Tetouan: An Insider’s Guide to the North African Gem

Seven miles from the Mediterranean Sea, along the Martil River, lies Tetouan. Tetouan is a modern Morocco city with beaches and an excellent reputation. The city has a beautiful setting with modern streets and has around-the-clock activities making it a great tourist attraction around Morocco.

The city of Tetouan in the northern part of Morocco means ‘eyes’ in the Berber language. The name probably was derived from the hasty development of the town by the Muslim and Andalusian refugees of Spain. Perched atop the slope of a narrow valley with a huge dark mass of rock, it is surrounded by the majestic mountains in the south and the west.

Like almost all of Morocco’s historic cities, the first place to visit when you travel to Tetouan is its old town or medina, but the city has a lot more to offer than that.

So without further ado, Let’s dive in!

Tetouan City

An Introduction To Exploring Tetouan

In this quick informative guide, we will learn some interesting facts about Tetouan Moroccan city, its weather, its location, and what makes it worth visiting.

A Closer Look At Tetouan City

How can we explain that Tetuan’s unique history and culture are generally ignored despite the city’s vibrant cultural legacy, despite the massive documentation for studying this subject during the last five centuries in Arabic, Spanish, English, and French is impressive.

Tetouan, often written Tetuán, is a Moroccan city in north-central Morocco. There are 7 miles (11 kilometers) between it and the Mediterranean Sea, along the Martil River (Wadi Martil). The word’s origin comes from the Berber term “Titawin,” which stands for eyes.

The settlement is built on a rocky plateau that separates it from the southern face of Mount Dersa, which it overlooks. The ancient Roman village of Tamuda was located just above the present-day city of Rome. The Idrisid dynasty first occupied Tetouan in the 9th century, and it was fortified by the Marinid dynasty in the 14th century when the city was renamed Tetouan.

In addition to being a commercial center, Tétouan has a thriving economy centered on handicrafts and the light industry. As a cultural center, it has a music school, multiple craft schools, national museums of archaeology and traditional arts, an archival library, and an archive. It is linked to the cities of Tangier, Al-Hoceima, and Ouazzane by the road network.

Agricultural products grown in the surrounding region include cereals (mainly wheat), citrus fruits (particularly oranges), tea, sheep, goats, cattle, cork, and olive trees. Because of its proximity to Mediterranean beaches, the city is a favorite tourist destination for many Moroccans, particularly in the summer.

It is currently a city of 380,787 people, the 11th largest in Morocco, and part of the Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima administrative region.

What is the weather like in Tetouan?

The climate of Tétouan is Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. Nearby are the Rif Mountains, which can be covered with snow in winter.

However, snow is scarce in the city, although in January 2005, there was a snowfall. In 1956, the temperature dropped to -4 °C (25 °F). The city is exposed to the east wind blowing from the Alboran Sea.

The average temperature of the coldest month (January) is 13.4 °C (56.1 °F), and that of the warmest month (August) is 25.9 °C (78.5 °F). Precipitation amounts to 800 millimeters (31.5 inches) per year: so it is at an intermediate level.

It ranges from 1 mm (0 in) in the driest months (July and August) to 140 mm (5.5 in) in the wettest one (December). The sea temperature ranges from 16 °C (61 °F) in February and March to 23.5 °C (74 °F) in August, and there’s an average of 2730 sunshine hours per year.

Where is Tetouan Located?

Situated in the North of Morocco, on the North-Western tip of Africa, Tetouan sits by the Mediterranean Sea in a beautiful valley at the intersection of two rugged mountain ranges.

It is located at the foothills of Mount Dersa, which belongs to the Hauz mountain range, about 70 kilometers from Tangier and 40 from Ceuta.

Traveling To Tetouan Morocco: The Full Essential Guide

Tetouan Travel Guide

If you’re a traveler looking to discover Tetouan city then you have come to the right place because, in the upcoming lines, I will reveal everything there is to know in order to have an amazing experience while visiting the city.

Is Tetouan safe?

Tetouan has always been one of the safest destinations that one can visit in Morocco. There are no reported crimes or serious incidents against travelers.

The local inhabitants are known for their hospitality and warmth towards visitors as they know that the tourism industry is a major economic source of income for most families, directly or indirectly.

That being said, you should always be careful when walking around. Exploring the city at night is an experience you don’t want to miss—all the music, dancing, and food markets that start after nightfall.

While walking in busy areas can be fine, be careful walking at night. You never know what awaits around the corner on those streets.  Don’t display expensive jewelry or large amounts of money; be aware of your whereabouts.

As a solo traveler you need to watch out a little more carefully, but overall, you are unlikely to encounter serious problems like violent crime.

Morocco travel requires extra vigilance because it’s easy to have something happen to you if you’re not paying attention. You’re unlikely to ever be in any real physical danger in Tetouan.

Of course, petty crime and harassment require you to stay on guard — more so than in other countries. However, following a few rules, you can leave Tetouan unscathed and without incident.

Hiring a guide is a great way of seeing any place. There are plenty of people in the center offering their services to tourists. You can take a tour around the city with them. Be careful, though!

You don’t want to become another victim of a scam! Use only trusted tour operators. You can find an office in Tetouan or book your tour online. Before you do it, carefully read reviews online.

How to Get to Tetouan?

The nearest airport to Tétouan is Tetouan (TTU). However, there are better options for getting to Tétouan. There is no direct connection from Nearby airports to Tetouan. However, you can take the bus to La Línea de la Concepción and then take the travel to Tetouan. Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Tétouan.

Getting Around In Tetouan?

If you are based in the city center, it’s easy enough to get around on foot. However, if you want to get up to the Kasbah and don’t fancy the climb or head over to Carrefour, jump into a Petits Taxi.

The Petits Taxis are the yellow taxis, and drivers should use the meter. But the downside is that they are legally only allowed to take 3 passengers. So if you are a family of four on more, you need to take two.

For traveling further afield, such as to Martil Beach, you need to take a Grand Taxi, the slightly larger, blue taxi. There are Grand Taxi stations dotted around the town. Just ask a local to point you in the right direction. There is a fixed tariff for journeys.

How Long to Spend in Tetouan?

If you want to experience life in a Moroccan medina with few tourists where you can explore without being bombarded by “come have a look!” then Tetouan is well worth a visit, either as a long day trip or an overnight. With just 24 hours, you can get a good sense of Tetouan’s flavor.

During your day trip, you will have the chance to visit the big mosque, the Spanish cathedral, Babu Saidi, the old kasbah, and medina. Stroll the Hassan II square then explore the old royal palace.

There are also some other interesting spots such as the Jewish mellah,the berber market and the archaeology museum.

What’s the Best Time to Visit Tetouan?

The best time to visit Tetouan is from late June to Early September, during late summer. The average temperature during these months is 28 degrees Celcius. December and January mark the coldest months, with temperatures going down to 6 degrees Celcius; on the other hand, February and March witness rainfall, making these months difficult for tourism.

11 Things To Do in Tetouan for an Unforgettable Trip

Tetouan Morocco

To help you decide what to include on your trip, Here is the list of the top attractions and things to do in Tetouan Morocco:

1. Tetouan’s Ancient Medina

Tetouan’s medina (Old Town) has retained its authentic Andalusian soul, which makes this town the most Hispano-Moorish influenced of Moroccan cities. This is a thoroughly atmospheric place to explore, and architectural historians regard it as the country’s finest preserved medina.

Every twist and turn down an alleyway brings you to a new picture-perfect local scene, with lots of lovely, slightly crumbling buildings lining the narrow lanes. Several traditional houses within the medina have recently been opened to the public as small museums and cultural centers. They are well worth seeking out during your medina strolls.

Of particular note, Dar El Oddi (on Derb Oddi) is a painstakingly restored medina mansion that now hosts the Visions of Tetouan picture and photograph collection, which traces the city’s history from the 16th to the 20th century.

While exploring the medina’s fortress walls, built by Sultan Moulay Abderrahman, you can check out Tetouan’s interesting Ethnography Museum, which is inside the Bab el-Okla gate of the ramparts. Inside are well-organized displays explaining and demonstrating local customs, from marriage ceremonies to daily life. After viewing the exhibits, you can climb up to the roof for photos over the medina.

If you are someone who enjoys getting lost in the old historical spots, I invite you to read my previous article about the best old medinas in Morocco.

2. Stroll the local market

The medina’s souk district is a fun place to barter for goods, a snack to your heart’s content from the many stalls, and get involved in the bustling local action. There are several small stalls in the souk that sell delicious native snacks.

  • El Fouki Market is where Tetouan locals go to buy their bread. You’ll find fresh loaves of all shapes and sizes from the oven on sale here, including the traditional flat, round loaves.
  • Guersa El Kebira is where the clothing and textile traders set up shop, with wonderful local textiles to buy.
  • The El Hot Market is where you’ll find beautiful ceramic work and goldsmith-handcrafted jewelry. The souk district is to be noticed by shoppers looking for a special gift.

Shopping and markets are an integral part of a place, and exploring them will bring you closer to people and their lifestyles.

3. Explore Amazing Parks

Lying just southeast of Tanger and Tetouan, the Rif Mountains are a paradise for hikers, trekkers, and mountain bikers. Talassemtane National Park is one of the Rif Mountains’ most popular and convenient areas, with trailheads beginning at Chefchaouen.

Walks here, between isolated villages, take in the best of the Rif’s lush, thickly forested hills; distinct wind-carved geological features; and panoramas that at times stretch out to the Mediterranean.

There’s excellent bird-watching potential (including vultures and golden eagles) on hikes and the chance to spot Barbary apes. Trekking and all other activities within the national park, including guide hire, can be organized.

Also, we have Feddan Park, it used to be what’s currently known as Place Hassan II, but it was destroyed following the Spanish protectorate to make room for the Royal Palace.

Locals who missed the park (some say they met their husband or wife there) were pleased when King Mohammed VI rebuilt it in its current location.

This is Tetouan’s biggest and most impressive square and connects the historic center with the city’s new districts. It’s right by the entrance to the medina and is home to the Royal Palace of Tetouan and some surprising Modernist streetlamps.

It’s a charming space thanks to its buildings and lively atmosphere. Part of the square has cafés with terraces and street stalls.

4. The Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum, located in the city center, exhibits objects unearthed in ancient towns around Northern Morocco. This contains Tamuda, a Roman city located just outside of Tetouan.

Punic coins, bronze tools, 1st-century figures, and Libyan-Berber stone inscriptions are among the collection items, divided into prehistoric and pre-Islamic periods.

Highlights include a Roman mosaic of the Three Graces and a Sumerian figure unearthed near the modern-day city of Asilah. Spend time in the museum garden to discover mosaics from Lixus, a Roman city, amid Islamic wares and funeral stones.

Before Tetouan’s establishment in the 15th century, two cities grew and collapsed on the city’s grounds. The Archaeological Museum is committed to uncovering the history of ancient Tetouan, displaying stunning artifacts that tell travelers about the city’s past.

You’ll find a few objects at this museum: antique coins, ceramics, mosaics, and antique inscriptions. Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Wednesday through Monday).

5. Cabo Negro Beach

While Agadir on the Atlantic Coast remains one of Morocco’s most popular beach escapes, the resort towns of the Mediterranean are hugely popular with domestic tourists.

The resort of Cabo Negro is described by Baedeker as “the most modern and exclusive of the three towns [in the Tetouan area], with two large beaches of fine-grained sand. There are nightclubs, tennis courts, horse-riding facilities, a 9-hole golf course, restaurants, hotels, and holiday houses.

Outside the peak summer season, Cabo Negro hits the snooze button, and the beach is often quite empty.

If you’re in Tetouan during spring or early fall and fancy a lazy beach day, this is the place to lay out your beach towel and soak up the sun with a few other beachgoers. If you day-trip here from Tetouan in summer, prepare for the beach to be crowded.

If you are someone who enjoys chilling at beaches and surfing, check out my previous article on the best beaches in Morocco and my full guide about surfing in Morocco.

6. Admire Tetouan’s New City

Tetouan is known for its creative legacy, and no place exemplifies this better than Ville Nouvelle (New City), the city is centered along Avenue Mohammed V, which begins at the wide plaza of Place Hassan II, sided by The Royal Palace and the Pasha Mosque.

All along the road are cafés where locals meet up with friends in the evenings. Do as they do and pull up a seat, grab a coffee or mint tea, and people-watch for a while.

For some sightseeing in the Ville Nouvelle, walk from the plaza, up Avenue Mohamed V, to the lovely old Spanish cathedral of Iglesia de Bacturia, which is still fully functioning.

Afterward, head to the Tetouan Museum of Modern Art, based in the town’s old railway station building and home to one of Morocco’s best collections of contemporary Moroccan artwork.

7. Dar El Oddi

Recently, a new museum called Dar El Oddi opened its doors to the public in Tetouan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This new space launched by Jalal El Oddi, a native of the city, is a temple for the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage.

Dar El Oddi, the family home- built in the 20s- of Jalil El Oddi, has been restored and converted to accommodate this new cultural space making it a unique place tracing the history and wealth of Tetouan. The house’s restoration lasted nearly 2 years, and another 18 months were necessary for the layout of the permanent exhibition.

It includes 7 exhibition rooms, 4 dedicated to paintings, engravings, and postcards; one is devoted to stamps and another to the different images of the time, such as posters, magazines, or books. You will have fun exploring all these rooms.

8. Quad Biking

Al-Hoceima is the largest national park covering areas of the central mountain region that swoop down to the coastal region. Hills and the Rif Mountain surround this park. For quad riders and hike lovers, this is a must-visit park.

Inside the park is a protected area home to endemic endogenous trees. Other trees in this park include Aleppo pine, wild olive, and carob tree. The surrounding this park is the isolated villages connected by dirt tracks.

These villages can be navigated by bikes or forward vehicles. This national park is in the coastal area of Tetouan city and habituates dramatic limestone cliffs and beaches isolated to the northern region.

9. Royal Palace of Tetouan

The Royal Palace of Tétouan is a palace of the Moroccan Monarchy in Tetouan, Morocco, and the former main seat of political authority of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco from 1913 to 1956.

It encloses both the former governor’s palace and the former Spanish consulate, which in the protectorate era respectively housed the Khalifa or personal representative of the Sultan of Morocco on the compound’s northwestern side and the Spanish High Commissioner on its southeastern side.

The complex was repurposed as a Royal palace following Morocco’s independence in 1956 and its proclamation as a kingdom on 14 August 1957.

In 1988, the Feddan was remodeled, and a wall and monumental gate were built, thus isolating the former High Commissioner’s residence from public view. The palace is located in Hassan II Square, a historic urban space also traditionally known as the Feddan, in the Medina of Tetouan, it is not open to the public, but you can admire the view from outside.

10. Trek The Rif Mountains

The Rif is the most northerly of Morocco’s mountain chains.

There are some good hikes in the region, from the most popular town for tourists, Chefchaouen, with its pastel blue medina. An alternative base in the Rif is Tetouan, which has some fine Spanish colonial architecture.

Rising almost 2,000 meters above sea level, the trails along the mountains are open, vast, and covered in cedar trees. For any hiker, these mountains are a must-do experience traveling to Morocco.

One of the great things about the lesser-known Rif Mountains is that avid hikers will experience a truly back-country side of Morocco. Unlike the extremely popular Atlas Mountains, there are no deep, well-worn trails or tourists – these mountains offer you a unique, sprawling look at undiscovered terrain.

Situated close to the villages, you can still venture far away without leaving behind the comforts of Moroccan culture and hospitality.

11. Go On a Day Trip To Chefchaouen

Tetouan is also an excellent starting point for seeing other attractions in northern Morocco, such as the highland village of Chefchaouen. There is not a “list of attractions” in Chefchaouen, as the city itself is the attraction. Its blue-painted houses and narrow lanes crammed with vendors and antique shops are why people flock there.

Meanwhile, shopping in Chefchaouen is one of its biggest tourist attractions. Even though it may not be as diversified and as big as the larger cities in Morocco, the blue city boasts a mesmerizing traditional souk. It has plenty of little shops offering metal and leather goods.

When you are done having a tour of the colorful and vibrant alleyways, consider purchasing some traditional souvenirs that you could take home as gifts. Visitors love the relaxed atmosphere of the town, which is hard to find in the other bigger cities, as this means they can walk at leisure and appreciate the local leather products and the city’s colors.

After a long day exploring the medina, which is one of the most important things to do in Chefchaouen, as this will give you a sense of feeling for the quaint town as you wander in and out of each alley and corridor (you can spend 2-3 hours just walking around and admiring the gorgeous homes, many shops, and beautiful views), please do not forget to treat yourself to a delicious meal from traditional Moroccan cuisine.

One of the best choices is Aladdin Restaurants, where guests can choose from a menu of international flavors, including Spanish omelets and, more importantly, a wide selection of Morocco dishes, from Kofta to all kinds of couscous and tagines – and all at affordable prices. The restaurant offers wonderful town views and has a romantic and enchanting ambiance that complements the delicious food.

Also, located in the main square, you’ll find a 15th-century Kasbah. The building has a courtyard, garden, tower, former prison, and a small museum. The tower inside the Kasbah will give you panoramic views of Chefchaouen!

This is the highlight for most tourists as it gives you a bird’s eye view of the blue buildings with the Rif mountains as the backdrop. The museum provides artifacts dating back to the 15th century. These artifacts include pottery, weapons, musical instruments, folk dresses, and wooden and copper utensils!

Note: descriptions of artifacts and pathways are only in Spanish, French, and Arabic – English speakers may have trouble deciphering where to go or the meaning of things!

Directly next to the Kasbah Museum is the Grand Mosque. Only Muslims can enter the Mosque, but this shouldn’t stop you from admiring it from the outside!

The Grand Mosque in Chefchaouen has an octagonal minaret which makes it unique! Architecture, in general, dates back to the 15th century. The mosque uses a megaphone to call to prayer five times throughout the day. It’s a magical experience as the chatter of the town gets quiet during the call to prayer.

The best time to visit this Mosque is at dusk, just before sunset. The views are unparalleled as the sun sets over the Blue Pearl. Meanwhile, touring the town with a local guide will allow you to enjoy the experience without being bothered by fake guides or shop owners who want to sell you stuff.

For more in-depth information, check out my full guide about Chefchaouen the blue city of Morocco.

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The Bottom Line

Tetouan is a busy and active town and very exciting to visit. The shopping areas and the old monuments are attractive and thorough exploration can bring up many surprises that will give you a feeling of a successful trip to Morocco.

Walking along white houses, narrow streets lined with markets and craft stalls, arched and colorful doors, and geometric tiles, and enjoying the friendliness of its inhabitants are just some things you will do in this wonderful city.

Lively and full of sights, Tetouan is a splendid tourist spot in Morocco that should not go unexplored. A fine mix of modern and archaic, Spanish and Islamic, Tetouan is an entire world. Missing this coastal city means you will never get to know a side of Morocco country. So for trekkers and nature lovers, this is a must-visit city to explore.

That’s all for this guide, Thanks for reading.



Who founded Tetouan?

Ali al-Mandri is the one who founded Tetouan city. In 1286, the Marinids built a casbah and mosque there. The first large-scale building project took place in 1305 when the settlement was expanded by the Marinid king Abu Thabit Amir. The city was later rebuilt and fortified (now called Tetouan) by Ali al-Mandri.

What language is spoken in Tetouan?

The language spoken in Tetouan is Moroccan Arabic.

What is Tetouan known for?

Known as the “white dove” Tétouan is a commercial city with an economy based on crafts and light manufacturing. It is known as a cultural center, with a school of music, several artisan schools, national museums of archaeology and traditional arts, and an archival library.

Why is Tetouan called the White Dove?

Because of its overall white appearance and its affinity with Spanish culture.

Is Tetouan Spanish?

In 1913, Tétouan became the capital of the Spanish protectorate of Morocco, governed by the Khalifa (Moroccan prince serving as Viceroy for the Sultan) and the Spanish “Alto Comisario” accredited to him. It remained the capital until 1956 when Morocco regained its full independence.

Is Tetouan Expensive?

The average cost of living in Tetouan is $400, in the top 6% of the least expensive cities in the world, and ranked 20th out of 22 in Morocco. The median after-tax salary is $300, which is enough to cover monthly living expenses. The family of four estimated monthly costs is 1,129$ (11,920MAD) without rent. A single person estimated monthly costs are 322$ (3,403MAD) without rent.

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The Editorial Team

Optimos Travel is a travel blog to help you travel the world, and explore different lifestyles, traditions, foods, and everything in between.