Daydream in blue: Exploring Chefchouen, Morocco's blue city
Famous for its blue washed streets, Chefchaouen is a small, otherworldly town nestled in the Rif mountains that has grown in popularity over the past few decades.
When we visited Morocco a few years ago, we were eager to find out whether 'Chaouen lived up to the glossy images we'd seen in travel magazines...
The first thing I noticed as we stumbled from the bus, hot and drowsy, was the friendliness of the locals. We were greeted by a man who offered to show us to our hostel, and whilst we'd experienced this in Fez and fully expected to be demanded money when we got there, no such thing happened. He wished us a pleasant stay and continued to the main square.
IT BLUE ME AWAY
I'm not even sorry for that pun. The city's colour palette includes every shade of blue imaginable: aqua, indigo, azure... it's incredibly photogenic.
The vibe of the city is relaxed and it creates far more enjoyable market experience than Marrakech. The medina is full of stalls selling traditional Moroccan slippers, Aztec-patterned bags and blankets, paintings brass teapots and silverware... and more. If you're not afraid to barter, you could walk away with some reasonably priced spices or leather goods, too.
The city has a population of approximately 40,000, yet you can still find a quiet spot in the medina's maze to marvel at the crooked azure laneways and meet some local residents...
WHY IS IT BLUE?
There are many varying stories of how this city became to be blue, but the generally accepted is that Jewish refugees who settled here in the 1930s splashed the colour blue across the city as a symbol of the heavens and sky.
Besides having religious significance and being aesthetically pleasing, it has a practical benefit too - blue is said to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects that live at the same elevations as Chefchaouen.
The city is constantly being repainted, and we managed to catch this man at work.
The city is surrounded by dramatic peaks, which makes it an excellent base for hiking excursions. Waterfalls, valleys and gorges are in abundance in this mountain landscape.
We took a shared taxi to the start of the walking track to Cascades d'Akchour, and spent full day of hiking through the forest, before taking a refreshing dip in the turquoise pool.
CTM is the government-run bus company, and they provide safe, reliable and comfortable transport. We took a bus from Fez (6 hours) and it cost around 75DH (6 pounds). The medina is around 25 minutes walk from the bus stop.
Where to Stay in Chefchaouen
We, and many other backpackers, flocked to Souika. a basic but sufficient hostel with a spacious roof terrace. Dorm beds start from 60DH (around 5 pounds). There's lots of other options available if you're not feeling Souika.