Guide to visit must-see Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco
You may have already seen the photos of Morocco’s blue city, Chefchaouen. The town, located in the north of Morocco on the Rif Mountains, is therefore very photogenic.
Although Chefchaouen is not close to many other attractions, such as Marrakech or the desert, we think you should definitely add this blue city to your Morocco tour.
Chefchaouen is a unique place and completely different from the rest of Morocco. The blue city was an absolute highlight for us in Morocco and fully lived up to our expectations! And it is also located in a fantastic area!
But, to get the most out of your visit, you should keep a few things in mind. In this article, you can read all our best tips for a visit to Chefchaouen, the best sights, how to get there, and where to sleep.
Why is Chefchaouen blue?
Chefchaouen is also known as the blue pearl of Morocco. In the old medina of Chefchaouen, a maze of small streets, almost everything is painted blue.
But why blue you are probably wondering? There are several stories going around, such as that the blue color keeps insects away. While it might help, that’s probably not the real reason Chefchaouen is blue.
The following explanation is more plausible. The city was founded by Berbers in the 15th century and was soon inhabited by Jewish refugees from Spain. They also introduced the Spanish-looking whitewashed houses that are so characteristic of the medina.
However, it takes until 1930 for the houses to get their characteristic blue color. Blue is a very important and spiritual color within Judaism. In addition, it also keeps the houses a lot cooler.
Whatever the cause, the result is beautiful and definitely worth a visit!
Chefchaouen: where is it and how do you get there
Chefchaouen is located in the far north of Morocco, on the beautiful Rif Mountains, and is fairly remote. You cannot go there directly by plane or train.
For most people visiting Marrakech, the desert, or the royal cities, Chefchaouen is not on their Morocco itinerary. After all, it takes 3 hours to get there from Fez or Tangier and 2 hours from Tétouan. The drive is very beautiful, so definitely worth it.
If you’re doing a 10-day or two-week tour in Morocco, you could fly into Tangier (or Tétouan) and then drive down to Fez (as we did). Also, stop for an hour or two in Tétouan, the medina is worth a visit.
Or you can fly to Fez and drive there and back from there.
TIP: If you want to rent a car in Morocco, just like us, we can strongly recommend that you do so with SunnyCars. Everything is fully insured (all-inclusive). No fuss! Ideal in a country like Morocco.
If you have not rented a car in Morocco, you can also reach Chefchaouen by booking a transfer from Fez. By bus is also an option from Tangier or Fez, but they are sometimes dangerous.
Don’t just visit Chefchaouen on a day trip.
De blauwe stad van Marokko is prachtig en dat is ondertussen geen geheim meer. It has become a popular tourist destination. So many people come to Chefchouan on a day trip.
Besides the fact that this is a very tiring day with a lot of driving, we can strongly advise you to stay 1 or more nights.
First of all, you avoid the many tourists and tour buses that visit the city during the day. Staying overnight will give you time to discover all the best things about Chefchaouen, including the sunrise and sunset.
TIP: Before your breakfast (around 7:30 am or 8:00 am), go for a walk in the medina. Except for a few locals and a lot of cats, you will hardly meet anyone. The perfect moment to experience the magic and take beautiful pictures. Afterward, enjoy breakfast on one of the many roof terraces.
In addition, the area around Chefchaouen is also very much worth exploring. You can do trekking in the Rif mountains, visit the Akchour waterfall, …
So take your time to visit magical Chefchaouen and its surroundings! Two nights and 1 full day is ideal in our opinion. If you have more time, definitely stay longer. We could have easily spent 2 or 3 full days here. At the end of this article, we also give our tips for nice hotels in Chefchaouen.
Best time to visit Chefchaouen
Spring or autumn is the best time to visit Morocco in general, including Chefchaouen. From March to May and September to November approximately, you have very pleasant temperatures.
As it is higher and between the mountains, it is also a bit more bearable in the summer with less extremely hot temperatures. Moroccans from all over the country often come to spend their summer holidays in these regions. During winter it can get very cold.
10 best things to do in Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco
As we wrote before, take your time to discover the magic of Chefchaouen. Don’t come on a day trip, but try to be there for at least 1 full day.
That in itself is enough to do the most beautiful sights of Chefchaouen unless you also want to discover the area.
At the bottom of this article, we discuss the best places to stay in Chefchaouen. Because staying overnight in a Riad or beautiful house with a roof terrace is definitely something you should do in Chefchaouen.
Get lost in the medina and the small blue streets
The blue-painted medina with its maze of streets is the reason you came here. Wander around in it, be surprised, and discover a new postcard behind every corner.
We liked it a lot! Chefchaouen has not stolen his nickname, the blue pearl or blue city of Morocco. The medina has a unique atmosphere (especially early in the morning) that we have not encountered anywhere else in Morocco.
This medina is smaller and quieter than many other well-known major cities in Morocco. Even if you get lost for a while (and you should), you always find your way back quickly. Don’t just hang around the square. Be sure to explore the less busy streets higher up the hill.
Shopping in the beautiful stores of the medina
Like most Moroccan medinas, Chefchaouen is also great for shopping in the narrow streets of the souks. There is a smaller selection, but it is also less crowded than in Marrakech or Fez, and we loved that.
In addition, the prices here are also slightly lower (still serious bidding) because Chefchaouen is a bit outside the typical travel route through Morocco. Perfect to buy one of the local carpets, jewelry, herbs, hats, baskets, …, some of which are unique to the region.
Goat cheese is also a typical regional product and is offered in many places. Definitely try it with a piece of Moroccan bread.
On Mondays and Thursdays, you will find the local market where the Berbers from the mountains come to sell their products.
TIP: Be aware of the traders and their techniques. Although they are very friendly and not pushy, they are good at their job. In Morocco it is usually the custom to bid, so do not accept the first price.
We had only been in Morocco for a few hours and were asked in with tea. Before we knew it, we had bought two carpets that we didn’t really need. On the other hand, still no regrets about these unique, quality pieces. By bidding almost 75% of the price, we also paid less than in the other tourist towns.
Make Instagrammable photos
If you, like me, are fond of beautiful photos, then you have probably already seen Chefchaouen’s photos on Instagram. When you just walk through the medina, you will certainly be able to take a lot of beautiful shots of the blue houses, kittens, …
Yet there is one street that stands out in terms of Instagrammable photos. In this street, the inhabitants have done their best with colorful flower pots, carpets, completely blue-colored stairs, …
Walk down this street from the white mosque to the city gate Bab El Onsar (the exact location can be found here) and you are guaranteed to have beautiful photos! Do this early in the morning, when there are no day tourists yet.
TIP: Be respectful when taking photos. Moroccans don’t like to be photographed very much. So always ask for their permission first. Some places may also charge a fee for a photo.
Watch the sunset at the Spanish Mosque (and walk along Ras-el-Maa)
Since Chefchaouen lies against the Rif Mountains, it is a beautiful sight to see the sunset from a higher spot.
You can just follow one of the hiking trails higher up in the mountains, but the easiest way is to admire the sunset from the Spanish Mosque. Keep in mind that it can be quite busy at sunset.
This white Spanish Mosque was built by the Spaniards in the 1920s, but was never put into use and is visible from all over the city. This easy walk takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
When you just leave the city, you walk over a bridge. There you can go to the left for a while to admire some small waterfalls (Ras-El-Maa). When we were there in September, there was almost no water left. But in the spring it seems to be beautiful.
Have a tea or eat something at Plaza Uta El-Hammam
The lively and cozy main square of Chefchaouen, Plaza Uta El-Hammam, is not to be missed when visiting Morocco’s blue city.
The many terraces, restaurants, shops and of course the Kasbah and octagonal Grand Mosque make this square a real attraction in Chefchaouen. It is possible to visit the Kasbah (more on this in the next point), the Great Mosque cannot.
Sit on a terrace and enjoy a typical Moroccan mint tea while watching what is happening and the people who go by.
This is also a good place if you want to eat something, the restaurants around the square get fairly good reviews. Having breakfast on the square is a wonderful experience.
Visit the Kasbah and the museum
In the center of the city, on the main square, you will find the beautiful kasbah of Chefchaouen. A kasbah is an old Moroccan fortress made of earth and stone and typical of the Berber regions.
When you visit this kasbah you will learn more about its history (as a fortress, prison, …) but also about the local peoples in the small ethnographic museum. Interesting but don’t expect too much.
What you mainly come for is climbing the tower, which gives you a beautiful view of the city (especially at sunset), and strolling around the Spanish gardens.
Go eat something delicious in one of the cool restaurants of Chefchaouen
Food is an essential part of Moroccan culture, so you will also find a wide range of restaurants and small stalls in Chefchaouen where you can order bread, cheese, olives, or other food.
Find a restaurant with a rooftop terrace and try one of the local tajines or a delicious couscous while watching the sunset over the blue city.
A place that we can recommend is Café Clock where they have a wide range of Moroccan and also more Western dishes and a beautiful roof terrace. The prices are a bit higher here (according to Moroccan norman).
If you want to eat more locally and cheaper, we can recommend Restaurant Assaada (also with a roof terrace overlooking the Mosque), Restaurant Sofia or Restaurant Bab Ssour. So plenty of choices for a tasty meal!
If you don’t have breakfast during your stay, the square is a nice option to eat a nice breakfast.
Enjoy the sunrise from your roof terrace or even higher up in the Riff Mountains
Just like the sunset, the sunrise is a magical moment in Morocco’s blue city.
When you stay in one of the nice accommodations with a roof terrace, you just have to get up in time to enjoy the view from the top.
Later in this article, we recommend some nice accommodations in Chefchaouen.
Of course, you can also get up a little earlier and set out on one of the many hiking trails that go higher up into the Rif Mountains to admire the beautiful view over the city.
Visit a local hamman.
When you are in Morocco you should definitely let yourself be spoiled in a hammam. There are also various hammams in Chefchaouen, from very traditional to more aimed at tourists.
A traditional hammam, such as Hammam Meslouhi, is very cheap and a nice experience. Keep in mind that these are not mixed and the hours for men and women are different. Also, massages are not given here.
If you want to go for a slightly more touristy experience, you can also opt for a more modern hammam & spa such as the Lian Ryad & Spa hotel or Riad El Palacio & Spa.
Discover the beautiful nature around Chefchaouen
Of course, most people come to Chefchaouen because it is the blue city of Morocco. But there is also a lot to see in the area!
So if you have a little more time, feel free to stay here a little longer and discover the wonderful nature of the Rif Mountains. A small warning, the region around Chefchaouen is known for its production and export of cannabis and on a walk you may come across a plantation. Do not accept or buy cannabis, it is also prohibited here.
TIP: If you want to discover the Rif Mountains near Chefchaouen, we can recommend that you hire a local guide or tour company. They know perfectly where you can and cannot go. In addition, the hiking trails are sometimes not well marked.
Here are some fun things to do near Chefchaouen.
- Talassemtane National Park: This national park is about 45 minute drive from Chefchaouen. Major attractions here include the beautiful Akchour Falls and the Bridge of God, a stone arch high above a gorge.
You can do a day trip with a guide through the park, but also a multi-day hike from Chefchaouen to the waterfalls and arc right through the Rif Mountains. You walk through the wonderful nature, past small villages, you sleep with the locals and you discover the real Morocco.
If you prefer to take a jeep through the mountains to the waterfalls, then this jeep tour with a local guide is also recommended.
If you prefer to arrange it all yourself, we can recommend this article about how to arrange a trip to the Akchour waterfalls yourself.
- Jebel El Kalaa: this mountain is located on Chefchaouen. You can walk up via a nice 7 to 8 hour walk, but the walk is challenging in places and not so well marked. Again you better book a local guide.
Best hotels in Chefchaouen
Since the tourists have discovered the blue city of Morocco, there are a lot of beautiful accommodations to be found in Chefchaouen, from cheap to more expensive.
TIP: Stay in a hotel with a rooftop terrace that overlooks the old medina. This way you can enjoy this beautiful view in the morning and in the evening and you are within walking distance of all the sights of Chefchaouen.
We stayed in the budget-friendly Casa Sanae, a simple apartment for 4 people with a roof terrace and a sublime view over the medina and the surrounding mountains as it is situated on a higher level. Ondanks dat het in de medina gelegen is, en dicht bij alles, ligt het toch weg van de drukte. You can park the car within a 5-minute walk.