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10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tetouan

A favourite with traditional architecture fans and culture lovers, Tetouan is an atmospheric city with an incredibly atmospheric Medina that is its prime sightseeing attraction. Snugly located amidst the beginning of Morocco's beautiful Rif Mountain region, this is also an excellent base for avid nature-lovers wanting to set out and explore the unspoiled surrounding hill country.

An easy day trip while staying in Tetouan is to the Rif town of Chefchaouen, where the old town buildings are all painted in shades of blue. Impossibly photogenic, the colourful streets here should be on your Tetouan itinerary.

1 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 and character-full buildings lining the narrow lanes.

2 Archaeological Museum

This museum's exhibits include the superb Roman mosaic of "The Three Graces", unearthed at the Lixus archaeological site. There are also displays of artifacts from sites across northern Morocco, including prehistoric tools, coins, bronzes and pottery. The museum also houses an excellent library with over 60,000 volumes dedicated to the preservation of North African literature.

3 Souk District

Souk DistrictSouk District

The Medina's souk district is a fun place to barter for goods, snack to your heart's content from the many stalls and get involved in the bustling local action. El Fouki Market is where Tetouan locals go to buy their bread. You'll find loaves of all shapes and sizes fresh 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. There are wonderful local textiles to buy. The El Hot Market is where you'll find beautiful ceramic work and goldsmith handcrafted jewellery. For shoppers looking for a special gift, the souk district is not to be missed. You'll find prices here are cheaper than in the more tourist-orientated markets of Fez and Marrakesh.

4 Ville Nouvelle

Ville NouvelleVille Nouvelle yeowatzup

Tetouan's Ville Nouvelle (New City) is centred round Hassan II Plaza where locals come to stroll and sit in cafes every evening. The Royal Palace and the Pasha Mosque both sit on the square. From the plaza, the tidy boulevard of Avenue Mohamed V rolls out to Moulay Mehdi Place where the lovely old Spanish cathedral can be seen.

5 Ethnography Museum

Inside the fortress walls of Sultan Moulay Abderrahman, in Bab el Okla, is Tetouan's interesting Ethnography Museum, established here in 1948. If you're interested in Moroccan traditional culture it's a great place to while away an hour or two with excellently organised displays of local customs from marriage ceremonies to day-to-day life.

6 Chefchaouen

ChefchaouenChefchaouen

If you're going to take just one day trip from Tetouan make it to Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco's most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen's chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets. The white-and-blue-washed houses here are dreamlike in their sheer beauty.

7 Rif Mountains

Rif MountainsRif Mountains

Lying just southeast of Tangier and Tetouan, the Rif Mountains are a paradise for hikers, trekkers and mountain bikers. Walking here is full of lush green panoramas of rolling hills and excellent bird watching potential. Much of the Rif is pretty isolated with villages few and far between, so hiring a guide is a good idea.

8 Martil

This easygoing fishing port is also a popular coastal resort. There are plenty of shore-side restaurants dishing up the catch of the day, and a nice strip of sand where locals flock on weekends.

Location: 10 km east of Tetouan

9 Cabo Negro Beach

Cabo Negro BeachCabo Negro Beach splendidcasablanca

Cabo Negro Beach is one of North Morocco's best strips of sand. The lovely wide shoreline here is quite often empty, adding to its appeal. This is the place to break out your beach towel and lay back soaking up the sun knowing that you'll rarely be bothered by other beach-goers. It's a welcome change from the more crowded resorts of Morocco's Atlantic Coast, such as Agadir.

10 Northeast Coastline

Northeast CoastlineNortheast Coastline jbdodane

The northeast coastline of Morocco is home to breathtaking scenery and is prime country for taking a road trip. The winding highway hugs the shore, taking you past petite villages and lovely beaches at every twist. Head southeast from Tatouan, following the coastal highway down to El Jebha village, for the best of the panoramic views on offer.

History

A white Andalusian city set upon the Mediterranean Sea near Tangier, Tetouan traces its origins back to the 3rd century BC when it was a settlement called Tamouda - which existed until AD 42 when it was destroyed by Roman armies.

When the Merinid sultan Abu Thabit constructed a kasbah at Tetouan in 1307, the Muslim city began to find its form. But, as a refuge for Barbary pirates, Tetouan drew the wrath of the Castilian King Henry III, whose forces overran the city and sacked it in 1399. For a century thereafter Tetouan went into a period of decline until coming under the Andalusian influence of refugees from Granada.

From 1484 the city took on some of the rich architectural and cultural character of Muslim Spain, traces of which can still be seen today. In 1913 Tetouan became the capital of Spain's protectorate until independence in 1956.

Located in an agricultural area, Tetouan today is a market centre where grain, livestock, citrus fruit and handicrafts are traded.

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