A GUIDE TO CHEFCHAOUEN, THE BLUE CITY
Nestled in the Rif Mountains of Morocco, this beautiful city has more to offer than just photo opportunities.
Nestled in the Rif Mountains of Morocco, this beautiful city has more to offer than just photo opportunities. The picturesque blue and white washed buildings make you truly feel like you are on vacation. Many people take a day trip from Fes or other surroundings cities; however, I feel this city deserves at least two days.
Pronounced Shafshāwanthere are many theories as to why the city is blue. Some include symbolism of the sky, mosquito repellant, and painted blue by the Jews after taking refugee there. The town is a small fortress town created to protect itself from the Portuguese invasions. Settlers included Ghormara tribes, Moriscos and Jews after the Spanish Reconquista. All of these influences created this beautiful city, full of culture and certainly worth a visit.
A trip to Chefchaouen can be as relaxing or adventurous as you would like. The city itself is mainly a walking city, so be sure to pack comfortable shoes, however, you do not have to walk very far to find Parador square. From there, a short walk in either direction will bring you to a variety of restaurants and shops. See below for some recommendations on how you can spend your holiday in this beautiful blue city.
Consider visiting the city in the off season, or just before/after tourist season. This way you will not be battling the mass of tourists in small streets.
Hike to the Spanish Mosque: Built by the Spanish in the 1920’s, this mosque is a hot spot for one of the most beautiful views of the city. If you enjoy a view (or two) and want a simple hike, this is the place to be. Visible from the town of Chefchaouen, the hike can take anywhere from 15 minutes, to 45 minutes depending on fitness level and photo breaks. For a reference, it took my husband and I 26 minutes; we stopped once for maybe 5 minutes to catch our breath, and then 4-5 photo stops. This location boasts the best views of the city nestled between the mountains and is great at just about any time during the day. In the early morning/afternoon you will have the best lighting for photographing the city without it being backlit. It is also a popular spot to watch the sunset as the sun sets just to left of the city (when facing the city from the mosque). However, many spots along the hike are just as beautiful and less crowded. After we hiked to the Mosque, we decided to go a bit further up the hill. This was a great idea, as you get an even better perspective on the city and its relation to the surrounding mountains.
Hike the city wall: On the opposite side of the city, facing the Spanish Mosque, you can see the wall built around Chefchaouen. Concrete steps take you to the top, where you can see some of the city, and a lot of the mountains! The sun sets on this side, so a hike up here during sunset was beautiful because you can see the sky turning pink and purple next to the mountains.
Wander the streets: getting lost amongst the blue and white walls of Chefchaouen was one of my favorite things to do. Around every corner there was a new door, design or unique alley to see. Getting lost with our camera proved to be a great activity.
Shop: This goes along with wandering through the streets. Local vendors selling everything from spices, powdered dyes, leather goods, carpets, beauty products, to small souvenirs are all abundant in most Moroccan cities, with no exception here. Even if you purchase nothing, visually taking it all in is a great way to experience local culture.
Eat: As with every city we visited in Morocco, food was the center of our experience. Since restaurants are ever changing, the best advice I can give is research, research, research. Tools like TripAdvisor and google reviews have been essential for help in choosing places to eat all around the world. (With that being said, it is helpful if you as a traveler review restaurants as often as possible).
Take a cooking class: Had we not just taken a cooking class in Marrakech, Chefchaouen would have been our next option. Taking a cooking class is a great way to get acquainted with local flavors, and a great way to take home some delicious recipes to help recreate your trip at home.
Visit the Kasbah: located in the center of the city or Medina. The Kasbah was a walled fortress now containing a garden, small art gallery, and museum. The Kasbah will give you an elevated view of the city from within the city itself.
Chefchaouen is approximately 4 hours from Fes and Rabat, and 3 hours to Tangier. All easily reachable via bus. We also took a 6 hour bus ride from Chefchaouen to Casablanca for our flight home, and it was a nice, easy ride. Overall, Chefchaouen was definitely one of the highlights from our trip to Morocco.