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A White City, Little Explored and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

One of the aspirations of every traveler is to find surprisingly beautiful cities that are still unexplored by mass tourism. This is, to a great extent, what Tetuan offers: it is relatively small, not always part of the major circuits, but its beauty is certified with an unmistakable distinction: that of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we tell you everything you need to know about this destination in the north that will not disappoint you.

Table of Contents

Where is Tetouan?

Tetouan is located in northern Morocco, in the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region. It is not a coastal city, but it is not far from the Mediterranean Sea: only about 10 km in a straight line from the coast, so its climate is typical of a seaside destination: with high relative humidity and milder temperatures than in other areas of the country, although with very hot summers.

How to get to Tetouan?

If you are planning to travel to Tetouan from other cities in Morocco, these are the distances that separate it from other major destinations:

  • Tangier: 60 km
  • Chaouen: 65 km
  • Asilah: 100 km
  • Al Hoceima: 230 km
  • Fez: 250 km
  • Rabat: 280 km
  • Casablanca: 360 km
  • Marrakech: 600 km
  • Agadir: 820 km
  • Ouarzazate: 790 km

To get directly to Tetouan, the most common way is by land, since some of the surrounding cities do represent important entry points into Moroccan territory. This is the case with:

  • Tangier: this city can be reached by plane or ferry, and from there by road to Tetouan, in a journey of just under an hour and a half
  • Ceuta: this Spanish city, located on African soil, is only 40 km away from Tetouan. Although it does not have an airport, it does have a heliport for helicopter trips from Spain. It also has an important passenger port, with many travelers coming from the Spanish city of Algeciras. However, if you come from Ceuta, keep in mind that you will have to dedicate additional time to border formalities

In any case, you should know that Tetouan also has its own airport: Tetouan-Sania Ramel Airport. It is small, with a limited flow of passengers per year and a reduced list of airlines and international routes, but they may be useful in certain cases. Madrid, Malaga, Seville, Brussels, and Amsterdam are some of the cities directly connected by this route, with companies like Royal Air Maroc or Ryanair.

However, Tetouan is not part of Morocco’s railway network, so you cannot come to this city by train. It is true that it has a historic and beautiful station, which was a stop on the Ceuta-Tetouan line, operational during the times of the Spanish Protectorate. But today it is ‘only’ a great museum and art center.

Tetouan: history and context​

Tetouan: history and context

The history of Tetouan is not as ancient as that of other Moroccan cities. However, it is essential to know it to understand what Tetouan is like today. And upon reviewing it, we realize that it has always been closely linked to Spain, either because of the domination that country exercised over it, territorial disputes, or the migration that was encouraged centuries ago.

Tetouan emerged as a city at the beginning of the 14th century, in the times of the Marinid sultanate of Abu Thabit, who conceived it as a stronghold to attack Ceuta. Shortly afterward, it ended up being a nest of Mediterranean pirates, which led King Enrique III of Castile to raze it around 1400.

After almost a century of abandonment, from 1492, it began to welcome Jews who had emigrated from Granada and the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Moriscos expelled later on. This significantly increased its population, which was also enriched by the Andalusian cultural refinement brought by the migrants. These were times of commercial blockade, promoted by the Spanish king Philip II, which ended up being overcome, especially later during the rule of Sultan Moulay Ismail from the end of the 17th century.

In the tumultuous 19th century, Tetouan was embroiled in the war against Spain from 1859-60, briefly coming under Spanish rule but returned to Morocco two years later. A dominion that became effective at the beginning of the 20th century, in times of European colonial fever, this time in the form of a Spanish Protectorate from 1913: it was a key period for the configuration of modern Tetouan, being the capital of that political entity.

Since 1956, Tetouan has been integrated into the independent Kingdom of Morocco, and in fact, the Royal Palace of the city continues to be a summer residence of the Alaouite monarch.

Traveling to Tetouan

Why travel to Tetouan?

If you need reasons to convince you to travel to Tetouan, here are some:

  • It is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, indicating its beauty and interest.
  • It is not as exploited by tourism as other Moroccan cities.
  • It offers an interesting mix between the Arab tradition of the medina and a clear Spanish influence in the Ensanche.
  • It is an interesting gastronomic destination, especially its pastry and bakery, being one of the most prestigious in Morocco in this respect.
  • It is very close to the Mediterranean Sea (10 km), but also to the most important destinations in the Rif Mountains.

What Not to Miss in Tetouan

In Tetouan, there are two clearly differentiated areas: its medina and its new city. Each of them has its own character, with monuments of interest from different perspectives. Below we review them.

O que ver em Tetuão

Medina of Tetouan

The medina of Tetouan is the area that inspires the popular name of this city: the White Dove, referring to the predominant color of its houses,

which spread over a hill and, like a dove, seem to want to take flight. But this poetic and peaceful name has little to do with the real atmosphere inside the walls of the medina: a flutter of people moving through its narrow streets, souks, and establishments, creating a very popular and genuinely Tetouan atmosphere.

Here we list the main historical monuments and places of interest in the medina:

  • Royal Palace or Caliph’s Palace
  • Place del Mechouar or Hassan II Square
  • El Yun Neighborhood
  • Kasbah
  • Bab Mkabar
  • Bab el Oqla and Ethnographic Museum
  • Regional Museum of Nationalism
  • Cemetery
  • Artisanal School
  • El-Blad Neighborhood
  • Mellah

New City or Ensanche of Tetouan

In a manner similar to what happened in many Spanish cities from the second half of the 19th century, an Ensanche, or expansion area, was developed in Tetouan. This is a new area with orderly and wide streets, which helped to decongest the historic center. It extends to the west of the medina and the Mechouar Square. Here is the list of most interesting places:

  • Church of Our Lady of Victory
  • Muley El Mehdi Square
  • Zauia Isauia
  • Feddan Square
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art

Tetouan for a Premium Traveler

While Tetouan may not appear among the main premium destinations in Morocco, it has services and places worthy of the most illustrious visitors. Proof of this is its main vacationer: King Mohamed VI, who often spends seasons in the Caliph’s Palace or Royal Palace. Therefore, if you travel to Tetouan intending to enjoy exclusive and high-quality services, you can take note of the following ideas:

The province of Tetouan, especially along the coast of Tamuda Bay, is known for hosting some of the most luxurious resorts and properties in Morocco. Some examples are:

  • Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay: This resort is located in Tamouda Bay and is a luxury option for those seeking exclusivity. Private villas with pools and a world-class spa are just some of the amenities it offers.
  • Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa: This is another luxurious resort located in Tamouda Bay, offering a Mediterranean experience with a Moroccan touch. It is known for its first-class services and luxury amenities.
  • Marina Smir Hotel & Spa: Located in the prestigious Marina Smir, this hotel and spa is a combination of traditional Moroccan luxury with modern amenities. Its proximity to the marina and luxurious facilities make it a popular choice.
  • Resorts in Kabila: Although Kabila is more known for its private residences, there are several luxury resorts and villas available for rent. They are ideal for those seeking a more private and exclusive experience.

For options in the city of Tetouan itself, you may need to consider luxury riads or boutique hotels that offer a more authentic experience but with all the modern comforts. Although the city of Tetouan is not as well known for ultra-luxury as other Moroccan cities, there are definitely hidden gems that offer high-end accommodation.

However, if you are looking for personalized advice and a tailor-made service, we recommend contacting Chic Morocco: our staff will be able to provide you with the appropriate information and organize a travel experience tailored to your needs, ensuring that your stay in Tetouan meets your expectations.

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