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Home » Culture » Spain » Places » Cities » Tarifa

Tarifa - Costa de la Luz


Here you can find information about Tarifa, the port is located on the beautiful Spanish area known as Costa de la Luz.

Tarifa is located in the southernmost tip of Spain in the province of Cadiz in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia.  The coastal region is also known as the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) which is located in the Straight of Gibraltar across from Morocco in Africa.  The Punta de Tarifa (Point of Tarifa) is also the southernmost point in Europe with a distance of only 8.9 mi. (14.4 km.) separating it from Africa and where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The town was the first port to ever charge for the use of its docks and is therefore often credited with having coined the word “tariff.”  The town itself derived its name from the Berber warrior Tarif ibn Malik during the Arab conquests of the Iberian Peninsula.  However, during the Roman period Tarifa was known as Julia Transducta and Roman ruins still exist in the village today.

In the 10th century the city was fortified as a response to the conquests.  It was later incorporated into various medieval Muslim-ruled kingdoms (taifas):  taifa of Algeciras (1031), taifa of Seville (1057) and the Almoravid dynasty until eventually becoming part of the Kingdom of Granada.  In 1292 Tarifa was conquered by Sancho IV, the King of Castile.  Under Sancho IV the town resisted a Northern African attack in 1294 and another in 1340, which would eventually lead to the Battle of Río Salado.

Visitors to Tarifa can enjoy many exciting monuments.  The Guzman castle is located near the port and is a well preserved remnant of Abd-ar-Rahmann II.  On the same site are the 13th century Guzmán el Bueno Tower and the Church of St. Mary.  There are also remains of the medieval fortification walls and its only surviving gate called the Puerta de Jerez.  Preserving much of its Muslim past, the Church of St. Matthew was a former mosque that was built in Gothic style in the 16th century.   Located just 14 mi. (22 km.) out of Tarifa, near the villaje of Bolonia, are the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia.

Nearly 60% of Tarifa is under official protection with it various natural parks of ecological importance. The most important is Los Alcornocales Natural Park, one of the largest in Spain, and covered by Mediterranean native forest.

Tarifa is also renowned for its fauna and wildlife where each year you can watch migrating birds which cross the Straits of Gibraltar in the spring and fall.  Of particular importance are the storks, Black Kites, Booted Eagles, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzards.

There are also important mammal populations off the coast of Tarifa.  Whale and dolphin watching can be done throughout the year in which one can observe Common dolphins, Striped dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins and Pilot whales.  Other species are present during some periods such as Orca whales from July to September, Sperm whales from March to August, and Fin whales from May to August.

The climate in Tarifa makes it a favorite destination for tourists. Its Mediterranean climate consists of warm dry summers and very mild winters.  Tarifa is exceptionally windy due to its location where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean making it a prime spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders.  Tarifa makes use of its wind with its hundreds of wind turbines producing ecological energy.

Tarifa is very well communicated and you can arrive for your vacation via ferry from Northern Africa, by bus from most nearby locations, or a combination of a train to Algeciras and then a bus to Tarifa.