Budget Friendly Things to do in Chefchaouen and Asilah, Northern Morocco
Updated: Dec 31, 2018
As a way of retracing our steps and sharing knowledge, here are some favorite places and experiences from around Northern Morocco.
#Chefchaouen -- the ‘Blue Pearl’, ‘Chaouen’, or ‘the Blue City’ in the Rif mountains is one of our favorites in #Morocco. You guessed it -- almost the entire part of the old city is painted BLUE! It's definitely worth staying for a few nights, and is another welcome reprieve from the larger cities of #Marrakesh or #Fez. The locals are friendly and open, partly because this is a prime tourist destination. This is where the term ruffian comes from (‘Rif mountains == ruffians’), because survival in these zones can be pretty harsh. You’ll have every other person on the street trying to sell you hashish, and even inviting you to their farm to see how it is made. If you were hypothetically in the market to indulge in this Moroccan delicacy (which is technically illegal), this would be the place to try some, as it is locally made and supposedly great quality.
On visiting a farm: some friends of ours from our amazing hostel, Hostel Souika, visited a farm and said it was interesting but nothing extraordinary. They got to participate in the process of making hash -- could be fun if you're into that sort of thing!
Our favorite experiences in the Blue City were:
Wandering. The medina is especially windy, and full of shops selling hippie goods and traditional Moroccan handicrafts. This had the best selection of clothing we’ve seen in Morocco, and is without the hassle of Fez or Marrakech, so grab something here as a souvenir! Open your eyes, explore, and just get lost for a day.
Hiking above Chefchaouen. There are numerous paths from town leading directly to the mountains above. You can visit an abandoned mosque built by the Spanish in the 1920s, and climb high up to get good views of the city.
Cascades d'Akchour. A perfect day trip from the city, if you at all like walking and waterfalls and mountains. Take a taxi to Akchour , and then follow the well-marked trail up to the falls. If you at all get turned around, ask any local, and they will happily point the way. The waterfalls are in a slot canyon, so you want to time your arrival when the sun is directly overhead (Budget the one-hour taxi drive from Chefchaouen to Akchour and ~2 hours for the hike in.) The hike itself is mostly slightly uphill, with a few moderate steep sections. There are small teahouses dotting the trail, so you can stop at your leisure to have a tea or tajiin break. In hotter weather, swimming is an option at many of the clear blue pools dotting the pathway. The waterfall cascades over giant slabs of rock that look as if they’d been ripped in half, like a giant sheet of paper. You can also climb to caves behind the waterfall, if you’re feeling particularly Gollum-esque for the day. (On trash at the waterfall -- it is horrendous! The mindset here about trash seems to be: The packaging goes wherever the product is consumed. Don't let this ruin your day. It is still a beautiful place.)
#Asilah -- this coastal town is the first we stayed at in Morocco. We took the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier and, on recommendation from Moroccan friends, made a b-line almost directly for Asilah.
Once you arrive to Tangier, you can see why people recommend leaving there -- hectic, aggressive, and a shock to the senses. A quick walk around town shows you where William Burroughs and Paul Bowles used to hang out, as well as where they filmed some of Casablanca. After that cursory tour, we left, happy to find a more tranquil city.
You can get to Asilah easily with a shared taxi from Tangier (just look for the cream colored cars lining up outside the main bus station), and the trip is about 45 minutes.
Asilah is a picturesque blue and white coastal towns, where they somehow manage to coordinate the color scheme on all the buildings.
Our favorite thing to do in Asilah were:
Wander around. The old medina isn’t too enormous, but its big enough to get lost in. Besides the typical Moroccan vendors, you’ll find some cool art galleries and shops. Walking through the kasbah is picturesque as well, with big views of the Atlantic from up on the castle walls. If you go to the small beach in town (which is itself not that nice, and half-full of trash), you can walk along the rock jetty at sunset, joining in the locals for a peaceful stroll.
Go to souk on Thursdays. Walk 4km out of town (or take a taxi), to see an enormous regional market set up. (We went on Wednesday, having gotten Wednesday and Thursday confused! ...Highly recommend going on Thursday...)
Go to Paradise Beach. If you want to get away from town and find some isolation, there is a nice walk to this beach, 7km or 8km west of town. Don’t expect to find any provisions along the way, as it was pretty deserted when we went. Nice hiking on the cliffs to and from the beach, as you meander through Moroccan coastal countryside.