50 Shades of Blue in Morocco
Chefchaouen translates to ‘blue pearl’ and this ethereal city really is a rare gem…
Perched amid the dramatic backdrop of the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen, founded in 1471, is one of the prettiest towns you will find in Morocco. The facades of its houses are painted powder-blue and white, so that the whole city appears to be drenched in azure. If you’ve got a few days to relax from the rigors of travel, this is the place to do it.
There are many different theories to why Chefchaouen is so blue…
Some say that the shades of blue on the walls keep the mosquitoes away, others believe that the blue helps to keep the houses cool during the warm summer months. The most popular theory is that it was painted blue by the Jews who fled to Chefchaouen to escape the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century.
The appeal of Chefchaouen goes beyond its stunning mountainside location. Thanks to its rich heritage, the town is full of attractions. Here’s our guide to what to do in this surreal city:
Get lost in the blue streets
This might sound like a cliché but the old medina of Chefchaouen is really the place to get lost. It’s small, but authentic. Stroll through the alleys to mingle with the locals and take in the smells of everyday life, such as bread hot out of the oven and expertly prepared tagines. There are so many small streets that you literally will lose your way at some point. Every alley, door and enchanting square is a new backdrop for a highly Instagrammable shot.
Swim under a waterfall
Thirty kilometres outside of the town, in the heart of the Rif Mountains, stand the fascinating and captivating waterfalls of Akchour, also known as the ‘lost paradise’. A hike through beautiful landscape leads to two main waterfalls connected by a bridge called God’s Bridge. Besides the main cascades, there are several other waterfalls, some with deep swimming holes – perfect for a refreshing dip at the end of a hot hike.
Shopaholics should head to the Souk
If you happen to be in Chefchaouen on a Monday or a Thursday, you should definitely visit the “souk”, the Moroccan word for market. The farmers of the Rif Valley come down to the streets of Chefchaouen’s old medina to sell their products such as fruit, vegetables, mountain herbs and handmade crafts.
Watch artisans at work
Many of the small streets in Chefchaouen are occupied by little bazaars that sell local artworks, clothes and traditional souvenirs. Many of the colourful crafts are displayed against the blue walls – making for great photographs as well as unique souvenirs. You’ll also come across many workshops where you can see the locals craft their goods – such as pottery and wood painting.
Rock the Kasbah Museum
To learn more about the history, customs and art of the Chefchaouen region, you should pay a visit to the 15th-century clay-brown kasbah. Once a prison, this ethnographic museum is located in the centre of the old medina, right near Plaza Uta el-Hammam and is surrounded by a beautiful lush garden. Learn about the fascinating history of this area, through the ancient artifacts, clothing, instruments, and traditional decorations and crafts on display.
Explore the Rif Mountains
Hike into the Rif mountains and take in the incredible views of Chefchaouen from above. The limestone peaks of the Rif Mountains rise to 6500 feet above the Mediterranean and boast some of the best hiking routes in Africa. A popular one is a pathway that leads just behind the waterfall of the Ras el’Ma River while hiking into the direction of the Spanish Mosque. Or even allow a few days and take a longer trek to Talassemtane National Park.
Watch the sunrise or sunset from the Spanish Mosque
The Spanish Mosque sits isolated on a hill above Chefchaouen. It was built in the 1920s, but was never actually used and now sits abandoned, looking out across the city. A pleasant 45-minute trail leads to the mosque, starting from the medina’s eastern gate and passing a river where you might spot some women doing their laundry. We recommend hiking there before sunrise or sunset for the most spectacular views over the blue city and the peaks of the Rif Mountains.
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