Chefchaouen Blues

Morocco has to be one of my favorite destinations of all time. Both as a standout destination and personally (I met my wife here!!). The sheer diversity of sights in this beautiful country is mind boggling, ranging from the deserts of the Sahara, to quaint seaside towns to pristine Alpine scenery. But the highlight of my Moroccan  sojourn has to be Chefchaouen. I had allotted one full day and a night stay here, and in hindsight I wish I had time to stay longer.

Chefchaouen or Chaouen as the locals call it means “look at the horns”. Legend has it that it got its name from the peaks of the surrounding Rif mountains that look like the horns of a goat. But, its more popularly known by its sobriquet of the “blue pearl”. And deservedly so. The first thing you notice as you get off the bus and make your way into the medina is the soothing powder blue enveloping all structures. With its quaint alleyways, laid back attitude and cool weather it’s a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the more famous medinas of Fes and Marrakech.


The medina of Chaouen is very walkable. It is quite hilly though so make sure you wear good walking shoes while exploring. The best way to get a feel of the town is to let yourself get lost in the medina. You’ll get to see alleyways with quaint shops selling moroccan pastries, sweet mint tea (the Moroccans refer to it as Berber whisky!) and local stores selling colorful spices. Once you have had your fill of wandering around, make your way to the center of the medina where there are plenty of cafes/restaurants where you can try some authentic moroccan fare.


For a truly spectacular view of the medina, from where you can really appreciate why its called the blue pearl, take a hike up to the old mosque (Jemaa Bouzafar). This location was suggested by the friendly staff of the Riad I was staying in. The starting point of the hike is close to the exit of the medina which is close to the waterfall (just ask a local and he will be happy to point you in the right direction). An uphill stroll of about 30 minutes will bring you to the ruins of the mosque and the entire Medina is spread out in front of you.


I was in Chaouen on new year’s eve, and I watched the last sunset of the year from here. The rays of the setting sun cast a soothing glow to the blue pearl. The way the color of the town changes as the sun sets has to be seen to be believed. This has to rank as one of the most serene and spectacular sunsets I’ve ever witnessed (and I’ve seen a fair few living in the Pacific North West of the US for the last couple of years).


If you’re feeling hungry again (which you should post the hike), make your way to the central part of the medina again. During meal times, the waiters of all the cafes will be out on the streets trying to entice you with their spiels about their specials and delicacies. It’s fun talking to them and trying to see the lengths they will go to get your patronage. Being Indian, pretty much everyone would tell me they loved Bollywood, had seen all of Shah Rukh Khan’s movies and followed Indian soap operas religiously. And they all offered me the “best price” since I came from the land of Bollywood. A full three course meal can easily be had for 50 Dh (~$5). The waiter of the restaurant I finally chose did a very well-choreographed dance to the song dilbar shikdum shikdum, something I wish I had taken a video of!


After I had my fill of chicken over cous cous, and some tasty fruits washed down with sweet mint tea, I wandered over the medina at night, taking the longest possible route to my riad. This is highly recommended as the medina looks a different world altogether at night. Some of the wall art you might have noticed during the day looks positively spooky at night. It does get quite cold at night in December/January and not all Riad’s have a good heating system so come prepared with warm clothing to stay comfy at night.


Overall, Chaouen is a charming town, and will captivate you with its rustic charm. Spend a day or two there if you’re planning a trip to Morocco, chances are like me you will feel you should stay a little longer.


I stayed at the Dar Gabriel a wonderful Riad in the medina. There are many others in Chaouen, so wander around if you don’t have a reservation. The people running at are very friendly folk and have a lot of good suggestions for things to do around town.


To get to Chaouen from Fes/Casa/Rabat/Tangier, there are regular CTM buses that ply multiple times a day. These are the best option, they are clean, safe and affordable. Their website is a little dicey for reservations (good for schedules though), so the best way is to walk to the terminal and make your reservation there. In the peak season, reserve a day in advance as the popular routes and times get sold out fast. The medina is an uphill walk main bus station is you might need to take a petit taxi to the main gate of the medina, after that you’re on your own to drag your luggage to your Riad.

All images in this post are copyright and cannot be downloaded, copied or used without permission of the author.

11 thoughts on “Chefchaouen Blues”

  1. Amazing photographs, which have been able to capture the different aspects of this beautiful town. Would have loved it if you could have captured some people too, as it adds more colors to the beautiful picture you are painting. 🙂

    ps: few typos here and there.

    1. thank you sirji!
      capturing people is something I don’t do as much as I should, have realized that, and trying to get into the habit of not just clicking nature and walking away.. thanks for the tip.
      have started writing after a long time so a bit rusty, hence the typos I guess, hope they go away over time!

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