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There were two places I eagerly anticipated visiting on my 16-day Moroccan adventure this past summer. One was glamping in the Sahara Desert and the other was exploring Chefchaouen. While most everyone has heard of the Sahara, Chefchaouen isn’t as familiar. In fact, it wasn’t until Instagram made it famous that this beautiful city became a popular tourist destination. It far exceeded my expectations so I’m sharing my recommendations for things to do in Chefchaouen in hopes that it exceeds yours too. Go get lost in the Insta-famous “Blue Pearl“!
The Blue Pearl
Founded in 1471 and located in the Rif Mountains in Morocco, Chefchaouen is nicknamed “The Blue Pearl” because so much of the city is painted blue. There are different theories as to why it’s painted blue.
One is that the blue color keeps mosquitos away. Another is that the Jews introduced the blue when they fled from Hitler in the 1930s. The blue is thought to represent both the sky and heaven and reminds the people to be spiritual in life. I’m not sure if any of that is true.
What I am sure about is that Chefchaouen is beautiful and I want to share it with you!
So as you can probably see, Chefchaouen (or Chaouen as the locals call it), is a dream place for photography. For me, it’s all about the bright color literally everywhere I looked. Also, all the different blues make the city glow. In the daylight kind of glow. I know that might not make sense, but it’s the best way I can try to convey that these aren’t just ordinary painted blue walls. They come alive.
These guys are what’s responsible for this “glow”. These are the pigments they use to paint the walls. You can find them lined up along various shops as you meander through the medina.
This is the famous Instagram Alley and what blew the cover off the well-kept secret of Chefchaouen. I’m guessing it needs no explanation as to why or how the secret got out!
Location: In between Boutique LAASRI and Dar Aldea
You might also like: TOP THINGS TO DO IN FES, MOROCCO + THE MOST CHARMING RIAD
The Steps of Chefchaouen
If you’re looking for the famous Blue Steps you have seen on Instagram, here they are. I have seen photos without all the marketplace items that are its decor, but I was glad to find that the steps were well-decorated when we arrived!
Location: Just below the Dar Lbakal Chefchaouen
How fun are these Rainbow Steps?
Location: Right outside the Restaurant Bab Ssour
Best Blue Views
There are a couple of places you can get good views of the city. One is from the Spanish Mosque which is also a great place to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, I was sick the evening we were supposed to go, but you can see the view in my friend KevinandAmanda’s post.
The other is from the rooftop of the store L’art Maroc. The owner of the shop was really nice and took us to the top to see the view!
Location: Next to this green door in the main square near the Kasbah.
The Doors of Chefchaouen
As with the rest of Morocco, there were gorgeous doors everywhere we turned in Chefchaouen. Finding all the cool doors became a favorite thing of mine to do each time we arrived in a new city!
Location: Various places along the green dotted lines throughout the medina.
The Color and The Blue
After you locate the spots listed above, just get lost wandering around the medina and see what you can find such as all the color…
and all the blue!
Location: Various places along the green dotted lines throughout the medina
Where To Stay
Our cute room at Riad Rifandalus
We stayed at the Riad Rifandalus which is located close to Instagram Alley. It’s got a fabulous free breakfast included and the wifi is fast. The downsides are that the hot water runs out quickly and it is a bit of a walk from the taxi drop-off, but I would definitely choose to stay there again!
Location: Click here for Riad Rifandalus
Know Before You Go
- Chefchaouen is pronounced “Shef-shau-win”. I had no idea how to pronounce it before I went!
- There’s Spanish influence in the city so don’t be surprised to hear Spanish in addition to French and Arabic spoken in Chefchaouen.
- TRANSPORTATION: We took the 11am CTM Bus from Fes to Chefchaouen. It took 4 hours and included one stop at a convenience store for a restroom and snack break. The bus had fantastic air conditioning and you check your luggage sort of like you do at the airport. Be sure to book your ticket at least 1-2 days in advance because it does fill up. If you can request seats and they are available, ask for seats 3 and 4. These are in the front row on the opposite side from the driver so you have a great view!
- LENGTH OF STAY: Two days are really all you need as Chefchaouen isn’t a big place. I do wish I had had an extra day only because I had been sick. If not for that, two days would have sufficed.
- NAVIGATION: Here’s a map with the main locations mentioned above. Each (with the exception of the Spanish Mosque) has the photo I took of the location attached to help you identify it. Also, the green dotted lines on the map wind through the medina and will show you all the cool colors of the city!
Chefchaouen is beautiful, isn’t it? All the different shades of blue put me in the best mood and I thoroughly enjoyed the Spanish influence and being able to use my Spanish there. In fact, I wound up having to give our taxi driver directions (using Google Maps) in Spanish to get to our hotel in Asilah, the next town we visited! 😱
Photo by Amanda from Kevin & Amanda
If you’ve been, which beautiful blue part of Chefchaouen did you like most? If you haven’t been, which would you most like to see?
‘Til next time…
Leave a Reply - I Love Comments!
Jenn and Ed Coleman says
I love the marketplace with all the colors. This is so beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Salvation Mountain out near Palm Springs with the adobe walls and so much color. Absolutely beautiful.
Hi Jenn and Ed- Chefchaouen was so so so beautiful! You know I seen photos of Salvation Mountain and it’s somewhere I really want to go. Still can’t believe I lived in LA for 4 years and didn’t know about it. Facepalm. I didn’t travel as much back then though. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Janiel Green says
I love Chefchaouen so much, I think it was because despite it becoming a more prominent touristic spot — it is still so incredibly beautiful. There is a sense of peace there, and then the easy way of life. You took some pretty incredible photos, when I was there, it was hard for me to separate from my guide and be able to explore ….sigh…..I need to go back for sure.
Hi Janiel-Thank you! I totally agree that Chefchaouen is peaceful and laid-back. That is the one downside to guides…not being able to have enough time to do what you want to do. Everything is a balance, definitely try to go back! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Ashley Hubbard says
Wow, Chefchaouen is absolutely stunning! I think blue is supposed to be a “happy” color – I wonder if there is any psychology or science behind this – like, are people happier haha?! Regardless, it would definitely put me in a cheerful mood to be surrounded by this much color. Adding to my list!
Hi Ashley-I loved the blue too! Besides the reasons behind why they painted it blue, I don’t know what the outcomes of it have been, but as laid-back and friendly as the people are there, I’m betting they are happy. It definitely seems that way! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Janiel Green says
Thank you for showing Chefchaouen in all it’s glory. I get so tired of the copy cat photos, it is nice to see that someone really wants to show what the place is like, and the view of the whole city is the best part! The colors are amazing there though, and the people are just so lovely (at least that was my experience). Thanks for sharing this, it is bringing back some really fond memories.
Hi Janiel-Oh I definitely had the same experience you did. The people were SUPER friendly even though their beautiful little city has been invaded by tourists now. They are so friendly and welcoming and glad we are there it seems. The whole city is just beautiful and one of my top two favorite places in all of Morocco. Thanks for reading! 🙂
To call this a “photographer’s paradise” is an understatement!! Wow! The colors are incredible. I love the blue, but I love all the color captured everywhere. I NEED to go to Chefchaouen!
Hi Juliann-Yes, go to Chefchaouen! It’s so beautiful and the people are so so friendly! Color drives me and so this city was just mesmerizing. I mean everywhere you look…gorgeous color and the blue just captured me. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Aww I love this post! We were in Marrakech a few years ago, and I think it was shortly after our trip that Chefchaouen BLEW UP on instagram. It was insane. Like every other post on my feed was in that ‘instagram alley’, lol! Anyway, I was sad we didn’t get a chance to go. But I’d love to go back to Morocco and my first stop would be Chefchaouen.
Hi Sarah-Thank you! And yes, “blew up” is definitely an understatement, don’t you think? LOL! I feel sorry for the Chefchaouen citizens because there quiet, little tucked-away city was invaded all of a sudden. But they are so welcoming and so nice and seem genuinely happy that we like their city. Definitely return to Morocco and visit Chefchaouen! Thanks for reading! 🙂
It is so beautiful with so many colors popping up all around the city! It sort of reminds me of Guanajuato City in Mexico, except it is not just blue. I love the straw bags hanging over on the walls. Did you buy any??
Hi Cat-Sounds like I need to visit Guanajuato City then if it’s colorful like Chefchaouen. I love colorful places! I didn’t buy a straw bag. I kind of wish I had though. I bought some other things but not one of those. Maybe that’s an excuse for me to return? 😉 Thanks for reading! 🙂
Absolutely extraordinary color! I felt like I’d woken up in the middle of a brightly colored dream, thinking, oh — I know this isn’t real, but how pretty it is. I think I’ll just enjoy the fantasy. So — how long has it been blue? I know you mentioned a couple of theories about WHY it’s blue. But was there a time when it wasn’t?
Hi Ann-That’s actually a good question. Maybe I need to edit my post to include that it’s been blue since the late 1400s if I remember correctly. It was when the Jews arrived (hence that theory) after the Spanish Inquisition. So a LONG time! I’m really surprised it wasn’t “discovered” before it was. So glad you enjoyed it and it did feel like being in a dream! Thanks for reading! 🙂
I’ve seen so many photos of Chefchaouen and didn’t know that was the name of this city. Everyone just says blue city in Morocco. I’m surprised that it’s quite the journey of 4 hours! I also always assumed it was in the same area where the markets were.
Hi Candy-I honestly didn’t know the name of the city (and certainly not how to pronounce it!) before I started planning my trip to Morocco either. Just like you I had seen it all over Instagram and thought it was beautiful. It is absolutely gorgeous and yes it’s tucked away all hidden which I’m sure is why it took a while to be discovered. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Elaine Masters says
I’d love to see those walls and immerse in that daytime glow. My travel buddies would get tired of waiting for me to take pictures of all the doors too! Well worth it.
Hi Elaine-Ha! Yes I was glad I was with another travel blogger so we understood each other’s obsession! Thanks for reading! 🙂
I have not been to Morocco. The more I read about Morocco, the more I want to visit. I have not heard of Chefchaouen. I love the shade of blue that is used on the buildings in Chefchaouen, and it is good to know that mosquitos stay away from it. It’s so colorful; almost surreal looking! I love it! The doors are gorgeous too. It looks like such a happy place with all those bright colors.
I bookmarked and pinned it for future reference.
Hi Wendy-I had not heard of Chefchaouen either before I was planning a trip to Morocco. But I did recognize it’s beautiful blue walls from Instagram. It is definitely a cheerful place with all its colors and beautiful doors. I hope you get to visit. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Chefchaouen really looks like a photogenic place with so many colorful decors along the blue street and blue houses. I would love to take thousands of photos of the steps of Chefchaouen and doors of Chefchaouen.
Hi Yukti-It is a beautiful place and so colorful. Could not put the camera down!! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Erica Edwards says
Gorgeous photos 😍 For me, Morocco is one of those places where te more you explore, the more you realize you have to see! I’ve seen quite a bit from Marrakech south but I’m dying to go back to explore the north, Chefchoun being one of the main reasons! It really does look like such a stunning city 💙
Hi Erica, Oh it is…you must go back and explore Chefchaouen! After the desert, it was my favorite place by far! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Amber Tatton says
I visited Morocco and loved Essaouira, but never made it to Chefchaouen. I am gutted as it would be amazing to get those shots for the gram. The blue steps look beautiful, none of it looks real! I love the fact you’ve listed the locations too, so when I finally go back I can get the pictures ready.
Hi Amber-I totally understand. I loved Essaouira too, but Chefchaouen came in at my #2 most favorite place in Morocco after spending the night in the Sahara desert! If you get the chance to go back, I highly encourage you to do so and visit Chefchaouen. I kept thinking the exact thing you mentioned “Is this real?” It’s that beautiful! I’m so glad you found the locations map useful too. I’m hoping to make it easier for everyone else. Thanks for reading! 🙂
I think my eyes are celebrating after this! When I think of Morocco, I think blue and patterns, and this has absolutely captured that, but even more so. You’ve got a lovely eye for pictures, and there’s a rhythm in the placement of objects within them that is really satisfying. Those sacks of pigments are amazing too. It’s such a perfect balance of intensity in each of the hues that have been chosen. I didn’t know that Spanish was widely spoken there, which gives me some hope I might make myself understood. Because after this, how could I not go there!
Hi Bernie-Wow, thank you so much! I highly appreciate your compliments. I do love photography and am happy to know you love the photos. Morocco is definitely quite colorful. There is definitely Spanish influence and the language is spoken in the north (my experience was in Chefchaouen but I imagine it might be this way in Tangier too…the extreme northern part). It was nice to be able to communicate! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Melody Pittman says
I love it! Instagram Alley…paint it blue, set up your wares, and they will come! If only marketing in the US were so easy. 😉 Exceptional photos and my first time reading about or having any in-depth look of The Blue Pearl. It is certainly fascinating! I love the pigments. So colorful,plus I was curious as to what the heck they were.
Hi Melody-Thank you! Yep, set up an Instagram Alley this beautiful and they (we) will all come! So, true…LOL! Thank you and I’m so glad you liked the photos. Definitely visit Chefchaouen if you get the chance. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Nicola Hilditch-Short says
Morocco is a dream place for us to visit! It just looks so beautiful and so full of incredible culture. We are hoping to visit in the next year or so when we are back in Europe we will make a side trip here for sure! What an amazing post, love the photo.
Hi Nicola-Thank you! Yes, I highly recommend visiting Morocco and Chefchaouen for sure (also be sure to spend a night in the Sahara, it’s an amazing experience)! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Anthony (One Of Four Friends One World) says
Your timing with posts are always perfect. We are planning a trip to Morocco in 2019. Your words and images have inspired us even more. Was 16 days enough time? If you only had 5 days, what are the things that are must dos?
Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!
Hi Anthony, Thank you! I’m so glad my posts are inspiring and have great timing! 😉 16 days was enough time I think especially for what we did. If I only had 5 days…that’s hard because you need 3 just for the desert (and that’s only spending 1 night in the actual desert). It’s so far away from everything and is a 10-12 drive one-way. And I would NOT go to Morocco and do the desert. After that, Chefchaouen and Essaouira were my favorite places. Then there’s a lot to do in Marrakech. Do you only have 5 days total? Thanks for reading! 🙂
So much blue! I just loving looking at your photos on this post and those beautiful colours. Interesting about the different theories – from representing the sky to keeping away mozzies! Those pigments are so striking. I can see why so many people want to get their perfect pose in that alley for Instagram. Although I imagine it would be hard to come up with something original now! I’d probably be happy to follow accounts simply of Chefchaouen – honestly it looks so stunning! Incredible colours.
Hi Juliette-Yes, I found the theories interesting too. I wish I knew what the definite reason(s) really are! The pigments were so interesting to me too. Like you, I found them very striking. And yes it is hard to come up with something original…I know people have sat down in the pics before, but not with my site shirt on…so mine wasn’t all that different but my shirt was maybe! Haha! Thanks for reading! 🙂
My guess is that I would spend days just wandering around without a plan to just take photos. My husband would go absolutely nuts here! I have yet to visit Morocco but it is super high on my list – mainly because I love the food from Northern Africa – having something like this to do between all my meals is a bonus!
Hi Andi-Haha! Wandering around going nuts with the camera was exactly what we did! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Virikson Morocco Holidays says
Very pleasant post and stunning photography, thanks a lot for sharing your wonderful experience in Morocco.
Hi Sarah-Thanks for reading! 🙂
Great article and photos! Thanks for sharing these locations!
I was wondering where the location is of the first pic though; the pretty door surrounded with mosaic next to the stairs and the tiny mosaic left from the stairs? (under the title the Blue Pearl)
Could you please let me know?
Thanks a lot!
Hi Joëlle-Thank you so much! That is one of the locations that I’m not completely sure about which is why I didn’t mark it on the map. But, I keep wanting to say that it is in the same area as Instagram Alley (which is marked on the map in the post) and on the same “road/walkway”. I want to say that it was further west than Instagram Alley. If you’re going I hope that helps you find it. It is pretty well-known so it’s likely the locals can point you in the right direction! Thanks for reading! 🙂