Destination Inspiration: Chefchaouen, Morocco

Destination Inspiration: Chefchaouen, Morocco

Morocco’s most colourful city, Chefchaouen is a must-visit destination for its blue-washed streets, dazzling riads and traditional handicrafts. Read on for our pointers on where to eat, stay and play when in town


Chefchaouen, Morocco.

Why now?

Picture Morocco and the snapshots that spring to mind will most
likely be of dusty, sun-baked streets, donkey-drawn carts,
labyrinthine souks and elegant riads housed within ochre-coloured
sandstone walls. Sidestepping the likes of Fez, Casablanca and Marrakech, though, we’d like to
introduce you to the colourful and calming city of Chefchaouen – an
all-blue oasis also known as “the Blue Pearl of Morocco”. Slotted
high in the country’s Rif Mountains, the city proves a soothing
counterpoint to its terracotta-tiled neighbours. Each year the
town’s buildings are freshened up with a new coat of blue paint, in
a custom that dates back to the 15th century. The reason? Jews
fleeing the Spanish Inquisition settled in large numbers here,
bringing with them their tradition of painting things blue to
mirror the sky and remind them of God.

Today, the cobalt-hued streets remain refreshingly free of the
tourist crowds found in other Moroccan cities. Stroll from the main
square of Plaza Uta el Hammam to the medina, where narrow
passageways are peppered with local artisans selling handmade
crafts. From henna dyes to spices, brassware, ceramics and
intricately embroidered garments, a slice of culture is evident in
every brimming basket. Also carve out some time to visit the Kasbah
Museum. The former fort-turned-ethnographic museum and art gallery
showcases ancient artefacts and traditional decorations, and has
several pristine gardens in which to bask the afternoon away.

A grand door, left, and one of the city’s narrow
passageways. | Photo credit: Dimitrie Stanescu & Tienko Dima /

Don’t miss

Nature lovers should visit the Ras el Maa waterfall, situated
just outside the medina and surrounded by sprawling woodland. Once
a spot where local women would come to wash their clothes, it is
today more popular for a cooling dip. Hankering for a hike? The
nearby Jebel el Kalaa mountain offers spectacular views, which make
the six-to-seven-hour stomp to the summit well worth the sweat.

Where to stay?

Truth be told, the city isn’t exactly flooded with design-driven
boltholes, but that’s all part of its charm. For an authentic taste
of Moroccan living, book into the 18th-century guesthouse Riad La Santa. Flaunting seven bedrooms, eight
bathrooms and sweeping skyline views, the 800sq m property will
delight interior lovers – think stained-glass windows, colourful
tiles and handcrafted furnishings. If you’re looking for a
purse-friendly option, La Petite Chefchaouen is a great

Where to go for breakfast?

If we could start every morning with a freshly pressed orange
juice in Triana’s
courtyard, we absolutely would. Kick-start your day with a bowl of
healthy grains, or opt for a full English fry-up – with a side of
flaky pastries, obvs. This is also a hotspot for long, lazy
lunches. Return mid-afternoon for seafood salads, enormous paella
bowls and five-cheese pizzas.

Colourful spices and dyes lining the streets, left, and
persian rugs. | Photo credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky &
Photoestetica /

And for dinner…

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the best way to
discover a country’s heritage is through its cuisine. And what
better way to appreciate the many flavours of Chefchaouen than to
cook them yourself? At Café Clock, visitors are invited to join the
chef in the kitchen for a four-hour cooking class – there’s also a
three-hour patisserie class for those with more of a sweet tooth.
If you’d prefer not to get your hands dirty, head straight up to
the rooftop to snag a table. The vibrant menu includes falafel
bowls, crispy cauliflower platters and gazpacho – all served up
alongside bird’s-eye views.

Who to take with you?

That friend who’s a Parkrun regular. They’ll appreciate
Chefchaouen’s challenging climbs and bountiful green spaces.

Essentials to pack

Shorts that we can wear both through passport control and on our
hike? We’ll take three pairs, please. Pack these Lululemon Fast and Free 8″ shorts for the
ultimate stretch and comfort. Designed to absorb moisture and dry
quickly, they have two handy slip pockets in which to stash your
essentials when out exploring.

How to get there

There are no direct flights from the UK to Chefchaouen. We
suggest flying from London Gatwick to Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport,
from where the city’s blue-painted streets are a two-hour drive

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