On our Moroccan road trip, one place we were destined to go was Chefchaouen. It is impossible to do any research on tourism in Morocco without coming across stunning photo after stunning photo of this city in blue, and we certainly weren’t going to be left out.
After visiting some other iconic cities like Marrakech and Fez, we had high expectations. Would Chefchaouen meet them? Would we be able to find out why is Chefchaouen blue?
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In this article you will learn six key things about Chefchaouen which will help you decide if you should include it on your Moroccan itinerary and what to do once you get there.
- Why Chefchaouen is blue
- What to do if you visit Chefchaouen for one day
- If it is worth visiting
- If Chefchaouen is safe at night
- How to get to Chefchaouen
- Where to Stay
Why is Chefchaouen Blue?
There are many reasons that Chefchaouen is blue: to ward off mosquitoes, the color of sky and sea, to keep it cool, or to make lots of money from tourists!
I had previously traveled in Rajhastan, India and they have a blue city as well, Jodhpur. There the people believe that painting their houses blue will help them stay clear
of mosquitoes. Let me tell you, I would paint myself blue if that helps! At any rate, I wondered if there was a similar reason that the Moroccans painted this city blue.
I went about trying to find the answer, but instead of one answer I found many.
- The most common answer about why the city is painted blue is due to the Jews that after being forced out of Germany settled here and feeling closer to Heaven, painted their houses blue. To begin with, it was only Jewish houses that were blue, but they became the norm, and then everyone started doing it.
- So the next reason is blue is a pretty color. People like it because it reminds them of the sea and the sky. It’s pleasing, and in the spirit of keeping up with the neighbors, you just need to get out there and buy some of that blue wash.
- Mosquitoes. I mentioned this above as the reason the Indians used it, but is it true also in Morocco? I don’t know for sure, but I did not see even one mosquito while I was there. Coincidence?
- Keeps the city cooler. Morocco has a very warm climate. It’s hot for most of the year, so anything to keep it cooler is going to be popular, and to be fair most people were wearing long sleeves. It must be working.
I’m not sure I really found the answer. It’s probably “D” all of the above! No matter what the reason is, though, it’s amazing how many shades of blue are found throughout the old city, and how much money the city brings in from selfie happy tourists (like me)!
One Day in Chefchaouen
As we were driving in, we could see right away that like many ancient towns the old city of Chaouen, as the Morocccans call it, is located at the very peak of a mountain. In our little rental, we climbed and climbed right past many modern buildings, of all colors, but especially white. Arriving at the top, the touts immediately found us but thankfully left when we shook our heads. I don’t mind being asked, but when I say no, go away and they did.
We parked on an incline and were looking for chocks to help the dubious parking brake stick us to the space. The last thing we wanted to do is come back in the morning to find our car at the bottom of the mountain. We grabbed our packs and headed up through the gate where our eyes were immediately accosted by the blue. We were thrilled.
Walking through the center of town in late afternoon, we tried to hurry and get checked in so that we could get out and take some photos during the best light of day. The blue was just shimmering!
A walled, hilltop old town, we climbed up and down, wending our way around and down, past bakeries, drug stores, street vendors, public buildings, mosques, and most were painted that brilliant blue. We couldn’t get enough of it.
Children ran around, climbed the odd tree here and there, played hide and seek, soccer; the narrow streets were alive. Families walked hand in hand carrying loaves of fresh bread and the baker’s oven was fiery hot, pushing out delectable pastries.
We wanted to try them all, but we restrained ourselves and only had a spiral flaky pastry since we knew that when that sun went down, and a full darkness descended on the town, we would be walking straight to dinner and back to the hotel. Those streets get very dark!
Is Chefchaouen worth visiting?
In my opinion, yes, Chefchaouen is definitely worth a visit. The city is different than the rest of Morocco. It definitely leans towards being very touristy, and as I mentioned the touts are looking for you, but they were respectful and when they realized we weren’t buying, left us alone. The rest of the time was super relaxing and comfortable. However, if you aren’t someone who wants to take it easy, and you want a lot of sights to see then maybe I would skip it.
Is it safe at night?
No matter where you are in the world, it’s prudent to use caution. Travel with at least one other person, especially at night. At no point did I feel unsafe in Chefchaouen, but I’m also not out late either. Be aware.
What is there to do in Chefchaouen?
- Wander the medina
- Visit a traditional hamam
- Don’t miss the souk
- Learn about the area at the Ethnographic Museum
- Buy some handmaid souvenirs
- Go hiking in the mountains
- Visit the nearby waterfalls
- Visit the hash fields
How to Get to Chefchaouen
- Chefchaouen is a 2 hour drive south from Tangiers (rent your own car or take a Grand Taxi for the real local experience), or of course you can book a bus ticket with CTM.
- Tourism is the number one industry here. On the plus side there are many amenities to choose from.
- Parking is limited in the old town and most of the hotels in the center don’t have parking.
- Chefchaouen is perched on the side of a mountain, you will be climbing up and down stairs and rough road surfaces.
Where to Stay in Chefchaouen
We booked our hotel after arriving in the town as we weren’t 100% sure we’d spend the night. It was such a beautiful town we knew we had to though. There are many hotels in all classes to choose from, but last minute can be hard to find availability.
We were more than happy with our luck in finding the Dar Zambra located on the downhill edge of the old town. The rooms were comfortable and quirky, the internet was reliable, and the girl at the desk friendly and helpful. The price was right, too, at around 40 euros for a double with breakfast.
However here are some other choices for hotels in Chefchaouen:
Lina Ryad – the highest rated with stunning decor and an indoor pool.
Riad Zaitouna Chaouen – a great rooftop with amazing views of the city; clean and comfortable.
Hotel Casa Miguel – great place for couples who like to hike. The waterfalls are only 5 minute walk.
Hostel Souika – clean with excellent shared spaces…best it’s the cheapest
More photos of Chefchaouen, the Blue City!
Refreshed and eager to set out on the next part of our journey, we walked through the town one more time, pausing to take one more look at the gorgeous azul alleyways and of course take a lot more photos.
No matter what the reason is that Chefchaouen is painted blue, I loved it. The stairs, the people, the food, the photos, it was all worth it! I could go back again and again. It’s the best place to take a couple of down days during a longer trip to Morocco, like we did. By the way, I think the original inhabitants of that part of town just loved the color blue. I get it. I do, too!
Wouldn’t you just love to spend some time relaxing in Chefchaouen?
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
Eric || The Bucket List Project
Tuesday 8th of November 2016
Your pictures are amazing! Chefchaouen is definitely on our Bucket List! In New Orleans, it is a tradition to paint your porch roof blue like the sky because it is believed that it will keep wasps from nesting there because they think it is the sky, so there must be some truth to the anti-mosquito theory!
Wednesday 9th of November 2016
Eric, I never knew that about New Orleans. Very cool.
Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere
Monday 17th of October 2016
WOW - These photos are stunning! I also love capturing beautiful doors and windows like these when traveling. The shades of blue here are gorgeous, to the point that I think I'd be glued to my camera whenever walking around!
Monday 17th of October 2016
Beth, It is a gorgeous place. The blue is everywhere and it does make some pretty pictures.
Sunday 16th of October 2016
We loved Chefchaouen as well such a chilled little place with beauty around every corner. One of my favourite places in Morocco. You pictures are beautiful and captured it's spirit well.
Sunday 16th of October 2016
Thanks Michele! I agree, it's got a great relaxed vibe that I just loved.
Saturday 15th of October 2016
Such a beautiful town! Its perfect for a photowalk! :) Will certainly visit this place someday.
Sunday 16th of October 2016
Jane, One of the best! (Actually all of Morocco is a great photo opp!)
Monday 10th of October 2016
For the photographic experience, this would be the top place I like to visit in Morocco. I think I will walk all the streets searching for different shades of blue and for all the pretty doors and windows.
Tuesday 11th of October 2016
Ruth, That's exactly what we went for and found so much more to enjoy. I know you would really enjoy it.