© iStock / Ekaterina Chuyko
© iStock / Ekaterina Chuyko

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Tarifa: surf, infinite beaches, history & fun

4 minutes to read

Welcome to Tarifa, the place that separates the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Tarifa is special for many, many reasons. Only fourteen kilometres from Morocco, it has a magnificent historical city centre, natural parks, and kilometres of virgin beaches… you can even spot dolphins and whales! So yes, this is one of the best destinations in Andalusia. Come and discover with me Tarifa: surf, infinite beaches, history and fun!

Surf & beach 

The Tarifa Cape is located in the province of Cádiz, right at the Costa de la Luz. Because Tarifa is at the confluence of a sea and an ocean, its wind and waves are ideal for surf lovers. Actually, one of the most iconic pictures of Tarifa is a beach full of kites and windsurfers! 

© iStock / Travel_Nerd
© iStock / Travel_Nerd

It does not matter if you are not so much into surfing, there is also a place for you here. The municipality of Tarifa owns 38 kilometres of beach shore. The most popular beaches are Playa de los Lances, a beautiful landscape with dunes, swamps and pine trees, and Bolonia Beach, where you can find a huge, moving dune standing next to a whole Roman city. 

© iStock / mmeee
© iStock / mmeee

Nature and fauna 

Furthermore, most of Tarifa’s territory belongs to several natural parks. I love this place, you can do so many different things. For instance, you can visit the Natural Park of Los Alcornocales, where you can see how the cork is extracted from the tree. Or better yet, you can do one of my favourite activities: hop on a boat and see dolphins and whales. There are three different species of dolphins, and if you are at the right time of the year, you can also spot killer whales, pilot whales, sperm whales, you name it. Plus, on this tour, you get to see the beautiful nature around the rock of Gibraltar, walk its streets and admire the Moroccan shore.

© getyourguide / uknown author
© getyourguide / uknown author

Tarifa, key for history

Aside from these big fishes, many other passing ones have been feeding Neanderthals and sapiens for thousands of years, and while you are here, do not leave without eating as much tuna as you can. Thus, the territory of Tarifa has always been a very important place for humans. They have inhabited this area since the Palaeolithic. Actually, Neandertals were supposed to have been extinct for 40,000 years, but evidence of them has been found here and nearby 29,000 years ago! Furthermore, countless caves with paintings have been in this area for thousands of years. 

© iStock / Fran Rodriguez
© iStock / Fran Rodriguez

Of course, such a rich place was already interesting for traders. The Phoenicians came all the way from Palestine three thousand years ago, and later arrived the Romans, who built Baelo Claudia and Mellaria. You can visit both!

Baelo Claudia Roman Ruins, Tarifa
Baelo Claudia Roman Ruins, Tarifa
11391 Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain

Being so close to Africa, Tarifa has always been a very strategic place, key for conquering and losing empires. By the way, Tarifa’s name derives from the name of Tarik’s lieutenant, Tarif. Tarik was the leader of the Moorish army that ended up conquering the whole of Hispania in 711. He founded Tarifa, the southernmost city in Europe. It was so close to Morocco that it became necessary to fortify it, so in the 10th century, a mighty fortress was built. This castle still preserves most of its features from the Caliphate period, which is very rare, so do not miss it! You can have a stroll around its thirteen towers. 

© iStock / JuanamariGonzalez
© iStock / JuanamariGonzalez

Plus, Tarifa is one of the few cities of Spain that did not destroy its city wall in order to build houses, so if you go to the city centre, it will be like walking into a Moroccan medina, with narrow streets and white houses. It even has one gate remaining from the ancient medina, and if you have been to Morocco, you will recognize it at once: the Jerez Gate. Therefore, if you plan to spend a night here, I recommend you do it in the city centre. La Casa de la Favorita is ideal because it has views over the historical Tarifa, and it is only 600 metres away from the beach, so it has a perfect location!

Castle of Tarifa
Castle of Tarifa
11380 Tarifa, Cádiz, España

As I said before, Tarifa used to be very strategic, so besides this fortress, you will find the Santa Catalina Castle and eight watch towers along the coastline, each different and built during different times. Enjoy its magnificence!

© iStock / photooiasson
© iStock / photooiasson

To understand how close Tarifa is to Africa, you must see it yourself! So go on a day tour to Tangier and change the continent in no time. You will then understand how much of Tarifa’s Arabic past has been preserved. Furthermore, you will enjoy the beautiful Tangier, its medina and parks, and of course its delicious food!

© getyourguide / unknown author
© getyourguide / unknown author

Back to Tarifa, do not forget to visit the religious buildings. Have in mind that most of them were mosques before. San Mateo is the most important one. It was supposed to be a huge masterpiece, but the local marquis got angry with the Tarifans and withdrew all his funds, so they had to finish as they could. This is why it looks embedded between all the nearby buildings. Very special!

© iStock / mmeee
© iStock / mmeee

So you see, in Tarifa, you will find everything you wish for your holidays: surf, infinite beaches, history and fun!



The author

Sara Rodriguez Romo

Sara Rodriguez Romo

I live between Salamanca, in Spain, and Marvão, in Portugal. A passionate traveller, I have visited over 30 countries in four continents. Currently I am doing a PhD in Greek Mythology and working with horses, doing rides in the nature.

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