Why is Chefchaouen Blue? One Day in the Blue City

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?

Propane being delivered by donkey in Chefchaouen.
Propane being delivered by donkey in Chefchaouen.

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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

Visiting Chefchaouen

Looking down on the blue city of Chefchaouen.
Looking down on the blue city of Chefchaouen.

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.

Outside a shop, these bags of dyes show how popular blue is.
Outside a shop, these bags of dyes show how popular blue is.

I went about trying to find the answer, but instead of one answer I found many.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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)!

An archway into another blue Chefchaouen street.
An archway into another blue Chefchaouen street.

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.

One of the many Chefchaouen cats found around the Old Town.
One of the many Chefchaouen cats found around the Old Town.

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!

Late afternoon shoppers walking through the Old Town of Chefchaouen.
Late afternoon shoppers walking through the Old Town of Chefchaouen.

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!

FAQ

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.

Mountains rise up behind the main square fountain and the Old Town Hall.
Mountains rise up behind the main square fountain and the Old Town Hall.

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.

Even if you are only in Chefchaouen for one day like we were, check out the souk where you can see the chicken vendors plucking and cutting the freshest chickens.
Even if you are only in Chefchaouen for one day like we were, check out the souk where you can see the chicken vendors plucking and cutting the freshest chickens.

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.
Moroccan design and architecture in Chefchaouen.
Moroccan design and architecture in Chefchaouen.

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:

Luxury

Lina Ryad – the highest rated with stunning decor and an indoor pool.

Mid-Range

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.

Budget

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.

A woman walks up some of the many blue steps.
A woman walks up some of the many blue steps.
With only one day in Chefchaouen, you should visit this fountain outside the Old Town Hall.
With only one day in Chefchaouen, you should visit this fountain outside the Old Town Hall.

Conclusion

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!

One of the many blue passageways in Chefchaouen.
One of the many blue passageways in Chefchaouen.

Wouldn’t you just love to spend some time relaxing in Chefchaouen?

Pin Chefchaouen for later!

The Blue City of Chefchaouen in Morocco is everyone's dream destination!
Basking in the Blue in Chefaouen, Morocco

16 thoughts on “Why is Chefchaouen Blue? One Day in the Blue City”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I loved Chefchaouen and I also heard the story about the blue color and flies / mosquitos. I was also told that Christians could not visit the city under penalty of death until the 1920s.

  5. This place is totally fairty tale.. the blue color on the streets make it so similar to some of the cities in India but off course we have many more people on the streets.

  6. Ok, I’m sold. The place looks beautiful. Morocco is a place we’ve started out for a few times, but for some reason have never made it. Another reason to go now.

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