Tarifa, the most southerly city on the Iberian Peninsula, is a mecca for all activities involving wind. This laid-back and slightly hippyish town in the province of Cadiz is known as the wind capital of Europe. When the Levenate and Poniente winds blow, the beaches are full of kites of every description.
But there is so much more to Tarifa than wind and kites. It’s a hub of activity, where visitors can enjoy both the mighty Atlantic and gentler Mediterannean seas, an incredible mountain back-drop begging to be hiked and biked, and a vibrant and cool cafe scene.
Read on to find out how to make the most of your time in Tarifa.
Learn to Kite-Surf
If you don’t already kite-surf (and if you do, you’ll know all about Tarifa’s incredible beaches and clean wind), then here is the place to learn.
Come in the summer months for pretty much guaranteed sun, smooth winds, and a huge variety of kite schools. With mile upon mile of pristine sands stretching from Playa de los Lances to Playa Valdevaqueros and beyond to the bay of Punta Paloma, there is no shortage of places to start your kite-surfing education.
Learning to kite-surf in Tarifa is so much fun; like-minded wind junkies are all looking to catch the next gust and master the skill. A day on the water will exhilarate you, and within a week you’ll be taking your first solo outing.
Come prepared though; it’s hard work and you will spend more time in the water than on your board!
Go Whale Watching
From April to October, you can take a boat trip from Tarifa to see sperm, pilot, fin and orca whales as well as lively dolphins.
Orcas are the main draw here as they follow the migrating bluefin tuna as they move from the Med to the Atlantic to spawn. Watching these beautiful whales and their antics as they catch tuna and work as a pod to round them up is fascinating and a real privilege.
Hike the Trails
There are hundreds of trails in the mountains north of Tarifa and along the beautiful coastlines on both sides of the peninsula, all within the Parque Natural del Estrecho. Not all are well documented or signed but with the help of an app such as View Ranger, finding an awesome hike is easy.
Hike up to the iconic La Pena and wander amongst the hundreds of wind-turbines across the ridge or head for El Bujeo and the most incredible views across the Straits of Gibraltar to the majestic Jebel Musa in Morocco.
For a gentler hike, try the Colada de la Costa on the Mediterranean coast, with its weird and wonderful rock formations. Alternatively, head north on the Atlantic Coast to the Cape of Trafalgar, the remote and windswept cabo and scene of the historic battle of the same name.
For more information on hiking in Tarifa, click here.
Go Rock Climbing
Whether you’re new to climbing or an experienced climber with your own equipment, there’ll be a route to suit you on the San Bartolo range in Betis.
This tiny village offers access to over 280 routes with glorious views of the Atlantic, the Riff Mountains in North Africa, and Punta Paloma beach. Routes vary between 8m and 90m, and all are on hard-quality sandstone and well bolted.
Why not try your hand at yoga rock climbing or full moon climbing…we’re not sure what either involve but they sound intriguing!
You can also boulder here, the discipline of climbing on smaller rock formations without a rope and harness, which may appeal if you don’t like heights or are new to rock climbing.
Eat Like a Local
Head for the charming Old Town of Tarifa where you will find a great variety of cafes and bars serving fabulous desayuno (breakfast), from chocolate y churros and tostada to Mexican-style egg dishes and the absolutely to-die-for Spanish jamon.
Later in the day, try some tapas with a glass of crisp, chilled wine or a cold beer for lunch. This is usually served around 2pm and can go on for several hours, well into the Spanish siesta that is still observed and much treasured.
Even later in the day, it is the Spanish way to have coffee and cake to keep you going until dinner, often served after 10pm. Eating like a local not only means enjoying fantastic Spanish tapas, jamon, and sea-food but also changing your dining times; it makes sense when it’s still 30°C at 9pm!
One other food tip: try the local red tuna when you’re in Tarifa. It is literally caught off the coast by the small fishing fleet using traditional methods and will be served to you on the day it is caught. It’s the best tuna we’ve ever eaten!
Head for Baelo Claudia
Accessible from Tarifa by car or a great 20km cycle through Betis, Baelo Claudia is an incredibly well-preserved Roman village by the sea.
Free to enter, these Roman ruins are extensive and remarkably intact. The views from here across the wide bay to the mountains beyond will leave you in no doubt as to why the Romans wanted to live here.
Whether you’re a beginner or a certified diver or prefer to snorkel, you can do so in the Mediterranean while you’re in Tarifa. The meeting of two seas creates a specific bio-diverse environment, rich in marine life, which makes diving in Tarifa a great experience. Plus, the water is crystal clear and warm.
Take a Bike Ride
Cycling is one of the most popular activities in Tarifa after kite-surfing. It’s all about the mountains here; whether you want to challenge yourself to a steep uphill, or fly down the mountains on fat tyres, you can do it in Tarifa.
Perhaps you prefer a flat amble along the coast roads? You can do that too.
There are numerous cycling routes for all skill and fitness levels. Take a group tour or hire bikes and head out with a map — for us the best way to do it! You’ll get lost, see incredible scenery, and find new trails and places to explore.
Enjoy the Nightlife in Tarifa
Work hard and play hard is definitely practiced here in Tarifa!
Head for the Old Town and in particular Calle Santisima Trinidad, a street lined with clubs and lounge bars. Partying won’t start until after midnight though, as most Spaniards will still be enjoying dinner at 11pm!
Chill at the Beach
After all the activity, take some time to chill and relax at the beach.
There are beaches here to suit all tastes. If you like big expanses of open sands and a few waves, then head for Playa de los Lances right in town. At the most southerly point of the beach, you will find cafes and chiringuitos (beach restaurants) serving coffee, beer and snack food. All are great places to hang out for a few hours, see, and be seen.
If you prefer your beach with a little more natural interest, then head west along the Colada de la Costa route for stunning sandy coves with incredible rock formations to explore. There are no chiringuitos here though, you might want to take a picnic!
Spend the Day in Jerez de la Frontera
An hour north of Tarifa is the charming and typically Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera, known as Jerez.
Jerez is in the famous sherry triangle. Visit and tour a bodega, where you will find out how sherry is produced and get to taste all the different types. Sherry used to be seen as an aperitif for the elderly but there is so much more to it.
We’re sherry converts. We spent a happy afternoon wandering the tabancos (sherry bars) of Jerez in search of the perfect Pedro Ximenez, the intensely sweet and sticky dessert sherry that we fell in love with!
Jerez is also famous for its flamenco tradition. The Festival of Flamenco is held annually in February and March, and it’s a true Spanish spectacle of fantastic, colourful music, and dance.
Also check out the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts, where you can watch the iconic beautiful and high-stepping thoroughbred horses go through their paces.
Take a Day Trip to Tangiers
Just an hour away by fast-cat is Morocco and the port city of Tangiers. It is very possible to head here for a day and see the best that the city has to offer.
Book your boat ticket online for the best deal and step into a different world. Tangiers is colourful, raw, and in your face loud! Expect to be approached by numerous Moroccans selling tours, taxi rides, meals, or just asking for money.
Get past this and head for the Medina, with its old walls and gates beckoning you in.
Here you will find cafes, squares, and souks selling everything you can possibly imagine. Show any interest and you will struggle to leave without making a purchase — the Berbers are known for their salesmanship!
Head to the quieter Kasbah area of the Medina for lunch. Then enjoy a stroll through the cobbled streets, lined with whitewashed buildings and gorgeous old wooden doors. Stop at one of the many hubbly-bubbly cafes and enjoy the Moroccan ambiance and mint tea.
Tangiers will stir emotion; it’s a love-it or hate-it sort of place!
We hope that our recommendations of things to do in Tarifa will help you discover and enjoy this perfect little corner of Spain, which we have come to love.
Planning a trip to Spain? Check out these articles!
- Best Places to Visit in Spain That You Shouldn’t Miss
- The Best Beaches in Spain for the Ultimate Seaside Holiday
- Hiking in Spain: 10 Epic Hikes You Must Try
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