Like many people, I have pinned and drooled over the beautiful blue Moroccan town that reappears over and over again in travel-related Pinterest searches. And after years of fantasizing about those intoxicating images, I finally decided it was time to visit this magical place: Chefchaouen, Morocco.
The worry with Pinterest is that so many images are completely manipulated in Photoshop, and when people show up, they are only let down. Ever seen the castle on top of the tiny island peak, or the purple trees along the turquoise water? Both fake.
But it turns out the blue town that so inspired me, Chefchaouen, located in Morocco's Rif Mountain really is that blue and that absolutely amazing.
Getting to Chefchaouen is a breeze. Just fly into Fez (on EasyJet or Ryanair, fares can be as low as $35 each way from London). From Fez take an airport taxi four hours north to the small town. My friend and I paid $80 for this taxi (not bad!). I'm pretty sure that was the "tourist price" as well.
Chefchaouen was completely closed off to the outside world until the Spanish occupied it in the 1920s through to 1956. Now it's a tourist attraction, although still not quite mainstream. Many people here still speak Spanish, unlike in Marrakesh, where they speak French. If you're coming, it's time to brush up on those high school Spanish skills, comprende?
While you can stay inside the "medina" or walls of the city, we chose to stay just outside at a really nice boutique hotel, Auberge Dardara, that had a swimming pool. Of all the food we had traveling in Morocco, this was the best. It had that homestyle feel. Order the rabbit and fig tagine and the mezze. Eat all the goat's cheese you see! This hotel uses all the vegetables and fruit from their garden. You'll find traveling in Morocco that restaurants really cater to tourists, so it's not that easy to find a seriously good meal.
On a side note, being blue isn't all this town is known for. It's got another notorious secret: The Rif mountains and Chefchaouen area is the epicenter of hash production in Morocco. In case you didn't know, they say Moroccan hash is the best in the world, so this is kind of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for stoners... if that's your thing.
Actually half of the world's cannibis comes from Morocco and stats say more than 800,000 Moroccans work in this industry.
I'm sure this leads you to ask if it is safe to visit. It is! You wouldn't even know they make hash here as obviously that's something to keep under wraps. While the huge medina in Fez and the crowds in Marrakesh can sometimes be overwhelming, Chefchaouen is a as laid-back as it gets. It's pretty small so you won't get lost and shopkeepers don't haggle with as much aggression as you might find in other Moroccan towns.
That doesn't mean you will want to shop here though: The products aren't made here so you're going to pay higher prices than if you go to the source. For example sequin Berber baskets (a popular item to buy in Morocco, made by the nomads) here were at $25, while in Marrakesh you can snag them easily for $14.
They do say that rugs are made in the Rif mountains and that you can get good prices. I was unlucky though and didn't get a good deal... although did drink a lot of pleasant mint tea while looking.
It was actually Jewish people who painted the town blue. In the 1400s, Jews were driven out of their towns in Spain and they came to make a home in the mountains. In the 1930s when Jews again where chased out of their homes, they came from Spain to Chefchauoen to find safety. It was then that the town was painted blue! These days those Jews are gone (to Israel) and it is mostly Berbers and Muslim people living here.
One theory of the blue color is that it keeps away mosquitos. Another is that the blue represents the skies and heavens and was done as a show of faith by the Jews. This isn't the only blue town in the world. Where I live in India, we have a blue town called Jodhpur in the Thar desert. It is blue because they say the color is cooling. Either way, the government supplies paint and brushed every spring to keep it blue.
You won't want to stay here too long, even though it is gorgeous! The shopping is expensive, the town is pretty small, and you might start to get antsy after two or three days.
But this bucket-list item is totally worth a short stop and to be honest, the photos don't even do the place justice! It's hard to capture so much beauty.
Photos here are the ultimate souvenir, so surely you'll want to dress up a bit when you wander around. This is like Candyland for bloggers and photographers so local people won't think twice if you ask them to take a photo of you. They're used to it!
I recommend wearing something that will stand out on the blue, which is why I chose mostly orange. I traveled with my friend who has a fashion line in Goa, India, where we live, and lucky for me we did these photos for my blog and for her to get shots of her line.
You do have to cover up here for cultural and religious reasons. I recommend maxi dresses with shawls or silk harem pants. I love wearing thin silk when you have to cover up because it's breezy and you can look more dressed up this way.
I've traveled to over 35 countries looking for unique experiences and I put this all blue town in my top three for just its beauty alone. It's a bizarre place, and every single alley or cute doorway you pass, you'll think, "Oh, wait — this is the perfect alley, let me get a photo!" So definitely keep this one pinned to your bucket-list board.
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