If you are on social media in any way, you can’t possibly have missed it! Chefchaouen is the Blue Pearl, Morocco… A unique mountain-side town, perched beneath the Rif Mountains in the North of Morocco, Chefchaouen is famous for its gorgeous blue washed walls. It is fair to say that the blue streets of Chefchaouen are a true social media star and I was adamant on visiting it on my last trip to Morocco. It’s touristy but also an absolute delight.
Chefchaouen is also where I realised I needed a proper list of what to pack for Morocco.
Chefchaouen is a relaxed and charming place to spend a few days, shopping and experiencing local life. The blue walls are incredibly attractive and it’s no wonder why Chefchaouen is the most photogenic town in Morocco. Taking some good photos is definitely an excellent reason to visit Morocco!
The Blue Pearl
Formerly known as “Chaouen”, this hillside town was founded around 1471 and grew further after the Spanish Reconquista. Indeed, an influx of Muslim and Jewish populations coming from Spain increased the size of the town in the 15th Century. In a region formerly under Spanish influence, Chefchaouen was created as a base to fight European invasion and wasn’t welcoming of Christians. The Spanish influence is still there, some houses are adorned with small balconies and red tiled roofs. There are various stories about the blue colour covering the streets…
The “mellah” or Jewish neighbourhood was created in 1760 and the walls are usually painted blue. Blue is the colour of divinity in Judaism but some locals will say that the colour was applied to the whole town as a way to keep mosquitoes away… The reason behind the blue streets of Chefchaouen will have to remain unclear…
The old medina is a lively and steep part of town, all painted blue. Chefchaouen is a mix of Moroccan and Andalucian influence, and this part of town feels totally unique. The North of Morocco was under Spanish influence for hundreds of years, and there are still some disputed enclaves to this day. The blue gives a sense of peace and I recommend walking the blue streets of Chefchaouen early in the morning for some uninterrupted photos.
As the town wakes up and the shops open, Chefchaouen is a lovely place to experience local Moroccan life. As a country town, Chefchaouen is well preserved, the population is active and people go about their lives. Aside from the mesmerising blue hues, Chefchaouen is full of colours…
The kasbah is a beautifully restored walled fortress. Inside the walls, you can wander around the lovely gardens and admire the views over the valley from the tower. There is also an ethnographic museum and a small art gallery. I recommend the series of photographs showing Chefchaouen in the old days.
The kasbah is off the Uta El Hammam plaza, where you can enjoy a meal and indulge in some people-watching…
Ras El Maa Waterfall
The Ras El Maa waterfall is just outside of the blue streets of Chefchaouen and is a lovely place to enjoy an orange juice after a good walk. The place used to make for lovely local photography, with women washing their laundry in the river. This scene has now been replaced by plastic chairs to accommodate the tourists but we still enjoyed a cool drink in the shade of olive trees…
Where to Stay
There are many hotels in Chefchaouen but I strongly recommend booking ahead, as it gets busy. I also found the hotels to be more expensive than in other places such as Tetouan or Tangier. However, the Chefchaouen vibe is so relaxed that I recommend finding a nice riad with a roof terrace in order to enjoy the dimming light over the mountains…
Where to Eat
Chefchaouen has a good range of restaurants to enjoy tasty local meals. The menu isn’t usually very varied and I recommend keeping to local choices to get a quality meal. We enjoyed a relaxed breakfast on at “Chez Mounir” on Uta El Hammam every morning, which was lovely.
We also tried Cafe Aladdin, where the food is good and the views are beautiful. This place is ideal to enjoy a mint tea and watch the sunset over the valley.
Chefchaouen is a great base if you are intent on doing some hiking in the area. The Talassemtane National Park has many options for treks of various lengths and difficulty. We didn’t do any hiking while in Morocco but there are some fantastic road trips in the area. Hashish is cultivated everywhere in the Rif Mountains and we had a few people in cars indicating they could procure some to us, but nothing too aggressive though. I also heard of people being offered “a smoke” in the blue streets of Chefchaouen but that didn’t happen to us.
Chefchaouen has some charming shops in the medina and is famous for its leatherwork. Whilst the shopping is not as spectacular as it is in Marrakech, it’s also more relaxed. You still need to do some haggling and you can find some interesting things to add to your shopping experience. I recommend visiting La Botica de la Abuela Aladdin, a unique handmade soap store, quite a unique experience!
How to Get There
There is no railway getting to Chefchaouen. To get there on public transport, you need to get a bus from Tetouan and a Grand Taxi. Driving around Morocco is a great way to see the country and is not as difficult as it seems. Besides, there are some really beautiful roads. We parked near the Parador Hotel just outside the medina for use 20Dhs a night. Also, we got someone to help us with our luggage for 20Dhs.
We spend three nights in Chefchaouen, which was great and allowed us to take a road trip in the Rif Mountains and all the way to the Mediterranean Coast to view the Controversial Spanish Islands, but if you only want to see the Blue Pearl, two nights in enough. Chefchaouen is so picturesque and charming that it’s certain to be a highlight of your trip to Morocco and I recommend not to miss it.
Always the Cats
As always, I look out for cats… The blue streets of Chefchaouen have plenty of them and they make a very good photographic subject. It’s almost as if the blue soothes them to sleep…
Surely you get why Chefchaouen is the most photogenic town in Morocco now? I hope it’s going to be on your bucket list now!
For more Morocco city guides, check out my post on Tangier.
And for more inspiration on Morocco, check out 20 things you need to know before travelling to Morocco.
Have you visited Chefchaouen? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!