Chefchaouen – The Blue Pearl of Morocco
Anyone who follows Instagram travel bloggers has probably seen pictures of the famous Moroccan city of Chefchaouen. Nicknamed “The Blue Pearl” and nestled high against the peaks of the Rif mountains, this beautiful little town is one of the most laid back and jaw-droppingly beautiful places in the world. Tourism there has definitely taken an uptick in recent years – but it’s not an easy place to get to, and its remoteness keeps it from being an utter tourist nightmare. Be aware this will be a picture heavy blog entry, as words do this city no justice…
We hired a driver to take us by car from Fez, which was a sizeable 3.5-hour journey across the scenic tail end of the middle atlas and then into the Rif itself. Upon entering the medina, I was almost instantly floored with the beauty of the place. Tight, winding streets that are interlinked and interwoven in layers. They twist and wind up the mountainside in a kind of disorganised beauty – all of it painted the most brilliant in shades of pastel blue.
The city was established in 1471 when Moorish and Jewish people fled here to escape the Reconquista of Spain. Some people claim the blue was painted by the Jews who fled Hitler in the 1930s as a sign of defiance. Others claim it represents spirituality and the sea, but the locals will tell you it is simply to keep mosquitoes away. Whatever reason exists for the blue colouring, I can say I am thankful for it. This is a place of striking beauty.
Be aware that it is really damn cold up here. I came in January and even though I am from Finland, I felt myself underdressed and rather uncomfortable. I also found myself running out of superlatives in all the languages I know to describe the beauty of this place…
We wandered the streets, snapped hundreds of photographs and met lots of local street cats, as well as explored the Kasbah in the centre of town which gave us a nice view from the top.
Be sure to peruse the high quality, handmade leather goods that the region is known for. Just be aware that the price here is much higher than elsewhere, however, the quality and reputation of the leatherworking is the justification for the higher price.
I also had one of the best meals of slow-cooked lamb and harira soup I have ever eaten; “Casa Hassan Restaurante” which was recommended to us by our driver, impressed me significantly. The perfect lunch on a chilly winters day.
Worth noting is that Chefchaouen is the marijuana (or as our driver referred to it, “Moroccan Chocolate”) capital of the nation. You will be approached by people offering to sell it to you. If you aren’t into it, they can be dissuaded by a polite no thank you, but if you are particularly averse to things like this, it is something to take into consideration. The Rif also offers you some of the worlds best mountain hiking from here, but stay on the trails – Locals will not appreciate you wandering into their “chocolate” crop by mistake…
To this day, Chefchaouen remains one of the coolest places I have ever visited. Nowhere else is quite like it and I highly recommend that you make the extra effort required to get there!