Tarifa, the Southernmost Point of Europe

July 27, 2012 by

Local Guides, Local Recommendations, Things To Do

Port of Tarifa

Port of Tarifa. Photo credit: Kevin Walsh via Flickr.

Tarifa is a small city on the southernmost tip of Spain, in fact it’s the southernmost point of Europe, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, facing Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar.

Since Roman times there has been a fishing and port town here, with the name Tarifa coming from a Berber warrior who attacked and took the town in the 8th century, Tarif ibn Malik. Tarifa was the first town to ever charge merchants a fee for using its port and some say this is where the word tariff comes from. Local fishermen still use the 13th century method of circling their boats and nets to catch tuna from March until June.

These days Tarifa is a popular holiday town renowned for its 6 miles (10 km) of sandy, unspoiled beaches and for windsurfing, kite surfing, and hang-gliding—what this means is that it has strong winds. If you don’t like wind and you don’t like wind turbines, of which Tarifa has plenty (the largest wind farm in Europe is on the inland hills), this is not the place for you.

The temperatures more than make up for the wind. Being so far south, Tarifa is much warmer than the rest of Spain and has very mild winters. December and January can however be quite rainy.

But don’t be put off by weather. Tarifa has plenty to recommend it. From the history in Roman ruins, to the remains of the medieval walls and gothic churches, mosques, and the well preserved 13th century Guzman Castle. Guzman el Bueno was a hero to the people of Tarifa for his defense of the town against invading Moors, even sacrificing his own son to save the town.

Tarifa and the surrounding coast are also renowned for the bird and wildlife, particularly the stork migration from Africa in spring and autumn. Whale watching is also popular with whales being plentiful in the Straits of Gibraltar.

From the old fishing port which remains undeveloped and wonderfully authentic, walk west and down the causeway Muelle de Rivera—now you are at the south-westernmost point of Spain where the sea meets the ocean.

Another reason many people come to Tarifa is its proximity to Morocco. From Miramar Gardens in Tarifa you get great views of the coastline of Africa just 9 miles (14 km) away. There are regular ferry services every two hours daily to Tangier, which takes only 35 minutes each way.

In fact, one of the closest airports to Tarifa is Tangier, only an hour away including the ferry crossing! Also Gibraltar airport is just across the water and connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus or land bridge. Within Spain the nearest airport is Jerez de la Frontera an hour away or Malaga an hour and a half’s drive.

 -Phillippa B.

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s  Andalucia tours and things to doAndalucia attractions, and Andalucia travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Spain for a customized tour!

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