Chefchaouen: Because of its fantastic blue houses and streets, it is known as the ‘Blue Pearl’ of Morocco. Jewish immigrants painted the houses blue. For years, people have wondered why. It is this mystery that gives the city its charm and makes it a popular tourist destination. Spend a day or two enjoying all the best things to do in Chefchaouen, and three days or more if you want to enjoy the stunning nature of the surrounding Riff Mountains.
Stroll through the blue streets
The number one reason to visit Chefchaouen is its beautiful streets, lined with houses painted a variety of shades of blue. There are many theories as to why the walls are blue. Some say it’s for practical reasons, such as keeping mosquitoes away or keeping the houses cooler.
Others say that blue represents the sky and the sky, the colours of the Mediterranean or the nearby Ras el Maa waterfall. Today, the locals continue to paint their houses blue, either out of tradition or to attract the tourists who visit Chefchaouen for its picturesque streets.
Chefchaouen is much quieter and calmer than other cities in Morocco, so you can spend hours wandering the blue alleyways and taking photos of cute porches and doorways in the sun. The blue houses of this town are easily the best thing to do in Chefchaouen!
Read more: The ultimate 3-day Marrakech guide!
Note: Be respectful at all times as there are local people living in the houses. Some ‘Insta famous’ doorways will charge you a small fee to take a photo.
Watch the sunrise or sunset in Chefchaouen
The sunrise and the sunset in Chefchaouen are both magical times of the day in this city. Add this to your Chefchaouen itinerary. Wake up early in the morning. Go to the roof of your riad and enjoy the most magical sunrise you will see during your trip. Alternatively, enjoy this magical moment from higher up by taking one of the many hikes out of the city and up into the Riff mountains. This is highly recommended for a fantastic view of the city!
A visit to the Spanish Mosque
The Spanish mosque is a beautiful building, isolated on a hill above Chefchaouen. The mosque was built in the 1920s during the war. However, it was never really used and now sits abandoned, overlooking the town. It is an easy 30-minute walk to the top, where you will be rewarded with incredible views.
Watching the sunset here is magical, as the golden colours set against the earthy backdrop of the Riff mountains. However, it is one of the most popular activities in Chefchaouen, so crowds can be expected at this time. If you prefer a quieter time, take an early morning walk to catch the sunrise instead.
Shopping in the medina
Visit the narrow, blue, winding streets of the medina and its souks! The souks may not be as large as those in other Moroccan cities such as Fez, but it is still a popular shopping destination. This is because they offer many local handicrafts that are not available anywhere else in Morocco, such as woollen garments, woven blankets and woven baskets.
Among the handicrafts, you’ll often find pots of powdered paint in a variety of pastel colours, a beautiful sight against the blue walls. Goat’s cheese is also popular with tourists and is served with many dishes. It is well worth trying and a tasty thing to do in Chefchaouen.
Tip: Bargaining is common throughout Morocco. Always haggle over the price and don’t accept the first offer.
The Kasbah Museum
In the main square is the Kasbah: an old Moroccan fortress. This building has served many purposes over the years, most notably as a prison, and is now an ethnographic museum and art gallery. Inside, there are also beautiful Spanish-style gardens, which make for a nice tranquil area away from the city. Learn about the fascinating history of this area through the ancient artefacts, clothing, instruments, traditional decorations and crafts on display. The fort tower can be climbed to discover beautiful views over the city.
Admission: MAD 60. Note that the descriptions in the tower are not in English.
Plaza Uta El-Hammam
There is a lot going on around the hustle and bustle of Chefchaouen’s main square: Plaza Uta El-Hammam. Situated in the centre of the medina, it is surrounded by restaurants, shops, the Kasbah and the Grand Mosque. The Grand Mosque is still used for religious worship, so it is not open to tourists, but its unique octagonal minaret can be seen from the square. Sit under the tree in the middle of the cobbled square and take a break from the sightseeing to watch the people – a fun thing to do while in Chefchaouen.
Enjoy the countryside around Chefchaouen
The Riff Mountains provide the perfect backdrop for beautiful nature and wildlife. We didn’t go there ourselves, but we’ve heard good things about these places from other travellers:
Ras El Maa Waterfall. This is a small but beautiful waterfall on the outskirts of the medina, surrounded by a beautiful forest. Sit here and enjoy a mint tea, dangle your feet in the cool mountain water and watch the locals washing their clothes. It can be reached via the footpath that takes you up to the Spanish mosque, so it is a nice thing to do in Chefchaouen if you have time to stop.
Jeb Al Kalaa. This is the mountain overlooking Chefchaouen. This is an intermediate walk of about 6-8 hours. The path can be difficult to follow, so be sure of your navigation or book a guide to lead you. Once at the top, the panoramic views of the mountains and the blue city below are phenomenal. An amazing thing to do in Chefchaouen if you have a day to spare.
Talassemtane National Park – less than 45 minutes drive from Chefchaouen is this fantastic national park full of natural wonders. Hire a guide to take you on some unforgettable hikes.
Bridge of God and Akchour waterfalls. Within the Talassemtane National Park is the Akchour area, full of stunning emerald pools, waterfalls and gorges. Be sure to visit the Akchour Waterfalls and the Bridge of God, an impressive natural stone arch that rises 25 metres above the gorge. Both can be reached on foot via steep trails, so be prepared for a bit of walking!
Experience delicious food
The flavour of Moroccan food is unlike anything else. On every corner of the cute streets you will find homemade bread baked by people in their wood-burning ovens. Restaurants serve typical Moroccan dishes of couscous, fish, spices and vegetables. Sitting on beautiful Moroccan cushions in romantically lit dining rooms, eating tagine from a locally made tagine bowl is a truly authentic way to understand the culture of Morocco and Chefchaouen.
Don’t forget to try a cup of freshly brewed mint tea. This is a tradition in Morocco, not only for the social aspect but also for the health benefits.
Tip: Go to Chez Aladdin, which has a terrace with a stunning view of the city from the roof (just off the main square). For lunch or dinner, try the Populaire Bab Ssour restaurant. Breakfast is best enjoyed on the main square!
Take the beautiful bus ride to Fes
If you’re travelling around Morocco, it’s a good idea to take the local bus to or from Fes. The beautiful scenery you will see as you travel through the magical landscapes of Morocco is well worth a few hours on the bus. Even better is the breathtaking view of Chefchaouen as you approach the city for the first time. Take one of the CTM buses (the largest operator in Morocco) and enjoy a comfortable journey of around 4 hours.
Hotels and Riads Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen has many great places to stay. Stay in a traditional riad for the most authentic experience. Most riads and hotels range from budget to luxury. Many of the more luxurious riads also have spas! Be aware that staying in the medina itself can be a little more expensive, but there are some good hostel options here too.