Tárifa Travel Guide
Tárifa is Spain's "capital of cool." Here, windsurfing and kiteboarding are the order of the day and a laid-back, board-toting young crowd, in board shorts and flip-flops, holds sway. The town itself is relatively small, with whitewashed old neighborhoods, and beaches and sunshine and wind – a lot of wind, which blows in from the east as the levante and, in the summer months, from the west as the poniente, with virtually no respite. This is also as far south as you can go in Spain, and thus in Europe, for the town sits on the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula, just one hop away from the Moroccan city of Tangier on the north coast of Africa – 11 miles (17 km) across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Tárifa is situated on Spain's Costa de la Luz, some 12.5 miles (20 km) southwest of Algeciras, or 125 miles (200 km) south of Sevilla. It is also the principal departure and arrival point for ferries to and from Tangier, Morocco, which is all of a 35-minute ferry-ride away.
There are several airports close to Tárifa – including those in Cádiz, Málaga, Jerez, Sevilla and Gibraltar – from where you can either take a bus or rent a car and drive down to Tárifa. From Sevilla, Jerez or Cádiz – which is the closest, some 51 miles (82 km) distant – follow route E-5 southeastward to Tárifa. From Málaga, take route E-15 roughly 80 miles (130 km) southwestward through Marbella and Algeciras to Tárifa. Málaga and Sevilla are serviced by most major carriers, while Jerez is serviced by Ryanair. Gibraltar, only 45 minutes away, is serviced by EasyJet and British Airways.
Tárifa's main interest lies in its atmospheric old quarter, laid out by the Moors around 1200 AD, as well as the 10th-century Guzman Castle located near the port. There are remnants, too, of the city's medieval walls, together with the last surviving city gate, the ancient Puerta de Jerez, which dates from the 13th century. The city's central square is Plaza San Mateo, which has its fair share of cafés and restaurants; and its principal beach is Playa de los Lances, which faces Morocco across the strait, with clear views of the hills that loom above the North African coast.
Tárifa nightlife is a veritable romp for party-goers. The greatest concentration of bars and disco-clubs is in the old center or downtown area, and among the most popular establishments are La Ruina, the oldest and most spirited of the lot; New Rif, where the party-hearty young lot dance until the break of dawn; and Carpe Diem, a disco-club close to the beach.
Good bets for eating out in Tárifa include Ristorante Morilla (€2-€16) in the old center, with its tapas bar and hugely affordable Spanish fare; the Moroccan-style Souk Bar (€4-€19) on Calle Mar Tireno, which offers some of the best falafels, cous-cous, tajine and houmus; the Casa Amarilla bodega (€3-€21), also in the old center of Tárifa, where Andalusian dishes reign supreme; and the small, unpretentious Anca Curro (€3-€13), across from the Puerta de Jerez by the old center, which offers traditional Spanish food and the best pork filet for miles around.
For the younger crowd, particularly backpackers, one of the best places to stay in Tárifa is the centrally-located Melting Pot Hostel (€13-€25) which offers mixed dorm-style rooms and is handy to all the bars, pubs, restaurants and board-rental and other shops. Among hotels, Hotel La Torre (€36-€110) and the beachfront Hotel Dos Mares (€63-€133) are the pick of the bunch.
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