You may think that you've never heard of Chefchaouen, a small town nestled into northern Morocco's Rif Mountains. But chances are you HAVE seen photos of “the Blue Pearl” somewhere online – because Chefchaouen's medina is basically world famous at this point.
The medina of Chefchaouen is painted blue. And when I say “painted blue,” I mean it – nearly every wall, door, and step in sight is a shade of blue.
In a world where we trade in Instagram followers and Facebook likes, the town is basically an influencer's dream.
But did you know that Chefchaouen is NOT blue just for tourists and Instagrammers?
Chefchaouen (like most cities in Morocco) is quite old. It was settled in 1471 as a kasbah (fortress) due to its location in the mountains, but not far from the sea. A couple decades later, the town saw an influx of Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. The story goes that they're the ones who started the tradition of painting their houses blue, as blue is the color of divinity in Judaism.
Today, of course, the town really lays those blue layers on thick (quite literally) because of tourism. Normally, this might be a turn-off for me. But Chefchaouen is a place that definitely lives up to the hype surrounding it.
I visited Chefchaouen during my 13-day Morocco tour with Intrepid Travel. This town was the reason I choose the specific itinerary that I did; after drooling over photos of it for a few years, I knew I couldn't go all the way to Morocco and NOT visit.
Chefchaouen isn't necessarily close to anywhere else tourists tend to visit in Morocco; it's 2 hours from Tangier, 3 hours from Fes, and 3.5 hours from Meknes. In order to visit Chefchaouen, you more or less have to go out of your way – and you want to allow at least a few hours to wander its blue-washed streets, meaning you also probably need to stay overnight.
This is what we did; we arrived in Chefchaouen right around dinner time after driving from Meknes via the Roman ruins of Volubilis, and left the following afternoon after having a full morning to explore.
And “explore” is really the word to describe how you should plan to navigate Chefchaouen. Don't rely on Google Maps to accurately plot your location; don't try too hard to find a specific shop or set of stairs. Simply wandering through the blue streets and getting semi-lost is the best way to explore any medina in Morocco.
My favorite Chefchaouen photos
There's not a whole lot more to say about Chefchaouen – but I have plenty more photos to share! Here are some of my favorite photos from Morocco's Blue Pearl.
(And if it's more info on visiting Chefchaouen that you're looking for, simply scroll down to the end of the post!)
IF YOU GO
Interested in visiting Chefchaouen on your own? Here are some tips:
GETTING THERE: As I already mentioned, Chefchaouen was a stop on the Morocco tour that I took. If you're traveling independently, the easiest way to get to Chefchaouen is by bus or taxi. The CTM buses are a good option from either Tangier or Fes, or you could hire a taxi in Tangier if you have a little more money to spend.
WHERE TO STAY: Chefchaouen is more than just its medina, but staying inside the medina is more convenient to exploring and just more charming. I recommend staying at a riad (guesthouse). Some to consider include:
- Hotel Riad Cherifa – The top-rated riad in Chefchaouen
- Lina Ryad & Spa – A more modern version of a riad
- Casa Perleta – Has a nice terrace and was recommended by Lonely Planet
WHAT TO KNOW: Before the town opened to and became popular with tourists, Chefchaouen was known for cultivating hash and marijuana. Don't be surprised if you are approached by someone asking if you'd like to buy weed. Simply say no, and they aren't likely to continue bothering you (but knowing the Arabic phrase for “no, thank you” is always useful; it's “la, shukran“).
WHEN TO GO: Chefchaouen is up in the mountains, meaning it doesn't experience the summer heat like many other parts of Morocco – but this means that summer is super busy in the town. I recommend visiting in the off-season (i.e. the winter) if you want to avoid the crowds, though be aware that winter can be cold and wet in the mountains.
HOW TO TAKE THE BEST PHOTOS: Get up early! Plain and simple. The big tour groups will be in the medina by 10 a.m., so the earlier you can get out, the better. Don't be surprised to have to wait in line at some of the “it” spots to take photos. Though I found that the higher up in the town you go, the less people you'll see.
KEEP IN MIND: People live and work like normal in Chefchaouen, so be mindful when you're taking photos of all those blue doors. Don't be that annoying tourist who infringes on someone's privacy just to get an Instagram shot.
Is Chefchaouen somewhere you'd like to visit?
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Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!