Best-known as a destination for kitesurfing, the charming town of Tarifa is located on the southern tip of Spain, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar, just 14km away from the Moroccan coast, has played an important role in the history of Tarifa whose port has served an important destination for both merchants and travellers moving between the African and European continents. With its the wind sports and beaches you’re looking for, the region’s historical legacy of simply the town’s laid-back vibe, you’ll never run out of things to do in Tarifa Spain.
Getting There: If you’re driving to Tarifa along the N-340 from Algeciras you’ll travel through the coastal hills laden with windmills and on a clear day you’ll be able to see the Atlas Mountains of Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar. Look out for a clearly marked left turn for Tarifa and follow the road into town along Amador de los Ríos. On your left you’ll see the old city walls and should take a left after the Puerta de Jerez heading down to the maritime station.
Learn to Kitesurf at Playa de los Lances
Tarifa is a kitesurfer’s paradise thanks to the strong eastern winds, called ‘Levante’, which blow through the Strait of Gibraltar during the spring and summer which create ideal conditions for the sport. A popular beach for kitesurfing and windsurfing is Playa de los Lances which is located north-west of the old town. This long, sandy beach has a number of wind sport schools and rental shops making it an ideal choice for beginners who want some lessons or advanced kitesurfers who are ready to ride the waves.
Tour the Castillo de Guzmán
Standing on a rocky outcrop, overlooking Tarifa’s old town stands the impressive Castillo de Guzmán. Built in 960 AD over ancient Roman foundations, this fortress served as a strategic defense point throughout history. You can walk through the castle grounds and get great views of Morocco from its towers.
Explore Isla de Las Palomas
Connected to Tarifa by a thin isthmus, this tied island offers serene natural beauty just a 10-minute drive away. Visitors can walk around the island’s perimeter and stop at the 19th century lighthouse for panoramic views over Tarifa. The island’s secluded beaches are a great place to spend a few hours.
Go Shopping at the Mercado de Abastos
Spain is well-known for its fresh food markets where local people go to buy their fresh, produce. In Tarifa the indoor Mercado de Abastos is a fascinating place to visit even if you’re not shopping. Its fish stalls are a tourist attraction in their own right and other stalls sell a selection of fruit, vegetables, meat and cheeses to their mainly local clientele.
Explore the Historic Sites of the Casco Antiguo
You should spend a few hours exploring the Moorish and medieval architecture of Tarifa’s Casco Antiguo. A few highlights include the Iglesia de San Mateo, the Puerta de Jerez city gate, the lively town square of Plaza de Santa María and the Iglesia de San Francisco in the back streets near the market.
Take a Tapas Tour of Tarifa
There’s a good selection of lively tapas bars in the old town such as which is a local favourite El Burgato which is tucked away on a side street. It serves up all the classic tapas like tortilla, patatas bravas and croquetas. Restaurante Raizes is a popular Mediterranean and fusion tapas restaurant located right off the main square whilst No. 6 Cocina Sencilla puts a modern twist on classic tapas using fresh regional products.
Other favourites include La Burla which serves up a great grilled octopu and Bar Anca Curro which is known for its for outstanding seafood tapas. They source fish and shellfish daily from the local ports. The marinated anchovies and seared tuna belly are standouts.
Watch the Bird Migration Across the Strait of Gibraltar
With just 14km of water separating the continents of Africa and Europe, Tarifa serves as a viewing platform for one of nature’s great migrations. This migration sees thousands of raptors, buzzards, vultures, eagles and various species of stork heading to Europe in spring and back to Africa in the autumn. In addition, the area around Tarifa is home to a variety of bird habitats which attract birds in vast numbers.
Take a Dolphin and Whale Watching Trip
The other main attraction of Tarifa besides serving as a ferry port and wind sports destination is as a centre for whale and dolphin watching trips. With the meeting of two oceans of Tarifa there is a high concentration of marine mammals including three species of dolphins, pilot whales, sperm whales, orcas and fin whales. Various companies offer their services but we strongly recommend that you choose Firmm.
They are a team of research biologists who conduct an ongoing study of marine life in the Straits of Gibraltar who actively promote Eco-tourism in their quest to protect the marine mammals. You’ll find their office next to Café Central on the main street. You’ll need to book trips in advance and reconfirm on the morning of your trip to make sure conditions are good enough to take the boat out. They find whales and/or dolphins on 98% of their outings and give you a free trip the following day if they don’t spot anything.
Take a Day Trip to Tangier in Morocco
Many holidaymakers staying on the Costa del Sol head to Tarifa to take a day trip to Tangier in Morocco. The fastest Tarifa to Tangier ferry connects Spain with North Africa in just 35 minutes. You can order tickets online directly with the FRS Ferry Line or simply buy tickets at the ticket office next to the port. There’s plenty parking available so it’s no problem to leave your hire car there until you return. Many tourist prefer to book day trips with tour operators who provide guided tours of the Medina (old town) and traditional markets of Tangier.
Visit the Roman Ruins of Baelo Claudia
Just a 23km along the coast from Tarifa, heading for Cádiz, you’ll see a sign for Bolonia. This is a fascinating place to visit as it is the location of the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia. This is an extremely well preserved archeological site right on the beach where the Romans used to produce a fish sauce concoction called ‘garum’ which was popular throughout the Roman Empire. The Playa de Bolonia is a glorious beach with golden sands and excellent surfing.