Chefchaouen: That Blue Town in Morocco
Blue is the warmest colour, well according to that recent movie about lesbians anyway, and it definitely rings true in Chefchaouen, or as I had come to know it “That blue town in Morocco”.
Chefchaouen sits below the towering peaks of the Rif Mountains – the scenery alone would be enough for me to rank it as my favourite place in Morocco, but what makes the town really special is the abundance of blue in the cascading streets of the medina. I have no idea why, but the locals obviously all decided that painting everything blue would look pretty cool – and they were right. I’ve seen similar monochromatic colour schemes in other places, most notably the white towns of the Cyclades islands in Greece and the mud brick villages of Southern Morocco, but the blue streets of Chefchaouen make for the most striking example of a one colour town I’ve seen so far.
Chefchaouen is the perfect place to relax after the chaotic cities of Fez, Marrakesh and Tangier. There isn’t a whole lot to do, but here are some things I recommend you try.
Explore the Chefchaouen’s medina
You can easily get lost in the medina of Chefchaouen, but that’s kinda the point. There isn’t one attraction that’s particularly worth seeing – the winding lanes and steep staircases draped in blue are what you’re here for. If you’re into shopping you’ll be happy haggling over bags, scarves and clothes, and if you want to relax you can get a meal or a drink at one of the restaurants in the main square (the food wasn’t that great at the one we tried though!). If your legs can take it, walk to the city walls at the very top of town – the views of both the town and the mountains are worth it!
Go for a walk in the Rif Mountains
The streets of Chefchaouen flow down a gentle hill, but directly behind town the mountains get a lot more dramatic. Follow the waterfall (really just a small stream where women wash clothes) up the hill until you reach the top of town, then take the path up to the mosque and beyond. The views are worth the effort, and once you get a little way from town you’ll be all alone except for the occasional goat, or local walking between villages. We also made a new friend while walking in the mountains – a dog that proceeded to follow us all the way back into town. He faithfully walked by our side for nearly 2 hours, staying loyal when so many dogs would have tried their luck with other tourists (we didn’t even have any food on us). We gave him some bread when we got back to the hotel, and he even tried to come in with us until the guy at the desk kicked him out.
Go to a hashish factory
Smoking hash in Chefchaouen (or kif as the locals call it) is a major reason why a lot of backpackers go there, and you’ll constantly be asked if you want to buy some. It does get annoying, and even if you do smoke I wouldn’t recommend buying it off dodgy looking men on the street. While I was walking in the mountains just outside of town I got talking to a local who told me he’d show me a hashish plantation/factory (for a small fee of course). Picturing scenes from the movie The Beach (when they stumble upon a huge marijuana field), I agreed to check it out. What we got was a front row seat in a small shack to watch a couple of friendly hash farmers do their thing. It seemed a bit dodgy at first but it was really interesting to get an insight into one of the area’s main industries.
Getting to Chefchaouen is easy. We took a bus from Fez which took around 4 hours and cost 75 MAD, and it’s even closer to Tangier. If you’re travelling between Tangier and Chefchaouen you should stop off in Tétouan – it’s not a popular tourist spot but its white medina is one of the best in Morocco. We stayed there for a night, but more on that in another post.
Accommodation in Chefchaouen is easy to find and reasonably cheap, we booked a hotel on booking.com for around €18, but I’m sure you can just show up in town at most times of the year and easily find something. The hotel we stayed at was like a blue cave, but it was right next to a mosque where the call to prayer would wake us up too early every morning. On a positive note, the guy that does the morning call to prayer in Chefchaouen has a great singing voice – he really puts on a performance, so it was hard to be too annoyed about being woken up.
We stayed in Chefchaouen in winter, and although the nights and mornings were pretty cold, the days were perfect. It got hot walking in the mountains outside of town, so I can’t imagine what it’d be like in summer.
I always referred to Chefchaouen as “That blue town in Morocco” because I would see photos of it but always forget its name, but now that I’ve been there I’ll always remember it. It’s my favourite place in Morocco, and next time I’m there I’ll stay as long as I can. If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, Chefchaouen should be right at the top of your list!
Have you been to Chefchaouen, or any other one colour towns? Let me know!