CHEFCHAOUEN: WHAT TO SEE IN THE BLUE PEARL OF MOROCCO

You know those places that look almost like something out of a fairy tale and seem too good to be true? No, I’m not dreaming. Such a place really exists. And it is called Chefchaouen. This beautiful mountain town located in the north of Morocco has now become very famous for the many photos of it in all its beauty that have been all the rage on social media, especially Instagram. Impossible not to fall in love with her. I guess you already know that her special feature is her being colored in all shades of blue, azure and aquamarine, right? In this article I talk about what to see in Chefchaouen and how to best enjoy your visit to Morocco’s Blue Pearl. Chefchaouen is one of the top sites to visit if you are doing one of Morocco tours.

When I decided that for a birthday present I would treat myself to a trip, this could only be a trip to Morocco. I wanted to take a tour of the imperial cities, and in the end, for my first trip to Africa, I gave myself two beautiful cities-Fes and Marrakech. But can’t a tour of Morocco be complete without visiting this city all painted blue? No.

Chefchaouen: why it is blue

I bet you are wondering: why is this city blue? Then again, this is one of the most frequently asked questions about Chefchaouen. There is no certain explanation but two theories. The first theory is related to the religious sphere and to 1471, when Jews and Muslims exiles from Andalusia founded the city. According to this theory Chefchaouen is blue because the Jews wanted to give it the color of paradise, to remind them of God. The other theory is more practical and concerns insects. It seems, in fact, that blue keeps mosquitoes and gnats away. Although it is unknown why it was colored blue, thanks must be given to whoever had the idea because they made this place a fairy tale! The medina of Chefchaouen is full of blue doors and alleys.

First impressions

I remember perfectly the moment I arrived in Chefchaouen. I was on the bus and slept with my head resting on my companion’s shoulder. Just before arrival, on the bus that was bringing us here from Fes, I had fallen asleep. The road was all curves. “There she is, look!” He whispered in my ear. And with those words I was transported into that dream. I opened my eyes and was overcome with emotion, I mean it. Houses of all shades of blue were laid out at the foot of the Rif mountains and were almost jealously guarded by them.

Like a little gem to be kept safe from this mass tourism that often spoils the magic that makes places like Chefchaouen so beautiful. I was excited because according to initial plans my trip to Morocco was not to include Chefchaouen, too far north and too “difficult” to include in the itinerary of just 8 days of travel. So my being there excited me. I had been dreaming of seeing it for so long!

Chefchaouen – What to see: getting lost in the medina

Definitely on the list of what to see in Chefchaoeun must be included the medina. This little maze of streets in which you will lose yourself with great pleasure, caught up as you will be in taking pictures of everything, is truly delightful. From the doors in all shades of blue to the alleys, from the items for sale in the small stores to the many stray cats that populate its streets and make it even more beautiful you will have plenty to see. Forget, however, a medina similar to that of Fes or Marrakech. Chefchaouen’s medina is nothing like the chaos that characterizes Morocco’s two most famous cities. At the Wetat Lhmam square, you can find agencies who offer the 3 days tour marrakech to fes private, it is a program you can do outside of Chefchaouen.

Entering the old part of the city you will have the feeling of going back in time or at any rate of being in a place where time has stood still. Even today it is not easy to get to Chefchaouen. But in spite of this, every day coaches of tourists from the nearest large towns come to visit for the day. When the busloads of tourists leave, you will be left with only a few. And it will be a really good feeling. So I recommend that you stay overnight at least one night.

Getting lost is the best way to visit

Talking about what to see in Chefchaouen or trying to make a list of things to see is not easy at all. It is such a unique place that for once I feel like recommending this: get lost. Forget about maps, about plotting a route to follow, about your cell phone. Get lost in the alleys of its medina, look for the most beautiful views on your own. If at the end of your visit you have not managed to find any of those seen online, rest assured. Just ask a merchant and he will show you the way. I did so with the most Instagrammed place in Chefchaouen, the house with the oh-so-perfect courtyard. I bet by looking at the photo below you will understand what I am talking about.

By paying about 50 cents (for each person who intends to have photos taken inside) you have this small courtyard at your disposal and can take as many photos as you want. When I was there I was alone so I enjoyed taking many of them.

One thing is certain. After walking to the end you will realize that the real beauty of this place lies in the small details. That you shouldn’t even make a list of what to see in Chefchaouen because everything makes it beautiful. The cats, of which there are many, perched everywhere. Its doors (I don’t know about you, but it always happens to me that while I’m taking pictures in front of a door, the homeowner arrives). Its colorful alleys. Its still atmosphere in time. I told you about the doors because here you will find an endless series of wooden doors painted blue perfect for a shot. If you are a lover of this kind of photography here you will find bread for your teeth.

Chefchaouen – What to see: Place Uta-El-Hammam, all roads lead here

Yes, you got it right. In Chefchaouen you can get lost without any problem. Every street will take you to its main square, Place Uta-El-Hammam. This is where you will find restaurants and cafes where you can stop for mint tea or food. And, of course, do some shopping in search of the most beautiful souvenirs to take home.

What to see in Chefchaouen: the view from the Bouzâafar mosque.

One of the things you must definitely do if you are in Chefchaouen is to see it from above. Following our host’s advice we did that and I can only thank him. You can see Chefchaouen from above from the Bouzâafar Mosque, located on a rise. Go out the northeastern gate of the city and follow the signs. Going up the path to the mosque you can enjoy a beautiful sunset (weather permitting) over the town. The path although uphill is within everyone’s reach. It is really worth climbing up and enjoying the view of the Blue Pearl of Morocco.

How much time to spend in Chefchaouen and tips for visiting

My advice? If I were you, I would carve out a couple of days to relax my mind after the chaos of big cities. Chefchaouen really has a power over the visitor’s soul. It can give one extreme inner peace. My visit was a bit “quick,” I would have liked to stay longer. Next time I promised myself to spend at least three days there and also enjoy the excursions in the surrounding area. In any case it will steal your heart. If you have been through Marrakech desert tour 3 days, you will end in Chefchaouen.

I recommend that you bring heavier clothing than you will use in cities like Fes and Marrakech because it is much cooler here. In the evening you will definitely need a jacket, so gear up. And remember to bring cash with you because I am not sure if there are ATMs to withdraw from. As for photos, always be respectful of people and if you want to take pictures of someone always ask permission before doing so. Many people will tell you no, just know that. They are much more shy than in the city. And, of course, it is always a form of respect to ask permission to take pictures, especially of children.

Huynh Nguyen

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