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Faces of Tarifa

By Jakob Jelling

Tarifa has long been known as a culturally-blended town, through all its incarnations: frontier fortress, fishing village, trendy tourist town. All the peoples who have settled in or near Tarifa have left a mark, from ancient Roman soldiers to Moorish settlers, Jewish merchants and Celto-Iberians. The Moorish style of architecture is the most common here, but everything else blends in with these walls to create a singularly beautiful place to vacation. You'll find virgin coastline, fine hotels, and tons of water sports to engage your interests.


Tarifa is a perfect place for surfers and beach lovers, and has perfect windsurfing waters and winds. More sedentary beachgoers can lounge on the warm sands and enjoy a spectacular view of the Rif mountains, visible across the Mediterranean from Africa. Virgin beaches and wild coastline offer room for birdwatchers and hikers, rock-climbing and surfing. Scuba diving and horseback riding are also available for those who are interested, and world-class golf courses abound in the region.

Tarifa's Living History

Many parts of Tarifa have not changed in hundreds of years. Local fishermenb stil use the Almadraba circling method of fishing, over seven hundred years old, and the narrow alleys paved with cobblestones stretch through walls cascaded over by jasmine. Wrought iron rejas decorate homes lining the street, and the castellated walls of the old city are closely woven with the homes. The eighth-century city gate of Jerez has been restored, and the church of San Mateo and buildings in the Calle de los Azogues date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

You can visit the Arab castle of Guzman the Bueno, built in 960 AD probably on the ruinms of an old Roman fort. Two high towers in the east section once protected the entrance to Tarifa. And on Calle de la Fuente you can find a historic and unique fountain. La Alameda is an Andalucian paved garden decorated with flowers and old villagers filled with stories.

Modern Tarifa

Tapas bars abound, particularly to the east of the Alameda. On Batalla del Salado, north of town, surf shops and trendy clothing stores line the streets. Wind turbines on the hills generate enormous amounts of power, and they're certainly something to get a picture of.

The most modern parts of Tarifa, though, are the beaches. For families, try the Playa Chica. If you prefer rocky beaches, check out La Caleta, a quiet beach often missed by tourists. The large Playa de los Lances stretches ten kilometers down the coast, and provides perfect surf and wind for kite surfing. Near the Hurricane Hotel you'll find the Playa de Valdevaqueros.

You can also take the regular daily ferry across to Tangiers; visit the souk for a day, or explore the unique nature of Tangiers.

Nightlife in Tarifa is very entertaining indeed. You'll find discos throughout the old town and the beach, and La Casa Amarilla features flamenco music. Continental has live music, and there are dozens of other music and other bars.

Where to Stay

You can stay in a number of hotels located in the town or its outskirts, and you also have the option of camping out in several areas along the beach. The Hotel Punta Sur is perfect for families, and very convenient to the beach. The Hurricane hotel has subtropical gardens that open to the beaches of Playa de Valdevaqueros, and excellent views of Morocco. This hotel is friendly, and its restaurant serves simple dishes with the best and freshest ingredients they can find.

For some history, consider the Cortijo La Hoya, over a hundred years old, or Casa Silos, a medieval townhouse within the old town wall.

For honeymooners or those who prefer style and class, the over-14 hotel El Aguilon may be ideal. Its swimming pool, set in an orange grove, is lovely, and the building itself is an old Andalucian Cortijo.

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