I’ll be honest. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d never even heard of Chefchaouen. However, when planning a weekend trip to Tangier and browsing Instagram I was captivated by the images of this beautiful blue city.
Just over 100 kms from Tangier, Chefchaouen is a popular spot with tourists drawn to the town by the quirkiness of the blue painted walls and its location at the foot of the Rif Mountains.
No-one really knows for sure why the walls are painted blue. Was it originally done to keep the mosquitos away or were they painted by the Jews who took refuge there during the 1930s? Or, indeed, was it merely to draw in the tourists? If it was the latter, it certainly worked.
Getting to Chefchaouen
To get there we took a grand taxi from Tangier. We booked ours through the riad we were staying in at a cost of 900 dirham for the day (roughly £70). The prices are set so, obviously, the more people sharing the taxi the more cost effective it is (they seat up to six). If you’re on a budget, it might be worth asking around in your riad to see if anyone wants to share a ride.
It’s also possible to get there by bus which would obviously be a lot cheaper (it’s currently around 50 dirhams per person each way). So if time is on your side then it’s worth considering using public transport. We only had the option of a day trip though so, while it may seem pricey in comparison, it was realistically our only option.
The journey took just over two hours. Our taxi was a new vehicle with air conditioning and a lovely English-speaking driver who suggested scenic viewpoints en route to stop for photos and to stretch our legs. Near the village of Tetouan (not to be confused with Tatooine if you’re a Star Wars fan) we drove past a sheep market – hundreds of sheep were crammed into a small dusty square while groups of farmers sat around smoking and showing off their livestock.
Before we reached Chefchaouen our taxi driver asked if we’d like him to arrange a guide to show us around the medina. Although we could have easily wandered around on our own, we decided that, because we had limited time, it made sense to take advantage of his knowledge. Our guide met us on the edge of the medina and proceeded to lead us through the narrow streets and alleyways, all painted in the most beautiful blue.
Living in Andalucia, we’ve explored many of the famous pueblos blancos (white towns) so it was a real delight to experience something that little bit different.
I’ll admit that, at times, it did feel quite rushed but our guide did show us plenty of points of interest that we wouldn’t necessarily have known about such as the communal bakery where the locals, who make their own dough at home, bring it to be baked in a wood-fired oven by the local baker.
A word of warning if you’re thinking of hiring a guide – there’ll be the obligatory visit to a carpet shop (which seems to be par for the course in North Africa). Although we were happy to look at a few of the rugs, we made it clear that we had no intention of buying anything so didn’t stay too long.
Our guide also wanted to take us to a restaurant of his choice but we wanted to explore some more under our own steam so, after an hour, we said goodbye and went on to wander around ourselves.
As you can probably imagine, Chefchaouen is an Instagrammer’s dream so, at some of the most photogenic spots in the medina, tourists were queuing for the perfect Instagram shot.
If you’re a cat lover then you’ll be in your element in Chefchaouen. Around every corner there were cats lying in sunny spots along the blue walls – these are the real Instagram stars!
The Spanish Mosque
On a hill overlooking the town is the Spanish Mosque. Built in the 1920s (by the Spanish as the name would suggest) it isn’t open to the public but an easy hike (about thirty minutes each way) will reward you with fantastic views of Chefchaouen and the Rif Mountains beyond.
The walk starts from the Eastern Gate of the medina (Bab al Ansar) and crosses the river before heading up a rocky path lined with cactus plants. As it was the weekend it was pretty busy with a mix of tourists and locals out for a Sunday stroll.
If you’re lucky enough to be staying overnight in Chefchaouen then the Spanish Mosque is THE place to go and watch the sun set (but don’t forget your torch for the journey back downhill as it’s very rocky underfoot and it would be easy to lose your footing in the dark).
Food and drink
There are plenty of places in Chefchaouen to eat, catering for all budgets. We took a walk down the main road from the Kasbah and went to Restaurant Twins on Avenue Hassan II where we sat on the balcony overlooking the mountains and enjoyed some traditional Moroccan dishes which were both delicious and reasonably priced.
In the medina there are plenty of stalls selling freshly squeezed orange juice and, of course, mint tea which you can’t really escape in Morocco.
Chefchaouen might not be the easiest place to get to but, if you’re looking to experience a different side of Morocco it’s definitely worth a visit. In fact, you could say it ‘blue’ me away.