When planning a trip to Morocco, Chefchaouen is not usually the first city that comes to mind. As the train doesn’t reach this region of Morocco, transportation can be complicated. Even so, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this amazing city. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Chaouen, as the locals call it.
Also called the Blue City, Chaouen is known for its walls covered in different shades of blue. There are a couple of theories as to why the walls of the city were painted this color. Some believe that it protects against mosquitoes, while others say that the Jewish community, after escaping Europe, painted the walls in a color that symbolizes heaven.
Unlike the more popular cities of Casablanca and Marrakesh, Chaouen is a small town. You can walk to cafés, restaurants, and even the small waterfall Ras el-Maa. This will offer you plenty of great photo opportunities without even needing to get in a taxi.
The city was founded in 1471 and has been under the control of a number of different political powers. Because of this, many languages are spoken in the streets, including French, Spanish, and Arabic. You can visit the Ethnographic Museum of Chefchaouen to learn more about the town’s fascinating history.
Marrakesh and Fez are known for having hectic medinas, and tourists can expect to interact with a lot of insistent shopkeepers. That can be overwhelming for many, but luckily, things are not as crazy in the small medina of Chaouen, where you can feel at ease as you wander through the many shops.
If you’re there on a Monday or Thursday, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a local market with people from the Rif mountains. If not, there are still plenty of shopping opportunities inside the medina. You can find a host of traditional products, such as handmade hats and blankets.
Chaouen is not an expensive town, so it’s the perfect place to visit if you are on a tight budget. You can find transportation, food, and lodging at reasonable prices. While shopping, you can bargain to lower the prices for some of Chaouen’s best products.
Just 40 minutes away and costing around 300 MAD (US$33) for a round trip, you’ll find the waterfalls of Akchour. The hike to the large waterfall takes about two hours and if you’re up for it, you can continue the hike to God’s Bridge. You should definitely take your swimsuit and plan to have a picnic during the long hike, or enjoy some of the local food you’ll find along the way.
As the town is much smaller than many other tourist destinations in Morocco, you’ll feel safer. You should always take precautions while traveling and be wary of strangers trying to sell you hash, but compared to the larger city of Casablanca, there is less street harassment to contend with.
While hiking to the waterfalls of Akchour is definitely a must, you can also enjoy the views of the mountains without leaving the town limits. Go to the rooftop of a café, or walk to Ras el-Maa, to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Chaouen is the place for goat cheese. You’ll find it in every café, or you can buy some in the local market. There are also plenty of pastry shops where you can try a traditional Moroccan dessert. You can also enjoy a glass of Moroccan mint tea with your meal.