In a town that has gained world-renown as the windsurfing capital of Europe, mass ‘package’ tourism is still almost unheard of, which makes Tarifa an uber-cool, chilled out location in which to enjoy a holiday or to just hangout for a day on the beach.
Just 14km away from the north coast of Africa, Tarifa is at the southernmost point of continental Europe and enjoys wonderful, constantly-changing views across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier and the Rif Mountains – a whole new continent just 35 minutes away by fast ferry!
Being at one and the same time a gateway to both Europe and Africa, Tarifa has a very clear mixture of influences in evidence throughout the town. The architecture in the old town has a distinctly Moroccan feel with whitewashed houses spilling out onto narrow, cobbled alleys, while castellated walls surround shady squares filled with sweet-smelling jasmine and colourful jacaranda. In contrast, the surf shops, hotels, tapas bars and nightclubs are the quintessential emblems of a modern, western European holiday destination.
History has also played its part in forging the town’s character, with Roman, Moorish, French and British forces all having fought to win over or defend the strategically prized and highly fortified town at various points in time.
Tarifa was the landing point for the first Moorish invasion of southern Spain in 711, and the town’s well-preserved castle, built in 960 by the Caliph of Cordoba, still stands proudly near the port. Known as the Guzman castle, it is a fitting memorial to Alonso de Guzman who heroically defended Tarifa against the resurgent Moorish army in 1296. Legend has it that the Moors captured Guzman’s son whom they threatened to kill unless the town was surrendered. Not only did Guzman refuse, but he defiantly threw down his sword to the invaders, who used it to kill the boy.
While crumbling sections of the medieval city walls can still be found in places, the grand, 13th century ‘Puerta de Jerez’ gate has withstood the test of time and still marks the main entrance to the centre of the town.
Tarifa – the windsurfing capital of Europe
Nowadays, the main attraction of Tarifa is undoubtedly its reputation as the ‘windsurfing capital of Europe’, and with ten kilometres of pristine, sandy beaches and marvellous wind conditions brought about by mixed Mediterranean and Atlantic influences, it is a real paradise for water sports enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies.
Every day, the blue skies over Tarifa’s busy beaches are filled with colourful kites dragging surfers over the waves at breakneck speeds – it’s exciting and very tempting, but note that a complete beginner will need at least 8 hours’ of exhausting tuition just to begin to get the hang of it!
The town has in excess of 30 kite-surfing and windsurfing operators providing lessons, equipment hire and the all-important surf-wear fashions – every teenager’s ‘must-have’ holiday essential!
Unique atmosphere in Tarifa
Indeed, during the busy summer months, Tarifa holds a special appeal for a younger, broad-minded holiday crowd made up of back-packers, student travellers and surf dudes from around the world. This influx certainly creates a unique atmosphere and, every evening, the streets fill up with sun-kissed youngsters enjoying their sundowners while re-living the day’s thrills and spills – whether out on the waves or up in the mountains – before heading off to one of the many hip music clubs. However, this is a group who generally prefer to stay out of town in their customised camper vans or on campsites near to the beaches, so hotels and B&Bs can often still be found.
Tarifa is about an hour’s drive from Club La Costa World and, with an early start, makes a great destination for a day out during your Costa del Sol holiday. It’s also a perfect base for exploring the traditional towns and villages and nature reserves along the Costa de la Luz, for whale watching (in season) or for a quick trip across to Morocco, so why not arrange an overnight stay and really chill out while you take in every aspect of the unique Tarifa experience?