12 things to do in Chefchaouen, Morocco
12 things to do in Chefchaouen: Chefchaouen is a holy city in the middle of the Rif mountains. It is one of the most magical places in Morocco. It was founded in 1471 as a Berber settlement and, until 1920, was off-limits to non-Muslims. Fortunately, people of all faiths can now enjoy its wonderful blue medina surrounded by nature. Today, some 40,000 people live in Chefchaouen, the majority in the more modern part of the town. We offer 12 recommended activities for visitors to Chefchaouen, Morocco‘s “blue pearl.”
Stroll through its blue streets:
The main thing to do in Chefchaouen is to lose yourself in its beautiful medina. Its blue-tinted streets make it a very special place. But do you know why they’re blue? There are two theories, and no one seems to agree. For some, it was the idea of the Jews who lived there in the 1930s, when they started painting the facades and doors blue as a sign of freedom, and doing away with the color green to represent Islam. Others say the reason was more practical than aesthetic: they simply wanted to scare off the flies. Whatever the case, they were left with a fairytale town, full of arches, porches and blue staircases.
It’s an oasis of tranquility compared to other Moroccan cities. Don’t be afraid to get lost, and don’t limit yourself to the wider main streets. There are some real hidden gems if you wander off a bit. The historic part of town is very small, and you’re always in time to ask how to get back to the main square. As a curiosity, with the streets so blue, when we looked up at the sky it seemed gray, even though there wasn’t a cloud in sight!
Find out why the street names are in Spanish, a curious thing to do in Chefchaouen:
It’s just a question of history. Since it was founded in medieval times, Chefchaouen has had very close ties with Spain. Moulay Ali Ben Rachid, the town’s founder, fell in love with a Spanish noblewoman who had converted to Islam. When they married, they settled in the new town, and Ali Ben Rachid promised her that it would resemble Vejer de la Frontera, the young woman’s place of origin.
More recently, in 1920, Spanish troops took the town and all of northern Morocco as part of the Treaty of Algeciras . Chefchaouen was Spanish territory until 1956, when it was once again administered by the African country. Today, you can still hear a lot of Spanish in its streets. Most of its inhabitants speak perfect Spanish.
Bring a few cats home:
As you stroll through Chefchaouen’s medina, you’ll come across many stray cats. As in most Moroccan cities, these animals roam the streets in search of leftover food in the markets. Chefchaouen was one of the places where we saw the most cats, and they’re so adorable that we wanted to hide one in our suitcase.
Resting in Place Uta-el-Hammam:
12 things to do in Chefchaouen: A visit to Chefchaouen’s central square is a must-do activity. Here you’ll find most of the restaurants and street vendors trying to squeeze in their wares. It’s the liveliest spot in town, frequented by tourists and locals alike. There are several benches around the square where you can take a break and watch how the day passes.
Behold the Great Mosque, the most important building to see in Chefchaouen:
One of the most important buildings to see in Chefchaouen is its Grand Mosque, in the main square. This 15th-century structure was designed by the son of Ali Ben Rachid, the city’s founder. In addition to its centuries of history, its curious octagonal minaret is a real eye-catcher. While not the largest or most impressive mosque in Morocco, it is well worth seeing from the outside. If you want to see a truly impressive mosque, you need to visit Casablanca . As with all mosques, non-Muslims are not allowed inside.
Another fun thing to do in Chefchaouen is to play around to find more mosques inside the medina. We really liked one near Place Outa el Hammam, with its pristine white minaret decorated with geometric shapes.
Visit the Kasbah:
From Place Outa el Hammam, you can also see the walls of the Kasbah or Alcazaba. You can take part for just 10 dirhams (€1). Inside, you can visit the Kasbah Museum, where musical instruments, traditional costumes, weapons and ceramics are on display. There’s also a collection of old photos so you can see what Chefchaouen looked like a few decades ago.
Don’t forget to climb its towers for a panoramic view and visit some of the old cells, as the space functioned as a prison. There’s also a small Andalusian garden with a beautiful central patio.
See the city from above, a great thing to do in Chefchaouen:
Don’t just see the blue buildings from the streets, go to a viewpoint to see Chefchaouen from above. The best thing to do is to go out through the medina’s eastern gate, Bab al Ansar, and climb up for about 40 minutes. Constructed in 1920, the Spanish mosque stands at the summit of the hill. But it never won the affection of the locals and was abandoned, although it has recently been restored. The surrounding area is a very peaceful place to contemplate the contrast between the blue of the city and the green of the mountains.
Discover the Ras-el-Ma washhouses, something interesting to do in Chefchaouen:
A very curious and little-known visit to make in Chefchaouen is this very traditional space. Here, you can see real-life Moroccan women washing those clothes they can’t wash at home. Although years ago, when washing machines hadn’t yet reached homes, this was still a more popular spot. They enjoy the water flowing down from the Ras-el-Ma river, and there are even a few small waterfalls.
12 things to do in Chefchaouen: One of the most tempting things to do in Chefchaouen is to pick up a thousand objects to decorate your home. The streets of Chefchaouen are an art gallery, with numerous stores and stalls where you can buy carpets, hats, paintings, magnets, boxes, jewelry and an infinite number of other things. You’ll have to use your bargaining skills to get a good price. But the sellers in Chefchaouen didn’t seem as insistent as in the bigger, more touristy towns.
Visit a cannabis plantation, another must-do in Chefchaouen:
A visit to a cannabis plantation is one of the activities available in Chefchaouen. There are lots of them around the city, which is why many people visit them. They’ll probably offer you some kif as you stroll through the center, even though it’s totally illegal to consume it. However, if you want to visit the plantation out of curiosity, you’re not hurting anyone.
Go hiking in the surrounding mountains:
Beyond the beautiful blue center of Chefchaouen, there are some spectacular natural spots. Most people who visit Morocco in search of adventure go trekking in the Atlas Mountains. But if you’re in Chefchaouen and love hiking in the mountains, don’t underestimate the Rif.
Around the blue city lies the Talassemtane National Park, a green area where the country’s last fir trees are preserved. There are several itineraries of varying length, so you can spend one or more days exploring the region.
Bathing in the Akchour waterfalls:
12 things to do in Chefchaouen: In the Talassemtane park, there are waterfalls ideal for bathing. It takes about half an hour by car to get to the start of the road, although if you don’t have your own vehicle from your accommodation, they’ll help you find transport. It’s quite a touristy place, so you can even get there in a large cab. Once at the starting point, you’ll need to walk for about two hours to reach the waterfall, so be prepared as there are some tricky sections.