Journeys, Travel Guides

Chefchaouen – The Blue City of Morocco You Need To Visit

I’ve been dreaming of visiting Chefchaouen for a few years, ever since I saw the town’s amazing streets in “Only Lovers Left Alive” (a festival type of movie). This was before Chefchaouen, also called Chaouen or The Blue Pearl, was insta-famous and a Pinterest darling.

The bohemian vibes of the movie also made me fall in love with the idea of Morocco – the perfect destination for dreamers and design lovers.

With so many colors, textures and patterns, not to mention the abundance of wanderlust-inducing photos out there, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Chefchaouen, even before visiting it.

Visiting the blue city of Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen---The-Blue-City-of-Morocco---Old-Medina

Visiting Chefchaouen – “The Blue Pearl” is a dream come true, and the first stop in my 7 days road trip through Morocco.

We landed in Fes, rented a car, and got up early the next day to visit the blue city of Morocco.

As soon as we got out of Fes, the most beautiful scenery of our road trip opened before our eyes.

Brown sugar hills, soft caramel mountains and the numerous olive orchards astonished me, mainly because I was expecting the typical endless yellow of African landscape.

But I’ll talk more about our road trip towards the Rif Mountains below, when I’ll offer you some insights about my driving experience.

Arriving to Chefchaouen from Fes means that you get to see the Blue City from far and above, and I couldn’t resist the temptation of pulling over and taking in that amazing vista.

Rif-Mountains-near-Chefchaouen,-Morocco


Top things to experience in Chefchaouen

Yes, Chefchaouen is as blue as all those picture-perfect visuals you’ve seen around the web.

Even their cabs are all blue, which I thought it was a very nice touch in terms of branding the city.

There are also lots of white houses to complement the many blue ones, but I’ve seen some red ones too, built at the city limits.

We only spent a few hours in Chefchaouen, but its Medina/old city is pretty small, so we had enough time to explore its many blue streets and quirky corners.

Top things to do in Chefchaouen – The Blue Pearl

Chefchaouen---The-Blue-Pearl-of-Morocco---blue-facade

Explore the Blue Medina

The bluetiful Medina of Chefchaouen is such an inviting one for city explorers. Secret passages and narrow blue alleys invite you to wander and discover, to shop or marvel at the authentic way of life of the Moroccans in the north.

They look and feel more traditional than Moroccans in the south, offering a traveler that awesome feeling that you’re a bit off the beaten path.

Following its blue streets, we found some exquisite photo spots, but also had our first opportunity to observe the locals, their daily routines, and feel that magical oriental atmosphere.

The simplicity of the architecture is amazing! Many houses and streets look similar, but each shop or pub adds just enough color to differentiate the streets. That’s a relief for travelers wandering Chefchaouen on their own.

There are quite a few tourists roaming the blue streets of Chefchaouen, but they all seem to do it on their own, no guide in sight. The medina is pretty small, so no need for guides in this city.

People go about their business, rarely looking odd at the tourists invading their corners, so you can wander safely around the Medina. Well, except for photos, and that’s because pointing a camera towards a person is considered pretty disrespectful (as it’s the case with all Moroccans).


Have lunch with a view

Aladdin Restaurant, set in the square of Outa El Hammam, is probably the most famous place to eat in Chefchaouen. That’s not only because of their great tagines or wonderful Moroccan interior, but also because of the stunning 360 degrees panorama over Chefchaouen.

We had lunch on the upper floor terrace with a marvelous view over the Kasbah of Chefchaouen and the mosque. Our choice of tajines – veal meatballs in tomato sauce & chicken with chickpeas – turned out to be great one, and I must say that Moroccans do have a special talent when it comes to cooking.

Casa-Aladin-Restaurant-in-Chefchaouen---mountain-view


Visit Kasbah of Chefchaouen

The Kasbah lies in the center of Outa El Hammam, so it’s impossible to miss when wandering the streets of Chefchaouen.

I was a bit too hungry, so we agreed to visit it after lunch. Unfortunately, like most tourist attractions in Morocco set near a mosque, the Kasbah keeps an odd schedule, with a two hour break in the middle of the day. So, after we finished our lunch at Aladdin, we found the Kasbah closed.

Seen from above, it looks like a wonderful place to visit, so I hope you’ll get to see it.

Kasbah-Chefchaouen Outa-El-Hammam-Square-in-Chefchaouen


See Chefchaouen from above – Top 3 Spots for a Great Panorama

Nested in the Rif Mountains, the blue city stands out in the sea of green hills that meet the traveler on the road to Chefchaouen. So we saw the city from above even before visiting it, 2 km away, as we were coming from Fes, so this is one view point to consider.

Another wonderful panorama opens before your eyes when entering or exiting Chefchaouen – the blue houses are closer, so you’ll have the opportunity of capturing their beauty even with a 40 mm lens.

Admiring the blue city of Morocco from above is the must-have experience, so you might want to view it also from the center of the Medina. The perfect spot is the top floor terrace of Aladdin Restaurant.

Chefchaouen-from-above---Aladin-Restaurant


Color Hunting in Souks 

Commerce is at the core of Moroccan culture, and Chefchaouen makes no exception. It’s not as mercantile as Marrakech, so you won’t get that many invitations to buy carpets, leather goods and ceramics.

Still, the souk/souq (Arabic marketplace) will draw you in with its many colors, textures and flavors, tempting you to buy something (you don’t need 🙂 ).

We admired the color frenzy going on in the souq of Chefchaouen, but resisted the shopping impulse. We are a backpack only kind of travelers, so not much space for all the sweet nothings we saw in Morocco).

Morocco is not a cheap country to visit, even with all the negotiation going on, so we kept our shopping in check as much as possible.

Chefchaouen-Souk---Painted-Wooden-Good


Rif Mountains

Brown sugar hills and coffee-colored mountains, blue skies, wind in my hair, and that unmatched feeling of freedom the open road always brings. That’s how I felt while road tripping from Fes to Chefchaouen.

Rif Mountains are stunning! The scenery around them is also pretty amazing. I dare to say Rif are even more impressive than the regions of Atlas Mountains we explored during the last day of our Moroccan trip.

The road to Chefchaouen is not just about landscapes that leave you in awe, but also about diving into the raw side of Morocco and admiring the beauty of its countryside life.

Rif-Mountains-near-Chefchaouen,-Morocco

Rif-Mountains-near-Chefchaouen---the-scenery

Olive Orchards

The impressive number of olive orchards I’ve seen in our day trip to Chefchaouen left me puzzled. Don’t know why, but I imagined that the African landscapes would be yellow-bound.

So imagine my surprise to see so many hills covered in olive trees on the road from Fes to Chefchaouen. If I remember correctly, Morocco might have as many hills covered in olive orchards as Andalusia.

Olives are omnipresent in the Moroccan meals, and I had a few tastings throughout the country that left me loving olives even more. But this olive trees landscape was one unexpected delight.

Olive-Trees-on-the-road-to-Chefchaouen


Getting to Chefchaouen from Fes – My Driving Experience

Our day trip to Chefchaouen started early in the morning, but I wouldn’t have thought it would be so difficult.

It took us more than 7 hours and 30 minutes to get to Chefchaouen and back because 55 km of this road are extremely curved and there’s only enough space for one and a half car on the road.

It has almost 2 ways, almost..

So each time I passed a car came the other way, I had to pray that the other driver will slide a bit on his slippery edge and let me safely drive on the actual road.

Did I mention that the edges of this road are sandy or pebbled, therefore slippery as ice? There are also lots of deep valleys around, so my fear of heights also kicked in at times.

The carts on the road stepped aside as cars were approaching, and most drivers we passed by were on their best behavior. Still, it was a hard road to experience on our first day in Morocco.

Drivers horn as they pass by you, flash whenever police was nearby, and pass you safely (without cutting you off). They don’t pass you on blind curves, so it’s a pretty safe driving experience on this side of Morocco.

Still, 80% of Moroccan drivers don’t signal as they pass you by, but you get used to it. It’s harder in the cities, but outside it’s no big deal.

The rest of the road is highway like, so that was a relief for me as a sole driver. And it has been much faster to cover, except for a few villages and crowded souks where pedestrians and cars seemed to sit on top of each other.

Respecting speed limits in the villages or cities is important.

Sheep herds and goats will cross your way frequently, but also some stray cats and chicken, so minding the speed limits is important. I almost run over a goat and a few cats, therefore I recommend you to be extra careful.

Also, there’s a lot of police on the road. We passed by 7 or 8 police crews on our road to Chefchaouen and back, but they left us pass every time.

It turns out that Rif Mountains have extensive plantations of marijuana, making Morocco one of the top world suppliers, hence the great number of police check-ups on this road. It’s great that they only stopped the locals, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get that lucky.


Accommodation in/near Chefchaouen

Visiting Chefchaouen takes a few hours, so we decided to make it a day trip from Fes, therefore I have no recommendations for hotels or riads in Chefchaouen.

This road is pretty long this way, 3,5-4h, but I think the beautiful scenery made the trip worth the trouble. The other way to get to Chefchaouen is from Tangier, which is closer, but I don’t know much else about it.


Parking in Chefchaouen

We found a parking space (enclosed parking) in Chefchaouen pretty easy, 10-15 minutes after entering the city.

You should also know that 20 dirhams per day is the usual parking fee in most Moroccan cities – it will help you while negotiating the price. Marrakech is the exception, so expect to pay 30 dirhams = 3 euros/day.


What to wear in Chefchaouen (Women)

The North part of Morocco is more traditional, so most women are covered from head to toes. I wore a long-sleeved cardigan, as there where 30 degrees Celsius outside and a pair of jeans. You can also wear a long dress, but keep in mind you have to cover your arms and shoulders.

Ana-Matei-in-Chefchaouen,-Morocco


When to go to Chefchaouen, Morocco

We chose the last week of October for road trip in Morocco, but I first wanted to visit it in April. Spring (March-May) and late autumn – winter (October-December) are the best times for visiting Morocco.

When it comes to Chefchaouen, it’s usually much colder than in the southern cities of Morocco.

I was happy to be welcomed in Chefchaouen by summer weather (late October), with 300 C, but that wasn’t the case back in May, when my sister had to wear a sweater and a jacket because there were 200 C outside. So bring something warm just in case.


Road Trip in Morocco: Fez, Chefchaouen, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech, Imlil – Atlas Mountains | October 2017 | All Photography ©Ana Matei >Instagram: @MateiAna


If you have any questions about Chefchaouen, please let me know in the comment section below.

Hope you enjoyed my Chefchaouen Travel Guide and you’ll share it with your friends!


Read Next:

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Rabat Travel Guide >

Ana
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