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Even if you haven’t been to Chefchaouen, you’ve seen a photo of this stunning city. Located on a northern tip of Morocco (almost as close to Spain as you can get before hopping on a boat), Chefchaouen is also called the “Blue Pearl of Morocco” by travelers around the world. And it’s not hard to see how it got its nickname.
Search the location on Instagram and your eyes will fill with images of blue-washed walls and walkways; on a clear, sunny day, it would be the most magical kind of maze. But dig a little deeper and you’ll start seeing the same photos. In other words, Chefchaouen is about much more than a few streets painted blue, despite what Instagram might show you.
The city dates back to 1471 and played a very important role in trade routes between Tetuan and Fez. Its location in the Rif Mountains made it tough to access, also keeping the routes safe from enemies looking to intercept trade activity. Now, Chefchaouen has its own permanent bustling retail culture, with markets covering the entire city in boldly colored textiles and spices. The town was also the destination at the end of a slightly treacherous route that delivered those seeking refuge from the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century—and that's where the blue buildings come into play. The city received an influx of Jewish people fleeing the inquisition and they brought the tradition of painting buildings blue with them, according to Insider.
But don’t get lost in the blues––the city is surrounding by the stunning valleys and lush landscapes you can only get when you visit a mountain town slightly off the beaten tourist path.
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Waterfalls may not be the first thing you think of when you conjure images of Morocco, but Chefchaouen has its own called Ras el Maa, or “Head of the Water.” It’s a popular place for locals to gather and do laundry, socialize, or take a quick dip. There’s a café nearby to help that whole relaxation process along.
Hikers will find paradise in Chefchaouen’s surrounding areas. There are trails that cater to all skill levels, making it easy to hop out of the city for a quick jaunt or a longer adventure into the mountains. Some trails to look into: Lookout Point, which has stunning aerial views of the city; Journey Beyond Travel, which provides guides for longer treks into the Rif Mountains; and Targa, a mosque just south of the city’s medina that’s waiting to be explored.
Feel free to plan your trip around those dreamy blue streets––but surely don’t miss out on the many other things Chefchaouen has to offer.