Take it from me: if you are looking for a holiday destination that won’t break the bank, is convenient to get to, and has decent weather all-year-round, Andalusia (southern Spain) could be your kind of place. I’ve travelled around this region as a kid, because my parents loved to spend the summer holidays at some the seaside resorts here, and later as an adult, exploring everything that this fascinating part of Spain has to offer. You can imagine how happy I was when I got into kitesurfing and discovered that one of the top kitesurfing spots in Europe is actually here.
Tarifa is a favourite destination for watersport enthusiasts because the conditions are just perfect. It’s all about the town’s location. Tarifa is located on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, a 9-mile body of water that separates the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and Europe from Africa. You can actually see Africa across the strait from Tarifa. The town’s location means that Tarifa basically serves as a buffer for the strong African winds that blow year round, and the windy conditions mean that Tarifa is a kitesurfing paradise … among many other great things.
How to get to Tarifa from the UK
You can get to Tarifa by plane, bus, car, and boat. The fastest way is to get on a British Airways, EasyJet, or Monarch flight to Gibraltar (flights depart from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, and Birmingham). My closest airport is Gatwick, I booked a taxi from my home in Clapham, as I had a 6am flight and needed to be at the airport for 4.30am, however there are plenty of public transport options including trains and buses, or you can drive yourself and use one of the car parks. From Gibraltar airport it’s about 25 miles to Tarifa. Buses and taxis can get you there in about 1 hour. The second best option is to fly into Jerez with Ryanair or Thomson and to take the Linesur bus bound for Algeciras. Flying to Malaga airport is another option. You can get there with British Airways, EasyJet, Flybe, Ryanair, Jet2, Monarch, and Thomson. Shuttle transfers go to Tarifa, or you can get on a regular coach from Malaga’s bus station.
The boat option is great if you’re planning to visit Morocco. You can fly into Tangier airport from London and take a taxi to the ferry terminal, where regular boats take you to Tarifa in 30 minutes.
If you want to drive, you’ll be crossing half of western Europe by car, taking the ferry across the channel. The distance from London to Tarifa is 1,500 miles, so this could be the road trip of a lifetime.
Kitesurfing in Tarifa
I counted at least 10 kitesurfing schools while wandering around Tarifa. English is widely spoken and many schools offer dedicated kitesurfing holidays that save you the hassle of looking for accommodation.
The first thing to mention about Tarifa’s kitesurfing scene is that this is mainly a destination for expert kiters (hence the abundance of schools, because you just can’t get here and jump into the water with no previous experience). Winds of 40 knots and over are not uncommon here, although the water is warm and pleasant and the weather is just great for a day of frolicking in the water. July, August, and September are the prime kitesurfing season in Tarifa. This also means that Tarifa’s main beach can be crowded at this time of the year, and it’s not unusual having to share your space with up to 1,000 other kiters. I personally enjoyed the convivial atmosphere, but if you want a more relaxed environment you can always head east to Palmones beach or west to Canos de Meca. I actually checked out this beach and absolutely loved it!
The main thing to bear in mind is that Poniente (westerly) and Levante (easterly) winds converge in Tarifa. Levante is particularly strong and can blow offshore for a week straight, so check this link for the current kitesurfing conditions in the area.
What to see and do in Tarifa
Tarifa is your typical Andalusian town, which means lots of whitewashed houses, steep cobblestone streets, parks lined with palm trees, plenty of sunshine, and a vibrant atmosphere. For the best panoramic views of town and the strait, walk up to Tarifa’s castle, a Moorish fortress built in the 10th century. There are at least 2 other castles in town.
You can easily walk around Tarifa in half a day. I especially liked the Casco Antiguo area (old town), where time simply seems to have stood still. The plazas (town squares) offer shade from the scorching hot August temperatures and are great for people-watching.
Restaurants are everywhere, serving the best Mediterranean fare, and fish is particularly good here. Go to the central market, (known as Central de Abastos) for the best pescaito frito (fried fish). I had a great meal at a restaurant called El Mercado. If you only learn one Spanish word in Tarifa, let it be chiringuito (beach bar). These lively places are great for making friends and enjoying a few beers. In the evening, the place to be is San Francisco street, a pedestrian street lined with bars where locals go in search of nighttime entertainment. My favourite little restaurant is Lola’s, with its red and white chequered table cloths on tables both inside and outside on the cobbled street. They serve wonderful tapas dishes as well as breakfast and main meals, and service always comes with a smile.
My verdict: 10/10.