Tarifa is on the southern coast of Spain in the region of Andalusia, but the most fascinating thing about it is it’s only 35 km from Tangier, Morocco so on any clear day you can easily see the ancient African city looming boldly just across the water. The two main reasons to visit Tarifa are for the quick and efficient ferry connection to Tangier or for some of the finest windsurfing that Europe has to offer.
Tarifa itself has a small but compelling old Moorish city behind traditional walls. It’s a great place to wander around and sample cocktails and tapas from all the tiny bars and restaurants hidden around its winding corners. It’s small enough that you’ll never get too lost, but large enough to get the full Moorish city experience.
However, the rest of the town is quite a contrast to the old city center. On your approach you’ll see surf and sport shops that make you think you are in California or Australia until you get your bearings. Due to the consistently high winds in this part of the Strait of Gibralter the beaches just outside of Tarifa are a huge draw for windsurfers as well as regular board surfers, but the wind makes sunbathing nearly impossible. Whale and dolphin watching boat trips are also available.
Tarifa has no airport nor does it have a train station, but there are frequent bus services from all over Spain. The bus station is small and is about 5 blocks up the main street from the entrance to the Old City. Tarifa is the best place to take the ferry to Morocco and a great stop on the way back as well. Ferries leave many times each day and the trip is the shortest across the Strait. Tarifa is far more charming than nearby and industrial Algeciras and far cheaper and easier than going through Gibralter.
Where To Stay
The dual purposes of the Moroccan ferries and the windsurfing has ensured that there are plenty of hotels in Tarifa. There are also a few hostels in Tarifa as well, but in the fringe seasons the hotels can be so cheap that you might not even bother with the hostels. In high seasons all the better places book up early so plan ahead.