It only takes one quick look to know how the names Chefchaouen and Blue City became interchangeable. More than that, the Chefchaouen blue city is unlike most other places we have visited.
A walled city founded in 1471, Chefchaouen has an interesting, albeit sordid, history.
A refuge and haven for Jews and Muslims during the Spanish Inquisition, Chefchaouen banned Christians (punishable by death) until the 1920s, when Spain temporarily captured it.
Today, it is probably most known by its nicknames, either the “Blue City” or the “Blue Pearl.”
Strolling the streets of Chefchaouen
We found the blue to be calming, creating a serene feel as we strolled through the streets. This is a complete contrast to the chaotic environment we found in Fes, Marrakesh, or many of the other Moroccan cities we visited.
That said, this is a city to explore on foot. To walk the streets with open eyes and breathe in the beauty.
The is a city for photographers. Whether you are amateur or professional, whether you shoot with a big DSLR or a phone, the variety of blue will captivate your imagination and have you snapping photos constantly.
Here are some of my favourite shots over two days:
Why is Chefchaouen a blue city?
I wondered why Chefchaouen was a blue city. Apparently, there is no definitive answer, but lots of rumours, speculations, and theories on the subject. When I asked our guide, he simply rattled off a list of reasons, each one as plausible as the one before, but only one can be right.
I followed up by asking the proprietor of our riad and a couple of other guests who went with a different guide, and I did a bit of research.
There isn’t even complete agreement on when it became blue. The majority of stories suggest the mid-1900s. However, one version implies that blue paint began in the 15th century.
Interestingly, several of the theories relate to the city’s then-Jewish population, which had two major influxes. First at the start of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, and second were those fleeing Nazi persecution just prior to the start of WWII.
Here are all the answers I can find to the question, “Why is Chefchaouen a blue city?
- It’s tradition
The oldest theory he had heard was the Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition painted their new homes blue as that was their tradition.
- Blue represents water
There were two different thoughts here. Some say the variety of blue hues creates an effect like the sparkling Mediterranean sea. Others simply say that the colours represent Ras el-Maa waterfall, the source of the town’s water.
- As a show of solidarity
The second influx of Jews arrived at the start of WWII and painted their houses blue representing the sky and thus symbolizing the power of the heavens, peace and safety. In a show of solidarity, others in Chefchaouen followed.
- Mosquitos stay away
According to our guide, Chefchaouen is in the only region of Morocco to have ever had malaria (although he assured us it is not a problem today). Locals began to notice that the blue areas of the Jewish section had fewer mosquitoes, so they subsequently painted the rest of the town.
- Houses stay cooler
This one is self-explanatory.
- Tourists come to see it
Finally, there are locals that suggest that the original reason is not important anymore, admitting they now keep the blue to attract tourists.
What else to do in Chefchaouen
- Relax at Place Al Haouta
This is the main square in town. It was still early when I captured the shot above. Later in the day, the cafes were open, chairs and tables out, and somehow, there were still cats everywhere.
- Admire the Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque is one of 12 mosques in Chefchaouen. Non-Muslims cannot enter, but we can see the somewhat unique octagonal minaret. Most Moroccan minarets are square.
- Get a glimpse into daily life
Our guide took us to the stream below the waterfall. Here we overlooked an area where women wash laundry. They scrub at a workstation set up along the waterway.
- Check out the old city wall
You can see Chefchaouen’s city wall as it runs up through the Rif Mountains.
- Discover the vivid chalk used to make paint
Paint pigment (chalk-based talc) is for sale in Chefchaouen. Typically, exteriors are blue, whereas interiors can be a variety of colours.
- Drug trade
The region is also quite popular amongst the tourist sector seeking drugs. The plantations in the surrounding hills drive this reputation. We avoided anything related to the drug trade, as it was illegal in Morocco when we were there.
Day trip from Chefchaouen to the Akchour Waterfalls
The drive to the Akchour waterfall trailhead is about 40 minutes north of Chefchaouen, the exact opposite direction from Fes. Next, a 3.5-hour hike (each way).
As happens at times, we were too tired to do the full hike, and at about an hour in we crossed over a tiny cascade. At this point, we all decided to skip the big waterfall and just hike back to the car. Not the best use of our money, but not the guide’s fault either.
Had we completed our hike, we would have first come to the small waterfall just below, and then later, we would have been rewarded with a waterfall so tall (about 100 metres [328 ft]) that it’s impossible to get it into one photo.
From those we talked to who actually completed the hike, it seems we missed two stunning waterfalls as well as a dip in a refreshing swimming hole.
Where to stay
While there are several options, we prefer top-rated places, and these two are top picks based on user reviews:
- Lalla Ghayta
One of the top-rated accommodation options in Chefchaouen, the Lalla Ghata is a villa featuring 2-air conditioned bedrooms. Perfectly located, it is just 300 m from both Outa El Hammam Square and Mohammed 5 Square, while only 400 m from Kasba. Reserve your room at Lalla Ghayta here
- Riad Cherifa
Also quite well located, Riad Cherifa is absolutely lovely, offering 4 suites and 8 rooms. Opened in 2016, it is built from two traditional Chefchauen houses. Reserve your room at Riad Cherifa here
Getting to Chefchaouen
Located in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is about 125 km southwest of Tangier and 200km north of Fes.
We had been in Morocco for nearly a month by the time we came to Chefchaouen. Up until this point, our Moroccan travel included a train from Fes to Marrakech or a self-driving road trip loop from Marrakech west to Essaouira and then east to the Sahara.
Driving in Morocco is easy, although we did get pulled over a few times for ridiculous things that generally had low fines. The first time we paid it, but later it was suggested to us to ask for a lower price. With a bit of negotiation, the fines got reduced to the equivalent of very little in our own currency. It went into a pocket, there was no paperwork, and we were on our way with a story to tell.
The best options for getting to Chefchaouen are to either rent a car, hire a private guide, or join a tour. There is also a bus option, but we never took the bus in Morocco and can’t personally recommend it.
- Rent a car
As stated above, driving in Morocco is easy. I am not sure why we opted to get a private guide rather than renting another car and hiring a guide just in Chefchaouen (for that added value). We believe the best way to rent a car, just about anywhere in the world, is with RentalCars. As an aggregator, they feature both local and international companies along with cars and ratings, offer competitive pricing, and have English-speaking customer service. Check availability or reserve your rental car in Morocco here.
- Hire a private guide
We used a private guide from Fes. As a result, we paid quite a bit extra for the overnight and Akchour stop. In retrospect, we wish we rented a car and then hired a private guide locally. Either way, we always use Tours By Locals. Based on reviews and their English fluency, we recommend this guide for a private tour from Fes or this guide for a local tour in Chefchaouen.
- Take a tour
Tours are also a great option for the additional background, history, and culture they add. Plus, there is the added bonus of not having to drive.
Save on your trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
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Have you been to Chefchaouen, the blue city?
Photos on this page are either shot by our team and watermarked as such, in the public domain, or some stock photos were supplied by DepositPhotos.
You had me with the color blue which is my favorite color. Then all the wonderful photos of blues was so calming and beautiful.
I hear a lot of great things about Chefchaouen. It looks amazing – and I hope I’ll visit it one day!
Lovely photos. We have a blue city in India too! It is in Jodhpur. Blue colour apparently seems to ward off mosquitoes and other insects. It also helps keep the walls of the house cool.
Rhonda, beautiful pics. Btw, when I traveled in israel, I have also noticed blue painted houses in lots of Arab villages and was told that the Arabs believe that the blue color keeps the evil spirits away. Matt
Beautiful Blue City and Photos! I am sold to Chefchaouen! Blue is the colour of positive energy! yay
As to why the city is blue, I read somewhere that Jewish refugees settled in the city hundreds of years ago and painted many of their homes blue, a significant colour in their religion. Sadly, many of these Jewish families were the victims of discrimination, easily identified by their vibrant blue homes, and so the Moroccans painted all the city’s buildings blue so that it was impossible to distinguish between new and original residents, Jew or Muslim.
WOW, wow, and wow. We never went to Morocco and I wish we would have just for the color. These images are fabulous Rhonda.
Lisa @ LTTL
Ah, this is gorgeous photography, Rhonda. Morocco looks indeed like a “blue city”, I’d love to see it too.
Trekking with Becky
I absolutely LOVE the blue! It’s so peaceful, and I think it would make me feel like being in the comfort of water. 😀
The city is obviously ancient as evidenced by the narrow streets and building architecture. – Margy
So beautiful and blue, what a lovely place to be. I would love to be here now taking a walk around with my camera. Lovely pictures 🙂
kim Marie Ostrowski
Wow that’s cool with the mosquitoes kept at bay with the blue color…will have to try that
Wow. That looks amazing and an interesting place to explore.
I thought it was ice and snow after the first glance on the photo with the blue walls 😀
The blue city is such a beautiful area. I love the blue buildings and the narrow streets – very quaint.
Such a wonderful city! I haven’t got a chance to see this part of Morocco 🙂
I love the blues! What a beautiful experience and visit!
The picture of the sack of paint pigment is fabulous and this look like such a beautiful place
fascinating colorful city- thanks!
artmusedog and carol
It is a beautiful blue city and you have captured it so well ~ what a wonderful journey for you and us to see too ~ thanks,
Wishing you a Happy Week ahead ~ ^_^
Jade @ Captured By Jade
So many beautiful and colourful captures. I love the architecture here, and the picture with the satellite dish definitely shows the contrast of new and old. The picture with the paint pigments is really nice.
Rhonda, What a fabulous photo journey! I will never see such a place as the Blue City in Morocco. This picturesque city looks like something one might see in a Mission Impossible or other action flicks. I love the beautifully painted buildings. I smiled to see technology touch this old city with the satellite dish on the side of one of the buildings and then I marveled at the women doing laundry at the waterway. I can’t imagine washing clothes like this and am thankful to have a washer and dryer in my home. lol Thanks for sharing these wonderful images with us on WW, my friend. Have a good day!
I’d love to live in a city that beautiful. Wow. It’s like the sky and the ocean are all around you.
They picked such a beautiful shade of blue. The whole city’s amazingly clean. Nowhere in Egypt is like that unless it’s a special place for tourists. I love the wall – so medieval! Thanks so much for sharing – this is a very special place.
never been there, sigh but would love to.
Oh, Rhonda, that looks amazing the colours ans the ,ight are magificent… just so lovely my dear. Beautiful:-)
I cannot wait for my Morocco trip in April. I cannot wait to see this blue town.
Lydia C. Lee
What beautiful pics. I’d never heard of this place. It’s stunning.
Wow, very beautiful photos. You go to the coolest places.
What a stunning city … it will definitely be in my plans if I make it to Morocco this year!
As always GREAT photos! You captured very well the Medina
When I saw a picture of Chefchaouen for the first time I knew I had to go there, you fall in love in every picture, every corner is beautiful and there is a paradise to do photos, I really loved it and you have seen it on my posts.
Have a great week dear xxx
I love, love, love all the color. Breathtaking. You’re photography rocks too.
Have a fabulous day. ☺
tom the backroads traveller
…such wonderful blue…and other colors. Beautiful sights.
Your pictures are gorgeous. My mother would have loved that city as blue was her favorite color. Everything in her house had some blue in it….too much for my taste but oh how I miss her and wish she and her “blues” were still here. Great photos!
Teresa from NanaHood
This picture makes me blue. Get it? Sorry about that. I just felt so blue I had to say it. Oh my goodness I did it again. Sorry about that. One thing that bothers me is you weren’t allowed to enter the Grand Mosque of Chefchaouen because you weren’t a Muslim yet if a Muslim were to go into a Catholic church were would be allowed. I don’t get it?
Have a brilliant blue Tuesday Rhonda. See ya.
LOL – you are too funny to be blue 🙂 As for the mosque, that is how it is in most places around the world. A mosque isn’t a tourist attraction, but rather a place of worship. There are a few we can go into, and we have been in mosques in Muskat, Abu Dhabi, and Istanbul.
Alissa A Apel
Such a tranquil city. I love all the blue. I would want to buy all that pigment! All of your pictures are amazing!
What an amazing destination to visit, beautiful pictures!!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
It’s quite beautiful. Blue keeps mosquitoes away? Good to know. And probably smart to steer clear of the Marijuana plantations.
Honestly, I cannot verify that blue keeps mozzies away, but that is what our guide told us.
Stunning blues – my favourite colour too. But I love the shot with the bags of paint. A great catch. Thanks for sharing your travels with this stay-at-home.
Blue is my favorite color and I love the color of the buildings – it makes me happy!
Its a beautiful photo journey along the streets of Morocco.These blue structures are really attractive!
Wow! what a beautiful place love all the blue and I like your descriptions
Have a moroccontastic day 🙂
Wow! What a beautiful blue town! Great place to visit
So blue and beautiful.. I love the paint pigment display.. So colorful..