As I’m not a fan of staying in the UK during the colder months, I decided to visit Chefchaouen in winter. Chefchaouen is known as the ‘blue city’ in Morocco. Historically, the area was inhabited by Jews who fled the Europe in the Spanish Inquisition, and they painted their houses blue to represent the sky and being closer to God. Winter is a much milder time to visit Chefchaouen than in summer, when temperatures can exceed a high of 32°C. Chefchaouen is cool and comfortable in the winter and you will also experience less crowds, as it is fast becoming quite a popular tourist destination.
How to get to Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen doesn’t have an airport, and is located in the Riff mountains, so you will need to travel overland to get there. There is no train station there either, so you will need to take a bus or a private transfer.
I arrived in Chefchaouen in early January, when it was cool and calm. I travelled overland in a shared transfer mini-bus from Fez. Most people do a day trip to Chefchaouen in winter, either from Fez or Tangier. However, both of these trips are quite travel heavy, and I would recommend an overnight stay to fully enjoy the atmosphere of the city and not feel too rushed.
Reasons to go to Chefchaouen in the winter
- Cooler temperatures than in summer.
- More comfortable for hiking and less chance of dehydration.
- Less crowded as it is low season for tourism.
- You may be able to see the mountaintops covered in snow.
- Tours can be cheaper and some group tours can end up being private tours just for you!
- Shops and hammams will be open even on Christmas day (as it is not celebrated in Morocco with 99% of its inhabitants being Muslim). This means that you can spend Christmas how you choose, without worrying about whether or not things are open!
What is the Weather like in Chefchaouen in winter?
The temperatures in Chefchaouen in Winter are between a low of 4°C and a high of around 16/17°C between December and January. There is more rain in the winter time and this can result in slippy ground, which is already uneven, and so you will need to wear comfortable footwear and tread carefully.
What to Pack for Chefchaouen in Winter
Remember that although it’s in Morocco, Chefchaouen is up in the Riff Mountains and as a result, it can get quite cold in Chefchaouen in Winter. Therefore, you should pack a mixture of light and warmer clothes that you can layer up. Here are a few essentials….
- A comfortable fleece (in a contrasting colour to blue preferably!) such as this yellow Helly Hansen Daybreaker fleece.
- A waterproof and breathable Gortex or stretch fabric Jacket such as this one from Peter Storm.
- Comfortable walking boots (mine are Karrimor Weatherlite) and a pair of comfortable leather sandals.
- A neutral colour Scarf or Pashmina for covering your head and/or shoulders.
- Maxi dresses (no short skirts or dresses) and tunics.
- Leggings (I like Sugar Pocket) and soft cycling shorts.
- A pair of comfortable walking trousers with pockets.
- Breathable T-shirts and long sleeved tops
- Cycling shorts and under armour base layer.
- Warm thermal pyjamas like these!
You might like to read more on what to wear in Chefchaouen here.
Chefchaouen Kasbah and the City Walls
The whole of the blue city is surrounded by a big fortress, which used to protect the city from potential invasions. The city was originally built for it’s strategic position between the two mountains and alongside the river. In fact, the name ‘Chefchaouen’ actually means ‘look at the two horns’.
It is possible to walk the Kasbah walls and there is a small museum inside. The cost to do this is 60 Dirhams. I opted not to walk the city walls, because it had been raining and my guide suggested that they become quite slippy. Also, there have apparently been a lot of items removed from the museum meaning that it is not as worth it as it used to be.
Exploring the Chefchaouen Medina in January!
I booked a private guide to help me to explore the Chefchaouen Medina during my trip this January. It was a bit cooler than I expected it to be, especially since I had just travelled from Marrakech! But the weather was great for visiting the Medina.
Thankfully, we had no rain on our day of exploring. If you are there on a day that it rains, be careful, and expect some of the uneven pavements to be slippy. Also, be aware that there has in the past been some flooding around by the Ras el’Ma River. Thankfully, this has not been severe since 2015.
There are not a great deal of sights in Chefchaouen – the main sight is the magic of the blue buildings within in Medina itself. The Medina of Chefchaouen is very picturesque and highly ‘Instagrammable!’ So consider your outfits carefully, and I would recommend hiring a guide or a photographer.
You can see here that the Medina was extremely photogenic in the winter – these were taken in January and no need for any filters!
Eating out in Chefchaouen in Winter
There are some fantastic restaurants in Chefchaouen. Many people go to Casa Aladin, but it’s actually a bit of a tourist trap. I recommend that you go to the restaurant slightly to the right of Casa Aladin – Chez Hicham. It is good value with excellent tagines and a rooftop terrace. Another good option, and one of the best restaurants in Chefchaouen is Bab Ssour. I ate a gorgeous Kefta (Moroccan meatballs with an egg on top) for just 40 Dirhams – that’s about £3.50! Bab Ssour also has a roof terrace, but something to bear in mind is that it gets very chilly in the winter evenings in the blue city. So I would recommend that you choose indoor tables if you are visiting Chefchaouen in winter.
Hiking in and around Chefchaouen
It is still possible to go hiking in Chefchaouen in the winter time. In fact, it’s much more pleasant than hiking in the summer when you will be more prone to dehydration. A popular hike is to go up to the Spanish Mosque (the white Mosque overlooking the city). It’s a wonderful view from up there and only takes about 20 minutes to hike up from the waterfall.
There is often snow in the Riff mountains in December and January, and my guide even told me that it is possible to ski up there! One important thing to note – do not go heading into the mountains for a hike without a local guide. It is important for your own safety that you are not alone in the mountains. If you get lost after the sun goes down this could be very dangerous as temperatures drop.
Another popular hike is the Akchour waterfalls. You will need to do this as a guided tour because it is around a 45 drive out of Chefchaouen and then a long(ish) hike of about two hours from the dam to the “Grande Cascade” or Big Waterfall. If you want to do this, I recommend that you book this Day trip from Chefchaouen to Akchour with Get Your Guide. Remember to check the weather forecast before you book – if heavy rains are expected, then the river can expand and potentially become dangerous.
Don’t Forget to Take a Hammam!
The wintertime in Morocco is the perfect time to take a Hammam – this is a traditional Moroccan bath (and often scrub down!) that will leave you feeling refreshed and your skin soft. While the temperatures are dropping outside, you will be inside having a steam and scrub! Expect to pay around 50-100 Dirham for a basic Hammam, although some of the more luxurious Hammam’s can be a lot pricier.
- Hammam Rahma – This classical Moroccan Hammam has three different rooms all with different temperatures.
- Hammam El Balad – This is a traditional Hammam near Chefchaouen’s main square.
- Hamam Meslouhi – A great first Hammam experience!
Overall Tips for Visiting Chefchaouen in Winter
Follow these top tips for visiting Chefchaouen in Winter and you will have a fantastic time….
- Pack warm clothing and plenty of layers – don’t forget your fleece and waterproof jacket.
- Wear sturdy waterproof walking boots as your number one option for footwear.
- Avoid walking in the Medina directly after rainfall when it can be slippy.
- Choose to eat inside rather on the roof terraces which can be cold at this time of year.
- Hire a photographer for your day in the Medina.
- Consider staying in a larger and more comfortable hotel (even if it’s outside the medina) such as Puerta Azul. This hotel had shutters and an oil filled radiator in the room. Some rooms in some of the riads inside the medina can be very cold at night!
- Other than going up to the Spanish mosque, don’t go hiking in Chefchaouen in winter (or any time of year for that matter) without a guide.
- Consider taking a Hammam – a traditional Moroccan bath experience.
Further Reading on Morocco
If you found this article helpful, you might also like to read the following articles about travel in Morocco…
- Is Chefchaouen worth visiting?
- How to spend one day in Casablanca
- How to spend one day in Rabat
- What not to do in Morocco
- What to wear in Chefchaouen