Perched high in the green mountains in the Rif region of northeastern Morocco, Chefchaouen is one of the most demonstrative examples of Morocco’s geographical beauty.
Blue painted to repel mosquitoes and other pests, Chefchaouen, Chauen or Xauen as it is also known, is a traditional city and at the same time is very quiet and relax.
In recent years, the village has become very popular among backpackers. Needless to say, that there the sale of marijuana and hashish is the order of the day.
¿Why is Chefchaouen blue?
If there is something that immediately attracts you about Chefchaouen is the overwhelming beauty of its blue walls. While it would be ideal if these walls were painted for a more romantic reasons, the reason is purely pragmatic. Blue is used to repel mosquitoes and other insect pests. Now that I think about it. As we were in February, we saw not even one mosquito in all of Chauen. Nor anywhere in Morocco in fact.
Another reason why Chauen is blue is by the Jewish heritage of the city. The blue color on the walls began to be used in 1930 (before that, the doors and windows were painted in the traditional Muslim green). The town remained isolated, xenophobic and Christians were forbidden entry (with danger of death), until the occupation by Spanish troops in 1920.
City of Stars. The song I could not get out of my head while in Chefchaouen.
That’s right, City of Stars from the soundtrack of La Land was the song that struck me throughout my stay in the village. Perhaps because the blue of Xauen made me remember the blue that prevails in almost all the frames of the film or simply because at night, the stars of Chefchaouen took our breath away and the fact that it was our last stop in Morocco, melancholy invaded us just like the chords of the song.
City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
There’s so much that I can’t see
Is this the start of something wonderful and new?
Or one more dream that I cannot make true?
What to do in Chefchaouen
Due to its lost location in the middle of the Rif mountains, Xauen is a favorite destination for trekking and all kinds of outdoor activities for backpackers in Morocco.
An option in the vicinity of the city center, is to walk towards a stream that is in the northeast part of the village near the waterfall Ras el-Maa (which at the time we visited was a tiny thread of water and in no way resembled a waterfall). There the women concentrate to wash their clothes and for a tip take pictures with tourists.
If you continue walking uphill, after about 40 minutes you will arrive at the Spanish Mosque, built in 1920 but never used. From the mosque the views of the city are breathtaking, there you will see how the blue of the village merges with the green of the mountains. From below the mosque seems to be at an infinite distance. Do not worry, anyone with a normal physical condition can do the hike and enjoy the great views.
Anyway, the main activity to do in Chefchaouen is to get lost in the dozens of passages and labyrinths that run through the medina and ending in the walls of the village where you can have the most spectacular views.
The heart of Xauen is the Uta el-Hamman square, where several souks and genuine handicraft shops are located, where for a few Dirhams you can buy gifts for everybody.
Another attraction is the Great Mosque of the XV century with its octagonal minaret and finally, another essential stop in Chefchaouen is the Kasbah located in the next to the main square. Today the Kasbah is a fully restored fort with a beautiful garden, a small art gallery and the ethnographic museum.
How to get to Chefchaouen
Unless you have rented a car, the only way to get to Xauen is by bus. The best company to travel is CTM which is the Moroccan public transport company, is very safe, efficient and comfortable.
From Fez, the following is the timetable available.
Fez to Chefchaouen. Timetable: 08.00 – 10.00 – 11.00 – 16.00 – 16.15 – 23.45. Travel time: 4 hours. Price: 75 Dh.
Accommodations in Chefchaouen
Keep in mind that the bus terminal station is about twenty minutes uphill from the medina. It is for that reason that we stayed at Casa Annsar. Because we arrived at night and had to leave early by bus, we decided on that lodging.
The hotel has nothing special, although it was comfortable and very convenient if you need to take a bus in the late hours of the night. At Casa Annsar we paid 800 Dh (75 €) for two nights in a double room with private bathroom. There was a choice of breakfast but it cost 50 Dh which was quite expensive compared to the options in the medina. Note that the views from the terrace are a must see and make it worth the place.
Here’s a link to the best accommodations in Chefchaouen.