Visiting Chefchaouen from Tangier, Marrakesh, Fez and beyond

Chefchaouen from tangier
Image by POTIER Jean-Louis via Flickr

Travelers often wonder if visiting Chefchaouen, the city with the spellbinding blue medina, is worth the detour. They often forget to ask the more sensible question: How hard will it be to get to Chefchaouen considering the other place you plan to see in Morocco. Indeed, the challenge of getting to the quaint town in the Rif Mountains isn’t the same, depending on whether you’re staying in Fez, Marrakesh, Tangier, or Casablanca. Let’s see if crossing the winding roads will be worth your time.

Visiting Chefchaouen from Tangier

With the bus, the Grand Taxi or self-driving

The easiest and cheapest way to travel from Tangier to Chefchaouen is to take the bus. There are about 8 buses daily, and the journey takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. The ticket cost can vary depending on the time and the day of the week, but never astronomically. You can expect to pay between 45MAD and 95MAD, which amounts to 4 to 9 $USD. Buses depart from the CMT Bus Station in Tangier and arrive at Gare Routière in Chefchaouen. You can buy your tickets online or in person.

Since the train is never an option to reach the blue city (Chefchaouen doesn’t have a train station!), if you don’t want to wait for the bus or don’t have a rental, there is only one other option: the Grand Taxi! According to other travelers I met, a Grand Taxi from Tangier to Chefchaouen costs around 500 to 600 MAD. (50 to 60 $USD) On the other hand, according to our estimates, the negotiable price should rather be 200 MAD. (20 $USD) Have this price in mind when you start negotiating. 

The other option is to rent a car. This 112 km journey takes about 2 hours to complete on your own. The road is tortuous, but the vistas it offers are definitely stunning.

Visiting Chefchaouen as a day trip from Spain

Let’s start with the beginning. The coastal city of Tangier is visited by many tourists traveling to Spain who hope to have a small taste of Morocco. Moreover, when one realizes the proximity between Tangier and Chefchaouen, it is only normal to immediately wonder if visiting the two Northern Morocco cities on the same trip is possible.

Suppose you want to spend a little more time in Morocco after taking the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. In that case, it is definitely possible to lengthen your stay and visit Chefchaouen. But you can’t expect to wake up in Spain, go to Tangier, visit Chefchaouen, and go back to Europe. That would be too much! You must spend at least one night in Morocco to see the famous blue medina.

How to get to Chefchaouen from Fez

A choice between the rental car and the bus

If you’re driving from Tangier to Fez, don’t miss Chefchaouen on the route!

Taking the bus to make the winding road between Fez and Chefchaouen costs 100 MAD and takes about 4,5 hours. The number of buses doing this route varies greatly depending on the time of the year. During the high season, there can be more than ten buses per day, contrasting wildly with the low season and its three daily buses. Make sure to plan accordingly! Buses depart from the main CTM bus terminal in the center of Fez and arrive at Gare Routière in Chefchaouen. You can buy your tickets online or in person.

Another bus company to consider is Nejme Chamal. Their website is wonky, and I’d understand why you could be hesitant. They are, nonetheless, totally legit. Just buy your tickets from their office at the bus station instead of online. One advantage of Nejme Chamal buses from Fez to Chefchaouen is that they terminate at the Gare Routiere, in Bab Boujloud, close to the medina. Alternatively, CTM buses use their private station at Place Atlas in the Nouvelle Ville, far from Fes el Bali and Jdid.

If you have a rental car, traveling 195 km between the two cities with the famous medinas takes about 3.5 hours. It’s also possible to take a Grand Taxi or a combination of train and Grand Taxi, but why would you when the bus is so readily available?

Chefchaouen from fez
Image by Aleksandr Zykov via Flickr
You can take the bus from tangier to chefchaouen to see the blue city
Image by Alan Cordova via Flickr

How to get to Chefchaouen from Marrakesh

A feat in itself

Unfortunately, Morocco’s two most “Instagram famous” cities are a long distance from one another. Although 470 km separates them as the crow flies, the drivable road between Marrakech and Chefchaouen amounts to 575 km. Plus, it’s quite a tortuous journey from the western part of the country. 

There are several ways to cover the distance between the two cities, and taking only the train isn’t one of them. As a matter of fact, Chefchaouen isn’t part of the Moroccan railway system at all.

If I was going to Chefchaouen, I would start from somewhere other than MarrakechThe trip is only worthwhile if you are in Morocco for a more extended period (minimum 7 days) and you plan on visiting at least another city in Northern Morocco. 

Taking the Train + Bus

The most efficient way to get from Marrakesh to Chefchaouen is to take a train to a major northern city and then take the bus to Chefchaouen. Tangier is the obvious choice as it is the closest major city. FezCasablanca, and Rabat are also valid options.

The night train from Marrakech to Tangier leaves around 9 PM and arrives at 7 AM. (If you want a comfortable uninterrupted night’s sleep, get a couchette!) Once in Tangier, you’ll take the bus to Chefchaouen. You can choose between the CTM and the Nejme Chamal, the local bus. The latter tends to leave at the perfect time for those arriving from Marrakesh early in the morning. If you prefer riding a taxi, it’s of course possible. In any case, the ride takes about 4 hours, making you arrive in Chefchaouen at noon.

Let’s say you don’t listen to advice and your itinerary is Marrakesh-Chefchaouen-Marrakesh. If you want to return to Marrakesh, leave Chefchaouen at 4-5 PM to ensure you catch the 10 PM night train in Tangier. On the other hand, the Tangier, Tetouan, and Fez airports are closer to Chefchaouen, with frequent flights to Casablanca with the Royal Air Maroc, and would allow you to discover another flavor of Morocco.

Costs for the train to Tangier can be found on the ONCF website.

The bus ticket from Tangier to Chefchaouen is usually approximately 35 dhs.

Driving to Chefchaouen from Marrakesh

The shortest route between Marrakesh and Chefchaouen takes about 7 hours. It passes through Casablanca and Rabat, two cities with more contemporary aesthetics. If you want to see the old world, add a few hours on the road and stop in Fez or Meknes. Going through the imperial cities makes the journey from Marrakesh to the Rif Mountains region a 10 hours trip.

Suggested Itinerary: Roundtrip through the Atlas Mountains

An itinerary to consider for visiting both Marrakesh and Chefchaouen is to start from Marrakesh, go to Merzouga and the cities south of the Atlas (Ouarzazate, Tinghir, Aït Benhaddou), and then head to Fez. Following this, explore Chefchaouen and Tangier before going through Casablanca and ending your trip by returning to Marrakesh. This classic itinerary makes for an (almost) complete tour of Morocco.

How to get to Chefchaouen from Casablanca

There are 3 ways to go from Casablanca to Chefchaouen: driving, taking the bus, or taking the train and the bus. The most efficient way, however, is to drive there yourself. The 340 km between the largest city in Morocco and the blue pearl takes about 4.5 hours to cross. Taking the CTM buses will take you there in about 6 hours. This trip usually costs around 140 dhs.

Is Chefchaouen worth visiting ?

Chefchaouen is undoubtedly a picturesque city. It has become a mecca for visitors who must include it on a mythical checklist of places to go.

Chefchaouen is definitely worth the detour if you are arriving in Tangier and doing a tour of northern Morocco and the Rif mountains. But it’s a questionable decision if you are starting off from Marrakech. There’s no train service or highways nearby, the road is tortuous and buses are most of the time full.

Fez is about 4.5 hours of drive on winding roads. Attempting a day trip from there to Chefchaouen is laborious and, in my humble opinion, a little ambitious. Nine hours of travel for a few hours in town is simply bonkers. You should consider staying the night instead.

chefchaouen blue medina
Image by Aleksandr Zykov via Flickr
chefchaouen medina
Image by dm1795 via Flickr

Other blue towns in Morocco

To put your expectations in the right place, you should know that, contrary to what you have been led to believe, the entire city is not blue. It’s only a few places in the medina. You can see similar blue streets at the Kasbah Oudaya in Rabat (a much easier trip from Casablanca or even Marrakech). Another no-brainer is Essaouira, a beautiful coastal city that also features some blue streets.

Driving to Chefchaouen

A time-sensitive matter

If you drive yourself to Chefchaouen, do it during the day. Driving in the mountainous region after dark would be too risky and ill-advised. Even going back to Tangier could be dangerous in the same way that returning to Fez on the unfamiliar sinuous cliffs after dusk could be downright deadly.

Where is the best place to park in Chefchaouen?

A great place inside the medina is next to Hotel Parador.

Visiting the blue town of Morocco

Where to stay in Chefchaouen – Best riad

Lina Riad and Spa offer one of the greatest hammam and massage. Perfect after hiking above the Medina in the mountains!

Dar Jasmine is a fabulous boutique hotel with a pool and one of the best views of the blue town. 

L’Ermitage d’Akchour is a short drive outside of town. Set on the Talassemtane National Park border, it is in the best possible location for a peaceful vacation, surrounded by nature, near Chefchaouen.

chefchaouen tangier bus timetable
Image by Anthony Tong Lee via Flickr
Chefchaouen from casablanca
Image by Anthony Tong Lee via Flickr

Best bars and cafes with views in Chefchaouen?

Dar Casa Aladin, right by the square, has the best view of the Medina and the mountains.

Hiking up the Hotel Atlas is suitable for a short hike and coffee on the terrace before climbing further to see the Spanish mosque. However, I wouldn’t recommend staying at the hotel as it is pretty run down.

Handling Luggage in Chefchaouen

Luggage storage in Chefchaouen

If you are taking an onward journey with the CTM, their counter usually accepts to store your luggage while you’re visiting the city. Otherwise, there is no actual luggage storage in Chefchaouen.

Taking the bus to the city in the Rif mountains

All buses arrive and leave from the central bus station (Gare Routière) just outside the medina.
Local buses will either have luggage compartments under the bus for all the big pieces of luggage. Some of the older ones (although it is less likely in this area of Morocco) will have secured and covered roof racks.

Bus schedules from Chefchaouen to all destinations

The most common itinerary is certainly the Tangier-Chefchaouen bus. But you might be visiting somewhere else in Morocco and want to see Chaouen for yourself!

CTM Timetable

Tetouan6:00, 6:45, 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, 8:45, 9:00, 9:45, 10:00, 10:15, 10:30, 10:45, 11:15, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30, 13:15, 13:45, 14:00, 14:45, 15:15, 15:30, 16:20, 17:00, 17:30, 18:00, 20:00
Tangier6:45, 8:30, 9:00, 10:00, 10:45, 14:00, 15:15, 18:00
Fnideq6:00 9:45 11:15 12:00 15:30
Fez7:00, 8:15, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:20, 13:15, 13:30, 15:15, 15:30, 18:00
Casablanca6:00 7:00 7:30 9:15
Rabat5:15, 6:00, 7:00, 7:30, 8:15, 9:15, 13:00, 15:00
Meknes6:00, 10:30, 13:00, 15:15, 15:30
Ouazzane5:15, 6:00, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, 9:15, 9:30, 10:30, 11:15, 11:30, 12:30, 13:00, 13:15, 14:30, 15:15, 15:30, 16:30, 17:15, 18:00
Nador6:30, 19:30, 0:00
Ksar El Kebir13:00
El Jebha14:30
Bni Ahmed8:00 10:00 15:30
Bab Taza7:00 11:30
Bab Berred6:30 7:00 16:30
Bni Darkoul11:30
Sidi Kacem13:00
Sidi Slimane13:00
Kenitra5:15 6:00 7:00 7:30 8:15 9:15 13:00 15:00
Oujda10:30 18:00 20:30

Nejme Chamal Timetable

Tetouan8:00, 8:15, 8:45, 9:45, 11:30, 12:30, 14:45, 16:30, 17:00, 17:30
Tangier06:45, 08:30, 10:00, 14:00, 15:15, 18:00
Fez7:00, 8:30, 9:30, 11:45, 12:30, 13:15, 18:00
Casablanca6:00, 7:30, 9:15
Rabat6:00, 7:30, 8:15, 9:15, 12:45
Meknes6:00, 14:00, 15:00
Ouazzane8:00, 14:30, 17:00
Sebta9:45, 11:15

In conclusion

If you are still planning your trip and visiting Chefchaouen is a must, then Tangier is the city to start from as it is a 2-hour trip each way.
If you are already travelling to Tangier, Fez, Tetouan, or Asilah, you should see this quaint little town in the Rif Mountains. Its loveliness hasn’t been overstated. But there is no need to go if you are all the way down in Marrakech, Agadir, or even Casablanca. Chefchaouen is nice, but not worth spending endless hours on getting there.

TangierTaking the Bus or the Grand Taxi
FezTaking the bus
MarrakeshTaking the Train + Bus
CasablancaRental Car