guide told me that there have traditionally been separate small mosques for men and women in Chefchaouen. It hadn’t occurred to me before that mosques might be separated for the sexes. Of course non-Muslims are not permitted to enter most mosques in Morocco. But back home I’ve been to a mosque in Manhattan on a tour. We were told that men and women attended services together, but that they don’t sit together. Even though Morocco is a liberal Muslim country, NYC might be just a tad more liberal than most places.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

The largest mosque in Chefchaouen is known as the Grand Mosque. Even though I couldn’t go inside, anyone is welcome to take photos of the exterior. It is located in the main square, Place Uta el-Hammam.

24 hours in Chefchaouen
3) who else visits chefchaouen?

There’s one final group that loves Chefchaouen, and that is backpacker hippies. There are a few reasons for that. One is that the air around Chefchaouen is extremely clean. It’s located in the Rif Mountains, and the bracing mountain breezes that flow through the city are most refreshing. But my guide told me there is another scent popular with the backpackers, and that is marijuana. (He kept calling it kif, which made me feel like I had time traveled back to the 60s.)

Apparently the area around Chefchaouen is excellent for growing marijuana. So pot tourism has really taken off in Chefchaouen. My guide told me that in the high season for backpackers, you can smell the kif all over the city. I’m not a prude, but I’d rather smell fresh mountain breezes than skunk any day!

24 hours in Chefchaouen
24 hour treasure: kitties

My favorite ethnic group in Chefchaouen is the kitty cat. You can find them all over the city. They make the perfect accent to the blue and white walls.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

Here are kitties.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

There’s a kitty.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

Everywhere are kitties, kitties! Probably the best thing about my guide is that once I told him I love cats, he would point out every single cat we saw and help me take pictures. That’s what I call service!

24 hours in Chefchaouen

24 Hours in Chefchaouen Morocco: Things to Do

Afternoon: Chefchaouen Shopping

Now that we’ve learned about Chefchaouen’s history, it’s time to shop til we drop. Eating and shopping are the two best things to do in Morocco. My guide pointed me to some of his favorite spots. I’m sure he gets a commission, but I liked everywhere we went, so I was happy. It’s all part and parcel of the tourism business in Morocco. Now I’m prepared to share with you

Three fun facts about chefchaouen shopping

24 hours in Chefchaouen
1) what should I buy for lunch?

Of course the best thing to buy in any city is food. That’s just science. I was excited to experience a local dish I had never tried before, pastilla at a restaurant called Hicham. This dish is a meat pie that is traditionally filled with pigeon meat. Mine was just filled with chicken which was fine with me. I come from New York City, so I’m a little scared of pigeons. The chicken filling goes inside a flaky dough called werqa. (It’s like phyllo dough but a bit thinner.) Then the whole thing is dusted off with powdered sugar.

I’ve mentioned many times that I go completely bonkers for any combination of salty and sweet. But even I would never have thought of putting sugar on a meat pie. You are a nation of mad geniuses, Morocco! That is definitely a compliment.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

Because of all the Spanish influence and tourists in Northern Morocco, you might see Spanish dishes on the menu in Chefchaouen. I never complain if that means I can eat flan! Look at that perfect jiggly shape on my blue and white dish. This dessert is the perfect diminutive size after I ate a whole imitation pigeon pie.

24 hours in Chefchaouen
2) what if I want to drop lots of cash?

Rugs are one of the big ticket items on any Moroccan shopping trip. Chefchaouen is known for Berber handicrafts, so you certainly might want to consider getting a rug here. I got mine at Local Berbere Artisanal, which definitely seems to have the best reviews in the city.

Many of you Internet Strangers out there will know that you are supposed to bargain with the shopkeeper when going on a spree in Morocco. I had never done this before and I was nervous. My parents raised me not to talk about money. How was I to convince this rug salesman that I was a proper lady? Fortunately, the rug merchant remained professional throughout the process. I didn’t want to spend more than 130 dollars on a rug, which is a stupidly low price for a handmade rug. He kept trying to talk me up, but I said no, no, no. It was easy to stick to my guns because I had no extra money to spend at all.

Finally I turned to walk out of the store and he agreed to let me have this beauty. Behold!

24 hours in Chefchaouen

I felt so good about myself that I managed to score a real bargain in Morocco. My ancestors would be so ashamed of me for talking about money in such a vulgar way, but they are dead, so no one cares. The cherry on the pastilla was that the store agreed to ship the rug to my house for a small fee so I didn’t need to lug it all over Morocco. A winner is me!

24 hours in Chefchaouen
3) what is this man doing?

Even though Chefchaouen is on the tiny side, you can get anything you want there. I imagine they keep the shops well stocked for all the tourists. I especially enjoyed this opportunity to watch bread being made in a traditional oven.

Many Moroccan towns have communal clay ovens, called ferranes. You pay a small fee, bring your dough, and come back later in the day. Voila! You have your freshly baked bread and you didn’t need to use any of your own fuel. It’s so environmentally friendly. I think the communal bread oven should be the next big hipster food trend.

Now I’m worried I’ve made this older Moroccan baker sad by talking about hipsters. (Don’t worry about him too much though. I bought some of his delicious fresh bread, so he said I could take his picture even though he looks a bit startled.)

24 hours in Chefchaouen
24 treasure: the rif mountains

Don’t forget to take in the gorgeous surroundings of the Rif Mountains as you leave Chefchaouen. These mountains are the reason Chefchaouen is able to sell so many Berber crafts. Many Berber people live in these mountains. They actually attempted to become an independent republic in the 1920s, but their efforts were unsuccessful. (Back then this part of Morocco was colonized by Spain. In most of Morocco, you meet people who speak French as a second or third language, but in the north the second or third language is just as likely to be Spanish.)

24 Hours in Chefchaouen Morocco: Things to Do

Evening: Tangier Street Food

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be pretty beat by the time you finish the two hour drive back to Tangier. Head to one of the local sandwich kiosks and pick up a greasy French fry sandwich.

24 hours in Chefchaouen

It may not look beautiful, but no food looks beautiful after it’s been digested. More importantly, this sandwich is a fatbomb of happiness. Whoever thought of putting fried potatoes on an already carb-laden baguette deserves a medal.

dar souran tangier

After all that fresh air and cat hunting, I was ready for a night of blissful sleep in my room at Dar Souran. The accommodation is so grand I took this bird’s eye picture myself by standing on the second floor of the bedroom. If this doesn’t convince you to stay at Dar Souran, nothing will!

That’s 24 Hours in Chefchaouen Morocco: Things to Do

What are the best things to do in Chefchaouen Morocco? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Tangier? What is the real secret behind the blue walls of the Blue Pearl? And am I the greatest negotiator who ever lived, yes or yes? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that just because this itinerary is for 24 hours in Chefchaouen, that doesn’t mean you should only spend 24 hours with the best things to do in Chefchaouen. If you have another 24 hours with the best things to do in Chefchaouen, and want to visit Tangier, try this itinerary. If you want to head to the big city of Casablanca, try this itinerary.

Stella Jane
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