Chefchaouen: A Blue-Hued Oasis in Morocco’s Rif Mountains

Before embarking on my three-week Moroccan adventure, I spent two days in Casablanca before continuing to Chefchaouen for a few days. The drive from Casablanca to Chefchaouen took about 4.5 hours—winding through scenic countryside and the Rif Mountains.

Nestled within the majestic Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen was a refreshing departure from the hustle and bustle of Casablanca. Renowned for its azure-hued buildings, a tradition dating back to the 15th century, this charming town boasts a serene atmosphere that captivates visitors.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Mural on the way into town

The azure facades, chosen by Jewish refugees to symbolize the sky and deter pests with indigo, stand out beautifully against the mountain backdrop. Explore the winding stairway alleys adorned with vibrant flowerpots, adding splashes of color to the cobblestone streets and walls.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Blue gives the area a calm feel and keeps the homes cool
Chefchaouen, Morocco
Plants adorning the building

The town’s architecture blends Moroccan and Andalusian influences, with intricate doorways and graceful arched windows. Plaza Uta el-Hammam serves as the vibrant heart of Chefchaouen, filled with lively cafes and the historic Kasbah. Explore the bustling markets, which sell everything from handwoven rugs and traditional attire to delicious local produce.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Some to the shops lining the streets

As I strolled through Chefchaouen, I couldn’t help but notice many locals dressed in unique traditional attire, with one standout accessory being the chichia hat (pronounced ‘sheshia’). Originating from the Rif Mountains region of Morocco, particularly prominent in towns like Chefchaouen, the chichia hat is a classic piece of headwear. Crafted from woven reeds or straw, it’s often adorned with colorful pompoms or tassels.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chichia hat (pronounced 'sheshia')

It wasn’t just the beautiful blue buildings in Chefchaouen that grabbed my attention— but also the local cats. They’re everywhere—nestled in bike baskets, stretched out on steps, or perched in window seats, watching the world go by. When dining outside, these cats might circle your table, some even bold enough to join you. I had one jump right into my lap after I finished my meal! Most aren’t quite that daring, but they’re definitely a part of the scene here.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
One of the many cats in the town
Chefchaouen, Morocco
More furry friends

Don’t miss the trail behind the village that heads up to the Spanish Mosque. It’s a quick hike, but the payoff is huge, with stunning views of the city spread out below you. While up there, find a spot on the grass and catch the sunset. Seeing the city glow under the fading sunlight is truly a sight to remember.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
View from the Spanish Mosque as the sun was setting

In Chefchaouen, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to dining, with restaurants ranging from casual to fancy and everything in between. One evening, we opted for the terrace of Triana, which offers a fusion of Italian, Mediterranean, and Moroccan cuisine. I indulged in a delightful goat cheese salad followed by a mouthwatering Hot Goat Cheese Tartlet drizzled with honey (yes, I’m a goat cheese enthusiast!). Interestingly, the goat cheese was locally sourced and absolutely fantastic.

Chefchaouen isn’t just a place to visit; it’s an experience that encourages you to take it slow and appreciate the simpler things. Whether getting lost in the medina or relaxing in a quiet cafe, the town leaves a lasting impression.

Looking for the Chefchaouen highlights?

Here’s my take:

1. Enjoy the Blue Medina: It’s a maze of streets that asks to be explored, with those blue walls grabbing your attention at every corner.

2. Kasbah Museum: This is an old fortress turned museum that has all the history of Chefchaouen you could want.

3. Hire a tour guide: a great way to learn more about this beautiful city.

4. Take a Hike: The hike to the Spanish Mosque is all about the payoff with some killer panoramic views, especially as the day starts or ends.

5. Souk Shopping: The market is the place to go for a bit of haggling and to pick up some local goods, from spices to handmade crafts.

6. Moroccan Eats: Dive into the food scene with a tagine or couscous; you can load them with meat or keep them veggie.

7. Day Trip to Akchour Waterfalls: This is not too far from town and is absolutely worth the trip for the views and a bit of nature. It’s an 8.6-mile out-and-back.