The fortified village of Asilah (also spelled Assilah) is a great base for family travelers touring northwest Morocco. Not only is this seaside town ideally positioned, Asilah boasts great beaches and offers a soft intro to both food and culture. Situated on Morocco's north Atlantic coast, Asilah is less than 1 hour from Tangier and just 90 minutes from the bird sanctuary at Moulay Bousselham. The sandy beaches to the north and south are easily accessed and safe for swimming. The wee whitewashed medina is easy to navigate. The small, but thriving, artist community adds a touch of color. Ties to a long Spanish dominion are omnipresent - blue doors, wrought iron windows and Spanish cuisine. What's more, this tranquil port town has far fewer faux guides than most Moroccan cities.
Asilah is situated on Morocco's north Atlantic coast. The town is located 46 kilometers (28.6 miles) south of Tangier and 235 kilometers (146 miles) north of Rabat. The nearest airport is Tangier Ibn Battouta, roughly 26 kilometers (16 miles) to the north. Asilah is easily reached by train, bus, car and cab. The town is situated on the Tangier-Casablanca and Tangier-Oujda railway lines. A variety of bus companies connect Asilah to destinations north and south. Both CTM and Supratours are comfortable, reliable and safe. (The safety record and comfort of other bus companies is worse than poor.) Asilah is accessible from the national auto route, a well-marked, good toll road. Hiring a cab is not as decadent as it sounds. The cab fare from Tangier Airport to Asilah is only 250dh! Family travel Tips: Many European low cost airlines service Tangier. The website for the Moroccan railway is near impossible to access from outside the country. Ask your hotel, guesthouse or riad to email needed timetables. The Asilah train station or gare is located roughly 2km (1.25 miles) north of the city center. Local buses and city cabs, called petite taxis, are readily found. A cab ride from the gare to the medina costs roughly 10dh. Bus tickets can't be purchased outside of Morocco. It's best to reserve seats on long distance routes at least one day in advance. Grand taxis - those traveling between cities - stop on Ave Moulay Ismail, in front of the mosque. The Asilah exit from the motorway is just south of the city. There is a car park near Bab al-Kasaba. Cab fares from Tangier Airport are posted inside the airport. And while rates are fixed, it's best to confirm the price before hopping in.
Asilah is easily navigated on foot and the medina is closed to motorized traffic. But that's only part of the story. Few hotels are located within the old city. Street construction and unfinished sidewalks make many of the beach hotels an unpleasant hike from the medina. Asliah's beaches are located north and south of the village. The main beach, just north of the old town, is accessible by foot. Horse carts ply the route south to Las Palomas in the high season. Unless you have a car, the only way to reach beaches further a field is to hire a petite taxi. Negotiate the fare and pick-up time before getting in. Petite taxis aren't metered and there is no other way back to Asilah. One last tip. Peasant women selling wares line Ave Hassan II in the early morning. While not quite a market, this a.m. stroll offers insight to local life.
The best time of year to visit Asilah is spring (April - May) and fall (September - October). Not only is the weather warm, the throngs have yet to arrive or have long since departed. Summer (June - August) is the best season for beachcombers but battling the tourists, mainly Moroccan and Spanish, requires a fair dose of patience as well as advance reservations. Winter is cold and rainy. It is windy much of the year. Calendar of Events: An outdoor souq (food and craft market) takes place each Thursday. The Asilah Arts Festival is held annually in August.
Traveler's diarrhea and sunburn are the main health risks for travelers to Morocco's Atlantic Coast; faux guides are the biggest nuisance. Drink bottled water and eat cooked or peeled fruit and vegetables. Apply high factor sunscreen to all exposed areas, including nose, ears, and toes. Wear sunglasses as well as a hat. While there are fewer hustlers in Asilah than other Moroccan cities, it is always best to be cautious.
Spanish cuisine is the dominant fare in Asilah. The eateries along Rue Ibn Batouta, from Bab Homar to Bab al-Kasaba, serve a variety of seafood dishes including paella and shrimp omelets. The food is average. Casa Garcia, a Spanish-style seafood restaurant on Rue Moulay Hassan ben el-Mehdi, is considered by many to be the town's top restaurant. Renting a house on arrival is the best deal in Asilah. The strategy, however, isn't risk-free. Not all touts are trustworthy. A fair price is difficult to determine. In summer, the only available room may be a garage.
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