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Tangier, or not to Tangier - that is the question

Hello!

My husband and I are planning a two week trip to Andalusia in the beginning of April, and are considering a day trip to Tangier as recommended by our Travel God, Rick. We are still working out the itinerary, but ultimately plan on visiting (in no particular order) Madrid, Seville, Cordoba, Toledo, Ronda, Granada and Tangier. As typical, boring Americans on our second trip abroad, we think the prospect of taking a "dip" into North Africa is super exciting and exotic.

However, everywhere I go to read about the prospect of a day trip to Tangier, there are several people recommending AGAINST it. I'm genuinely curious as to WHY certain people say this.

Just looking for honest answers here - please share your experiences both positive and negative! I appreciate you all!

Posted by
2545 posts

I have been to Andalucia several times and have not been to Tangier. So I can't recommend or not recommend it, but I can tell you why I've skipped it despite being in the area multiple times. My reasons:
1. I've heard the guided tours are pretty tacky-touristy. Can't say for sure, but the blogs about being led around on a camel for a minute photo op and being herded around isn't my idea of fun
2. Id rather hire a private guide, but that seems expensive for a short visit.
3. I still plan to go to Morocco as its own trip someday and I've heard Marrakech, Fez, and small towns are a better view of the country. So I'm hoping to start there. Someday.
4. I love Spain and also love spending more time in one place so the idea of taking time from that is hard!

But I can totally see why you'd do it! I have strongly considered it.

Posted by
67 posts

Thank you, Mira!

That's the one thing that's making me question it - the touristy crap. We're NOT touristy people and would totally avoid the camel stuff and regular tours. We'd probably just wander and eat things. :)

thanks again!

Posted by
6778 posts

I'm going to hazard a guess... you have 7 destinations listed for a 14 day trip, which makes for a fairly aggressive schedule. That is an average of 2 days per destination and doesn't include travel time between them. Most likely you've gotten responses that suggest that you already have a full plate of sites and activities in Spain, let alone trying to get to Tangier. As much as a "dip" into N. Africa is tempting, a day trip would make for a very brief and shallow dip. Is it worthwhile for you to trek all the way down to Tarifa to take the ferry? Do you have extra time built in for this? I have not been to Tangier, but my guess is that it's about as representative of Morocco as Tijuana is of Mexico. If you ever plan on going to Morocco, then this tiny sliver of the country is probably not worthwhile compared to other more interesting cities (as an aside, my parents have been to Morocco and loved it).

If it's a priority and you're willing to make time to fit it in your schedule (which may include spending the night if warranted), then go for it and don't let others dissuade you.

Posted by
67 posts

Agnes, excellent points. Thank you. You may be right, and we do have a lot on our plates I guess. Perhaps we'll reconsider the itinerary.

Posted by
19519 posts

I've only passed through Tangier after a multi-city independent trip to Morocco, so I can't comment on Tangier itself. But definitely check on the transportation links ahead of time to figure out how much time you're going to be spending on trains/buses/ferries and how much time you'll actually have in Tangier. None of your Spanish stops is right on the coast, so it's not just a matter of taking a ferry on the Spanish side; you must also get to the ferry.

Posted by
6778 posts

PS. If you were going to make an effort to get to the ferry in Tarifa, maybe it would make sense to also include Gibraltar and the coastal city of Algeciras because they're in the same general region.

Posted by
18 posts

The only suggestion I have is if you plan on going to Tangier, you will want to have a guide to facilitate traveling. If you are staying at a hotel, they can help arrange it for you. In fact that is the only way I would do it. There will be guides trying to pick you up right off the boat, I tend to avoid them. You will want to get some ideas of cost in advance. If you are there on a Friday, your choices will be limited as that is the day of worship and few will work on that day, not impossible through.

Posted by
1159 posts

From the perspective of "valuing" your time.................
Take the total amount of money you are expending on this journey and divide by the 12 days you will be "on the ground" in Spain.
Now, is it worth the dollar expense of one day to say you have been to North Africa and Tangier?
Forthrightly I have strived to make this an objective method to help with your decision making.
But, I really believe you should value the decision from a subjective manner.
TIME is the most valuable commodity you possess while on a journey.
So where do you want to spend your most valuable commodity?

OK, I just reread what I wrote and wondered why am I tiptoeing around providing the guidance so often given.............

DO NOT GO TO TANGIER!

Spend the time, and some of your money, to visit a village, or a non-tourist area in any of your destinations, to sit down, watch humanity flow by and perhaps get lucky to engage strangers in conversations and learn about their lives. Doing so can provide a richly rewarding experience creating memories far exceeding being able to say "I have been to Tangier!".

BTW: you have too many destinations on your itinerary for 12 days, but that is another topic.

Posted by
16878 posts

I have been to Tangier a few times for a night or two. It's been much cleaned up by the latest king, and I'd certainly recommend it over Algeciras, which is just a bunch of travel agencies hawking tickets. It will be a very different cultural experience than Spain. And I would not be worried about getting a guide on a Friday, since not everyone is equally religious. (Or if they are all at the mosque, then they won't be bugging you.) But the best of the Moorish architecture you will see in the Spanish cities, not Tangier.

Time is the main factor against you. For instance, the first bus from Seville to Tarifa departs about 9:00 a.m., arriving about noon, and that's not necessarily enough time to get the next boat departing. So you have to spend a night on one side or the other. There's also a time change between the two countries. Can you take a longer vacation?

Posted by
67 posts

Hah! You make a great point - the value of time. I'm really starting to think that Tangier isn't a great idea.

We are planning a lot in 13 days on the ground, but we like to do sample tours. Without Tangier, how does the following look?

2 days Madrid
1 day Toledo
2 days Ronda
2 days Cordoba
3 days Sevilla
3 days Granada

Posted by
67 posts

@ Laura - no extra vacation time :(

I think the travel time between cities, and around getting to the ferry will be the death of the Tangier trip.

Posted by
18 posts

I am not saying that you can't do Tangier on your own, but looking at the time constraints, you might want to hire a guide to help you get through the city and see the highlights. When I lived in Rabat, I even hired a guide for a couple of hours just to get the feel of the city from a different perspective. I would agree with the others that you are doing a lot and may not have time to enjoy each of the spots you are going to.

Posted by
2545 posts

Without Tangier, your proposed schedule is OK...but factor in how long it takes to travel between them and think about the order -

2 days Madrid - fine, but is one of those the day you arrive from North America? What time, and plan for jet lag! That leaves 1 full day, which is OK for top highlights. There's a lot more to see there, but the other places on your list are more interesting.
Then a day trip or overnight to Toledo - either works.

I'd go to Cordoba next - high speed train from Madrid (if you overnight in Toledo, get an AM train back to Madrid and then on to Cordoba, arrive by mid-afternoon.) Honestly, I think Cordoba is easily done in one day/one night, but others disagree.

Then Seville. High speed train from Cordoba, you are there in an hour. 3 days is good, especially if you get an early train from Cordoba - then you have 3 solid days.

Then bus or train to Ronda. Maybe 2 hours? So you get most of those 2 days. Good.

Then bus or train to Granada. 3 days is good. It can be done in 2, but I am biased and think it's a great place to linger and end your trip.

IF you wanted to squeeze Tangier in you could take a night from Cordoba (or Ronda or Granada) and spend it in Tarifa in order to get your ferry to/from Tangier. May even require 2 nights in Tarifa in order to maximize Tangier time (what time does the ferry return and what time does the bus to your next stop leave?)

Posted by
67 posts

Marbleskies - we live in Michigan, but are flying out of Toronto to Madrid. We'll be arriving early morning on Monday, April 3rd through AirCanada.

Posted by
1159 posts

NOTE: You will be in Spain during the largest holiday season of the year, Semana Santa (Easter week). While this offers an excellent opportunity to participate in wonderful festivities it will dynamically impact the cost and availability of accomodations and the closing schedule of sites, museums and restaurants. YOU MUST CAREFULLY CONSIDER THE IMPACT OF THIS EVENT UPON YOUR ITINERARY.
Assuming your departure point is also Madrid, please give the following consideration:
April 3 Monday - arrive Madrid - fly or train to Granada same day
4 Tuesday - Granada
5 Wednesday - Granada
6 Thursday - train/bus to Ronda
7 Friday - bus to Seville
8 Saturday - seville
9 Sunday - Palm Sunday - Seville
10 Monday - Seville
11 Tuesday - Cordoba
12 Wednesday - Cordoba to Madrid via train
13 Thursday - Maundy Thursday - Common Holiday - Madrid
14 Friday - Good Friday - national holiday - Madrid
15 Saturday - Madrid day trip to Toledo
16 Sunday - Easter - Madrid - depart?

I stongly encourage you to stay in apts in Granada, Seville and Madrid.

Posted by
63 posts

We just got back from 2 weeks in Spain and visited the same cities on your list, minus Tangier. Our order was Seville, Ronda, Granada, Cordoba, Toledo, and Madrid (with day trip to Segovia). It was a nice pace for us, but I wished that I had planned it in reverse order because I liked Seville and Ronda the best, and I always like to save the best for last!

Posted by
14458 posts

I was in Andalucia this year during Semana Santa. From Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday morning, there are several lengthy processions through the old town centers from midday until after midnight every day, and on Thursday night until dawn Friday. Some streets are completely closed to vehicle traffic, others are blocked for hours. This means that it may be difficult to get to your hotel from the train station - but probably less chance of problems if you travel in the morning. To learn more about these fascinating ceremonies, start here. Hotels will be close to 100% occupancy (at high season rates) which also means lots of crowds at many sights, and possible changes in visiting hours. I did not visit Madrid but from my research it seemed that city was least affected by the festivities.

Because of Semana Santa, it's a very good idea to have a detailed plan. Read this excellent article about the trains in Spain. You can take advantage of huge discounts on tickets if you buy in advance . . . and since it's a very popular season, some trains may even sell out. In planning your itinerary, count nights, not days. 2 nights = 1 full day of sightseeing. Even a 2-hour train ride will use up nearly 1/2 day when you take into account the time to pack/unpack, check in/out, get to/from train stations (allowing for extra traffic and for security procedures at the station).

It's up to you how much you want to experience Semana Santa. I was in Malaga and Sevilla for the week and much preferred Malaga for the processions. I would recommend seeing Sevilla early in your visit rather than during Semana Santa..

Posted by
67 posts

We are well aware of the semana santa, and are going there for that purpose. And I REALLY appreciate the advice related to train travel. We're trying to get the trains and hotels/apartments booked ASAP for this purpose. It's good to know that we should focus our train travel on EARLY morning.

Why do you recommend NOT Sevilla for the SS? i would imagine it's the busiest, and probably the most touristy?

Posted by
2 posts

We just returned from a 16 day trip to Spain/Morocco. It was pretty fast-paced but we got to see lots of things.

Day 1 – arrived Madrid at 8:00 am from Vancouver Canada

Day 2 – Madrid,

Day 3 – Mardrid to Cordoba on the 14:30 train (2 hours by train), overnight in Cordoba,

Day 4 – Cordoba (left at 17:30 for Seville, 45 minutes),

Day 5 – Seville,

Day 6 – Seville,

Day 7 – Drove to Ronda via Arcos, Grazelema in a rented car

Day 8 – Ronda

Day 9 – Drove from Ronda to Algeciras dropped the rented car and took the FRS shuttle to Tarifa for the 3:00 pm ferry to Tangier

Day 10 – Tangier

Day 11 – Hired a car and driver to take us on to Chefchouan, overnight in Chefchouan

Day 12 – Left Chefchouan at 1:00 pm for the 3 hour drive to Fes (hired a car and driver)

Day 13 – Fes

Day 14 – Fes

Day 15 – took the afternoon train from Fes to Casablanca (4 hour train ride)

Day 16 – flew home from Casablanca to Vancouver

Posted by
14458 posts

Well, in that case . . . . I started with a few nights in Malaga and I was very impressed and even moved (remember, I'm not even Christian) by the processions there. When I was too tired to wander through the streets any longer (after midnight), I'd end up watching the processions live on tv in my hotel room for another hour or more - or even from the hotel windows. In Sevilla, it seemed like there was more of a party atmosphere and less respect. It seemed that in Sevilla (but not in Malaga) family members walked in the processions with the penitents, having picnics and chatting, people watching were not respectful and often cut through the procession to cross streets. It was a very different atmosphere, and while there were subtle differences, overall the processions were much the same in the two cities. If you aren't flying home until Monday, consider spending Saturday night in Granada. One of my regrets was missing the Easter Sunday procession in Granada - by the time I found out about it, there were no hotel rooms left in my budget range (especially after the super high prices I paid in Sevilla).