A travel guide to Chefchaouen, the blue city in Morocco
In northwest Morocco, situated in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen – The Blue City Morocco – is what I like to call. “Chaouen,” as locals call it, is known worldwide 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 in Morocco lies would prove to be well worth our time.
Upon our first sight of the city, set along a mountainside, it’s breathtaking. We traveled around Morocco for six weeks, and in our opinion, Chefchaouen is the best destination to visit in Morocco.
Aside from the blue streets, Chefchaouen 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 escape the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities in Morocco. We found 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 many locals and did a bunch of research as to why Chefchaouen is blue. Naturally, there are a few answers to this question, but nothing definitive.
History tells us that thousands of Jews fled Europe during the Spanish Inquisition, 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 the original meaning behind the Moroccan Blue City.
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 blue shades help cool the city off during the summer. It’s probably somewhere in the middle as the tradition stuck, and the tourism dollars from photo-crazed Instagrammers certainly incentivized things!
How to Get to Chefchaouen, the Blue City in Morocco?
There are a few different options depending on where you come from in Morocco to get to the blue city, Morocco. There are frequent buses from Fez and Tetouan and also from Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, and Ceuta in Spain.
Chefchaouen, Morocco, is about three hours from Tangier, the closest to the famous blue town. 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 a temperate and cool climate compared to the deserts of Morocco.
Take a Bus to Chefchaouen, the Blue City of Morocco
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 regular ticket price for their “services.”
Take a 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 Yourself to the Blue City in Morocco
If you feel confident driving in Morocco, you can rent a car to get to the Blue City in Morocco and 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.
Take a Tour to Chefchaouen
The last option I would recommend is a tour to Chefchaouen, which will take the headache out of traveling to the Moroccan blue city yourself. 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.
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 we really enjoyed it.
Get Lost in The Streets of Chefchaouen
The first thing to do in Chefchaouen is to get lost. It’s a laid-back city that is great to wander around aimlessly. We woke up every day excited just to 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 enjoy the smells and unique shops. Each street always brought us something new and undiscovered.
Go For a Hike in the Blue City in Morocco
Just look up when you get tired of wandering around the Moroccan blue city! Chefchaouen is situated high in the Rif Mountains and is an excellent base for hiking.
We chose a popular hike that goes just behind the waterfall of the Ras el Ma’ river and climbs up towards the Spanish mosque on the outskirts of town, providing absolutely amazing views over Chefchaouen.
Find Some Kitty Cats
Not on your traditional list of things to do in Chefchaouen, but if you like cats, you will have fun here. It won’t take long to find one of Chefchaouen’s most prominent residents, the cats of Morocco’s blue city. Around almost every corner, you’ll find a little meow-box waiting for some attention.
The cat population is very high as the locals feed them and generally take good care of them.
Visit Talassemtane National Park
Talassemtane National Park is a beautiful national park in Morocco that was created in 2004 to preserve Morocco’s threatened fir foreset. The name Talassemtane means “Cold Spring” in Arabic. It’s less than a 45-minute drive from Chefchaouen and offers plenty of hiking opportunities. Grab a group and a taxi and make your way there. It’s all where you’ll find Akchour waterfalls and God’s Bridge. (See below).
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 blue town in Morocco to the small town of Akchour to start the hike to God’s Bridge. You’ll also get to see the stunning Akchour waterfalls here too. 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 and is one of the largest buildings. Inside the Kasbah museum, you’ll find an ethnographic museum and a wonderful courtyard garden. Entry is cheap, so it’s worth poking your head in to check out this bit of history.
Spanish Mosque Viewpoint
The best viewpoint of the Moroccan blue city comes from an old Spanish Mosque that sits atop a hill on the city’s outskirts. 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, so 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 with 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.
This hike is about 10 miles long, with a gain of 3448 feet, and can take up to 9 hours, depending on your fitness level.
This hiking trail isn’t well marked, but if you want to get epic views over Chefchaouen without a bunch of other tourists I would suggest asking your guest house about this hike.
Visit a Marijuana Farm
If you walk around the Moroccan blue 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 agreed with a local to take them up to a farm for an enjoyable day trip.
Smoking cannabis in Morrocco? You won’t have an issue finding hash in Chefchaouen. 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 not to partake. You can do so at your own risk — personally, we don’t want to see the inside of a Moroccan jail.
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 several countries and really love them every once in a while. Much like a sauna or Japanese sento or onsen, expect casual public nudity, separated by sex. There are several hammams spread throughout the city, and it’s 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 in the Blue City Morocco. If you want to venture out of the medina for some peace, I recommend checking out Ras el Maa. You also pass this on your way to the Spanish Mosque.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
One of the reasons so many visitors love Morocco is for the shopping. While shopping and haggling in Marrakech or Fez may be overwhelming and exhausting, I found Chefchaouen quite laid back.
Yes, there are fewer options here than in the big cities of Morocco, but you should still be able to find unique handicrafts from local artisans.
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 medina, having a cafe, and chatting with locals are wonderful ways to pass time. Don’t forget to bring a travel camera. It’s one of the most photogenic spots in North Africa.
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 Chefchaouen. 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 of 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. I can’t complain about that! You’ll find specialties like tajine, harira, kofte, and tagras here. Tripadvisor
Indulge in Juice
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 Morocco?
This hotel is located in the center of Chefchaouen and has a wonderful terrace with mountain views and a lounge area. All rooms are heated as they can get bitterly cold in the winter, and they 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 Chefchaouen.
La Petite Chefchaouen
If you like 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 regarding views.
You’ll find two helpful hosts: the proprietor and manager, Antonio and Mohammed. They’re very welcoming and run a wonderful little riad. It’s a budget-friendly option; 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.
Things to do in Chefchaouen Map
What to Wear in the Moroccan Blue City?
Morocco is a predominately Muslim country, so it’s important to dress conservatively. Although Chefchaouen is a bit more liberal than the rest of the country, it’s still important to cover 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; believe it or not, it can get cold at night, so pack a packable down jacket.
What is the Weather Like In Chefchaouen?
The weather in Chefchaouen varies greatly throughout the year. It aligns 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 Visiting the Blue City in Morocco
- Languages in Chefchaouen: 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 ATMs located around the city. Check out more of our travel banking tips.
- WiFi: All places we stayed in Morocco had free WiFi. Whether it was good or not remained questionable, data is cheap in Morocco. 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 Visiting Chefchaouen
Besides the “bluetiful” buildings, we found Chefchaouen to be the most peaceful place we visited in Morocco. Locals and tourists 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 Chefchaouen 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 Chefchaouen, 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 the Blue City in Morocco
Our Recommendation For Travel Insurance
We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country, and it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo offers excellent short and long-term travel insurance policies.
Morocco Travel Planning Resources
- Packing Guide — Check out our Morocco Packing List to help pack your bags and ensure you don’t leave anything at home.
- Protect Your Trip — We don’t travel without travel insurance, and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country, and it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo offers excellent short and long-term travel insurance policies.
- Travel Adapter – Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack – We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Book an Experience – See all the best Moroccan experiences here
- Rent a Car – We use Discover Cars to find the best deals on car rentals.