In addition to being an absolutely gorgeous, much-instagrammed city of vibrant blue in northern Morocco that has most travellers in fits of wanderlust, Chefchaouen is a particularly special place for me to be visiting. I grew up in Issaquah, a suburb just outside of Seattle, and Chefchaouen is surprisingly our sister city! (How Issaquah managed this, I will never know.) Among other things, there is a fairly active exchange program between the cities— mum and I hosted Hind, an absolutely lovely girl from Chefchaouen, for the summer when I was 15.
I truly couldn’t be more excited to finally visit Chefchaouen and see Hind, who has so sweetly made the trip home from Tangier, where she is studying engineering, to host me and my friend Katy for a few days. She is clearly as lovely and thoughtful as ever!
All the details: Chefchaouen
Getting there: The easiest way of getting to Chefchaouen is to take the CTM bus from Fes, departing several times per day from the bus station (8am, 11am, 12pm, 4.15pm, 11.45pm) for 75Dh. When we went to buy tickets, however, they were completely sold out, so we ended up paying a taxi 600Dh to make the drive (about 30€ each for a 3 hour drive). Ask your riad in Fes to help you organise this: one of the staff walked us all the way to the taxi rank (also at the bus station) and helped us negotiate a fair price.
What to do: Once in Chefchaouen, there are a million things to do, although you’ll easily occupy time just wandering through the narrow blue lanes and admiring the vibrant blue doors. Wander through Outa el Hammam & Kasbah; walk up to the Spanish Mosque for views of the town from above; head to Hotel Atlas Chaouen for more aerial views over the sea of blue houses; try some of the amazing street food, such as msemmen (similar to crepes). Read more about what to do in Chefchaouen.
Me and Hind in front of Issaquah’s Blue Door in 2009
Me and Hind in front of Chefchaouen’s Blue Door in 2017
Katy and I originally planned to take the CTM bus that runs thrice daily from Fes to Chefchaouen for just 75Dh, but we were forced to re-evaluate when we went to purchase tickets yesterday and learned that the route is entirely sold out for the next few days. With the help of the wonderful people at our riad in Fes, though, we thankfully manage to secure a private car that will make the 3 hour drive for 600Dh. Despite being quadruple the price of taking the bus, we are still happy to pay for the car because we are that eager to get to the Blue City!
Me, Hind, and Katy at the Hotel Atlas Chaouen
Looking out from the Hotel Atlas Chaouen
View over the Blue City
Hind finds us in the café where I have stopped to enjoy a mint tea, and then takes us on a tour of her beautiful home, the entirety of which I would recommend to anyone visiting Chefchaouen. Our first stop is the Hotel Atlas Chaouen, from which we are treated to sweeping views of the city beneath us. It’s so wonderful to finally be in this place I’ve thought so much about, and it’s actually even more beautiful than I imagined, so I am smiling ear to ear as I peer over the balcony at the sea of blue and white houses below.
On the way to drop off our things at Hind’s home, we stop at a blue door to recreate a photo Hind and I took 8 years ago in front of Issaquah’s blue door, as per my very excited request, and then head back out to explore Chefchaouen on foot. Even walking through the narrow blue streets is amazing, with every single angle postcard-worthy.
Every single street is in this city is a photo op
Colourful bags of dye line the marketplace
Another stunning blue door
Photographing every inch of this city
Hind and Katy shopping in the market
Little painting of the Blue City
Katy modelling the latest desert fashion
After taking several hundred photos in front of blue walls, blue steps, blue fountains, and blue doors, we climb to a terrace restaurant and enjoy great conversation over couscous and views of the bustling city square. We discuss our plans for the next few days, which will involve hiking to waterfalls in Akchour and lazing on the beach in Oued Laou. Honestly, what more could I ask for?
I also get the chance at lunch to interrogate Hind about Moroccan customs. Like, why is no one out on the streets before 10am (people sleep in until mid-morning in the summer, take siestas during the busiest part of the afternoon, and then come out after dark when it’s cooler), what on earth are those incredible Moroccan crepes called (msemmen), and what do you do at a hammam (it’s a bath house, which is basically a public sauna where women go to scrub down).
Impossibly beautiful fountain in Chefchaouen
After lunch, Hind wants to show us her favourite view of the city from Bouzaafar, the Spanish Mosque, so we climb the steep hill behind the city for about 20 minutes to reach the top. If I was impressed by the view from the Hotel Atlas, I am simply blown away by the beauty of the city as seen from the Mosque. We happily spend over an hour sitting and watching the sun lower over the blue roofs and the prickly cacti on the hill. Hind tells us that, long ago, Jewish refugees settled in the city and painted many of their homes blue. Sadly, many of these Jews were the victims of discrimination, and so the Moroccans painted all the city’s buildings blue so that it was impossible to distinguish between new and original residents, Jew or Muslim. It’s a beautiful story of acceptance, and it only makes me love this city more.
Me and Hind overlooking the city
Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque
Me and Katy at the Spanish Mosque
The view from the Spanish Mosque
Enjoying some local delicacies
On our way back down, we enjoy my instant Moroccan favourite, msemmen covered in cheese. Crepes in hand, we walk through the city and pay a modest 10Dh to enter place Outa el Hammam & kasbah, the prominent terracotta-coloured fortress in the centre of the city, where we walk through stunning gardens and climb once again for views of the surrounding blue buildings.
Over the most incredible meal I’ve ever had in my life, I gush to Hind about how amazing her home is and how I can hardly believe it’s taken me 8 years to visit. I’m already dreaming of a return trip! Chefchaouen is unbelievably beautiful and worth all of its growing internet hype, so drop everything and get yourself to the Blue City before the masses catch wind and start flocking here by the millions. And, if at all possible, get yourself a local friend to make the visit that much better.