Chefchaouen, also known as Chaouen, is a city located in northwestern Morocco, in the foothills of the Rif mountains.
It was founded by Berber tribes in 1471 as a base to launch attacks on the Portuguese who had conquered Ceuta. In 1492 it started to develop considerably, welcoming Muslims and Jews fleeing from the capture of Granada.
If there is a single way to describe the city or to distinguish it from others, it would be because of its blue color. Blue, in every shade of the spectrum. There are several theories behind this peculiar color, two of which stand out.
One theory is that it’s based on the local belief that mosquitoes don’t like the blue color. The most popular theory is that the Jewish residents painted their part of town in blue to distinguish it from the Muslim green color often seen on doors and windows throughout Morocco. The rest of the citizens were so stuck by the beautiful blue that they followed suit and painted the whole town in blue.
Whether either of these theories is true or not, the fact is that Chefchaouen is characterized by its color and its friendly people. It has earned its fame as one of the most charming and picturesque cities in Morocco.
In addition, here we find several buildings of interest, such as the Alcazaba and the Great Mosque; also non-religious buildings of great cultural interest, such as the majestic natural spring where water comes gushing out of the mountain. For those who love hiking and mountain scenery Chefchaouen is a perfect stepping stone into the great outdoors.
All in all, Chefchaouen, is the best city in Morocco to just wander in the alleyways of the medina: whether you’re in to photography or not, you’ll find yourself stopping to capture beautiful scenes of the blue city.
Its climate is characterized by a mild temperature most of the year. Only in summer do the temperatures rise to approximately 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit). In the summer it’s advisable to cover up, and wear sunglasses and/or hat during the heat of the day.
At the end of autumn and winter it’s colder, especially at night, and having a coat is advisable. There is also a probability of rain (around 30%), and you should carry a small umbrella and have proper footwear, so, in case it rains, slipping in the medina can be avoided.
The nearest airport is in Tangier, which is about 120 kilometers away. From the same airport you can arrange a taxi (it will cost around 600 dirhams). The journey time is approximately two and a half hours (see the road route from Tangier to Chefchaouen in the next section).
There is no train station, so traveling by car is the best way to reach Chefchaouen.
To get there, there are two access roads, one from the north that connects with Tetouan and another from the south that connects with the cities of Meknes and Fez.
The most advisable thing is to enter from the north, since there is a good road connecting Tangier and Tetouan, the first section goes quick. However, from there to Chaouen it’s a national road, which trucks also use, so the last part is at a slower speed. The total duration is approximately two and a half hours.
From the south the route is very different, being a national road with fairly congested traffic, so it takes about four and a half hours to get to Chefchaouen. In addition, the service stations are very scarce on this route, so it’s advisable to refuel the car and your stomachs well before leaving.
If you would like to reach the city by bus, as in the previous case, it can be done from either the north or the south of the city.
The most common route is through the north, specifically from the Tangier bus station. The company in charge of that route is CTM. The bus is much cheaper than taking a car (a bus is less than 200 dirhams per person). However, the schedules are very irregular and tickets must be purchased directly at the station since, although it is theoretically possible to buy them online, the website only accepts Moroccan credit cards.