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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 still unexplored by mass tourism. And that is, to a large extent, what Tetouan offers: it is relatively small, it is not always part of the great circuits but its beauty is accredited with an unmistakable distinctive: that of Unesco World Heritage. Here we tell you everything you need to know about this northern destination, which will not disappoint you.

Table of Contents

Where is Tetuán?

Tetouan is located in the north of Morocco, in the region of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima. It is not a coastal city, but it is not far from the Mediterranean Sea: it is only about 10 km away from the coastline, so its climate is typical of a seaside destination: with abundant relative humidity in the environment and temperatures warmer 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 important 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 is to do it by land, since some of the surrounding cities do represent important gateways to Moroccan territory. This is the case of:

  • Tangier: this city can be reached by plane or ferry, and from there by road to Tetouan, 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. What it does have is an important passenger port, mainly coming from the Spanish city of Algeciras. However, if you are coming from Ceuta, please note that you will have to spend additional time on 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 can be useful in certain cases. Madrid, Malaga, Seville, Brussels or Amsterdam are some of the cities directly connected by this route, with companies such as Royal Air Maroc or Ryanair.

On the other hand, Tetouan is not part of the Moroccan railroad network, so you will not be able to come by train to this city. It is true that it has a historic and beautiful station, which was a stop on the Ceuta-Tetuan line, operating during the time of the Spanish Protectorate. But today it is ‘just’ a large museum and art center.

Tetouan: history and context​

Tetouan: history and context

The history of Tetouan is not as old as that of other cities in Morocco. However, it is essential to know it in order to understand what Tetouan is like today. And when we review it, we realize that it has always been closely linked to Spain, either by the dominion that country exercised over it, by the territorial disputes or by the emigration that took place centuries ago.

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

After almost a century of abandonment, since 1492 it began to receive Jewish emigrants from Granada and the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Moors expelled some time later. This led to a significant increase in 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 was eventually overcome, especially later during the rule of Sultan Moulay Ismail from the end of the 17th century.

In the turbulent 19th century, Tetouan was involved in the war against Spain in 1859-60, passing briefly to Spanish rule but returned to Morocco two years later. A domain that ended up being effective at the beginning of the 20th century, in times of European colonialist fever, this time in the form of Spanish Protectorate since 1913: it was a key period for the configuration of modern Tetouan, being the capital of that political entity.

Since 1956, Tetouan became part of the independent Kingdom of Morocco, and in fact the Royal Palace of the city remains a summer residence of the Alaouite monarch.

Traveling to Tetouan

Why travel to Tetouan?

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

  1. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, which indicates its beauty and interest.
  2. It is not as touristically exploited as other cities in Morocco.
  3. It offers an interesting mix between the Arab tradition of the medina and an evident Spanish influence in the Ensanche.
  4. It is an interesting gastronomic destination, especially its pastry and confectionery, being one of the most prestigious in Morocco in this respect.
  5. It is very close to the Mediterranean Sea (10 km), but also to the most important destinations of the Rif mountains.

What not to miss in Tetuán

In Tetouan there are two clearly differentiated areas: its medina and its new city. And each of them has its own character, with monuments of interest from different points of view. The following is an overview of 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, in reference to the predominant color of its hamlet, which spreads over a hill and, like a dove, seems to want to fly away. 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, forming a very popular and genuine Tetouanese atmosphere.

Listed below are the main historical monuments and places of interest in the medina:

  • Royal Palace or Caliph’s Palace
  • Place du Mechouar or Place du Hassan II
  • Neighborhood of El Yun
  • Kasbah
  • Bab Mkabar
  • Bab el Oqla and Ethnographic Museum
  • Regional Museum of Nationalism
  • Cemetery
  • Craft school
  • El-Blad neighborhood
  • Mellah

New City or Ensanche de Tetuán

In the image and likeness of what happened in many Spanish cities since the second half of the 19th century, an Ensanche was developed in Tetuan. In other words, a new area based on orderly and wide streets, which helped to decongest the historic center. It extends to the west of the medina and the Place du Mechouar. This is the list of the 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

Tetouan may not appear among Morocco’s top premium destinations, but it has amenities and sites worthy of the most illustrious visitors. And proof of this is its main vacationer: King Mohammed VI, who usually spends time at the Caliph’s Palace or Royal Palace. Therefore, if you are traveling to Tetouan with the intention of enjoying 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 Morocco’s most luxurious resorts and properties. 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 offered.
  • 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 its luxury facilities make it a popular choice.
  • Resorts in Kabila: Although Kabila is best known for its private residences, there are several luxury resorts and villas available for rent. They are ideal for those looking for a more private and exclusive experience.

For options in the city of Tetouan itself, you may have to consider luxury riads or boutique-hotels that offer a more authentic experience but with all the modern conveniences. 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 accommodations.

However, if you are looking for personalized advice and a tailor-made service, we recommend you to contact Chic Morocco: our staff will be able to provide you with the right information and organize a tailor-made travel experience, so that your stay in Tetouan lives up to your expectations.

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