Once a small fishing village, Tarifa with its approx. 18,000 inhabitants is today a major tourist attraction. It is particularly popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers, as excellent wind conditions can be found here almost all year round.
But also nature lovers get their money's worth in Tarifa, and not only when hiking through the nature parks. The African continent is within grasp here, which is why many migratory birds use this route in spring and autumn - an interesting spectacle not only for ornithologists. Thanks to the currents in the Strait, seven species of whales and dolphins are permanently or partially present in these waters. From the end of March until the beginning of November you have the opportunity to go whale watching with our firmm team and to observe the impressive marine mammals.
Historic Old Town
The historic old town of Tarifa with its medieval city walls was declared a cultural heritage in 2003. Even if the old town is quite small, you can easily get lost in the narrow, winding streets ...and while doing so discover new cafés, bars and shops.
Medieval city wall
During a walk through Tarifa you will come across remains of the old city walls from the 13th century. Until the end of the 19th century they served to defend Tarifa.
Of the three city gates, only the 13th century Puerta de Jerez remains today. The plaque above the gate commemorates the men of Tarifa who, on the 21st of September 1292, helped King Sancho IV of Castile conquer the city.
Calle Batalla del Salado
Opposite the Puerta de Jerez begins the street Calle Batalla del Salado, which invites with its many stores for shopping. The name of the street refers to the Battle of the Salado River at Tarifa on the 30th of October 1340, one of the most important battles in the last phase of the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Castile and Portugal fought here successfully against the Marinids and their allies.
Castle Castillo de Guzmán
The castle of Tarifa was built in the 10th century under Abd ar-Rahmān III, the first caliph of Córdoba. It was completed in 960 and played an important role in the defence of the city. The name Castillo de Guzmán goes back to the governor Alfonso Pérez de Guzmán, known as Guzmán el Bueno (Guzmán the Good). The statue of Guzmán el Bueno can be seen on the Paseo de la Alameda.
In 1292 Guzmán was entrusted with the protection of Tarifa, which Sancho IV had just reconquered from the Moors. But since Sancho IV had been unlawfully crowned king, he had many enemies in his own country who wanted to weaken his power. One of his greatest enemies was his brother Juan, who asked the Marinids, an Islamic Berber dynasty, for help. In 1294 the Marinids tried to defeat Tarifa. The city defied the siege for a long time. But then Guzmán's son fell into the hands of the enemies and Guzmán was faced with the choice of handing over the city or the execution of his son. According to tradition, Guzmán then threw down his own dagger from the castle so that the enemy could kill his son with it. In this tragic way, Guzmán saved the city from hostile takeover and became a legend.
Statue of King Sancho IV of Castile
Sancho IV of Castile (1258-1295) ruled from 1284 to 1295 and as the second son of Alfonso the Wise (Alfonso X el Sabio) he would not have become king. Even when his brother Fernando de la Cerda (1255-1275) died before his father, the throne was not given to Sancho, but to Fernando's eldest son Alfonso de la Cerda.
However, Sancho appointed himself king against his father's will and was crowned in Toledo on the 30th of April 1284. He was acknowledged by a large part of the people and nobility, but he also had many opponents - including his brother Juan.
Iglesia de San Mateo
The church of San Mateo is the main church of Tarifa. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century in Gothic style; the main Baroque façade was built at the end of the 18th century.
This is where all the important processions start and end, for example at Easter, during the Virgen de la Luz pilgrimage on the first Sunday in September, the Romería four weeks later or the "Paso del Manto" on the Saturday before the Romería, during which all the locals pass under the robe of the holy Virgin and have to kiss it. Therefore every year a giant line forms through the entire street Sancho IV.
In the Calle Sancho IV el Bravo, where the church is located, there are also some good restaurants and cafés. By the way, just around the corner from Café Central, in the street Pedro Cortés 4, is the old town office of firmm. where you can book your whale watching tour.
Mirador África und Torre de Miramar
The Mirador África lookout point is located on the old city wall, on Calle Amargura.
Enjoy the magnificent view over the Strait to Africa! Here, at the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar, the distance to the Moroccan coast is only 14 km.
The town hall of Tarifa and the library are right next to the square.
Paseo de la Alameda
The Paseo de la Alameda is located directly between the old town, the castle and the harbour. This place is especially in the evening a very popular meeting place. The hustle and bustle is best observed from one of the adjacent restaurants.
On the southern part of the square is the statue of Guzmán el Bueno, who in 1294, as governor of Tarifa, saved the city from the hostile takeover. (see castle).
Port of Tarifa
The Avenida de la Constitución next to the Paseo de la Alameda leads directly to the harbour. From here, you can see the passenger port on the left, from where you can take the ferry to Tangier (Morocco). On the right are the moorings for fishing boats and excursion boats.
If you keep to the right behind the harbour entrance, you will come to the firmm harbour office. This is the meeting point and starting point for our whale watching tours. Here you can get tickets for the trips, information about the whales and dolphins and souvenirs.
Island Isla de las Palomas
Actually, the Isla de las Palomas (Pigeon Island) is no longer a real island today - in 1808 it was connected to the mainland by a passable dam. But Tarifa owes its name to this spot. In the year 710 the Muslim commandant Tarif Abu Zara is said to have landed here. The island was named "Al Yazirat Tarif" (the island of Tarif) after him, so the name of the city was born: Tarifa.
According to tradition, Tarif was to explore the military situation in this region for his commander Tāriq ibn Ziyā, before the Moors began conquering the Iberian Peninsula from Gibraltar a year later.
But the Moors were not the first people at the southern tip of Europe. Remains of Phoenician graves already suggest a Phoenician settlement on the territory of today's Tarifa.
Castillo de Santa Catalina
The Castillo Santa Catalina fortress was built in 1813 to protect the positions on the island of Las Palomas. Stones from a 16th century chapel were used to build the fortress. The ruins cannot be visited, but they are a beautiful photo motif.
Just left of the access to the island Isla de las Palomas you will find the small beach Playa Chica which offers a nice view of Tarifa’s harbour. Due to its location it is a little better protected from the wind than the beach Playa Los Lances on the Atlantic side.
Playa Los Lances
The 10 km long beach Playa los Lances on the Atlantic side offers ideal wind conditions for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Here you will find surf schools, but also many accommodations, so you can dive directly into the waves after breakfast.
By the way, Tarifa owes its reputation as a surfer's paradise to the so-called Venturi effect: Due to the mountains to the left and right of the Strait of Gibraltar, the wind has to pass through a narrow spot and thus increases in strength.
Nature park Parque Natural de los Alcornocales
The Alcornocales Nature Park begins just behind the Los Lances beach - an ideal area for hiking and mountain biking. With an area of 167,767 ha, the nature park extends far into the interior. Here the largest cork oak forests of the Iberian peninsula grow, which gave the nature park its name (alcornocal = cork oak forest).
Nature park Parque Natural del Estrecho
The Parque Natural del Estrecho extends between Cabo de Gracia (between Zahara de los Atunes and Bolonia) and the bay of Getares (near Algeciras). It was declared a nature park in 2003 and covers an area of 18,910 hectares.
Just outside Tarifa in the direction of Algeciras lies the ornithology station, which provides information about the migratory birds along the Strait of Gibraltar, including the stork, the black kite, the booted eagle, the snake eagle and the crested honey buzzard.