A highly “magnetic” place: this could be a way to describe the southernmost point of Europe in the province of Cadiz, a veritable balcony over the African continent.
At the convergence of two waters, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the natural landscape comprising the strait of Gibraltar is simply spectacular. A mere 14 kilometres separate Europe and Africa, where the meeting of atmospheric currents as they pass the Strait provides Tarifa with one of its great treasures: its powerful wind, revered by sea lovers. For many years this particularity has meant that the town has been a paradise not only to this group of visitors but also to those who come to enjoy its unspoilt nature on the shore as well as inland.
The waters of Tarifa are indeed renowned worldwide, with many international championships of windsurf and kitesurf alike having been celebrated here. Along with the Canary Islands and Hawaii, this is one of the world's favourite spots for practicing these sports.
There are many reasons for which the place it is a true paradise. Unlike in the Caribbean, you will not find large quantities of palm trees or consistently warm waters here but rather 28 kilometres of impressive beaches of fine white sand, turquoise waters, virgin coves, and winds that purify the beautiful atmosphere.
The particularity of the wind and the spectacular surroundings of Tarifa, including its large natural parks-the National Cork Oak Forest and the Natural Reserve of the Strait of Gibraltar-prevent large development concerns from burying such a landscape under concrete.
These coastal landscapes host countless sporting activities. Tarifa has dozens of windsurf, kitesurf, and surf schools, the latter sport being more commonly practised during winter, as well as sports centres where the material can be rented.
But sporting and leisure activities are not limited to the wind and water. All year long a vast array of activities are possible, including mountain biking on an infinity of beautiful cycling routes; scuba diving on the Island of Tarifa, which boasts one of the richest concentration of sea life in all of the peninsula; strolling or horse-riding in the hills or along the beaches; hang-gliding or paragliding; whale and migratory birds sighting; hiking; rock-climbing; spelunking... and the list goes on.
And so the charm of Tarifa attracts sports lovers as well as ornithologists and nature lovers from all over the world, especially during summer, when the beaches are decorated by hundreds of sails and kites that create a sublime and colourful display. Indeed, the beautiful local coastline is not so conducive to the usual parasol or famous “potato omelette” of the Sunday tourist...
The municipality of Tarifa also includes other interesting population centres, that of Zahara de los Atunes, a fashionable site year after year; the spectacular beach of Bolonia with the archaeological compound of the Roman settlement of Baelo Claudia; and Facinas, a charming village of white houses that is the gateway to the National Cork Oak Forest, by way of the recreational area known as Los Tornos.
History and culture are also an important part of the area's appeal: Baelo Claudia, named after the emperor under whose rule it was founded, constitutes the best-preserved archaeological remains of a Roman town in the Iberian peninsula. Modelled after Rome itself, the architectural layout of the ancient city clearly illustrates the life of a Roman city dedicated to fish salting and curing. Representations are still held every summer in the original theatre and an interpretative museum has been added to the site. The general area around Bolonia and Betis is now recognised as having one of Europe's largest concentration of Palaeolithic cave dwellings whose walls bear paintings from various eras. Unsurprisingly, the small mountain of Betis and the hamlet of the same name are also famous for rock-climbing.
Tarifa itself is an ages-old town, complete with defence walls and a castle. Its historical centre features Roman and Moorish vestiges and a general residential architecture dating back from the Christian period that is typically Andalusian in that it is inspired by the Romans and Moors in its use of open air patios, elaborate tiling, woodwork, and fountains. In terms of cultural activities, Tarifa is home to one of the world's most important African Film festivals, and there is flamenco and other live music in the local bar scene as well as larger concerts and other cultural events organised by the town hall. Considering you can reach Morocco from Tarifa by ferry in only 35 minutes, this all adds up to a vibrant cultural environment for visitors and residents alike.
After having travelled to many islands in various of the world's regions including the Canaries, Fromentera, Mauritius, Jamaica, Cuba, and The Dominican Republic, among others, I have yet to discover a place that provides so many sensations.
I guess I'll have to keep on travelling...