Tarifa is a town in the Cadiz Province in the Andalucia region of Spain. It is located in the suthernmost point of the continental Europe where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. This is also one of the narrowest parts of the Strait of Gibraltar as there is only 14 kilometers of sea dividing Tarifa from Africa.
Tarifa is a popular holiday destination, especially popular among the members of the kiteboarding, windsurfing and surfing communities due to its reliable wind conditions. This is very noticeable in the town itself as one can feel the "surfing vibe" at almost every step.
With its magnificient beaches, unspoiled nature, beautiful views of Africa, history and plenty of bars and restaurants has something to offer for everyone.
The walled Old Town town has only been mildly spoiled by the mass tourist developments that have ravaged the coasts of most of Spain. Much of the surrounding coastline is still protected by law and a few kilometres to the west of the town are two of Spain's most beautiful beaches.
First settlement was present here already in the Roman times. Tarifa was held by numerous lords and nany battles took place in the area throughout the history, which
indicates its strategic importance. Tarifa was given its present name after the attack of Tarif ibn Malik in 710, a Berber military commander of Musa bin Nusayr.
While Tarifa is also a ferry and a fishing port it is nowadays most famous as a holiday destintaion and the European Mecca of kiteboading.
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Check Tarifa's weather forecast at Dark Sky
Tarifa features a Mediterranean climate with Oceanic influences, with warm summers and very mild winters. Rain is concentrated in winter, with the summers being largely dry. The influence of the ocean has the effect of creating a very small annual variation in temperature. Winters are warmer than inland Spain - and summers are cooler than most of the country - the average daily high in the hottest month, August, is only 24 °C, more than 10 °C cooler than the temperatures experienced further inland in the Guadalquivir valley, and also significantly cooler than those felt further east along the Mediterranean coast in places such as Málaga and Almería and even further west in Huelva and the Algarve coast of Portugal, as well as nearby Gibraltar and Tangier, which renders Tarifa to be an extreme microclimate.
The nearest airports are Malaga (1,5h), Gibraltar, (35 min), Jerez de la Frontera (1h) Tangier, Morocco (1h - includes crossing time with ferry).
While it is theoretically possiible to use public transport to get from the airports to Tarifa and back it is very inconvenient and time consuming in most cases. This makes renting a car the most attractive option. Car will also be usefull when getting around as there are some places worth visiting that are a bit outside of the town (some beaches, restaurants and actiities such as horseback riding).
Take Calle Batallo del Salado in the direction away from old town to find the bus station behind the Repsol petrol station. There are several buses a day to Cadiz (10€), Sevilla (20€, 32€ round-trip), Algeciras and other cities.
From the port a fast FRS ferry leaves several times a day for the port of Tangier, Morocco and takes 35 minutes to get there.
Ferry tickets, port information and Tangier accommodation can ba arranged online or at one of the numerous tourist agencies in the town.
- Los Lances beach. An expanse of white sand, nearly 8km long and 120m wide, the immense Los Lances beach is world-famous for being the best kite and windsurf spot in Europe. The main kitesurf teaching area is near the Rio Jara, which drains into the ocean across the beach, forming a semi permanent lagoon when tides are high. Past the river, at the far end from town, Los Lances morphs into Valdevaqueros beach, then turns a corner and becomes Punta Paloma, making a near-unbroken 10km beach of white sand and dunes. edit
- Puerta de Jerez. Main entrance to the old town and a part of the medieval wall is the only one of the three gates that survived until the present times. Above the etrance there is inscription that reads: "Very Noble, Very Loyal and Heroic city of Tarifa, Won from the moors Reigning Sancho IV el Bravo 21 September 1292". edit
- Castle Guzmán el Bueno, ☎ +34 956 684 689. 10.30 - 14.00 and 17.00 - 20.00. Probably one of the most well-preserved medieval buildings in Spain was built in 960 by Abd ar-Rahman. From the tower you have beautiful 360 degrees views over Tarifa and the Strait of Gibraltar. The legend says that the Moors requested Guzman to surrender or they would kill his son to which he responded by throwing his knife from the top of the tower where he was hiding and killing the son himself which eventually led to the end of 800 year occupation. edit
- Church San Mateo, Calle Sancho IV el Bravo 8, ☎ +34 956 68 44 03. open 24/7. The Gothic church was built in the 16th century. The facade was rebuilt in 1774 by La vega and stands in good relation with the original style. edit
- Plaza de los Ocho Ranitas. Also called Plaza de Santa Maria. The main buildings on the quare are the Alcazaba in neoclasic style,the city hall and the local Library. edit
- El camino de La Isla de las Palomas. The road that leads to the island dividing the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ccean offers beautiful and inspiring views over the strait, allows you to watch the surfers on the Los Lances and Playa Chica beaches or fill the lungs with fresh sea air. edit
- Castillo Santa Catalina. Little castle right next to El camino de la isla de las Palomas that was built in 1929. edit
- Baelo Claudia, (in the neighbouring town Bolonia). Baelo Claudia is a complex of Roman ruins including temples, baths, houses and a Roman theatre. It's right on the beach in Bolonia, a fishing vliiage located on a small bay framed by mountains, just a few minutes drive from Tarifa. Baelo Claudia derived its wealth from the fishing industry, supplying the popular Roman delicacy garum (fish paste) to the whole Roman Empire. It was thriving at the time of Emperor Claudius (41-45 AD), who gave the town his name. edit
- Abandoned Military buildings. The Strait of Gibraltar used to be guarded by large and heavy guns that were location in the various military batteries in the area around Tarifa. In those days the soldiers had a lot of fun in Tarifa and their green uniforms were a nice contrast to the vibrant colors of the first windsurfers. Today these military batteries are overgrown with plants and trees, their walls are decorated with graffiti, windows are broken but they still remain full of mistery as the sun plays with their shadows. edit
- The views to Africa. Looking across the Strait of Gibraltar you see the Rif Mountains of Morocco rising out of the sea. On a clear day they feel close enough to swim to. At night the lights of Tangier and other Moroccan coastal towns glow and flicker over the water, seemingly far too close to be in another continent. Many houses and flats to rent in Tarifa have a roof garden with a view across the Strait to Africa. It's a beautiful backdrop to your breakfast. edit
Wind, water and waves
A lot of people come to Tarifa to engage in one of the sports that include water, wind or waves (kiteboarding, windsurfing, wave surfing, stand-up paddling, ...). With its reliable winds, huge beaches, mild climate and convenient location on the continental Europe it repesents on of the best spots for this sports in Europe, or even worldwide. The season is year long with a bigger chance of rain and 50-60% of windy days in winter (November to February), 60-75% of windy days and in spring/autumn and almost 100% of windy days, highest temperatures and the biggest crowds in the summer (June-August).
There are two prevailing winds:
- Levante is easterly wind that blows from the land, which makes it dry and warm. It is the stronger of the two winds (20-40kts), but also gustier. Levante is off-shore wind, which needs to be kept in mind when choosing the spot (one of the lagoons or the Valdevaqueros beach at Punta Paloma). There is rescue boat service available in the high season on the days with Levante.
- Poniente comes from the west (Atlantic Ocean) and is cooler and more humid. It is not as strong as Levante (10-25kts), but very steady. It usually picks up in the afternoon while leaving the mornings relatively calm. It also brings the swell in the low and mid season which makes it great for surfing.
The main spot is obviously the Los Lances beach, but due to its size it is technically split into a few separate spots:
- Los Lances (south/city) is the part of the beach from La Isla de Las Palomas to the end of the apartment buildings at the footbal stadium and is suitable for Poniente. Spot can get some nice swell, which makes it suitable for wave riding as well. It is forbidden to ride here in the high season.
- Rio Jara is further north along the coast where the Jara river flows into the Atlantic ocean. Suitable for Poniente, there is no rescue service available for Levante. Good for wave riding. There is also a lagoon where people kite despite it being forbidden. Police will sometimes come by and fine the kiters riding in it. Riding in the mouth of the river is extremely dangerous due to the strong currents (people drowned there in the past).
- Los Lances (north) starts roughly at beach bar Aqua and goes until the Arte Vida hotel. Suitable for Poniente with the rescue service for Levante available in the high season. There are designated school, kite and swim zones in the summer which are to be respected.
- Valdevaqueros and Punta Paloma is the spot just north of the Punta Paloma and is suitable for both Poniente and Levante. Since the coast makes a slight turn here Levante blows less off-shore than further south. It can get very crowded in the high season.
There are many schools and rental centers in Tarifa. The competition is fierce and the quality varies. Kitbearding can be very dangerous sport if the safety practices are not followed. It is recommended to make sure you are taking courses with professonal and respected schools with certificated instructors. Most schools also offer surf and SUP courses/rentals for the days with less or no winds. Most will also be happy to help their future studends with the travel and accommodation arragements.
- Dragon Tarifa, ☎ +34 660 882 710 ([email protected]), . Family-owned school with 15+ years of experience and very personal approach. Beside kiteboarding lessons and rental they also offer SUP, windsurf and surfing courses/rentals. Their specialty is tandem kiteboarding which introduces the sport to complete beginners (and even kids) in a safe manner. Yoga classes and retreats, Spanish language lessons, accommodation, travel arrangements and even full retreats can be organized as wel. Beginner course: 160-300€ per person, Private lessons: from 55€/h. edit
- Graykite Tarifa, Ctra Comarcal 9210 KM 2, Zona Pedro Valiente (The meeting place for lessons is at Chiringuito Agua, a beach bar at the main teaching area on Playa de Los Lances.), ☎ +34 600 76 62 33, . 08:00 - 20:00. Graykite is a kite surfing school in Tarifa offering lessons for beginners, advanced riders and children. All instructors are IKO qualified and have between 4 and 14 years of teaching experience. Most beginners can kitesurf independently after a 3 day course. Help with travel arrangements and accommodation can be provided if required. Beginner course: 240-360€ per person, Private lessons: 60€/h. edit
- Kite Fun Tarifa, Ctra Nacional 340, km82.2, 11380 Tarifa, ☎ +34 661 09 42 60 ([email protected]), . Beginner course: 160-380€, Private lessons: 50€/h. edit
- Horseback riding: When exploring Tarifa's surroundings you will be able to see many horses, a lot of them freely gazing around. Experiencing the area's unspoiled nature from a horse's back is a trully unique experience no matter if you decide to ride along the coast or in the mountains.
- Mountainbike: An absolute mountain biking paradise is hidden in the inland of Tarifa with many trails for all kind of levels where you can ride all year. Long up hills, challenging down hills, easy and rough trails, beautiful nature and incredible views over the Atlantic ocean and the strait of Gibraltar. There are many bike shops in the Town where the rentals and guided tours can be arranged.
- Destem, C/ Mar Adriático 11, 11380 Tarifa, ☎ +34 686 19 47 33 ([email protected]), . Mon-Fri 10:30-14:00 and 17:30-21:00, Sat 10:00-14:00. edit
- Repack, C/ Mar Adriático 4, 11380 Tarifa, ☎ +34 856 91 03 64 ([email protected]), . Mon-Sat, 10:00-21:00. edit
- Whale watching: sail in the Strait of Gibraltar and observe marine life.
- Resident species can be seen all year. They include the Common dolphin, Striped dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin and Pilot Whale.
- Semi-resident species are present in the area related to the feeding periods. They include the Killer whale - Orca (July-September) and Sperm whale (March-July).
- Migratory species who cross the strait as part of their migrations. They include the Fin whale (May-July).
- Whale watch Tarifa, Avda. Constitución 6, ☎ +34 639 476 544 ([email protected]), . 30-50€ per person (adults), discounts for kids. edit
- Surfski is a new sport in Tarifa. Paddling between the two continents comes with a special charm or as Oscar Chalupsky (11x winner of the Molakai) said: "Tarifa is probably the best downwind spot in the world."
- Scuba Diving: underwater world around the Isla de Las Palomas offers a lot to explore and observe. One of the many dive shops in the town can help you organize the dive there or help you start with diving and get the necessary certifications
- Swim in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There are not many places in the world that can offer that.
- Learn Spanish in one of the language schools.
Food is generally good in Tarifa - especially fish. Try going for the places filled with locals where you'll most likely get the best quality for the best price. Don't forget to try the local Tuna, swordfish and the "Tortillas de camarón" (typical dish in the Cadiz province). "Ortigas" (sea nettles) are another local specialty.
Restaurants can mostly be found in the old town center, along the Los Lances beach (most of beach bars serve food as well) and on the main road towards Cadiz.
- Bar El Frances, Calle Sancho IV El Bravo 21, ☎ +34 685 85 70 05, . 12:30 - 23:00. Popular place with delicious Mediterranean food. The establishment itself is tiny, but they quite a big terrace in front of it. Also popular to grab a drink in the evening. $$$. (36.0125652,-5.6050685) edit
- Mandragora, Calle de la Independencia 3 (Across the street of the town hall.), ☎ +34 956 68 12 91, . 18:30 - 24:00. Excellent Moroccan restaurant with the authentic athmosphere. $$$$. (36.013923,-5.6011002) edit
- Pacha Mama, N-340, Km. 81 (Short drive in direction of Cadiz, right next to the main street on the right side.), ☎ +34 956 68 22 03, . 10:00 - 2:00. Restaurant, bar and kite school. They have a huge outside space with pool, where you can come to chill during the day or to party during the night. Their menu includes various tapas, burgers, grilled meat and pizzas. $$$. (36.0426493,-5.6294967) edit
- Piri Piri Take Away, Batalla Del Salafo N/A (Across the stree from the main bus station in town.), ☎ +34 625 29 84 20. 12:00 - 18:00. Absolutely delicious food made form fresh ingidients. A lot of vegetarian and vegan options. There are a few seats inside and in front if you choose to dine in. $. (36.0188091,-5.6109034) edit
- La Tribu Pizzeria, Lugar Barriada Nuestra Senora de La Luz 7, ☎ +34 956 68 90 52, . 19:00 - 2:00. Surfing themed pizzeria in the old town. Pizzas are tasty, but are made with very thin breat. In case you are starving you'll probably need to eat two of them in order to be full. $$. (36.0126339,-5.6378992) edit
- La Tribu Playa, N-340, Km. 76 (Drive towards Cadiz for about 10 kkm and you will see the restaurant right next to the main road few 100 meters before the crossing for Punta Paloma. There is a sandwich shop next to it.), ☎ +34 956 68 90 52, . Very tasty food, mostly Italian (pizza pasta). They regularly stream football matches on a big screen. Very convinient for a snack after a long day of surfing/kiting at the Valdevaqueros/Punta Paloma. $$$. (36.0126339,-5.6378992) edit
- Vaca Loca, Calle Cervantes 6, . 18:30 - 2:00. Steakhouse/grill in the old town. Next to the main party places, which makes it very convenient for a dinner before a long party night. $$$. (36.0125213,-5.6057485) edit
- There is a restaurant near a village Facinas, a few kilometres to the north from Tarifa. Just follow the road to Cadiz and in about 10-12 km there will be a right turn to Fasinas (which is in turn a beautiful one spread on a foothills in the form of a cross) with a hardly noticeable sign. This restaurant is located just before the village i.e. a kilometre or two away from the main road. It is a meat restaurant with extremely delicious dishes, especially meat ones, and very friendly waitstaff. The portions are rich and generous. Prices are about €25-30 with wine (35 tops to full you completely), for two persons. The place is sometimes (mainly at weekends) crowded with locals watching football matches on TV or having talks to each other. One of the best restaurant in this region. Nobody speaks English there, so be prepared.
Holidays & Excursions In Tarifa .
Hotels, Hostals, Pension, Apartments, Villas with sea view and campsites right on the beach.
The campsites are outside the town along the coast. During the summer months the city halls offers a free of use shuttle service.
- Hostal Alameda , situated in the centre, this comfortable cosy hostal offers all services you expect from an hostal.
- Hotel La Mirada  Nice English-speaking staff, new construction, decent location. €40 a night for a single room with a good en suite bathroom and flat-screen TV. Calle San Sebastian 41.
- Dos Mares Apartment  A stylish two bedroom apartment with balcony views, swimming pool, storage for equipment, close to town and windsurf/ kitesurf beaches. English owned and managed.
- Hotel Arte Vida, CN 340 km 79.3, ☎ 956684652, . Situated at the beach Los Lances. Great views over the Strait of Gibraltar. The restaurant of Arte Vida is well known for the fresh fish and the ambient. Don`t mis the sunset celebration parties at the beach club. edit
- Pension Facundo. Great hostel to accommodate backpackers and travellers on a budget. €20/night for a bed in the dorm or more for a nice private room (14/07/10). The hostel cares for hygiene and maintains cooking facilities and free internet for travellers. Staff has problems speaking English. edit
- Jerez - A nice day trip to this warm and luminous city, home of Sherry (denomination of origin legally protected) wines, cradle of Flamenco and home of the Andalusian/Carthusian horses (pure Spanish Horse). Just one hour and a half by car (direct buses from Algeciras). Visit some wine cellar to know their long and distinguished history and process and later, visit some popular “tabanco” to taste wonderful tapas and unique wines sorrounded by local people. You can also enjoy or even learn some Flamenco (don’t miss Flamenco Festival in February or their popular Zambomba celebration along December weekends) or attending some horses show in The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art Foundation.
- Gibraltar - This famous overseas territory of the United Kingdom is located just a good half hour drive from Tarifa and it is a unique place and definitely worth visiting.