The Most Unique Experiences to Have in Tarifa, Spain

View from Tarifas Plazuela del Viento, with the north African coast clearly visible
View from Tarifa's Plazuela del Viento, with the north African coast clearly visible | © Manfred Werner / WikiCommons
Mark Nayler

Tarifa is a town quite unlike any other in Andalusia: the unofficial kitesurfing capital of Europe, it boasts a bohemian, alternative ambience all of its own.

Those planning a trip to Spain would do well to consider the characterful town of Tarifa. Read on for our pick of the unique experiences to be enjoyed in this intriguing Spanish destination.

Surfing

Adrenaline junkies visiting Tarifa won’t want to leave without trying their hand at surfing. Owing to its location at the junction of the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans, Tarifa is buffeted by strong winds all year round, making for perfect wave-catching conditions. Kitesurfing is the most popular activity, but there are plenty of wind and board surfers around too. Head to Calle Batalla del Saldo for equipment rental and for surf schools teaching all levels.

Whale and dolphin watching in the Strait of Gibraltar

To meet Tarifa’s local marine wildlife, book yourself on a whale and dolphin watching excursion into the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow strip of water that separates this part of the Spanish coast from north Africa. Its thriving population includes striped, common and bottlenose dolphins and sperm, killer, pilot and long-finned whales. Watching these magnificent animals leap and cruise through the dark waters, just feet away from the boat, is something you won’t forget in a hurry.

Kitesurfers catch the waves in Tarifa, Spain

Day-tripping in Tangier

Take advantage of Tarifa’s proximity to north Africa by enjoying a day-trip to another continent: the Moroccan city of Tangier is reached by a ferry ride of only 35 minutes and is well worth a visit. A tightly-packed old town (Medina) and the Grand Mosque are amongst the key attractions in this fascinating city, which was under joint French, Spanish and British rule before becoming part of an independent Morocco in 1956.

Absorbing the bohemian ambience

Because of its unofficial reputation as Europe’s kitesurfing capital, Tarifa has a grungy, bohemian ambience that is quite unlike that of any other Andalusian destination (Granada is bohemian too, but totally different). Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the old town, where you’ll find loads of super-cool cocktail bars, cafes and tapas joints. Soaking this atmosphere up by chilling in the oldest quarter is key to the complete Tarifa experience.

A street in the old part of Tangier, which can be reached via a 35-minute ferry ride from Tarifa

Eating tapas in the old town

When you spend time in the old town, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of tapas bars to choose from. Hidden away on narrow sidestreets and spilling out onto pretty squares, they’re the place to be at lunchtimes and early-evening. Two of the best are El Lola, a Tarifa institution that does some fantastic tuna tapas (with fish caught using the ancient Almadraba method) and Bar El Francés, a place so popular with locals that booking a table is essential.

Chilling on the beautiful beaches

Many Andalusians will tell you that Tarifa is home to some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. Extending along the country’s wild Atlantic coast, these unspoilt stretches of sand are just as popular for swimming and sunbathing as they are for surfing. However, if you want to avoid the surfers during summer months, head to Playa de Los Lances, a virginal beach that starts just out of town and runs north for 10 km (6.2 miles). Also beautiful is Playa de Valdevaqueros.

Playa de Los Lances, Tarifa

Enjoy the spectacular views

Tarifa occupies the southernmost tip of Continental Europe and is just 15 km (9.3 miles) away from the coast of north Africa. This means that there are some spectacular views to be enjoyed from the town’s miradores (viewing platforms), the best of which is the Plazuela del Viento. Situated high above the old town, this beautiful square offers an uninterrupted perspective of Morocco’s Rif mountains, simmering in a heat haze across the Strait.

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