- Few facts about Tarifa
- Best time to visit Tarifa
- Practice watersports in Tarifa - kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, etc.
- Best Tarifa beaches
- Walk the promenade to the Isla de las Palomas in Tarifa
- Castillo de Santa Catalina
- Castillo de Guzman el Bueno
- Puerta de Jerez
- Tarifa Old Town
- Iglesia de San Mateo Apóstol
- Mirador El Estrecho in Tarifa
- Day trip to Tangier, Morocco from Tarifa, Spain
- Whales & dolphins watching trip from Tarifa, Spain
- Horse riding on the beach in Tarifa
- Bird watching in Tarifa, Spain
- Taste the local tuna fish
- Airports near Tarifa, Spain
- Where to park in Tarifa?
- Camping Tarifa
- To Tarifa by bus
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Right across from Morocco, Africa there is a place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. A place that is famous for its constant winds and stunning long white beaches. A place where thousands of water sports enthusiasts come every year, and many have fallen in love with it thanks to its chilled atmosphere. Welcome to Tarifa – the capital of the wind and one of the world’s most popular destinations for water sports, like kitesurfing or windsurfing. Vamos, let’s discover what to do in Tarifa, Spain.
Interesting fact. The name Tarifa comes from the name of the military commander, Tarif Ibn Malik, a Moorish invader who led a raid in 710.
Few facts about Tarifa
Tarifa is the southernmost point of Spain, and mainland Europe. The town is located in Andalusia on Costa de la Luz, across the Strait of Gibraltar facing Morocco. Tarifa is also a place where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
If you’re wondering if you can see Africa from Tarifa the answer is yes – most of the time visibility is great.
Tarifa has a Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters. The average temperature throughout the year varies from 15°C in January to 25°C in August.
In the Strait of Gibraltar, the Venturi effect is formed (which happens when a fluid or gas flows through a constricted passage) which results in the constant winds – either Levante (infamous, gusty and strong offshore wind blowing from the East) or Poniente (light or moderate wind coming from West, from the Atlantic). These two winds prevail in Tarifa for over 300 days most years. Wind gusts of 60 kph or more are not uncommon at all in Tarifa. In these conditions, you can also observe how wind uplifts the sand which creates an interesting effect of some kind of sand dancing.
For such a small town, Tarifa is known for its various attractions. Town offers an amazing selection of activities both for water sports enthusiasts and for those who aren’t into them that much. Of course, water sports like kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, or scuba diving are the most popular. Next in line are attractions such as whale-watching, horse-riding along the beach, tasting delicious red tuna, or just sunbathing on one of Tarifas’ sandy white beaches.
Best time to visit Tarifa
The best months to visit Tarifa are from June to October, because of the highest temperatures, about 25°C. Although, in our opinion, Tarifa is a great choice all year round.
We were staying there from mid-January to March 2022 – almost of the time it was sunny and the temperature was around 15-20°. But we have to admit winds were sometimes really strong. Because of that, perceived temperature was much lower and it was necessary to wear a winter jacket and a hat. What else speaks for visiting Tarifa off-season is that the prices are 2/3x lower and it’s less crowded (but still is).
Let’s discover all the amazing things you can do and see in Tarifa, Spain.
What to do in Tarifa, Spain? Complete travel guide
Practice watersports in Tarifa – kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, etc.
In the case of Tarifa, we cannot start our “what to do in Tarifa” list with anything else than practicing watersports. As you already know, due to strong and constant winds It is one of the world’s most popular destinations for water sports. All year round, thousands of people are heading to Tarifa to learn or practice kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, scuba diving, etc. But remember that it is officially forbidden at some spots to kite in summer (15.06-15.09). If you want to learn more about kitesurfing spots in and around Tarifa check this website.
If you’re a beginner you can choose one of the dozens of schools in the area (remember to always choose a licensed one), and sign up for lessons. You can take private lessons, semi-private with 2 or 3 students however group ones with 3+ students are available as well. Don’t worry about the equipment – the school will provide it. If you already know how to kite or surf, you can easily rent or buy the equipment in one of the schools or shops.
You can also try scuba diving in Tarifa. But remember that you cannot dive on your own – you have to choose one of the diving centers. Most of the diving in Tarifa takes place around Isla de las Palomas. You’ll be able to spot marine animals like moray eels, octopus, scorpion fish, wrasses, ocean sunfish, sea perch, and many more. What’s more, diving in Tarifa means diving in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean at the same time – cool, huh?
Best Tarifa beaches
Tarifa beaches are without a doubt one of the best and most beautiful in entire Andalusia. They are stretching for miles along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and are full of soft golden sand perfect for sunbathing and watching kite surfers.
The best beaches in and around Tarifa: Playa de Los Lances, Playa de Valdevaqueros, Playa Punta Paloma, Playa de Bolonia, Playa Los Alemanes, and Playa La Caleta. Along Playa de Los Lances in Tarifa you’ll find a lovely promenade, perfect for a long walks.
However, there is one more thing! One of the best things you can do on Tarifa beach is to watch the sunset. We saw many of them there and believe us – they are very, very beautiful.
Walk the promenade to the Isla de las Palomas in Tarifa
Isla de las Palomas is the southernmost point of mainland Europe. Islet was in use since Phoenician times when Phoenicians established a trading settlement there, later it was a military base. Inside the walls, there is the Tarifa lighthouse located. It was constructed on the base of a watchtower that was used to alert about the arrival of Berber pirates. In the early 19th century, the tower was converted into a lighthouse. Unfortunately, Isla de las Palomas is currently closed for visitors (June 2022).
Since 1808 causeway connects Isla de las Palomas with the mainland. Promenade splits the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, and currently is a very popular spot for photos, because in the middle two signs were places – “Oceano Atlantico” on the west side, and “Mar Mediterraneo” on the east side. Keep in mind that it’s not always easy to walk the promenade – when the winds are very strong it’s almost impossible (and certainly unpleasant).
Castillo de Santa Catalina
A few meters from the promenade is the hill of Santa Catalina and Castillo de Santa Catalina (eng. Castle of Santa Catalina) is located at the top. It occupies a strategic location overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Playa Chica, the causeway to Isla de los Palomas, the Atlantic Ocean, and Playa de los Lances.
It was designed in 1928 following Renaissance canons and completed in 1933. Not long after, in 1936, the building was bombed and suffered huge damage. In 1937 it was declared useless for service but in 1972, after almost forty years of abandonment, the building was restored. I was a control center for the passage of ships through the Strait of Gibraltar, a weather station for the Spanish Royal Navy, and later a National Institute of Meteorology. In 2000 the shipping control center moved to more modern facilities and the castle served briefly as a night-time lookout point for the Guardia Civil. 2001 ownership returned to the Tarifa Town Council.
Currently, Castillo de Santa Catalina is in disuse and closed to the public.
Castillo de Guzman el Bueno
Castillo de Guzman el Bueno (Eng. Castle of Guzman the Good) is one of the main attractions in Tarifa old town. This well-preserved castle was built in 960 by the order of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III. The main purpose was to protect the town from attacks from the sea. Castle of Guzman the Good is located on a strategic position, on a small hill, thanks to what guards could see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and had plenty of time to prepare for whatever was coming.
The original construction used to have 15 defense towers, and the wall that surrounded the old town of Tarifa that started from the castle. Later, in the 13th century, the Guzmán el Bueno Tower was added, as well as a church of St. Mary. The building was rebuilt in the 18th century and served as a garrison for Spanish-British troops who were defending Tarifa from Napoleon’s army in 1811-1812 during the War of Independence.
An interesting fact is that the castle was named after its governor Alfonso Perez de Guzman who defended the town in 1294. During a Muslim siege, he refused to surrender and sacrificed his own son in order to keep the population safe. It’s said that he himself threw a dagger at the Muslims to kill his son which was held, hostage. To honor Guzmán el Bueno in 1960 a statue was put in front of the Castle of Guzman the Good.
Entrance to Castillo de Guzman el Bueno is not free. Entry cost: €4 for adults, and €2.5 for children (June 2022). The castle is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Puerta de Jerez
Puerta de Jerez (eng. Jerez Gate) is a famous landmark of the city. It’s the only part of the medieval wall that surrounded the historic part of the town and that survived to this day. Gates the last-standing Moorish gate dating back to the 13th century. Above the arch, you can see an inscription celebrating King Sancho IV who conquered the city from the Moors – “Very noble, very loyal and heroic city of Tarifa won from the Moors while reigning Sancho IV El Bravo, on September 21, 1292” (es. Muy noble, muy leal y heroica ciudad de Tarifa ganada a los Moros reinando Sancho IV El Bravo, el 21 de Septiembre de 1292). Puerta de Jerez restoration took place in 2000.
Puerta de Jerez will take you directly to Tarifa Old Town.
Tarifa Old Town
Tarifa Old Town with whitewashed houses, narrow streets, corners, and squares has a typical Andalusian vibe. Its streets are full of restaurants, bars, small shops, and hotels. Enter through Puerta de Jerez, lose yourself in this charming maze, and look out for the remains from the Arab times. You should be able to spot some of Arabic decorations or still-standing remains of the city walls.
Iglesia de San Mateo Apóstol
Iglesia de San Mateo Apóstol (eng. Church of St. Matthew) is the main church of Tarifa located in the old town. The church was built in Gothic style on the remains of an old mosque and dates back to the early 16th century. Torcuato Cayón redesigned the main facade in the 18th century in Baroque style. The entrance to the Iglesia de San Mateo in Tarifa is free.
Mirador El Estrecho in Tarifa
Mirador El Estrecho is located about 7km from the Tarifa Old Town. From there you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of the coast of Africa as well as one of the Pillars of Hercules – Jebel Musa. The Rock of Gibraltar is the second pillar.
There are some legends around Pillars of Hercules. Some of them say about horrific seas, fiendish weather, and devilish serpents, some include Hercules and his twelve labors. If you want to read more about it check out this website. Here’s the most popular one:
“According to some Roman sources, while on his way to the garden of the Hesperides on the island of Erytheia, Hercules had to cross the mountain that was once Atlas. Instead of climbing the great mountain, Hercules used his superhuman strength to smash through it. By doing so, he connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and formed the Strait of Gibraltar. One part of the split mountain is Gibraltar and the other is either Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa. These two mountains together have since then been known as the Pillars of Hercules, though other natural features have been associated with the name.” Source: wikipedia.org
Day trip to Tangier, Morocco from Tarifa, Spain
A day trip to Morocco from Spain is definitely one of the most popular one-day trip ideas while in Tarifa. Tangier is a beautiful, historic Moroccan port city, located right across the Strait of Gibraltar. You can go there on your own as well as book an organized day trip.
To get to Tangier you need to take a ferry from Tarifa Port. There are several daily ferry services, but it’s best to take morning ones so you’ll have the whole day in Tangier available. FRS company offers the fastest crossing, within an hour. On ferryhopper.com or frs.es you can check schedules and buy tickets.
It’s a fast and easy journey which takes about an hour.
A one-way ticket from Tangier to Tarifa with FRS Service costs €43.5-55.5.
If the sea is rough, crossings are suspended.
Note. Remember that Morocco is a Muslim country so you should keep your body covered and respect their culture.
Whales & dolphins watching trip from Tarifa, Spain
Tarifa offers a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at whales (fin, pilot, orca, sperm, killer) and dolphins (common, bottlenose, striped) in their natural habitat, in a safe way, both for you and for animals.
The season for whale watching in Tarifa is best between April and October. The peak season is mid-June through to early September. During this time most tour operators can promise a high chance of seeing whales.
Expect to pay at least €40 per person for a 2-3 hours trip. On this site, you can check out sample prices.
Horse riding on the beach in Tarifa
Thanks to long and wide beaches, horse riding in Tarifa has become a popular activity. If riding a horse along the beach and feeling the breeze of the sea, and a sense of freedom is something that you were dreaming of – then horse riding in Tarifa is an activity that you need to try. You can also go horse-riding in Tarifa’s Natural Parks: the Parque Natural del Estrecho and the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales.
Expect to pay at least €30. On this site, you can check out sample prices.
Bird watching in Tarifa, Spain
Tarifa lies on the migration route for more than 400 species of birds that fly towards the Straits of Gibraltar to spend the winter in Africa and then return again in spring.
The best times for bird watching are March and April when the flocks of birds return to Europe for the warmer months; and mid-August to October, when they migrate to Africa for the winter.
Taste the local tuna fish
Tarifa is famous for its delicious tuna dishes. If you’re eating fish don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the local specialties. Bluefin tuna have been fished in Tarifa for three thousand years. Currently, this species is protected, and its fishing is controlled. Interesting fact: bluefin tuna is the world’s largest species of tuna.
If you’ll be visiting from late May to early June, you can take part in the Ruta del Atún event. It is one of the most popular gastronomic events in southern Andalusia. Various best restaurants in Tarifa are taking part, preparing special tuna dishes for visitors to try.
Places to visit near Tarifa, Spain
One-day trip to Tangier isn’t your only option for getting to know the area better. Here are some of your best options:
- Trip to Bolonia, to see Baelo Claudia, the ruins of the Roman city, and the dunes
- Day trip to Gibraltar from Tarifa, to see a small part of United Kingdom, but in the sun
- Day trip to Cadiz from Tarifa, to see one of the oldest towns in Europe
- Day trip to Vejer de la Frontera from Tarifa, to see one of the most beautiful villages in Spain
Is Tarifa worth visiting?
Yes, definitely. Tarifa is one of those places where it just feels good to be. Mainly it’s a paradise for water sports lovers, but everyone will find something for themselves there, as the variety of activities is wide. From discovering the old town, sunbathing, a day trip to Morocco, Gibraltar, or Cadiz to whales and dolphins watching and horse riding on the beach.
Is Tarifa expensive?
Yes, and no. Like with everything – it depends on the point of view. We were staying there in winter and accommodation (private apartment on Airbnb) cost us about €1100/month. Summer months are much, much more expensive so prepare for that.
How to get to Tarifa, Spain?
Airports near Tarifa, Spain
The nearest airport to Tarifa is located in Gibraltar (45km away, but remember that it’s the UK, not Spain) and the next ones are located in Jerez de la Frontera (120km) and Malaga (160km). As always, the most convenient way to get to Tarifa is by car.
Where to park in Tarifa?
There are many free parking lots and places on the streets in Tarifa, so you shouldn’t have any problem with finding a place. We can’t really recommend any but saw that many were parking in this place.
If you’re traveling by camper here are campings in Tarifa where most vans are staying:
- Area de Autocaravanas de Tarifa (paid)
- Free big parking right next to the beach
- Free smaller parking right next to the beach
To Tarifa by bus
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Tarifa?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Tarifa: