Morocco is a country of incredible colour and some of its cities are synonymous with specific shades. Marrakech is the red city; the sun bathes Fes in yellow light. Chefchaouen is Morocco’s blue city and our favourite in this amazing and diverse country. This travel guide to Chefchaouen will help you discover this unique city. The residents of Chefchaouen have painted everything blue and white. The buildings, the pavements, the steps and the doors are all painted in a multitude of shades. It gives the entire medina a cool feel, unlike anywhere else in Morocco.
We knew there was some blue bits in Chefchaouen before we arrived. We’d read about it just as you are now. Perhaps we’d find an alley or two, maybe stumble upon a well hidden blue corner of Chefchaouen’s medina. We didn’t expect the entire city to be painted blue. Pretty much every building within the medina is blue. It’s no wonder we call it Morocco’s blue city!
Why is Chefchaouen blue?
Chefchaouen’s medina resembles the blue skies above and some say the colour keeps the mosquitoes away. We weren’t attacked by the pesky things here so maybe there is some truth in it. Or perhaps it was more to do with the altitude than the powder blue walls.
Another theory is the Jews painted the city walls blue when they fled Europe in the 1930’s. Either way, homeowners repaint them often and you’re bound to see a few decorators while you wander around. You can even buy some paint powder to mix your own shade of Chefchaouen blue.
Where is Chefchaouen and how do I get there?
Nestled in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a perfect stopover on the long drive from Tangier to Fez. It’s cooler than the coastal towns because of its altitude. And Chefchaouen has a more relaxed atmosphere than anywhere else we visited in the north of Morocco.
By road from Tangier via Tetouan: 61 miles / 98 km and 2 hours driving time along the N2. The journey from Tetouan to Chefchaouen is spectacular so it may take you longer when you include photo stops.
By road from Fes: 136 miles / 217 km and 4 hours driving time northbound on the N13.
By public transport: we’ve not used public transport to reach Chefchaouen but there are buses to get you there from Tangier, Fes and Casablanca. Take a look at the website of the Moroccan bus company CTM for the latest information. We can’t vouch for the comfort though!
Next stop: The medieval leather tanneries of Fes
Things to do in Chefchaouen
Get lost when you’re feeling blue!
Getting lost in many Moroccan cities is quite stressful after a while. The medinas in Fez and Marrakech are daunting when you’ve lost your bearings. But in Chefchaouen, it’s the best thing to do. Leave your map app behind and wander the narrow, steep alleys of the blue medina and you’ll see just what I mean.
Chefchaouen’s a beautiful city; the old medina is a maze of well-kept streets and white and blue painted houses. As you wander round you’ll find shops making and selling artisan products. Carpets, paintings, leather goods and novelty hats worn by often local, rural women. The shops sit alongside convenience stores selling food and daily household products. Yes! Despite feeling you’re on the filmset of a fantasy movie, Chefchaouen’s medina is a residential area and you’re going to love it!
Explore more: Tetouan: A town of 2 halves
Shop ‘til you drop
The vivid colours of the woven souvenirs are enough to draw your eye to the plethora of shops in Chefchaouen. There are many stalls all vying for your custom around the kasbah. As you wander the alleys of the medina, you’ll find even more. Many shops sell a selection of goods, from paintings to leather goods, silverware and rugs. But Morocco’s blue city, Chefchaouen is home to many skilled artisans. Try visiting the weaver making rugs, or the artist painting the blue scene before his eyes. Buying your souvenirs from these artisans will make them all the more special knowing they’re not mass production imports from Fez.
To escape the narrow alleys of Chefchaouen’s medina, run for the hills! The Rif Mountains surround the city and there’s a terrific walk up to a tiny 15th century mosque on the hill overlooking the town. Dawn is a wonderful time to visit. Take some time to sit on the wall and watch the suns rays emerging from the shade of the mountains, bathing Morocco’s blue city of Chefchaouen in, well, blue.
In the centre of the medina next to a busy plaza filled with cafés and bars is a 500 year old kasbah with views across the entire city. The kasbah’s architecture is stunning. Because of the stone architecture and lack of large windows, the inside is cool and a welcome escape from the summer heat. The gardens are a quiet oasis from the busy streets of the medina and plaza outside. Climbing the tower is a must if only for the panoramic views.
If you’re French is good enough, the small museum here is quite interesting. At the end of the day with a warm setting sun, the evening call to prayer echoes through the narrow alleys. As dusk takes hold, the street lights intensifies the blue hue. The children’s play seems louder, the call to evening prayer is mesmerising and the aromas of home cooking waft all around. This is a great time to enjoy Chefchaouen.
Where to stay in Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen reportedly has over 200 hotels. There are many riads in the medina too. Because we have no experience of the hotels here, you’d do well to seek out some independent reviews of any you’d like to stay at. The winter months are cold, especially at night so you’ll want accommodation with heating available.
Camping in Chefchaouen
We stayed at the only campsite in Chefchaouen, Camping Azilan. It’s basic and the bathroom facilities are in want of an upgrade to say the least. Yet, if you’re in a motorhome or camper van, it’s just about ok. The view when I awoke on our first morning were pretty special! It’s located on a hill overlooking the town and because of its proximity to one of the medina gates, it’s in a good location. A petite taxi back up the hill at the end of the day will cost about 10 MAD.
Practical matters before you go
Nestled into a steep hillside, Chefchaouen is full of uneven staircases and uphill climbs so we recommend stout walking shoes and a fit heart.
Language spoken in Chefchaouen
Because the Spanish enclave of Ceuta is close by, and with a history of Spanish invasion, Chefchaouen has retained a Spanish influence. So you’re as likely to hear Moroccans speaking Spanish as you are French. Return the greeting in Arabic and delight the locals.
Drugs in Chefchaouen
The region in and around the Rif Mountains, is one of the main producers of kief, Moroccan cannabis. So you may encounter some locals asking if you’d like to buy some. They seem to think most tourists are here for Chefchaouen’s drugs so you’ll surprise them by declining. Although we met a few drug dealers in Chefchaouen, they were all polite. Apart from the one loitering outside our campsite, they weren’t persistent either.
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