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Tetouan: Between Mountains and Clouds

Stella has travelled widely throughout the Mediterranean and owns a holiday home there, so she has written extensively about this region.

A view over the old part of Tetouan, a place unchanged for centuries.

A view over the old part of Tetouan, a place unchanged for centuries.

Between Mountains and Clouds

The Moroccan city of Tetouan is located a short distance from Morocco’s Northern seaboard, 60 km east of Tangier. It stands in the Martil valley near the Rif Mountains.

Visitors to Tetouan will usually arrive from Europe via Ferries across the Straits of Gibraltar which sail frequently between Algeciras in Spain and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. Ferries also sail from Algeciras or Tarifa to Tangier. The ferries are all of a high standard and reasonably priced for both cars and foot passengers alike. There is the choice of a leisurely sailing taking up to two hours or a fast ferry which takes little more than thirty-five minutes. The pleasant sea journey is made more enjoyable with views of dolphins as they follow the ferries.

Tangier has an international airport, thus making Tetouan accessible to overseas visitors who hail from outside of Europe. There is also an international airport at Tetouan which is gearing itself up to accept new routes in the near future which will make the whole coastal area between the two locations a more popular tourist destination. A road tunnel under The Straits of Gibraltar is also in the pipeline which is projected to increase European visitors to Tetouan ten-fold.

Travel in Morocco is inexpensive and reliable and the rail and road infrastructure is sound. The visitor who does not drive will not be at a disadvantage in the main tourist areas. Tetouan has an abundance of taxis which are cheap and reliable but often you will be asked to share with other people requesting the same destination.

The coastal journey from Tangier to Tetouan offers magnificent views of Mount Moses which is reputedly the other half of The Rock of Gibraltar. There is a quicker route but the coastal road is a must for photographers and lovers of natural landscape.

Near Tetouan, there are miles of unspoilt beaches and scenery to enjoy at Tamuda Bay. The King of Morocco himself has been known to go jet skiing here and has his summer palace nearby. This area is also known as ‘The Golden Mile ‘due to its popularity with tourists and the abundance of activities on offer. An excellent selection of activities is also available to holidaymakers in the seaside nearby town of M'diq which boasts a wonderful selection of seafood restaurants and shops in a pleasant pedestrian-friendly environment.

Although The Costa del Sol of Southern Spain is little more than ten miles distant, Tetouan is a world away and offers an opportunity to discover a totally different culture and atmosphere as well as providing the discerning tourist with the tranquillity that Spain has sadly lost.

TheTetouan market place is where tourists and  locals alike can shop for a bargain.

TheTetouan market place is where tourists and locals alike can shop for a bargain.

In Tetouan

Tetouan itself is a mystical, magical place set against a mountain backdrop. From the highest vantage point, the visitor will feel that they are standing somewhere between mountains and clouds. The view of the coast and the Mediterranean is breathtaking.

The sights and sounds of the souks; the old medina; the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer and the bustling market all succeed in giving Tetouan a unique atmosphere. The sweetly scented orchards which surround the city contain pomegranates, almonds, oranges and cypress trees.

Hiring an on-foot guide is advisable within the walls of the old medina; a guide can take the tourist to places of interest within this labyrinthine part of the town that they might otherwise fail to find. All official guides carry ID, there is no set fee for their services and they will ask you only to pay what you think they are worth. You will be taken to see another of the King’s many palaces, a tannery, shops selling beautifully inlaid boxes and leather goods and carpets of every design and hue. The guide will always ask you which shops you would prefer to visit and there is no pressure to buy anything if you do not want to. There will also be a stop for a refreshing mint tea or lunch if your time allows.

Within the ancient cobbled streets of the Medina, you can barter for souvenirs to your heart's content, returning home with excellent gifts at amazingly low prices. Weavers, jewellers, carpenters and other various craftsmen can be seen carrying out their crafts with intricate detail as the visitor walks past their individual shop fronts. With skills handed down through the centuries, they are likely to provide you with a unique souvenir of your holiday that you will cherish for a long time to come.

The modern part of Tetouan boasts a huge Majane hypermarket that sells just about everything. There's a selection of shops and boutiques and pleasant gardens.

Summer visitors to Tetouan will most likely stay in the nearby developments in and around Marina Smir. Recommended self-catering locations are to be found at Capo Negro which is only ten minutes away from Tetouan which boasts a magnificent golf course. Also worthy of mention is the Jawhara Smir development which was recently featured on a UK TV programme as providing outstanding holiday accommodation. For those who prefer a hotel-centred holiday, there is an opulent Barcelo Marina Smir at Tamuda Bay or the Kabila hotel which is slightly nearer to Tetouan.

Whether Tetouan is chosen as a holiday destination on its own or in combination with another location in Northern Morocco there is ample opportunity to enjoy a holiday to remember with such a wide choice of activities and day trips available in the immediate vicinity.

Accommodation Options:

Accommodation in Tetouan itself is largely limited to hotels but there is a huge variety of vacation rental homes in the surrounding areas. You can hire anything from a prestigious seafront villa to a well-appointed family apartment on a gated complex. The king of Morocco views tourism as the way ahead and has made every attempt to encourage the tourist industry. Constant improvement is noticeable in the quality of the roads, transport and infrastructure that can easily accommodate an influx of tourists in the summer months as well as being of vast benefit to the existing population.

The Medina

 A tour of the Medina of Tetouan is an experience not to be missed.

A tour of the Medina of Tetouan is an experience not to be missed.

A Tetouan Mosque

A tour of Tetouan will give you an opportunity to see many beautiful mosques.

A tour of Tetouan will give you an opportunity to see many beautiful mosques.

Getting to Northern Morocco

Most tourists to Northern Morocco arrive via Southern Spain on ferries and this in itself is a spectacular journey that takes you across the Straits of Gibraltar. On the way, you can see the coasts of two continents—Europe and Africa. For those in a rush, there are fast ferries that can get you to the ports of Ceuta or Tangier in just thirty-five minutes but you can easily find a boat that will cater for a more leisurely trip.

Tangier has its own airport and a transfer from Tangier to Tetouan will take approximately one hour and twenty minutes. This is the most direct route but if time is no object then the coastal route will be a high point of your holiday as you will spot many interesting natural features along the way. There are the options of buses, Grand taxis and rental cars. The roads in Northern Morocco are modern and in a good state of repair.

One of the King of Morocco's imperial palaces. The ornate gate of the palace at Tetouan.

One of the King of Morocco's imperial palaces. The ornate gate of the palace at Tetouan.

© 2016 Stella Kaye