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Tarifa: Spain’s oft-overlooked destination

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Tarifa, Spain
Tarifa, Spain offers budget travelers history, adventure, beaches and great food. Photos by Jessica Festa

While Barcelona and Madrid get all the hype, Tarifa, Spain is a worthwhile destination for any Cheapo looking for adventure, culture, history and relaxation. The narrow streets of the city center make it almost impossible for cars, allowing for a laid-back pedestrian town.

For those looking to experience the lesser-known side of the country, here is why Spain’s southernmost port should be added to your itinerary.

It’s The Epicenter Of Kite Surfing

While once just a tiny fishing village, water sport enthusiasts began flocking to Tarifa once they realized how strong and steady the winds were. Today, it is one of the most popular destinations for windsurfing and kitesurfing in Europe.

When visiting Tarifa, the first thing you’ll notice are the myriad kite surfing schools littering the town, as well as the hundreds of colorful kites zipping over the water.

Relax at night with a table of tapas.

Easy Access To Morocco

For those who wish to step onto the African continent, you can take a speedy ferry from Tarifa in about 45 minutes. Several ferries leave daily, and are €31 (about $40) each way. You’ll land in Tangier, where you can hire a local guide at the ferry terminal or just wander the streets on your own.

Fresh Seafood

You know you’re getting fresh seafood because you’re right on the coast. Additionally, the small local restaurants of this laid-back Andalusian town use traditional methods to create high quality tapas. Some worthwhile restaurants serving fresh Spanish seafood and tapas include Restaurant Morilla and Bodega La Casa Amarilla on Calle Sancho IV el Bravo and Bar Los Melli on Guzman el Bueno.

Alternatively, Tarifa is also home to many non-Spanish restaurants, like Ali Baba for Middle Eastern, Rosso Pomodoro for Italian and Surla for Sushi, crepes and burgers—for when you’re in the mood for something else.

Hit the beach—and take a kit-surfing class!

Both Atlantic And Mediterranean Beaches

When visiting Tarifa, you’ll be able to swim in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean in one day. There’s Beach Playa Chica which sits on the Mediterranean, while less than a 10 minute walk away is Beach Playa Los Lances on the Atlantic.

In the Old Town, you can also walk out on the dock to have the windy Atlantic on the north side, and the calmer Mediterranean on the south side.

Active Pursuits

Along with being the windsurfing and kitesurfing capital of Europe, it also features opportunities to horseback ride, surfski, surf, scuba dive, stand up paddle board, cycle and hike.

While water sports and horseback riding can be enjoyed at the many beaches, cycling and hiking can be done at one of the local parks or nature reserves. For example, Los Alcornocales Nature Park showcases untouched mountain, beach and forest landscapes, an array of bird and land-animal species and lookout points providing views of Andalusia beyond Tarifa.

Take a ride on a zipline.

Rich History

Tarifa has a rich history that is still visible today. At the end of Tarifa’s main road, Batalla del Salado, you’ll see a giant arch letting you know you’re passing into the old town. Narrow cobblestoned streets, Moorish architecture and whitewashed buildings create an Old-World atmosphere, while sights like Guzman Castle, medieval ruins and 10th-century Arabic city walls are a reminder of the city’s Muslim rule from 710 to 1292.

The Castle of Guzman El Bueno was built in 960 AD and is the site where General Guzman el Bueno’s son was held hostage by the Moors in 1294, wanting him to surrender the castle. The general refused, even tossing his own dagger down to his enemies to show his bravery. Unfortunately, the Moors used the dagger to kill the boy.

Getting There

If you’re flying, you’ll arrive in Pablo Picasso Airport (AGP) in Malaga. From there, you can either rent a car and drive to Tarifa, or opt to take a bus from the city center. To go straight to Tarifa, the bus comes three times per day, at 7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Your other option is to take a faster bus to Algeciras, which is only 12 miles from Tarifa. There are about 15 buses per day leaving from Malaga to Algeciras. In Algeciras, you’ll walk about 10 minutes to get to the COMES bus station, where you can catch a bus to Tarifa. For more information on how to get to Tarifa, click here.

Cheapo Accommodation

Tarifa is home to many affordable and comfortable accommodation options. The Melting Pot is popular with backpackers, and is right in the center of town walking distance from all activities and attractions. If you don’t want to share a dorm, which costs €13 (about $17) per night, they also offer a double room for €35 (about $45) per night. All rooms include breakfast.

For something a little more upscale but still affordable, Hotel Misiana is a charming, 21st-century hotel that starts at €39 (about $50) per night, including breakfast. And while you won’t find over-the-top luxury hotels in Tarifa, one that comes close is Hotel Copacabana, located just opposite Valdevaqueros Beach and in front of Los Alcornocales National Park. Room rates start at €85 (about $108) per night.

About the author

Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa, a New York native, is a world traveler who is always looking for a new adventure. She stays active through dance, hiking, and cycling and loves nothing more than her backpack. Follow her travels around the world and the Big Apple on her blogs, jessieonajourney.com and epicureandculture.com.

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2 Responses to “Tarifa: Spain’s oft-overlooked destination”

Martha Hughes says:

Yes, Tarifa is great. It is a great balance of beaches, where you can kick back or windsurf (remember beaches are windy .. that’s why it’s so great for windsurfing) .. and of a small city with lots to do. Great restaurants, hotels, and night life. We stayed in the old part of the City at Misiana .. a cheapo stay .. that saved us money and was very quiet during the day/great bar at night. The staff was super helpful for helping us plan our short trip to Tangier. You can walk the historic old town, which is so pretty and has Moroccan influence, there’s a great prominade to people watch, and just the right amount of tourist shops. You can also stay in one of many beach-bunglow places on or just across from the beach, and get away from it all.

Not too big .. not too touristy .. great people .. lots to do .. and the best place to stay in Spain if you’re headed to Morocco for a couple of days.

andalucia libre says:

“While Barcelona and Madrid get all the hype…” Surely not. Madrid and Barca have not been hip this century. The real buzz in Spain has for many years surrounded other cities: Sevilla, Cordoba, Bilbao, Valencia and more. Tarifa has, for the last 20 years, cut a dash as a mega-touristy spot for where the beach brigade hang out. But it is losing its gloss as cutting edge travelers now favor less hyped destinations. For the far south, try Cadiz.

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