Berber: Tittawin; meaning The Eyes, The Water Springs
Another short weekend in Morocco after we found another impossible to miss deal with British Airways+Iberia. Not only the air fare was great, but was also having such interconnecting flights via Madrid to Tetouan all with the Oneworld Alliance, meaning more Tier Points and Avios that we can for sure use to keep booking reward flights as we generally do through the year. As you can imagine, not every flight we are doing every weekend is paid by cash; but having a good planning and organisation means getting free flights or paying a tiny fraction of the full price for great destinations.
After the impressive experience 3 weeks ago when visiting Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis and Fez; this time our trip was way simpler and easier. While landing in Tangier, we left immediately towards the beautiful and so historic city of Tetouan, main reason for this trip. Once more, another city included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing because of its impressive ancient Medina, palaces and mosques covering so many centuries of history and architecture, and that great level of preservation and restoration, plus the “new city” next to the Medina, in traditional southern Spain architecture. A remark in here, this region of Morocco in the north was part of the Spanish colony, not the French who had the southern half of the country.
Often bypassed by tourist en-route to other destinations such as Tangier, Ceuta or Chefchaouen, it is perfect for spending half a day. There is no need to calculate any longer because of its small overall size with the sights very near each other and resumed to just the Medina and immediately around it at the “new city”. Our time was also very limited, hence why we returned to Tangier later in the afternoon on this same day where our hotel was.
If you are counting with more time that what we had, then you can also plan half a day extra for visiting Ceuta; the small Spanish territory by the Straight of Gibraltar. Another very small but pretty city. The only hassle is having to cross the border twice, to enter Spain, and to re-enter Morocco.
Tetouan is an incredible beautiful city and quite unique architecturally speaking. Both the ancient Medina and the “new city” are masterpieces. But perhaps in this case I liked more the “new city”. It was very different to what we saw at the other cities 3 weeks ago. Here was the heart of the Spanish colony, hence the architecture is traditional Andalusian, while the other half of the country was French, hence a very Parisian, art-deco and art-nouveau influenced.
For more information about Tétouan check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Morocco’s currency is the Dirham. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Tetouan
- New City Like for almost any city in Morocco, the 20th century extension was done during the colonial times and retains very elegant avenues and squares following a grid pattern. Strongly influence by Andalusian style.
-Avenue Mohamed V The main artery through the Nouvelle Ville and leading direct to the Royal Palace and Medina gates.
-The Fountain Square Centrepiece of the neighbourhood with very beautiful buildings dominating at all sides and all streets.
-Al Fedan Square The most beautiful in the city diving the Nouvelle Ville with the Old Medina.
- Royal Palace Located just outside by the main entrance gate to the Medina, in Al Fedan Square.
- Medina Included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list for being one of the most complete to survive almost intact since its creation, and for being unique with a combination of Andalusian, Jewish and Berber quarters.
- Old Kasbah Outside of the Medina itself, to the north, on top of a small hill overlooking the entire town, mountain range and beyond.
The nearest international airport is Tangier at 63 kilometres to the west, which will be your main point of arrival if coming from outside. If coming from anywhere else in Morocco, Tetouan has its own airport but only serves very few national routes. We found a great deal with Iberia from London to Tangier via Madrid, and on the return via Madrid again on a short stopover.
There is no rail connecting the city, meaning the only public transport available is grand taxis (shared taxis) which depart often from Tangier and other cities nearby, even to/from Ceuta, the small portion Spain in Morocco’s soil. The downside of solely having this option are the prices. At Tangier Airport you can see a list of fixed prices (even though the driver will try to ask for more, but insist on stick to the listed fares). So while to the city centre of Tangier is 150 Dirhams (with some variations depending on which hotels you go if they are farther), the fare from the airport direct to the centre of Tetouan is 350 Dirhams (around 25 GBP as today’s change). As you can see this is not a cheap business, as now you need to consider the return will set you up on the same cost.
A bit cheaper will be getting a grand taxi from the airport to Gare Routiere (the main bus station in downtown Tangier), this is 150 Dirham, and get on the first bus departing towards Tetouan from here. Many companies operate and it can be chaotic to figure it out where even to get your tickets, but ask the people and they will help you and point you on the right direction.
Within the city there is no need for taking any public transportation, which in any case is only buses or petit taxis. Everything within and surrounding the Medina is a short walking distance from the sights, furthermore the small streets inside the Medina are pedestrian and bike/motorbike only.
I cannot say nor recommend you anything in Tetouan in the sense of accommodation because we did not stay overnight here, but back at our base, Tangier. A much bigger city with way more choice and better deals, making it easier to find a good place to stay. So unless you are continuing on a tour moving elsewhere south after Tetouan, then I would strongly suggest you to also get a hotel in Tangier and make a day trip from here as we did.
Tangier boasts a great selection of hotels, from very large resort to modest family run businesses, and of course the famous riads inside the Medina. The city is however, a growing holiday resort that benefits from its sandy beaches, sun and nice weather that starts earlier in the year due to its southern location, therefore depending on the season it’s likely for the prices to go up or getting the nice properties fully booked ahead of time.
For us, still off-season yet pure summer weather, well enough to enjoy the beach (but expect cold water), we managed to find a good deal at one of the larger properties, Hotel El Oumnia Puerto. Located right behind the main promenade, meters away from the beach, was perfect!. While our initial aim was for getting one of the hotels along the promenade overlooking the sea, after reading the many reviews at all, we found that majority of the complaints were addressed to the noise of the bars, discos and restaurants, and the road itself. In the other hand a hotel just a street behind the promenade will save you from this. The walking distance to the old Medina is matter of few minutes, so you are really good located in the middle of everything.
It was very nice, yet kind of ugly from the outside. In any case, do not judge the exterior appearances, what is important is the inside which was nice and to the standards. Very nice and friendly staff, large room with comfortable bed and nice breakfast, which seemed strange to us as we were expecting a breakfast similar to the ones we had 3 weeks ago at the other cities in Morocco we travelled which were very average to even poor. The pool was also large and in good shape and good care. Definitely a nice choice.