Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco

Chefchaouen city is one of the most attractive cities in Morocco because of its crystal-clear light and its white and blue architecture. Due to this, it has become a popular destination for painters and artists. Chaouen, also known as Xauen or Chefchaouen, is popularly referred to as the ‘blue town of Morocco’ or ‘The Pearl of the North’. It boasts fascinating beauty with centuries-old blue and indigo doors and walls, painted in indigo and white and covered with layers of lime. This famous Mediterranean architectural design contributes to the city’s charm.

Chefchaouen walls

Chefchaouen walls

The people of Chefchaouen paint the walls and floors of the houses several times a year and even paint the feet of the streets (many of them in the shape of irregular stairways), coinciding with the changes of season and the annual celebrations. This almost obsessive work, whose objective is to purify, sanitize, bring freshness and drive away insects, has forged the uniqueness of the population.

Brushes attached to broomsticks were employed to paint the highest points, but the yellow and reddish ocher hues remained in the parts they couldn’t reach. The residents of Chaouen unintentionally acquire a surprising variety of white, blue, and black tones since the layers of paint don’t arrive on the same day. To the point that a group of residents has emerged that ensures that the houses and streets are painted with the traditional tones of the city.

The Medina of the blue town of Morocco

Medina Chefchaouen

Chaouen has inspired many painters, such as Eugéne Delacroix, Maria Fortuny, and Henri Matisse. We’re looking at one of the most gorgeous and attractive cities in all of Morocco. The photos of Chaouen are one of the main attractions of tourists. On almost every corner, we will find the opportunity to obtain a beautiful photograph of the blue town. The Alcazaba and a mosque with an octagonal base tower are located in the city’s central square, Uta al-Hammam. The Mosque of the Andalusians is another landmark of the city. As a result, the new town is lower than the old one.

Most people who visit Chefchaouen come from Ceuta, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north. You may quickly get there from the nearby city of Ceuta, some 100 kilometers north of Chefchaouen. It is a great exercise to do in the spring and fall.

History of Chefchaouen 

History of Chefchaouen 

Legend believes that when Spain was in Muslim territory, Mulay Alí ben Rachid fell in love with Zhora, a girl from Vejer de la Frontera. When the Christians expelled them from the Peninsula, they emigrated to Morocco. One in the emir’s shape and form was built to help his beloved forget about his people. This is Chaouen, or Chefchaouen. About 40,000 people live in a small town about 100 miles from Ceuta. It’s beautiful and has a lot of history, on the slopes of the Tisouka (2050m) and Megou (1616 m) mountains of the Rif Mountain Range, which rise above the town like two horns, thus giving the city its name (Chefchaouen in Amazighmeans ‘look at the horns’). At about 660 m altitude and with very little car traffic,

Chaouen was founded in 1741 by Moulay Ali Ben Rachid on the site of a small Amazightown. Considered a holy city, thanks to the mountains surrounding it, it remained protected against foreign incursions. It prospered thanks to the arrival of Muslim refugees from Spain.

Its original population consisted mainly of exiles from Al-Andalus, both Muslims and Jews, which is why the old part of the city looks very similar to that of the Andalusian towns, with small streets of irregular layouts and whitewashed houses. (often with blue tones). Its native inhabitants are physically similar and more to the inhabitants of the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar than to most Maghrebis. Xauen is built on a small valley. The oldest part of the city grows towards the top of the mountain, and at the highest point are the springs of Ras al-Ma.

Chaouen was, for centuries, a city considered sacred, where foreigners were prohibited from entering. For this reason, its entire medieval appearance has been preserved with few alterations. The changes in the urban and population structure of Chaouen are very recent. It was the Spanish troops who opened this city by taking control of the entire northern area of ​​Morocco to establish the Protectorate granted by the Algeciras Conference (1906) and defined by the Hispano-French treaty of 1912

When the Spanish arrived, the city had a significant Sephardic Jewish population who spoke Judeo-Spanish. After the Second World War, the last Spanish flag was lowered in Chaouen. In the same way, as in other Spanish Protectorate cities, many of its inhabitants can speak Spanish. Xauen was under the control of the Rif Republic. Another disaster was about to occur for the Spanish troops when it came to withdrawing due to the great offensive of the Rif Army. Today, Chaouen is a vital tourism center that has attracted immigrants from other areas of Morocco, mainly from the south.

Chefchaouen handicrafts

Chefchaouen handicrafts

The province’s tourist vocation makes the handicraft sector one of the main economic and social development sectors. This artisan sector constitutes a cultural and artistic heritage whose authenticity, value, and originality are preserved from generation to generation.

Religion in Chaouen

Chefchaouen is a mainly religious city, considered a holy city in Morocco. It has a solid spiritual tradition: dozens of oratories, mosques, and even the Zawiya Mausoleum earned it the name of the Saliha El Madin, ‘the Holy City. The Great Mosque of Chefchaouen, El Masjid Aadam, was built in 1471, Hegira 969, by the founder of the city Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami.

Climate in Chefchaouen 

The city of Chefchaouen is located 600 meters above sea level. It has three varieties of climate: The mountain area typically has Mediterranean weather, rainy and cold in winter, and mild in summer. Rain is the most important and varies between 800 and 1400 mm/year. In some cases, 2000 mm/year with snow. A semi-arid climate dominates the coastal zone, with 300 to 400 mm/year of rainfall. A humid environment characterizes the southern area in winter and dry summer, with precipitations oscillating between 900 and 1,300 mm/year.

Chefchaouen: How to get there

If you travel to Chefchaouen, how to get there will be fine. Here we indicate the primary means of transport and their origins:

Buses to Chaouen are frequent buses

from FezTetouanCasablancaRabatMeknesTangier, and Ceuta. The local buses that make the route from Fez to Tetouan and Tangier stop in Derdara (8 km), where we can take a taxi for about 5 Dh. Avoids the uphill walk from the bus station.

The central bus station is fifteen minutes from the Medina (uphill) via Av. Mohamed V. Usually, a couple of petit taxis always wait for customers at the entrance. Pay at most 10 Dh to get to the Medina.

From Tangier

By car, you must take the road towards Tetuán. At the entrance of the city of Tetouan and on the right, you will find a signposted detour towards Chefchaouen. They are approximately 45 km of road.

By direct taxi to Chefchaouen, the rental rate for a whole taxi is usually 700 Dh.

By shared taxi from the airport to the city of Tangier usually costs about 100 Dh, and the stop is at the Tangier bus station. Here it is possible to travel by shared taxi to Tetouan, with a price that is usually 25 Dh.

From Ceuta

By car, take the road towards Tetuán. Once in Tetouan, take the bypass of the city towards Tangier. At the exit of Tetouan and on the left, you will find a signposted detour towards Chefchaouen.

By direct taxi to Chefchaouen, the rental rate for a whole taxi from the border (Moroccan part) is usually 450/500 Dh.

Shared taxi: the taxi from the border to Tetouan usually costs about 15/20 Dh.

From Tetouan

Direct to Chefchaouen: the rental rate for a whole taxi is usually 180 Dh.

Shared Taxi: the taxi from the city of Tetouan usually costs about 30 Dh.

From Fes

Take the road towards Meknes (not the highway), and about 20 km, you will find a sign on the right that indicates Ouazzane-Chefchaouen-Tetouan. About 50 km past Ouzzane and 12 km before Chaouen, you will find a signposted detour on the right.

Where to leave the car

You can park at the Hotel Parador by car, with outdoor parking (15 Dh / day). Very easy to find. You always have to pay when leaving to avoid double payment. Another option for parking is the Ras el Maan square, which is connected to the Medina, and there is usually always room; the price is the same (15 Dh / day).

Drink alcohol

Alcohol is not easily found since it is a holy city, but in some places, they serve it. As in other parts of Morocco, the most typical drink is mint tea (approximately 5 Dh the glass).

Although Chaouen has perfect water coming directly from the mountain, tourists should refrain from drinking tap water throughout Morocco for safety reasons since being unaccustomed can lead to some indisposition. The best thing is to drink bottled water (6 Dh approx for a 1l bottle) or soft drinks (8 Dh approx for 1.5 l of Coca-Cola). Even in restaurants, pay at most 10-15 Dh for a bottle.

What to see in Chefchaouen, Morocco

see in Chefchaouen

Hassan II Avenue

 The city’s main highway does not go through the Medina. At one of its ends is Mohammed V, which reminds us of the Spanish Protectorate due to its architecture. In this place, the market is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At the other end, we find Bab el Ain, the main entrance to the ancient city.

The souk

Many places of interest to see in Chaouen and northern Morocco are in the Medina of this city. It is an excellent place to get lost without feeling overwhelmed, as in larger cities like Fez or Marrakech. It is a quiet place, which houses more than half of the houses. Around its narrow streets is the souk, made up of all the handicraft shops. The traveler can observe the looms with which the artisans work and haggle to get a carpet at a reasonable price. Its many handicraft, leather, spices, and other shops make the walk a feast for all the senses. The variety of colors of the different products in the shops and bazaars contrasts with the dazzling blue-white of the houses. The mixture of voices and unknown sounds will guide you through the winding alleys until you inevitably reach the meeting and rest point.

Uta el-Hammam Square

It is the central square in Xauen where many bars are ready to feed the hungriest travelers. It is the ideal place to enjoy a mint tea or eat something in one of its establishments, observe the coming and going of the people, and see the beauty of the Great Mosque, built at the end of the 15th century Kasbah in front.


The Kasbah, which once protected the city from the Amazighs, hides a pleasant and peaceful Andalusian garden within its crenelated wall. In the basement of the Tower are the old cells of the prison where Abd el Krim was imprisoned in 1926. On your left is the ethnographic museum, one of the most exciting places to visit in Chaouen: in Morocco, few museums house such a rich collection of ancient weapons, with an art gallery, the Rif guardhouse, regional costumes, musical instruments, etc.

Makhzen Square

 Home to the Parador Hotel and a large public parking lot is just a few more steps away, from which you may access an alley that leads to Chefchaouen’s most picturesque spots, Bab el-Ansar and the Ras el-Maa fountain. Under the relaxing sound of the water, you can go down next to the stream and see how the women do the laundry and how the hydraulic mills still work. This beautiful path takes us to the Rif Sebbanin, the laundry district, with the Plaza de Sebbanin and its 15th-century Mosque.

Ras el Maa

The visitor is also very attracted is Ras el Maa (“source of water”), a stream that rises from limestone rock. As is typical in the Andalusian culture, this watercourse is widely used for various activities: grain milling, washing, and irrigation ditches. So in a short tour, we can see the laundries (where women gather to wash, especially on weekends), the water mills that still grind cereal and chickpeas, and the ditches that irrigate the small riverside gardens.

Where to eat in Chefchaouen 

To avoid risks and play it safe, we recommend here the best options to eat in Chefchaouen :

Restaurant Beldi Bab Ssour

  No 5 Rue El Kharrazin is a Simple restaurant with straightforward decoration and exceptional value for money. Moroccan dishes at the best price in Chaouen.

Tissemlal Restaurant

The restaurant in Casa Hassan is one of the best options in Medina. Depending on the season, diners can sit in the restaurant below – with several lounges and a fireplace – or enjoy a meal with a view on the terrace. There are plenty of lanterns, candles, and lowlights for dinner that relaxes the mood. The menu has a small selection of starters, including a Greek salad and the most famous Moroccan dishes, such as taginecouscous, grilled meat, fish, and omelets.

 Darcom Restaurant

 It is easier to find it by chance than it is your true purpose. If I had to tell someone how to get there, I would ask them to look to the left of the entrance door of the Mosque and pay attention to a series of stalls of tourist articles that make their way in a narrow street that lifts it in about 15 meters walking and when you turn the first corner, you will see it in the right corner. Once inside, it seems that you are going to pay a lot to eat there because the truth is that it is lovely; everything with a very new look, typical background music, 3 floors with a terrace included super attentive servers, and a varied menu of 80 dirhams, about € 7 (drinks apart), where they have a unique specialty with the chicken tajin with lemon. Recommended as well as its small picture gallery.

Café Restaurant Sofía

 Place Outa Hammam Khadarine Escalier Roumani, a quiet corner with friendly treatment. Clean and with very healthy and tasty cuisine. La Pasta is one of its star dishes.

Hotel Restaurant Alkaser

It is located on the street down the Kasbah, coming from Hassan and leaving Casa Aladin on the left. The decoration is very striking and makes this multipurpose place a perfect option to have a good tea (like all those in Chaouen) for 7 dirhams (about € 60cts); in case something is missing … These items are also available in the rest of the town: rugs, purses, and handkerchiefs. They also set up a small stand with these items.

 Garozim Restaurant

 Calle de Onssar (next to the Guernika hostel) In addition to tea, they serve meals (jarira, tajines, juices, couscous, etc.)

 Pizzeria Mandala

 Avenida Hassan II, Angulo Sebanin, Italian, and quality food contrasts with the country’s spices and sweet foods.

Restarurant Les Raisins

Menus from 40 MAD. Somewhat away from the square, this restaurant offers very cheap menus. Sometimes it appears closed, but he puts the chef’s phone on the door, who will be happy to assist you. An excellent place to enjoy Moroccan couscous with some culinary innovations. If they have room, they better opt for their terrace, which offers a spectacular view.

Chefchaouen surroundings: Waterfalls and more

Chefchaouen surroundings

Ruined Mosque

(now restored)Located 2 kilometers from the eastern entrance to

the Medina, visiting this ruined Mosque is an excellent option to go down for couscous and pastries. The Mosque, abandoned in 1920 during the Rif War, has unbeatable views of Chaouen.

Rif mountain range

 But if the visit to the Mosque is not enough, rest easy. The Rif mountain range offers incredible scenery that makes taking a walk irresistible. With its valleys, mountains, and forests, it is an ideal place to spend a day or leave the cafes and terraces of Xauen for a couple of hours. The area also has a peculiarity: the cultivation of quiff occupies more than three-quarters of the arable surface. Chefchaouen is safe, especially if you travel with a guide. We will provide it to you.

Route of the Oued lou

 Follow the local route north from Dar Acoba and past Ali Thela Swamp. Continuing north along the Oued lou river, one of the most beautiful places in Chefchauen leaves its waterfalls. It is an impressive jump of the same name, following the valley, between the communes of Oulad Ali Mansour and Tizganne, to reach Beni Said, with the famous Sebt souk and the coastal town of Oued Laud in the province of Tetouan.

From this route, once past the Ali Thela swamp and before

reaching the Laoud Falls, the way to Talambot and Akchour departs

to the east. The area is a natural monument with pine forests, mountain rivers, and natural pools … To highlight is the Farda river gorge, with the bridge of God, a natural arch 35 meters high, already very close, another corner Favorite for Chefchaouen tourists: the Oued Kelaa waterfalls are an ideal place as a starting point for hiking trails to the Talasemart National Park.

Here are some cafes where you can eat and rent rooms. There is also a mountain lodge. When you arrive in Akchour, getting a local guide to show you the area is recommended. If you need help with this, get in touch with Morocco Tourism. We are experts in Chaouen!

Chefchaouen Hotels

In Chaouen, there are different types of accommodation, the ones that attract the most are the riads due to their decoration, reminiscent of the most refined imperial era. The riad is a house or old palace built around a garden. You can search for and reserve hotels in Chaouen at the best price at the following link. Finding accommodation can be difficult in high season (mid-July to September), so arriving early or booking in advance is advisable. On bridges and festivities, visiting Chaouen and Morocco without a prior reservation may generate more than one headache, as it will be challenging to find free rooms. Therefore, we recommend you travel with this issue resolved.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Chefchaouen called the Blue City?

The Rif Mountains of Morocco are home to a little town called Chefchaouen, also known as the “Blue City” due to its uniquely blue architecture. The blue hue has a mysterious origin. However, some possible explanations have been proposed.

Some residents think the color blue was once employed as an all-natural means of warding off mosquitoes. The indigo plant, from which the blue pigment is derived, is known to have insect-repelling characteristics.

According to Jewish folklore, blue was brought to Chefchaouen by Jewish refugees in the 1930s. Since blue has religious significance in Judaism, the Jewish community probably chose to decorate their buildings in that color.

Finally, the blue hue may have been selected for purely cosmetic reasons. It is probable that the town’s founder, Moulay Ali Ben Moussa, advocated the use of blue paint because he was a fan of the hue himself.

Tourists are drawn to the town because of its remarkable appearance, which has been attributed to its distinctive blue tint. Chefchaouen is a photographer’s dream because of its blue-painted houses, winding lanes, and breathtaking mountain backdrop.

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