Tarifa, located at the southern end of Spain’s Costa de la Luz, is the meeting point of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Morocco is almost within touching distance and, for many people, Tarifa is simply the stopping off point for a trip to Tangier but, trust me, it’s worth spending a little more time here.
The beaches here are the big draw but be warned, Tarifa is Europe’s windiest city which means that, even in summer, you’re likely to feel as though you’re being sandblasted whenever you go anywhere near the beach.
It does mean, however, that the town is a mecca for kite- and windsurfers (it’s actually Spain’s kite-surfing capital for very good reason) so, if it’s an adrenaline rush you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. It’s possible to book kite-surfing lessons although I’m far too much of a coward to have even contemplated this!!
Playa de los Lances is a 7km stretch of wide golden sands and is on the Atlantic side of the town. The waves here can be huge but, on a calm day, there’s nothing better than a dip in the clear waters. If you prefer your beach to be sheltered from the wind then head to the tiny Playa Chica on the Mediterranean side.
Whichever beach you choose, there are plenty of chiringuitos when it’s time for a beer or bite to eat.
If beaches aren’t your thing then how about these ideas?
Isla de las Palomas
A walk along the causeway leads to the southernmost tip of Europe and an old military fortress (which is, unfortunately, closed to the public). From here you have the Med on one side of you and the Atlantic on the other, not to mention a fantastic view back to Tarifa itself. Depending on the weather, you might find yourself dodging the waves on the causeway so be prepared!
Castillo de Guzman el Bueno
As with much of Andalucia, there’s something for the history buffs – in Tarifa’s case the Castle of Guzman el Bueno which sits near the port area. Originally built in 960 AD as a fortress it has been restored in recent years and a wander along the ramparts has outstanding views across to Morocco and over the old town.
Miramar de Tarifa
For more views head to the town hall. There are some pleasant gardens here (with a lovely mosaic frog fountain) and a recently renovated lookout tower with views of the port, Morocco across the straits, and the old town walls.
Tarifa Old Town
The whitewashed old town with its cobbled streets is worth a wander – plenty of quirky shops and bars all contained within the old city walls. You can reach the old town directly from the port area or, alternatively, you can head through the Puerta de Jerez.
If you’re planning a visit in the summer then be warned, it gets busy and, if you’re driving from the south, you might well find yourself stuck in traffic on the N340 (the only road in and out).
You could also find yourself struggling to park as, although there are plenty of parking spaces in Tarifa, these soon get taken by the summer crowds. My tip would be to get there early – we made the mistake once of deciding to go there one summer Sunday afternoon and, after sitting in slow-moving traffic for what felt like hours, just turned around and headed home.
Where to eat
For the archetypal Spanish breakfast I recommend stopping at La Palmera and grabbing a seat on the pavement opposite the castle. It’s nothing flashy but the fact that it’s always crowded with locals tells you all you need to know about it. We had light and crunchy churros served with thick and creamy hot chocolate to dunk them in, café con leche with just the right kick, freshly squeezed orange juice and got change from €10.
For lunch there are plenty of restaurants in and around Paseo da la Alameda all serving fresh fish dishes whether you like fish stews or prefer the region’s fried fish specialities. Be sure to try Tarifa’s famed tuna too. Not sure about the sea donkey though!!
If it’s just tapas you’re after then have a wander around the old town. We always make a beeline for Bar Rico every time we visit Tarifa to get our fix of their delicious tortillitas de camarones. It’s on Calle de Coronel Moscardo, a small square in the old town.
Once the sun’s gone down and you’re ready for dinner, I can highly recommend La Vaca Loca. It’s a carnivore’s delight and, even though I don’t eat meat, it does have a few non-meat options including the spinach quiche which is delicious. Portions here are huge so make sure you’re really hungry before you go.
La Vaca Loca is tucked away on Calle Cervantes in the old town – it doesn’t take bookings but we’ve always been lucky to get a table outside. They have heaters outside so, even after dark in the winter, it never feels cold.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth then definitely drop in to Pasteleria Bernal for some cakes and pastries. It’s on Calle Sancho IV El Bravo right in front of the impressive Church of San Mateo. There are a few tables outside if you want to stop for coffee and cake or you can do as we do (every time) and take a selection home with us – delicious and great value.
Where to stay
Although we’re only about a 45 minute drive from Tarifa and make regular day trips throughout the year we love staying over and making a weekend of it now and again. On our most recent stay we booked into the Kook Hotel and we’re already planning a return stay we loved it so much. It’s in the old town right by the city walls and fits Tarifa’s hippy vibes perfectly. You can check out my TripAdvisor review here.