Destination Spotlight: Chefchaouen – Morocco’s Blue City

Tucked into a fold of Morocco‘s northeastern Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a tiny mountain hamlet that provides travelers an atmospheric home-base for exploring forested hiking trails, stunning river gorges, and Chefchaouen’s historic Medina. Founded in 1471, Chefchaouen is a beautiful mix of Moroccan and Andalucian architecture with cobbled laneways twisting through the Medina to Plaza Uta el-Hammam (the town’s main square), blue-washed building, red-tiled roofs, small stores proudly displaying their local arts and crafts, mosque minarets dotted throughout the Medina, and an old restored kasbah (a reminder of the town’s strategic trade position between Fez and Tangier). Chefchaouen is worth at least a full day, but to truly enjoy this town’s charm (and to beat the throngs of tourists that descend just for the day) stay overnight.

Known as Morocco’s Blue City, for its pastel blue color, Chefchaouen’s roots go back all the way to the Spanish Moors. The light blue color is a mix of the white of the Islamic Moors who left Spain after the Moorish empire fell, and the dark blue of Jewish people who left Spain at the same time; both groups moving to Chefchaouen. The town was initially founded to be a go-between on the trade route between Tetouan and Fez. Later, it became a stronghold against the Spanish and Portuguese influence in the north of Morocco, as Tangier and Ceuta gained in trading power.

Chefchaouen at dusk. View from Spanish Mosque.
Chefchaouen at dusk. View from Spanish Mosque.

Today the town is an artsy, well-kept village known for its beautiful blue buildings, dramatic location in the Rif Mountains, and local artisans.

Travel Tips:

  • Catch the sunset over Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque. Stay just past sundown as the lights of the town come on. The city twinkles in the dusk hour, the light blue of the buildings making the scene look more like a magical village from a painting.
  • Get lost in the twisting lanes of the Medina, poking through shops and sampling local produce. Remember all roads downhill lead to the main square, Plaza Uta el-Hammam, so you can’t get too lost.
  • Hire a taxi and take a day hike through the stunning Talasemtane National Park (remember to negotiate a round trip fare with your taxi driver).
  • Stay in a historic riad in the heart of the Medina. Our favorite is the family-run Dar Terrae with its friendly staff, beautiful rooms and wonderful homemade breakfast (as well as prime location), it is a perfect place to stay in Chefchaouen.
  • Enjoy a savory meat or vegetable pastilla on the Restaurant Morisco’s terrace overlooking the Plaza Uta el-Hammam. Dine just before sunset to catch the melodic call to prayer echo off the hills.Stay overnight to beat the crowds of day-trippers.
Exploring the cobbled laneways of Chefchaouen's Medina.
Exploring the cobbled laneways of Chefchaouen’s Medina.

 

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Chefchaouen main plaza.

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