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Destination ideas for 2018? Go and tackle Tangier

TANGIER: Morocco in all its splendour (Photo credit: Alamy)

TO WHICH city can you travel to for year round warm weather, and a city which is in close proximity to the UK?

If you ever thought about Tangier in this regard, but then concluded that you’ll get around to travelling here eventually, the decision to visit this exotic Moroccan city will be an inspired one.

When you get here, and having had a chance to scour your initial sun kissed surroundings, you’ll wonder why you didn’t travel sooner.

Situated at the top of the African continent, Tangier is located on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. In fact Gibraltar was my first point of arrival for this trip, although an easier overall journey to Tangier is possible which I’ll mention later.

But those with the adventurous spirit will love arriving in Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory, and then make the short walk across into Spain a mere five minutes away from this spectacular Rock of Gibraltar surrounded airport.

Now in Spain this area known as La Linea enables you to take a bus from the nearby bus station to Algerciras. From there, purchase your ferry ticket on either FFS or Intershipping ferry companies to Tangier Ville.

The ferry however sails from Tarifa in southern Spain, and happily the bus ride from Algeciras to Tarifa is included in your ferry ticket. Once at Tarifa, a sailing of 45 minutes or less covers the 20 miles until you arrive in Tangier Ville for what will surely be a very pleasant surprise.

Remember that there is another port the recently constructed Tangier Med. This new port is 25 miles away from the city of Tangier. Buses and taxis are available from Tangier Med to Tangier Ville if you do end up there.

Tangier’s Mediterranean beauty and charm is evident almost immediately after you set foot on this gem of Morocco. The luscious palm tree lined Mohammed VI boulevard boasts a massive promenade where most of Tangier’s coastal hotels are located.

Turquoise coloured metered taxis are frequent on the Mohammed VI boulevard, however if all you have is a ruck sack for baggage, then why not walk the few hundred metres to your hotel?

The best way to explore Tangier is on foot. So many vistas vie for your attention, from the stunning beaches, the busy smoke filled mint tea infused cafes and restaurants, and, where walking is definitely a must, the old city, the Medina.

The sights and sounds of this hilly area a few hundred yards from the ferry port transport you to a time of intrigue, espionage, suspense and suspicion.

This was after all an internationally governed protectorate until 1956, where France, Spain and the UK had alternate terms of governing.

Fully a part of Morocco for over six decades now, large tour groups, German, Spanish and Japanese visitors meander in idyllic wonderment at the medina, transfixed on their traditional sights as their Moroccan guide gives out information.

Although English is spoken, if you have a smattering of French, Spanish or Arabic it will be that much easier to get by as you embrace the narrow alleyways of stores stocking cloth, leather goods, brass-work, exotic fruit, nuts, spices and souvenirs.

Don’t be afraid to haggle for your goods, this is perfectly acceptable and actually adds to the overall cultural experience. Everywhere seems to be the perfect picture setting of old with a bit reclaimed new historic buildings and ancient walls get a long overdue spruce up.

The beautiful corniche affords breathtaking views of the Strait of Gibraltar, and over in the distance, the coastline of Spain in visible.

The beachfront attracts many visitors and the stunning light bathes the horizon highlighting the the blues of the sea and the sky. The evenings take on a different family friendly vibe, street vendors, donkey rides, and pop up hot tea sellers bring their own charm to the beach.

Once you’ve had your fill of the hustle and bustle of Tangier, an hours drive south is the quaint and peaceful town of Asilah on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Asilah is an ancient town, with a colourful medina, enclosed by well-preserved 15th- century castle walls and gates, a legacy from the days of the colonial Portuguese.

Having wondered along the narrow colourful lanes, and been amazed at the size of the Atlantic waves, the town’s square is the perfect stopping point to sip mint tea, people watch and see the children of Asilah happy at play.

The medina is an art hub, known for its murals and the Moussem Culturel International d’Asilah is an annual festival which takes place from July to August. Venues include the exhibition space Centre de Hassan II Rencontres Internationales and early-20th-century Palais Raissouni.

The festival features mural painting in the medina, art exhibitions, music and discussions. Summers (Jun–Sep) are fairly hot, though Asilah’s coastal location lowers temperatures. Winters (Dec– Feb) are mild but still very enjoyable outdoors.

While in Asilah, the Caves of Hercules is one of the most popular tourist attractions near the spectacular summer palace of the King of Morocco. The cave has two openings, one to sea and one to land. The sea opening is known as “The Map of Africa”, and even “Madagascar” is visible as carvings and erosion have created a stunning vista.

Whether you choose the above travel itinerary or take the easier option of a non-stop flight from London, the visit Tangier will be one of cultural and adventurous reward.

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