It took a 3 hours drive from Fez to arrive at Chefchaouen. The route is long, but as we travel through the Rif mountains they gain more shape, and the orange plantations begin to emerge.
The van stopped so the passengers could stretch their legs and buy some oranges for the trip. It’s such a good purchase, as these are the sweetest oranges I’ve ever tasted!
As I said recently, many years ago I visited Chefchaouen, but couldn’t even remember the city, the capital of the Rif, being blue… but how could this happen? How could I not have noticed the unique color of this place in the north of Morocco? I don’t even know how to explain it…
Among many theories about how Chefchaouen gained its tone, one says that it was by the hands of the Jewish community that settled here. Believing that blue is the divine color and that painting the houses would bring blessing and good luck, the city adopted the shade and became the “blue pearl” of Morocco.
This Berber location was founded in 1471, and its walls raised to protect the population not only from potential invaders but also from the strong mountain winds.
Walking the streets of Chefchaouen
I reach the north part of the wall and the Bab El-Maheruk, one of the many entrance doors in the medina. Right there the blue filled my eyes, and I thought that, despite having seen many images of Chefchaouen, nothing prepared me for this: endless blue streets, sometimes paler, sometimes darker.
The peculiarity of this Moroccan city has attracted thousands of tourists over the years. Even more so now, in the age of social media, Instagram, of the “I’ve been here.” And the local people, aware of the opportunity, flooded the many arteries of the medina with craft shops.
For those who have just arrived from the souk of Fez, this place may look much smaller and with less offer, but there are real gems around here, like the traditional carpets and blankets. Typical of mountain people, they are warm to face the cold airs of the Rif and colored to contrast with the blue walls.
The inhabitants of Chefchaouen don’t mind the tourists. By the contrary, they appreciate their presence, good for business, and smile when a visitor walks through an alley of bright blue and colored vases and throws a thrill of excitement for finding the perfect corner for the perfect shot.
Yes, I confess, I was one of them. But how do you resist taking pictures (and appearing in them) in a city that is so photogenic?
However, there’s a part of the community that remains true to itself. Many residents refuse to appear in tourist photos. According to the religion that moves them, no one can reproduce the image of man. Only Allah can do so.
So they lie hidden, waiting for someone to finish taking a photo next to a blue door so they can continue on their way.
After a day of visiting Chefchaouen, the time had also come to follow my path, back on the road, to Tetouan.
But not without feeling that I could have spent some more time here, scouring the neighborhoods, the streets, entering the shops and exchanging some topics of conversation with the locals.
But this is indeed not a goodbye. Just a “see you later, Chefchaouen!”
Places to visit in Chefchaouen
- The various streets and alleys of the medina
- Craft shops
- The Great Mosque in Uta El-Hammam Square (and spend some relaxed moments in this square)
- The Kasbah and its museum (to learn a bit more about the history of Chefchaouen. Take a walk in the gardens)
- The Jemaa Bouzafar Mosque (for an incredible view over the city)
- The Akchour Waterfalls (I didn’t visit this place because of the bad weather, but they are two amazing waterfalls a 45-minute drive from Chefchaouen. You’ll need to walk a good bit to reach them, but everybody says it’s well worth it)
Dar Ba Sidi
At the gates of Chefchaouen, even before you start to climb into town, you will find this hotel. It’s almost like a small oasis at the foot of the mountain, with friendly bungalows and an outdoor area where there’s a swimming pool to help in hotter days.
It’s one of the most well-known hotels in Chefchaouen, and so it’s not surprising that the lobby is full of tourists enjoying the Wi-Fi or lounging on the sofas. Even if you don’t sleep here, try the restaurant. Choose a table on the terrace and take in the view of the mountains.
Sleep / Dinner
If you are one of those who prefers to stay out of the city hassle, this dar is the ideal spot. Go on, don’t be scared, it’s not that far. From this accommodation to the center are about 15 minutes walk. The rooms are beautiful, and the hotel is full of details. The restaurant is intimate and the staff very friendly.
Remember the rooftop in Fez, ideal for drinking a Moroccan tea at the end of the day? The Cafe Clock chain also has an establishment in Chefchaouen. Take a peek, but keep in mind that it closes around 10pm.
Now it’s your turn! Have you ever visited Chefchaouen? How did you like the blue city of Morocco? Never been there, but would want to visit one day? Share your opinion in the comments box.
Get To Know Chefchaouen
I traveled at the invitation of the Moroccan Tourism Office to visit some of the main cities in the north of the country. However, all the descriptions and opinions reported in this article are independent and the result of my own experience.