Visiting Tarifa,Our Complete Guide
Tarifa is the town furthest south in Europe, a stone throw away from Africa. When visiting Tarifa you will discover a historic, trendy and fun place to visit, read our travel guide to find out more.
The historic town of Tarifa in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain, attracts thousands of visitors every year for its amazing beaches, windsports, history, culture and nature. I must confess, I love visiting Tarifa and the vibe this town gives. On one hand, the town is stepped in history, being so close to Morocco and the history that Moorish past brings. On the other hand, it is a windsurfing, kite surfing vibrant and hip place to be. Furthermore, recently, Tarifa has become a great some great bars and restaurants offering high-quality evening dinning. Tarifa also has an energetic nightlife mixed with a mixture of kite and windsurfers and a hippy style Bohemian crown. It’s just this unique blend of personalities that gives Tarifa that unique feel.
Things to do in the center of Tarifa
The center of Tarifa is a delightful place to explore on foot, as it preserves the charm of its medieval and Moorish history. You can wander around the narrow streets and alleys, admire the whitewashed houses and colorful flowers,. When exploring Tarifa you will soon discover some of the most interesting monuments and landmarks of the old town.
Evening, for me, is the very best time to visit the old town of Tarifa. As sunset begins, the restaurants in Tarifa start to fill. The narrow streets, filled with cozy bars and new age style shops, start to fill as people enjoy exploring the old narrow streets. This is a great time to find a good restaurant and enjoy a meal and a few glasses of wine. If you explore the narrow streets of Tarifa you will soon discover they open out on to some hidden squares. Within these squares are bars and restaurants with their tables set ready for you to relax and enjoy the local offerings.
Historic attractions in Tarifa
- The Castle of Guzmán el Bueno: This is the most emblematic monument of Tarifa. It was built in the 10th century by the Caliphate of Cordoba to defend the town from the Christian invasions. It was named after Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, a Castilian nobleman who heroically resisted a siege by the Moors in 1294. You can visit the castle and enjoy the views of the sea and the island of Tarifa from its towers and walls.
- The Puerta de Jerez: This is one of the main entrances to the old town. This well preserved monument datss back to the 13th century. It was part of the defensive wall that surrounded Tarifa and it features a horseshoe arch and a coat of arms of Castile and León.
- The Santa Maria Square: This is one of the most lively and beautiful squares in Tarifa. Here you will find several cafes, restaurants, shops and bars. It is also home to some of the most important religious buildings in Tarifa, such as:
- The St Matthew’s Church: This is a Gothic-Mudejar church that was built in the 16th century on the site of a former mosque. It has a stunning facade with three arches and a rose window. Another feature is a bell tower that was added in the 18th century. Inside, you can admire the altarpiece, the paintings and the sculptures.
- The Chapel of San Francisco: This is a small chapel that was built in the 18th century by the Franciscan order. It has a simple exterior with a single nave and a Baroque portal. Inside, you can see some paintings and images related to St Francis of Assisi.
- The Convent of San Francisco: This is a convent that was founded in the 17th century by the Franciscan order. It has a cloister with arches and columns, as well as a church with a Baroque facade and an impressive altarpiece.
Things to do near Tarifa
Tarifa is not only a great destination by itself, but also a perfect base to explore the local area. Here are some of the best day trips you can do from Tarifa:
The Castillo de Santa Catalina: This is another fortress that was built in the 16th century by King Philip II to reinforce the defense of Tarifa from pirate attacks. It is located on a hilltop overlooking the sea and it offers spectacular views of Tarifa, Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar. You can visit the castle and learn about its history and architecture.
The Island of Tarifa: This is a small island that is connected to the mainland by a causeway. It is also known as Isla de las Palomas or Isla de Perejil (Parsley Island). It has a lighthouse that was built in 1860 and it marks the southernmost point of mainland Europe. You can walk on the causeway or take a boat to reach the island and enjoy its beach and views.
The Roman ruins at Playa de Bolonia: This is one of the most stunning beaches in Tarifa, with golden sand, clear water. It also features a huge sand dune that rises up to 30 meters above sea level. It is also home to one of the most important archaeological sites in Andalusia: Baelo Claudia, an ancient Roman city that flourished in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. You can visit the ruins and see the well-preserved basilica, forum, theater, baths and aqueduct.
The Whale Watching Center of Turmares: This is a company that organizes boat trips to observe whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent creatures, as it is a migration route and a feeding ground for many species. You can see dolphins, orcas, sperm whales, fin whales and pilot whales, depending on the season and the weather. The trips last about 2 hours and include a guide and a biologist who will explain everything you need to know about these animals.
Visiting Morocco from Tarifa
The ferry from Tarifa to Tangier. This is a great opportunity to visit another continent and culture in just one day. You can take the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier, Morocco, and explore this fascinating city that has a rich history and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Once in Tangier you can explore the medina, the kasbah, the souks, the Grand Mosque, the American Legation Museum and much more. Also, don’t forget to sample the delicious Moroccan cuisine and shop for some souvenirs. The ferry takes about an hour each way and you need to bring your passport and visa if required. And yes, you really can easily visit Morocco from Tarifa in one day.
Where to stay when visiting Tarifa
Tarifa has a wide range of accommodation options for all budgets and preferences. You can find hotels, hostels, apartments, campsites, rural houses and more. The old town of Tarifa has an abundance of cozy accommodation set within some historic buildings. It is well worth researching some accommodation options in Tarifa. There are as many small boutique hotels that are simply remarkable. I recommend that you choose one of these small, historic and chic hotels to stay in when visiting Tarifa. Here are some of my top picks for where to stay in Tarifa:
- Apartamentos La Residencia: These are stylish and comfortable apartments that are located in the heart of the old town, surrounded by the historic city walls. They have views of Africa and the sea, as well as a terrace, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom. They can accommodate up to 4 people and they are ideal for couples or families.
- Kitecamp Tarifa: This is a surf camp that offers kitesurfing lessons, equipment rental, accommodation and activities for all levels. You can stay in a shared or private room in a cozy house with a garden, a pool, a barbecue area and a chill-out zone. You can also enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner with other guests and instructors. You can choose from different packages depending on your needs and preferences.
- Hotel La Torre: This is a charming hotel that is located in a renovated farmhouse near Playa de Valdevaqueros. It has 16 rooms with rustic decor, private bathroom, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. It also has a restaurant that serves traditional Andalusian cuisine with local products, as well as a bar, a terrace and a garden. It is perfect for nature lovers and windsurfers.
Of course there are plenty more options to stay when you visit Tarifa. The thing to do is to research and discover some of the unique accommodation options available in Tarifa.
Where to eat in Tarifa
Tarifa has a great gastronomic offer that reflects its location between two seas and two continents. You can find fresh seafood, grilled meat, tapas, salads, pizzas, burgers, Moroccan dishes and more. Here are some of the best places to eat in Tarifa:
- El Chiringuito Lounge-Beach Restaurant: This is a beachfront restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine with an international touch. You can enjoy dishes like paella, fish, pasta, salads, burgers and more. You can also have cocktails, smoothies and desserts while listening to music and watching the sunset. It is open from breakfast to dinner and it has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
- La Favela: This is a cozy restaurant that serves fusion cuisine with influences from Asia, Africa and Latin America. You can try dishes like ceviche, curry, couscous, tacos, nachos and more. You can also have drinks like mojitos, caipirinhas and sangria while enjoying the colorful decor and the lively vibe. It is open for lunch and dinner and it is very popular among locals and tourists alike.
- La Pescadería: This is a traditional fish restaurant that offers high-quality seafood at reasonable prices. You can choose from different types of fish like tuna, swordfish, sardines, anchovies and more. You can also have shellfish like clams, mussels, prawns and more. You can have them grilled or fried with different sauces and garnishes. It is open for lunch and dinner and it has a simple but cozy interior.
Great restaurants in Tarifa
Gastronomy is one of Tarifas strong points. When it comes to finding a good restaurant, you won’t be disappointed when you visit Tarifa. Just wondering through the narrow streets and old squares, you will soon find some authentic and stylish restaurants. Generally, the prices are quite reasonable, and Tarifa offers a great quality / price offering when kt comes to dinning out.
How to get to Tarifa
Getting to Tarifa is very easy, no matter which nearby city you are coming from. There are daily buses from Malaga and Cadiz connecting Tarifa in around 2 hours. The nearest airport to Tarifa is in Gibraltar, 40 minutes away. There are British Airways flights connecting many cities in the United Kingdom.
You can also fly to Malaga or Seville airports, which have more flight options from other European countries. From there, you can take a bus or a train to Tarifa, or rent a car and drive along the scenic coast. The journey from Malaga or Seville takes about 2 hours by car or 3 hours by bus or train.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can also take a ferry from Tarifa to Tangier, Morocco, and explore a different continent and culture in just one day. The ferry takes about an hour each way and you need to bring your passport and visa if required.
If you are enjoying a break in Malaga or the Costa del Sol, hiring a car and visiting Tarifa is highly recommended. My advice is to explore the area around Tarifa during the day, and finish up in the historic old town in the evening. You will be able to explore the narrow streets of Tarifa and enjoy a meal in the many quality restaurants. There is always a lively buzz exploring Tarifa in late evenings, as many people will enjoy visiting the shops and eating in the many small squares hidden within the narrow streets.