Chefchaouen captivates travelers with its famous blue hues. That’s just one reason why visitors love exploring this city in northeastern Morocco.
Visit Chefchaouen: A City Drenched in Blue
The fifty shades of blue that drench the city of Chefchaouen have existed since the late 15th century. That’s when Jewish immigrants, escaping the Spanish inquisition, settled in the city and began painting their homes and shops blue. Others say the blue was introduced by Jewish refugees during the 1930s.
These blue buildings are located in the maze-like warren of streets called the medina where the architecture is an eclectic fusion of Spanish and Moorish architecture. There are whitewashed homes as well and they are adorned with distinctive, powder-blue accents. Every street is taken care of and considered cleaner than any other streets in Morocco.
A Blue City
Why blue? Some say that the color blue keeps mosquitos away. Another reason often given is that blue shades symbolize the sky and heaven which is a positive reminder to lead a good and spiritual life. Others conclude that blue became a popular choice to paint buildings here because it is the spiritual color for both Muslims and Jews who made up the community. Yet another theory says that blue pays respect to a mountain spring that that has enabled the mountain city to flourish.
Today Chefchaouen, pronounced “shef-sha-wen,” is a lovely tourist destination. It is set in the Rif Mountains and many travelers often admit it isn’t as overwhelming as other Moroccan cities like Fez and Marrakech.
There are other special things to notice here. People speak Spanish rather than French or Arabic. There’s also a prominent hippie-hashish culture.
Also interesting to note is that name Chefchaouen was inspired by the shapes of the mountaintops by the town that resemble the chaoua (two horns) of a goat. Chefchaouen translates to look at the horns.
Things to Do in Chefchaouen
There are many things to experience during a stay in this authentic mountain village. You can go on a hike, try the fantastic food or just stroll those beautiful blue streets. Here’s a list of the top things to do while in Chefchaouen.
Walk the Walled City
As you walk the walled city you’ll encounter residents who have kept a very traditional way of life. Locals are known for being very hospitable. Unlike other Moroccan destinations, tourists can stroll without the disruption of bothersome peddlers or shop keepers.
Here, life is simple. Children play in the streets and neighbors sit around, gossip or go about their business. It’s a chance to observe authentic village life in Morocco. Getting lost in the old town’s narrow and uncrowded streets is also a travel photographer’s dream.
Also know that Chefchaouen is built on slope which can be tiring when the sun is out. Bring a sun hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water.
Visit the Mosques
The mosques are less crowded than others in Morocco. The shades of blue make them even more relaxing.
The Kasbah was once a prison but has been restored to its glory days and features an Andalusian-style garden. It now houses a museum dedicated to the history and life of Chefchaouen. If you climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city or you can descend to the dungeon used which once held prisoners.
If you love authentic souvenirs, Chefchaouen is the place to buy distinct local gift. Hand knitted garments and hats, leather goods and pottery are popular items for sale.
Ras el Maa
Just outside of the old city walls you can see the Ras el Maa (Head of the Water). This popular waterfall is the local cooling off point for a quick swim. There’s a café too.
In this corner of the world, hammam (a special type of steam bath) is a wonderful relaxing experience. The city has both traditional and luxury hammams.
Eat Local Food
The medina is the perfect place to try delicious specialties such as fish tagine which is a delicious stew made with vegetables, couscous and spices. Be sure to relax with traditional mint tea. Also stop by a furn, or communal bakery, where you can buy one of the circular loaves of bread that locals line up for every morning.
The city has several trails to explore. Go on a hike here and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views. There are guided treks too.
Check out this historic castle and mosque that date back to the 13th century. There’s also an amazing view over Chefchaouen and the valley below.
Visit Chefchaouen: Travel Tips
- Chefchaouen is considered the safest place in Morocco to travel. You won’t hear about warnings advising you not to walk the streets at night.
- Locals do not drink alcohol. Chefchaouen is a dry city. Should you want a glass of wine with a meal, you’ll need to purchase it on the way to Chefchaouen. Also, discreetly ask for your wine to be opened by the restaurant. They’ll transfer it into a jug as to not offend locals.
- Visitors also come to Chefchaouen to smoke a famous type of marijuana.
How to get to Chefchaouen
There is no airport in Chefchaouen. The closest airport is Tetouan and from there you can take a car, taxi or public bus.
Chefchaouen is about a two-hour drive from Tangier and a three-hour drive from Rabat.
Have you ever visited Morocco? Would you like to visit Chefchaouen?