Despite its small size, the township of Tarifa is widely known. Firstly, although Gibraltar gave its name to the Strait and controls it militarily, the Southern tip of Europe is in fact in Tarifa. Secondly, due to this geographical fact Tarifa faces the open water on both sides – and therefore it is extremely windy. The winds have made Tarifa a veritable Mecca for all sorts of surfers – from wave surfers to windsurfers to kitesurfers. Thirdly, due to the permanent extreme sports community a kind of a mini-Woodstock atmosphere has formed here.
I arrived in Tarifa at the time when the season was winding down, though not the winds. Tarifa stood half-empty, and yet the weather was warm and of course windy. A dreamy mood at the beach:
Several kitesurfers rode the winds:
As I observed their saltos in the air for a while, I got more and more impressed. The strength and the skill required were obvious from simply comparing the several men that were in front of me – one was producing some incredible somersaults in the air, the other would keep falling hard on the surface of the water. You have to be quite brave too – an error results on a rather unpleasant impact as you hit the water.
As you walk South on the beach, eventually you pass the kitesurfers to reach the end of Europe. A look back at Tarifa. The tip of Europe is in fact a bridge that connects Tarifa to a small island called Isla de las Palomas. You cannot visit the island.
But you can approach and read this confirmation that yes indeed you have reached the Southern tip of the continent.
I returned back to Tarifa. As a matter of fact it is a very old settlement, comparable to Cádiz in terms of age. It was a Phoenician base later appropriated by the Romans, but its’ true importance came at the time of the Arab invasion – indeed it was here that in 710 the first warriors led by Tarif ibn Malluk stepped on the European soil. The leader’s name became the name of the town.
Her you can see the historical fortress of Tarifa, called Castillo del Guzman. It is the large fort on the right, not the small one on a hill.
According to a legend, in 1294, right after Tarifa was captured by the Spanish, the Moorish troops besieged the fortress hoping to take it back. They succeeded in capturing a son of Guzman, the Spanish commander of the fortress, and demanded that he abandon the fortress lest his son is executed. Guzman himself threw a blade to the Moors so that they can put their threat to action. For this heroic loyalty Castilla rewarded Guzman – the castle has his name to this day and his descendants – the dukes of Medina-Sidonia – went on to rule the Cádiz province for many centuries.
The thick internal walls as seen from the first courtyard of the fortress.
Although the fortress itself is closed for restorations, it is possible to walk inside the internal walls.
The traces of the true founders of the castle – the Moors.
The view from the walls. The port of Tarifa and Isla de las Palomas. The kitesurfer beach and the Atlantic ocean are to the right.
And finally the entrance of the Old Tarifa – Puerta de Jerez, where the road to Jerez started – the entrance and exit of the Old Town.