Situated in the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar on the southernmost tip of Spain, Tarifa sits where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. It’s high winds, strong waves and westerly swells, provide Tarifa with some of the best conditions in Europe for surfing, wind surfing and kite surfing, establishing it as the surfing Mecca of Europe.
The views across to the African continent just 11 kilometres away are spectacular, as are its many kilometres of white sandy beaches. Tarifa has been spared the fate of many coastal resorts along Spain’s Mediterranean Coasts which fell prey to the high density resorts of real estate speculators. Its unspoilt and pristine beaches, its virgin coastline and abundant birdlife attract nature-lovers and birdwatchers alike.
Tarifa was the first port of call for the invading Moors in the 8th century A.D., as it was through Tarifa that their invading armies entered the Iberian Peninsula. Indeed, the city is named for Tariq ibn Malik, who led a Muslim raid in 710 AD, one year before the actual Islamic invasion. Although much of what stands today of the town of Tarifa was constructed in the 18th century, the old historic quarter of Tarifa is entered through medieval gates on different sides, as the town is still mostly surrounded by walls.
The streets are narrow and cobbled with the typical flat roofed whitewashed houses with the traditional wrought iron grilles of Andalusian windows. Strolling through its narrow, cobbled streets and maze of little squares, the charming town seems designed to provide shade at all times of the day to its narrow streets and courtyards lined with street cafés, shops markets.
Tarifa enjoys a Mediterranean climate with influences of the Atlantic Ocean. Its summers are dry and warm and its short winters very mild. Most of the rain falls during the winter months so the summers are dry and sunny. Because it is on the Atlantic Ocean rain is quite abundant in the wet period from November through to February.
Due to Oceanic influence, the annual variations in temperature are small with winters being much warmer than in most of Spain and summers not as hot as in other areas of Southern Spain. The average maximum daily temperature during the hottest month of august is 24ºC.
Castle of Guzman El Bueno: Although the origins of this fortress are Moslem, as it was built in 960 on orders from the caliphate of Cordoba, the fortress takes its name from the hero of the Christian Reconquest Guzmán El Bueno. In 1294, during the defense of the castle, Guzmán’s son was captured by Islamic forces and the attackers demanded surrender or the hostage would be killed. Guzman threw down his own dagger to the Moslem forces for the deed to be done. His descendants were to become one of Spain’s most powerful families. It is believed that the Moslem fort was built on the ruins of a Roman fort because of the Roman influence of its structure. The fortress is open to the public.
Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia: Approximately 15km north of Tarifa, is Baelo Claudia which was an ancient Roman town which now has the most famous Roman ruins in the area. The settlement was important along the trade routes between Europe and North Africa The ruins of Baelo Claudia, include an impressive temple, a forum and a basilica, as well as a large fish-salting factory, which show the importance of the town. There is a visitor centre housed in a building overlooking the sea; you go through the centre before entering the site of the ruins. It’s has interactive displays explaining the city’s geographical location, its shipping routes (both rivers and sea) and other communication within Hispania are very informative regarding the daily life of a Roman colony. As Baelo Claudia’s economy was based on fishing, the fish-salting factory was crucial to the colony’s success.
The Hotel Misiana has 12 stylishly decorated rooms and is located in the centre of Tarifa’s Old Town and just a few minutes walk from the beaches.
The Boutique Design Hotel El Escondite del Viento has 6 bedrooms and a contemporary interior with a roof terrace with views across Tarifa old town.
The Chillout Hotel Tres Mares is a laid-back beach hotel with 24 rooms just outside Tarifa town centre.
Playa Chica: is the last of the Mediterranean beaches and the southernmost of the peninsula’s beaches, it is situated opposite to the island of La Paloma. There are showers and toilets, but there are no other facilities like kiosk or bars or equipment rental. Suitable for swimming and snorkeling with very clear water. The little bay is protected from the wind. It’s not suitable for surfing or kite surfing. Windsurfing is only allowed in the off season.
Playa Dos Mares: This 3 kilometre long beach is 5 kilometres out of Tarifa and is an excellent beach for kite surfers and windsurfers alike; the beach is split into two areas, a kite surf zone, and a windsurf zone It also has a teaching area. There is no shortage of parking spaces. It has a beach bar, toilets and material for hire, as well as a school. This beach is not suitable for surfing.
Playa Los Lances: This beach is situated 7 kilometres from Tarifa. On strong Levante days this beach is protected from the wind by cliffs. As it’s not a large beach, kitesurfers might have problems starting and landing the kite for lack of space. In the winter time there are small but nice waves for surfing. Its suitable for both windsurfing and surfing and there’s equipment available for hire. There’s a surf school, beach bar, shower and toilet facilities and parking is available. One of the best surfing beaches in Tarifa.
These are only a small selection of the beaches Tarifa is famous for. For leisure or sport, Tarifa’s beaches are fabulous with incomparable views of the African continent and opportunities to spot whales and dolphins in the surf of the Straits.
Whalewatching in Tarifa
Another big draw for a lot of people coming to Tarifa is Whale Watching. The Strait of Gibraltar is an excellent location for Whale Watching because it produces a slow exchange of water from the saltier Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean to the by way of an undercurrent with the Atlantic entering the Mediterranean on the surface. This phenomenon creates a rich ecosystem able to sustain numerous species of whales throughout the year, many of which follow these currents.
You are almost guaranteed to see Pilot Whales at any time of year but depending on the season it’s also possible to see the Common, Bottlenose and Striped Dolphin, and occasionally Killer Whales, Sperm Whales or Fin Whales.