Chefchaouen: Everything You Need To Know About Morocco's Blue City
Chefchaouen is a picturesque little town nestled in the Rif Mountains in northwest Morocco; and yes the whole city is really that blue! It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but one that is well worth it in my book as “Chaouen” offers a super laid back vibe, which is in stark contrast to the organized chaos that defines Moroccan life in the cities.
Founded in 1471 by a distant descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the area was populated by local Berber tribes, Jews, and Moors from Spain during the middle ages. In 1920, Spain captured parts of northern Morocco, including Chefchaouen, and the area also saw a lot of Jewish refuges during World War 2. Morocco regained independence in 1956, but these religious and cultural influences are still present in the cityscape and daily life.
By the end of the 20th century, Chefchaouen had become a hot spot for backpackers, in large part thanks to the accessibility of kif or cannabis, and the many hiking trails and day trips to soak up nature. It’s a dream destination for photographers, and a perfect place to chill out for a few days with no agenda.
Why Is Chefchaouen Blue?
There are a few tales as to why Chefchaouen is painted blue, but most believe it has been a tradition since the 15th century, beginning in the Jewish quarter or the mellah. Blue represents the sky in Jewish culture, and is said to remind people of heaven and God.
Now, pretty much the entire town is painted blue, and buildings are repainted several times per year from the ground up, resulting in all sorts of lovely shades from light aqua to almost navy.
How To Get To Chefchaouen
Fly into either Tangier (2 hr drive) or Fes (3 hr drive), and hire a private taxi service ahead of time to pick you up from the airport. If you choose to fly into Tangier, Tangier Taxi is reliable and professional, you can book online and communicate with them via Whats App.
If you’re on more of a budget, there is a bus line that I’ve heard is clean, reliable and safe from Tangier or Fes and costs less than 100 Dirham (<$10 USD).
Where To Stay & What To Do in chefchaouen
Chefchaouen isn’t a place you’ll go to with a big bucket list of things to see and do. Instead, I suggest just wandering the city streets and forgetting about time in art galleries, jewelry shops and cafes.
We easily walked a 10k around the medina, and ended up at the abandoned Spanish mosque overlooking it all. I recommend having more than Moroccan slippers for your footwear… especially if you’re there on a rainy, muddy day like we were! Other highlights included eating fresh honeycomb by Ras el Ma (the waterfall running through the city) and cheap & delicious food (Cafe Clock and Pizza Mandala were great!)
Next time we’ll be going back when there’s better weather (May/June, September/October), to partake in some great hikes in the surrounding area, and to go to the Kasbah Museum and Akchour Waterfall and God’s Bridge. We’ll also look forward to staying at Lina Ryad & Hammam to get 2 traditional Moroccan experiences in one!