In northwest Morocco, situated in the Rif Mountains, is Chefchaouen. “Chaouen” as locals call it, is known around the world for its cool blue streets. It’s famed for being the most beautiful city in Morocco and draws in travelers from around the world to catch a glimpse.
After we saw a photo online we knew we had to see the blue Moroccan city in person. The journey to the mountains where the blue city lies would prove to be well worth our time. Upon our first sight of the city set along a mountainside and it’s breathtaking. We traveled around Morocco for six weeks and in our opinion, it is the best destination to visit in Morocco.
Aside from the blue streets, Chefchauoen is a popular tourist destination well known for its hiking, culture, food, and hashish that is grown prolifically throughout the region. We went to Morocco’s blue city to get away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities in Morocco. What we found was a blue oasis of calm tucked away in the mountains of Morroco.
Why is Chefchaouen blue?
Often referred to as “the blue pearl” we asked a lot of locals and did a bunch of research as to why this Moroccan city is blue. Naturally, there are a few answers to this question, but nothing definitive.
History tells us that during the Spanish Inquisition thousands of Jews fled Europe so they were not forced into Christianity. They ended up settling in Chefchaouen and painted all the walls blue, the color of divinity in Judaism. This seems to be the prevailing answer to what the original meaning was behind the Moroccan
In present-day Morocco, the majority of the Jews are long gone. However, locals told us that the blue color repels mosquitos, I guess they mistake the blue for clear blue water and stay away. Then there is the idea that the various shades of blue help to cool the city off during the summer. It’s probably somewhere in the middle as the tradition stuck and the tourism dollars certainly incentivized things!
How to get to Chefchaouen?
There are a few different options depending on where you come from in the country. There are frequent buses from Fez and Tetouan and also from Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, and Ceuta.
Chefchauoen is located about three hours away from Tangier which is the largest city in proximity to Chefchaouen. There are two local buses daily from Tangier, skip those, and stick with the private bus company CTM for a more pleasurable ride.
You can find the location of Chefchaouen on Google Maps here. The map will help with the idea of the location. Located in the Northeast of Morocco it’s quite close to the coast which keeps temperate and
Bus to Chefchaouen
The CTM bus station in Tetouan is separate from the Supratours pick up and drop off point. Beware of men outside the bus stations in Tangier and Tetouan offering to randomly help you. They will take you to the local bus stations and charge double the price of a regular ticket for their “services.”
Grand Taxi to Chefchaouen
Grand taxis are cheap, but not as cheap as a bus and you will most likely be crammed in with other passengers. They fit as many people as they can in grand taxis – safety is not a priority! We found these taxis to be a good service to more off the beaten path destinations and areas not readily serviced by bus like Chefchaouen.
Drive to Chefchaouen
If you feel confident driving in Morocco you can rent a car to get around. We love to rent cars when we’re traveling abroad and Morocco is a good introduction for those looking to work on their skills in more difficult destinations. Europeans also have the advantage of taking the car ferry from Spain to five different Moroccan ports.
Tours to Chefchaouen
The last option I would recommend is a tour to Chefchauoen, which will take the headache out of doing it yourself A lot of people enjoy the setting of a group tour and it saves a lot of headaches. It’s also a great way to travel solo if you’re still new to traveling. A group setting and knowledgeable guides make your trip safe and social.
How we got to Chefchaouen
We came from the coastal town of Assilah and took the bus to Tetouan, and then had to hop on another local bus from there. Another option is a grand taxi from Tangier or Tetouan. It took us a couple of hours and find travel around Morocco to be generally pretty easy.
Things to do in Chefchaouen, The Moroccan Blue City?
Besides chasing all the stray cats through the blue town in Morocco, there is plenty to do in Chefchaouen. We personally spent five days in Chefchaouen as it was the most peaceful town we found in all of Morocco, and really enjoyed it.
Get Lost in The Streets of Morrocco
The first thing to do in Chefchaouen is to get lost. It’s a laid back city is great to wander to just spend our days getting lost in the blue maze next to the mountains and not feel rushed. If you decide to make the trek to Chefchaouen I would recommend at least two days to get around the town and do some hiking. Each street always brought us something new and undiscovered.
Go For a Hike in the Mountains
When you get tired of wandering around the Moroccan blue city then just look up! Chefchauoen is situated high in the Rif Mountains and is an excellent base for hiking. We chose to climb on past the Spanish mosque on the outskirts of town, and up into the mountain villages.
Find Some Kitty-Cats
It won’t take long to find one of Chefchaouen’s most prominent residents, that is the cats of Morocco’s blue city. Around almost every corner you’ll find a little meowbox waiting for some attention.
The cat population is very high as the local’s feed them and generally take good care of them. Have some snapping their photos or if you’re like Natasha petting literally hundreds of them.
Check Out The God’s Bridge
The Bridge of God is a lovely natural arc, 25m above the river Oued Farda. To get to the bridge it is advisable to take a taxi a half-hour out of the city to start the hike to God’s Bridge. You can find the location here.
Learn More At The Kasbah Museum
In the center of Chefchaouen, Place Outa el Hammam, sits a large 15th century Kasbah fortress. It’s easy to find Kasbah as it’s not blue and has red walls along with being one the largest buildings. Inside the Kasbah museum, you’ll find an ethnographic museum and a wonderful courtyard garden. Entry is super cheap so it’s worth poking your head in to check out this bit of history.
Spanish Mosque Viewpoint
The best viewpoint of the city comes from an old Spanish Mosque that sits atop a hill on the outskirts of the city. It’s a short mile-long hike to the top of the hill and provides views of the city the whole time. The mosque is abandoned and no longer holds prayers, so tourists and non-muslims can go inside the mosque.
Hike up to Jebel al-Kalaa
We like to spend our time in the mountains so we gravitate towards destinations like Chefchaouen. Hikes are a part of our daily lives and it’s why we live in the Canadian Rockies. One of the best hikes in the area is to the peak high above the Moroccan blue city, Jebel al-Kalaa.
It’s a long journey and probably best for people who have experience in the mountains (not technical mountain climbing), but it takes up to nine hours round trip. The Rif Mountains can be very wet so having the right outfit for hiking is important, take a look at our post on what to wear hiking.
For a more manageable hike try to visit the nearby Cascades d’Akchour Waterfalls. It’s a hike that requires a short taxi ride and several hours roundtrip to reach the waterfalls.
Visit a Marijuana Farm
If you walk around the city for a while you’ll likely be approached by several “tour guides” who will offer you either hashish or a tour to a local producer. We met several people while hanging out in Chefchaouen who worked out an agreement with a local to take them up to a farm for an enjoyable day trip.
Soak Away in a Hammam
If you’ve never visited a hammam before it’s always an interesting cultural experience. We’ve visited hammams in a number of countries and really love them every once in a while. Much like a sauna or onsen expect casual public nudity, separated by sex. There are several hammams spread throughout the city and its a great way to soak away getting stuck in the Rif Mountains of Chefchaouen.
Take Photos of Ras el Maa
This waterfall is on the east end of the medina and is where the locals gather to socialize. If you are wanting to venture out of the medina for some peace I would recommend checking out this waterfall. You also pass this on your way to the Spanish Mosque.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Chaouen, Morocco is known for having high-quality handmade leather goods. The old medina is not big, and just exploring the streets should bring you across many artisans showing off their work.
Exploring the media, having a cafe, and chatting with the locals is a wonderful way to pass time. Don’t forget to bring a travel camera, it’s one of the most photogenic spots in North Africa.
Smoke Some Hashish
You won’t have an issue finding hash in Chefchauoen. Touts everywhere in the city will be offering you their specialty like you’re a kid in a toy store. Their persistence can get annoying, a firm no should get them to stop bothering you.
*Smoking marijuana is illegal in Morocco and we advise everyone to not partake. Do you so at your own risk — personally, we don’t want to see the inside of a Moroccan jail.
Some of the best Moroccan food we ate was in this blue town in Morocco. There are so many traditional and local places it is hard to choose where to eat.
In our opinion, this is the best place to eat in Chefchauoen. Bab Ssour serves up traditional Moroccan cuisine with fresh ingredients. Their specials change daily and I would recommend going with whatever they recommend! Tripadvisor
I know pizza isn’t what you go to Morocco for, but after a few weeks traveling around the country, pizza was just what we needed. This is the best and cheapest in the area. Tripadvisor
Café Restaurant Sofia
Traditional and rich Moroccan food at a good price. Can’t complain about that! You’ll find specialties like tajine, harira, kofte, and tagras here. Tripadvisor
There are also plenty of juice places around the town where you can get freshly squeezed juices for less than 10 Dirham ($1) and quick sandwiches for 15 dirhams. Our personal favorite we found was avocado cashew juice topped with fresh bee pollen, yum!
Where to stay in the blue city of Morocco?
This charming riad has both dorm beds and private rooms and is where we stayed for five nights. There is a great common room to help you meet fellow travelers, and the WiFi is some of the best we had in Morocco! We were on a budget during our first visit to Chefchaouen and it’s where we stayed. It’s a hostel that is great for young travelers.
This hotel is located in the center of Chefchaouen and has a wonderful terrace with mountain views and a lounge area. All of the rooms are heated as it can get bitterly cold in the winter and have a private bathroom. As is typical in Morocco breakfast is included. We love its location and the friendly staff, no wonder it’s a top rated hotel in Chefcahouen.
La Petite Chefchaouen
If you like your modern amenities this hotel is the one for you. You can expect wonderful service, clean rooms, and great details at this hotel in Chefchaouen. The rooms are thoughtfully designed and the modern panoramic terrace is tough to beat in terms of views.
You’ll find two helpful hosts with the proprietor and manager Antonio and Mohammed. They’re very welcoming and run a wonderful little riad. It’s a budget-friendly option and you can find a private room for under $100. The bathroom is shared, but it’s well kept and super unique, similar to a cave.
What to wear in Chefchauoen?
Morocco is a predominately Muslim country so it’s important to dress conservatively. Although Chefchauoen is a bit more liberal than the rest of the country it’s still important to cover up exposed skin. It’s important to respect the culture of the country you are in at all times.
I would recommend bringing loose and light clothing as it will get hot in the summertime. You’re in the mountains and believe it or not it can get cold at night so pack a packable down jacket.
If you are hiking you will want to bring good hiking shoes, and comfortable clothing to hike. Here is our full packing list suggestions for Morocco.
Weather In Chefchaouen?
The weather in Chechaouen varies greatly throughout the year. It falls in line with most seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, with cool winters and hot summers. Generally, the mountains are dry, but they do receive rainfall in the shoulder season particularly in the fall.
We visited in the month of November and enjoyed the cool temperatures after leaving the heat of the desert in the cities of Marrakesh and Fes. With low humidity and pleasant nighttime temperatures, Chefchaouen is good to visit year round. The ideal time to visit Morocco’s blue city would be around September/October with pleasant temperatures and a few rainy days.
Helpful Info For Chefchaouen
- Languages in Chefchauoen: English, Spanish, Arabic, and French
- Cash: Almost everywhere takes only cash so don’t plan on racking up credit card points in Morocco. There are a few ATM’s located around the city. Check out more of our travel banking tips here.
- WiFi: All places we stayed in Morocco had free WiFi. Whether it was good or not remained questionable. Data is cheap in Morocco and I recommend picking up a SIM card when you land.
- Stay Safe: If anyone is overly friendly or invading your personal space politely back away and try to exit the situation. There are many locals, usually men, offering to “help” only to harass money out of you and make you feel uncomfortable in the end.
- Haggling: Shop owners expect you to barter with them when purchasing goods. The food, however, is cheap and you should not barter for that.
Our Thoughts On Chefchaouen
Besides the “bluetiful” buildings, we found Chefchauoen to be the most peaceful place we visited in Morocco. Locals and tourist alike are relaxed (perhaps it’s the hash), and I found there to be significantly less hassle than in Marrakech for females. Besides the persistent marijuana offerings (these were really only directed at Cameron,) I found Chefchauoen to be completely blissful.
At some points, I even forgot I was in Morocco; and instead felt I was in a blue fairytale. When we booked our flights to Morocco, I knew that we had to get to Chefchauoen, and after visiting I could not stress going to this place enough. Seriously, put it on your travel itinerary and get lost in the Moroccan blue paint.
Plan Your Trip to Morocco
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below.
- Accommodation in Morocco: To feel more at home we use Airbnb you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
- Flights to Morocco: Compare airlines, dates and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: We didn’t drink the water from the taps in Morocco. Instead, we filtered everything with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle.
- Guide Book: I know the internet is great, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel as great as a real book. We like to travel with Lonely Planet for those wireless nights.
- Adaptor: Don’t forget that Morocco uses the Europlug. Make sure to pack a good adaptor like the one I have.
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