What to see in Tarifa? Van Road Trip Itinerary
In today’s post, I want to talk to you about our trip to 4 Tarifa by van. We will tour the most southern point of the Iberian peninsula and get to know its monuments and its beaches.
This trip was the first we did with the first van we had in July 2018. A trip with my sister and Henry (who is from there), in our van and in theirs.
Summary of the trip to Tarifa
The visit started in the village, but as we arrived in the evening, the first thing we did was go to dinner at the restaurant N6 and then go partying through the center of town.
The next day in the morning, we had breakfast at Café Azul, then visited the town center, the castle and went to the market to buy red tuna and what we needed to eat and dine in the vans.
We found a very cool place where we were able to barbecue and spend the night. We visited the most beautiful beaches of Tarifa.
I’ll tell you everything else here, read on.
Best things to do in Tarifa Town
The center of Tarifa is very small, but has a lot of people in summer. What’s more, the nights in the center are very lively and crowded and you can even see some famous people in its bars and restaurants.
Puerta de Jerez (Sherry Gate?)
Tarifa had four doors in its walls, the Puerta de Jerez is the only one that still stands and is one of the emblematic monuments of the city.
It is of Muslim origin and a symbol of the reconquest. At the top there is a sign that reads “Very noble Very loyal and Heroic city of Tarifa. Won the Moors, Reigning Sancho IV the Brave on September 21, 1292”
Puerta de Jerez is located in the north and gives access to the city and the walled enclosure of Arrabal. Parts of the original wall have been integrated with buildings that were built in the 19th century.
Castle of Guzman the Good
Guzman el Bueno Castle was built in 960 by Caliph Abderraman III. It passed through different hands until it was conquered by Christians in 1292. It’s in a strategic point in the city. From here, you can see the entire coast and the whole city.
It owes its name to Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, who in 1294 defended the castle of the Muslim army. They urged him to deliver the castle in exchange for the life of his firstborn, but Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, continued to fight, defend the castle and be loyal to his king.
It is said that he himself threw a dagger at the Muslims to kill his son.
The castle underwent several renovations over the centuries to defend itself from different enemies.
In 1960, they put a statue in honor of Guzmán el Bueno. Today, it is in what we know as the Paseo de la Alameda.
Port of Tarifa
This small port, Schengen Border, has commercial, fishing and nautical sports activity, but especially because from here the boats depart for Tangier (a getaway that you can make from here).
Santa Catalina Castle
A few meters from the Castle of Guzmán el Bueno, is the hill of Santa Catalina, which owes its name to an old hermitage dedicated to Santa Catalina de Siena.
In 1928, a castle was built to complement the island’s lighthouse and house the port traffic light. It was completed in 1933, in historicist style. During the Spanish Civil War, defenses were reinforced with several bunkers intercommunicated through tunnels.
The Lighthouse of the Island of Tarifa or Punta Marroquí
It is the first lighthouse in Tarifa and the most southern of the Iberian Peninsula and is located on the island of Las Palomas.
Originally it was a tower, which served to alert the arrival of Berber pirates in the time of Philip II.
In the nineteenth century, under the reign of Ferdinand VII it became a lighthouse to serve as a reference to the navigation of the Strait. There is a document dating back to 1826. From there, you can see the Cadiz coast and the mountains of Morocco in Africa.
The Medieval Walls
Tarifa has three walled enclosures that were built consecutively to protect the city: the wall of Almedina, the wall of the Aljaranda and the arrabal wall (where the door of Jerez is)
Some sections of the old enclosure are preserved in their original place and others integrated into the buildings (pay attention in the Area of the Alameda). Of the three doors, all that’s left is Jerez’s.
St. Matthew’s Church
The Church of San Mateo is the main church of Tarifa and is located in the historic center (Sancho IV el Bravo street).
Its construction is supposed to be 1506, and there are documents confirming its existence since 1534. From this time is the primitive plant of the church, the three naves and the Gothic cross vaults. The main facade is from 1774, in Baroque style.
Strolling through the center
Of course, stroll through the historic center of the city. Enter through the Puerta de Jerez and let yourself be carried away by the narrow white alleys, have a drink in one of its bars and restaurants.
If you are traveling by van, camping or staying in an apartment, you have to visit and buy at the market. Here you will find fresh products from the land and its famous freshly caught tuna.
Tarifa beaches and surroundings
Tarifa has some very famous beaches and others are less well known. Here, I’m talking about some of them.
Playa Chica (small beach)
If you do not want to suffer the wind of Tarifa and you like the calm sea, this is your beach. It is ideal for going with children, it is close to the city.
The South Lances
Ideal for those who go to the beach means going beach bars. In winter it is filled with surfers and kitesurfers.
The Northern Lances
If you want to learn kite, this is your beach. Here are the schools of this sport. Obviously, there are also beach bars to eat or have a drink on the beach.
This beach is really cool. Here you have beach bars with good music, good food. It is also the place where kite and windsurfing professionals come.
From Punta Paloma you can see Africa. So you arrive early to be able to park and enjoy the views and its beautiful coves.
Bologna Beach is the most famous of all. Here, you will find the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia and an immense dune.
In the part where the beach narrows (direction Tarifa) small coves form, here is the nudist area.
Playa de los Alemanes (Germans’ Beach)
If you like wild beaches, you will like the beach of the Germans. It is located in a very nice area, with chalets scattered on the mountainside. Although, there are no services like the others, this beach is very visited.
Enjoy the Tarifeño wind and learn water sports. Sign up for a school for learn to do surf, kitesurfing or windsurfing.
In the areas with the quietest sea practice surf paddle, diving, kayaks. Take boat trips.
Hiking trails and parks
Tarifa is surrounded by nature parks, so if you are a lover of hiking you will find routes to do. There are routes with different difficulties and lengths.
If you want to make one easy, make the natural place Playa de los Lances. It is a linear path of low difficulty. You can start it in the center of Tarifa and it is about 30 minutes on the way.
If you want something more difficult make the route Frente Litoral Tarifa-Algeciras. It starts in the center, passes by de Guzmán el Bueno and the seaport and ends at the Visitor Center and Orchard Grande ecotourism complex.
This stretch is 16 km way and the difficulty is average.
Eating red tuna from the Strait of Gibraltar
One of the typical things to eat in Tarifa is The Red Tuna that fish all year round in the Strait. This species is protected and its fishing is controlled. So please don’t buy it for poachers, which can put this species in danger.
If you travel by van or are camping or staying in an apartment, you can buy it at the market and do it on the grill, it is very tasty. If not, you can taste it in the restaurants of Tarifa.
Dolphins and whales in their natural habitat
What is Cetacean Sighting? It is the practice of seeing whales, dolphins and other cetaceans in their natural habitat. Tarifa is a unique place in Europe to do this practice. This sector has been professionalized and you can see dolphins and whales in their natural habitat in a safe way, both for you and for animals.
Did you know that it has been discovered that the defines live in complex social groups, can be recognized in a mirror, have personality and feel empathy?
In the Strait, small orcas have learned that when they catch tuna from fishermen’s rods, they have to leave the fish’s head so they don’t get hurt with the hook.
The dolphins also collaborate in hunting, raise their cubs together, are in solidarity with those of their species and with others as well. It is a fascinating animal and here you can see them in their habitat and learn more about them.
In addition, from the sea you will enjoy fantastic views of the coast of Tarifa.
Have breakfast at Café Azul
Here, we arrived because my sister told us, who had already been and loved it. Totally a hit. They have fabulous breakfasts, natural juices, smoothies, sandwiches, fruit, etc. All very tasty and fresh. That said, there’s usually a queue on the weekends. But totally recommendable.
Where to Stay
It depends on what you are looking for on your trip to Tarifa, you can stay in Tarifa village or near your favorite beach.
You could say that in Tarifa village there is a great hotel offer, but the truth is that the space is limited, there are many travelers and the hotels rooms books out fast.
Many of the inhabitants of Tarifa have apartments or rent rooms for tourists.
I do not know if after the Covid will be the same, but my recommendation is that you book your accommodation in Tarifa in advance.
Where it is allowed to sleep in a camper van
Tarifa is surrounded by protected natural parks, in which it is not allowed to stay overnight and much less make a barbecue. But the number of people who travel in vans of all sizes is increasing. And that’s why there are places enabled.
To find these places it is best to download the Furgoperfecto and Park4night app. The first works very well in Spain, has many free places to stay and you can read the opinions of other people. The second one is very similar, although in this you will find free places, paid areas, campsites and filters work very well. Now that we have a grand volume van, the height filter helps a lot.
Pay attention with sleeping inside the natural park or protected areas, there are guards guarding and fining.
There is a van-enabled car park near Camping Jardin de Las Dunas, in Punta Paloma.
Do you know Tarifa? Leave your recommendations in the blog comments.
Prepare your trip to Andalusia
- What to see in Conil
- Best things to do in Malaga
- What to see in Seville
- What to bring on your camper van trip
- Camper travel tips
- Music to travel
- What to eat camping
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