Editor's note: As we continue to practice social distancing (opens in new tab) for the foreseeable future, we encourage our readers to consistently check the Center for Disease Control website (opens in new tab) for up-to-date information on when it's safe to travel again. For now, bookmark this Instagram travel guide for inspo—you're going to love it.
The northwestern Moroccan port city of Tangier, just a 20-minute ferry ride away from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, is a tantalizing medley of old-world traditions, modern marvels, and international luxury. It'll leave you wanting to explore the rest of North Africa immediately.
Tangier (or "Tanger" to the locals) has long attracted artists and writers who come for inspiration found within the colorful streets and end up staying for years, soaking up the vibrant way of life. Walk through the real-life scenes of Matisse’s paintings and sit at the favorite cafés of writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Tennessee Williams, and William S. Burroughs to understand why they fell in love with the city. Awaken your senses with flavorful Moroccan food, fueled by fresh seafood and spices from the market.
For inspiration to book a flight (or hop on a ferry) to Tangier, here's your very own Instagram guide to the city’s sights and spectacles:
Inside the medina, the old-walled city of Tangier, wander through souks draped with handmade rugs, embroidered shoes, colorful kaftans, and baskets of spices. Get lost in the labyrinth of small streets, dazzled by the way the light bounces off of the colorful walls. When you shop in the souks, haggle for your wares—a time-honored Moroccan tradition—that will snag you a great deal.
Keep Up in the Kasbah
Walk through the medina and up towards the Kasbah, the walled fortress of the city. Visit the Dar El Makhzen (opens in new tab), the old Sultan's palace that's now a Moroccan art museum. After you're finished exploring, meander uphill until you reach the top of the old city, boasting spectacular views of the ocean and city. (...And plenty of opportunities for the 'gram.)
Get Pampered at a Hammam
If you're comfortable getting naked and having a stranger scrub layers of skin off every inch of your body (not all of us!), visit a hammam. It's a traditional activity in Morocco, similar to the Turkish baths. You'll sit in a steam room where you shed skin and stress through an intense body scrub with a kessa (a.k.a. a loofah). You can go to a public hammam, but for a more relaxing experience, try a private hammam, like the Hilton's eforea Spa (opens in new tab). Expertly-trained therapists perform a series of treatments that cleanse, exfoliate, and pamper your skin, leaving it glowing.
Sip Moroccan Tea
Don’t get so busy visiting Tangier’s sights that you forget to embrace one of the most cherished Moroccan traditions: sitting back and sipping a sweet mint tea at a corner café where locals spend hours watching the world go by. Find a tea terrace, like the top-rated Café Hafa (opens in new tab), with views over the city and enjoy the Mediterranean breeze while you leisurely share a pot with friends or locals. Don't be surprised if the scent of hashish wafts over from a nearby table—Tangier has long been a sanctuary for cannabis.
Visit the Caves of Hercules
In Tangier, a cave that mimics the shape of Africa is tied to an important Greek legend. Hercules was said to have slept in the caverns, known as the Les Grottes d’Hercule (opens in new tab), after separating Europe from Africa in Greek mythology. In addition to exploring the dark, damp cave complex, you can also visit a kitschsy cave with figurines and photo-ops for an additional five dirhams (the official currency of Morocco).
Eat a Tagine
While Tangier has a wide range of global cuisine featuring Spanish and French fare, don’t miss out on the traditional Moroccan tagine. Tangine is named after the earthenware dish it’s cooked in—the conical shape catches the steam and slow cooks the meat and veggies into an aromatic stew. Try the beef tagine with plums—the sweetness of the fruit complements the savory beef that's accented with saffron, cinnamon, and ginger. Scoop it up with some Moroccan bread (similar to pita bread) and get ready for some major drool emojis.
Soak Up the Sun
Get away from the center of town and explore the beautiful sand and water on the beaches of Achakkar. True beach lovers can opt for a hotel with a private beach, like the oasis at the Hilton Tangier Al Houara (opens in new tab), which includes 5 km (three miles) of tranquil coastline within 60 acres of protected forest.
Day Trip to Chefchaouen
If you're looking for a day trip to complement your visit to Tangier, Chefchaouen—a stunning "blue city" nestled in the Rif Mountains—is around 100 km (around 60 miles) away. There's an air-conditioned bus that goes from Tangier to Chefchaouen, but I recommend renting a car or hiring a driver (if you have the means) to give you more flexibility. The small, peaceful town has become Insta-famous due to its stunning blue-on-blue alleys, stairs, and archways. If you're a nature person, hike to a small waterfall and enjoy the dramatic scenery of the mountains.
If you've fallen in love with Tangier, book a trip here (opens in new tab).
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Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, cannabis, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.
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