During my trip to Morocco I went in the space of three days from the desert to the mountains of the rif, from the arid areas of Merzouga to the green mountains of the north of the country. From the omnipresent sand colour of the south to the blue of the beautiful and almost unpronounceable Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco.
Needless to say, Chefchaouen is one of the most unique locations in Morocco.
Where to stay in Chefchaouen?
You have two options, either sleeping inside the medina or sleeping in the city outside the walls.
I had a very good time at Dar Naya, a small room but in a very quiet area and a nice terrace with a view of the blue city.
Discover Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco
As you get closer to the city, the blue walls of the houses become more and more prominent.
Chefchaouen, like other Moroccan cities, is divided between medina and new city. Despite its considerably more relaxed atmosphere than cities like Fez or Marrakech (click to read the articles), even in Chefchaouen there is a lot of traffic and it is difficult to find parking. If you arrive in Chefchaouen during an on the road itinerary in Morocco, it will probably be better to find accommodation outside the medina. Otherwise, be prepared to be very patient.
I have had both patience and luck and in a short time I was able to find a parking space near one of the city gates.
My apartment was right in the medina a short walk from the entrance. Sleeping in the old town of the blue city of Morocco has its appeal. You step out the “front door” and find yourself surrounded by the blue walls of all the houses around you.
Please note: when searching for a parking space, don’t be fooled by illegal car parkers who sacrifice themselves to find a parking space and risk having it put in places where you can’t, with the promise that they will keep an eye on it for you. For example, they wanted me to park exactly one part of the car at a no-parking sign.
Local people are less pushy than other cities in Morocco anyway.
The only drawback may be that someone asks you if you want hashish. After all these areas are home to marijuana and hash production. Some sources claim that almost 80% of the hash consumed in Europe is produced by Berbers in the mountains of Ref.
Although this little inconvenience may happen to you, in Chefchaouen you can move around peacefully in the evening (maybe not at night) both in the main streets and squares and in some side streets.
It is not difficult to find your way around the medina. A few hours of daily walking will be enough to be able to “map” the blue city and to move without using Google Maps or something like that.
About travelling safe to Morocco, I suggest to read this article: Is safe to travel to Morocco?
History of Chefchaouen, the Marocco’s blue city
Before explaining what to see, let’s begin by briefly talking about its history and its main characteristic: the blue.
Chefchaouen was founded in 1472 and has relatively recent origins. In these “few” years of life, however, it has been of considerable attention. It was founded to become the base from which to attack the Portuguese in Ceuta (a city that is now Spanish). Over the centuries, it welcomed peoples of Andalusian origin that determined structural changes that are still evident. Those who have had the opportunity to visit Andalusia, will notice many similarities, many nuances and characteristics that are also found in Spanish cities like Tarifa or Granada. The combination of Arab and Andalusian culture is in fact a constant even in southern Spain.
Chefchaouen, among other things, was occupied by Spanish troops in 1920 and then liberated in 1956, the year of Morocco’s independence.
What about the blue? Why Chefchaouen is blue?
Chefchaouen was not built with walls painted blue, it was built with doors painted green in the Muslim tradition. It was only in the 1930s that blue was introduced. Why?
There are several theories. Some say that houses were painted blue to keep mosquitoes and gnats away, others claim that blue was used by Jews to give the city the color of paradise. The fact is that Chefchaouen, thanks to this blue, has become a magical place, one of the most photographed in all of Morocco.
5 best things do in Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is small and you can tour it in one day at a very slow pace.
1 – Take pictures and get lost in the blue of the city
It may sound like a trivial answer, but the most important thing to do in Chefchaouen is… take pictures. Of course! From the moment you enter the city and are surrounded in the blue of the medina, you will want to photograph the thousand colors of Morocco all the time.
The medina is small and you will be able to walk around it very well, the first confrontation with Chefchaouen must be just that: getting lost in the blue painted blue of the streets of the medina (always be careful though).
Visiting Chefchaouen takes one day, no more, but I suggest you sleep here at least one night. The atmosphere of the blue city at night is not to be missed.
2 – A break in Uta el-Hammam Square
The Uta el-Hammam Square is very beautiful and is the hub of blue city life. Lots of bars and clubs overlooking a long and narrow square from which you can also access the Great Mosque and the characteristic Kasbah. Uta el-Hammam Square is the ideal place to take a break and sip some good mint tea watching the local life rushing around.
3 – Visit the kasbah of Chefchaouen
The entrance is located in Uta el-Hammam square and it costs 10 dirhams. This allows you to visit the fortress and the art gallery inside the site. Inside you will find beautiful and well-kept gardens and you can climb the main tower. A few steep steps, a small effort well spent to get to the top and enjoy the view of the blue city.
Chefchaouen from above is even more unusual. From here you can also see the Spanish Mosque at the top of the hill behind the city.
I highly recommend you to spend these 10 dirhams to visit the kasbah of Chefchaouen. It will be a beautiful experience.
4 – Discover the banks of the river
This is a gem that I discovered thanks to some Italian guys I found in a rest area in the desert while we were moving from Thinghir to Merzouga.
They had advised me, and I now advise you, to follow the path and reach the river that rises from the source Ras El-Ma and flows to the “right” (looking at the map) of Chefchaouen.
Here you can walk downhill on the left bank of the river and enjoy the local life and crafts. Among the mills and wash houses of the time there are children playing in the pools of water that formed the river and many producers of honey, dates and fruit kept in the water to keep it cool.
It is also a pleasant walk to protect yourself from the Moroccan heat.
This is the road that you will have to follow on foot from the square Uta el-Hammam until you reach the spring.
5 – An excursion from Chefchaouen to the nearby Talassemtane Park
Although I did not have time to go there, it is fair to include it in the things to see in Chefchaouen. The mountains around the blue city allow different trekking routes, moreover there are some beautiful waterfalls to visit: the Akchour waterfalls.
Where to eat in Chefchaouen?
Usually I don’t recommend places to eat because I believe that in those few days when you visit a city you don’t have the time or the luck to find the best places, unless they are particular/typical places.
This time, for Chefchaouen, I will make an exception. I recommend you to try the tajines of the Sindibad Cafe-Restaurant.