Why is Chefchaouen Blue?

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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. We had high expectations; would Chefchaouen meet them? Would we be able to find out why is Chefchaouen blue?

Blue City of Chefchaouen with a donkey walking past
A man uses his donkey to help deliver gas within the winding alleyways of Old Chefchaouen.
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Visiting Chefchaouen

Eight bags of dye, six - blue and 1 yellow and 1 purple
Dyes of all colors, but mostly blue outside a shop in the Old town.

Why is Chefchaouen Blue?

Maybe…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.

  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)!

Visiting Chefchaouen, all you see is blue. A typical Moroccan arch, but painted blue.
Blue, blue, blue….it’s blue-tiful!

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.

The pretty blue contrasts with a gorgeous gray and white cat sitting on the wall in Chefchaouen.

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 shining!

The main Kasbah, definitely a must-see on a one day trip to Chefchaouen. There is a blue fountain, the brown Kasbah, and the mountains.
Visiting Chefchaouen, the town center.
We loved seeing the kids go home from school on our one day in Chefchaouen.
School was over for the evening, and children with their backpacks were finding their way home.

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!

Baker and a traditional blue oven in Chefchaouen Why is Chefchaouen blue? Or why is it so many different blues. There are at least three blues on these doors.

FAQ

Is Chefchaouen worth visiting?

In my opinion, yes, Chefchaouen is worth a visit. It’s different than the rest of Morocco. It’s 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.

Why is Chefchaouen blue? Because it's pretty, like this lone woman walking up the steps.

What is there to do in Chefchaouen?

  • Wander the medina
  • Visit a traditional hamam
  • 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 

Practical Information

  • 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.

Families walking on a Chefchaouen street, buying dinner and other goods for the day.

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 Zman 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

Mid-Range

Riad Zaitouna Chaouen
Hotel Casa Miguel

Budget

Hostel Souika

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.

Boy plays on a dark blue banister. He's surrounded by blue.One day in Chefchaouen gives you enough time to wander the streets, and see the local children play.

An orange and white cat on a blue Chefchaouen wall.

Intricate tile and blue door. Intricate carved blue door.

Girls walking in the entrance gate to Chefchaouen.
Chatting girls walking home through one of Chefchaouen’s gates.

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!

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

 

Pin Chefchaouen for later!

Basking in the Blue in Chefaouen, Morocco

16 thoughts on “Why is Chefchaouen Blue?

  1. Tom Bartel says:

    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.

  2. Prasad Np says:

    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.

  3. Rhonda Albom says:

    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.

  4. Ruth says:

    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.

  5. Michele says:

    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.

  6. Eric || The Bucket List Project says:

    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!

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