Walking through the streets of Chefchaouen, Morocco makes you feel like you are wandering through a dream. In this stunning mountain outpost in Northeastern Morocco, set within the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Rif Mountains, nearly all of the homes are painted various dusty and ancient shades of blue.
With building facades the color of crushed blueberries, doors the hue of a robin’s egg and archways in shades of azure, cobalt, indigo, sapphire, cyan and peacock – this city is a feast for the eyes. The myriad shades of blue create a calm and surreal atmosphere, while the call to prayer rings out from the mosque and a goat herder leads his flock through the winding narrow alleyways.
Chefchaouen is known as the “Blue Pearl “ and was founded in 1471 as a base for Moroccans to fight off the invading Portuguese. It’s name means “watch the horns” in the language of the Berber people, which is a reference to the horn-shaped mountains in the distance.
In the years following it became a retreat for Muslim and Jewish minorities who were leaving Europe. It was isolated from the rulers of Morocco for half a millennium and it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century when it was captured by Spain and opened to the outside world once more. It is thought that it was the Sephardic Jews who painted the city blue, as this is the color of divinity in Judaism.
This remote outpost was locked away from the rest of the world for many centuries, but now it is a popular attraction for visitors on Morocco custom tours as well as a photographer’s dream destination.
Things to Do in Chefchaouen
Besides marveling at the blue-hued architecture, what else can you do while exploring this lovely town?
- Take a guided tour through the city and let your local guide tell you all of the stories of the history of this very special town.
- Go shopping in the antique stores, which are piled from floor to ceiling with beautiful dusty old relics and the merchant stalls, which sell scarves, jewelry and ornate pottery.
- Dine on lamb, roasted vegetables and couscous at one of the traditional restaurants within the olive-tree lined old medina.
- Take a hike through the jaw-dropping Rif Mountains. There is a pathway that will lead you up into the mountains just behind the waterfall.
- If you are looking for a more strenuous hike, there is a 9 hour round trip up Jebel al-Kalaa which is the peak that overlooks the town. Make sure that you bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Go for a swim in the rock pools near the waterfall that is just outside of the city.
- Visit the Kasbah Museum, which is home to a stunning collection of artifacts from the Chefchaouen region such as musical instruments and pottery.