Tarifa: the outdoor playground of Europe
Salud! From the Chiringuito (beachbar), my amigos and I cheers with a Tinto de Verano (ice cold lemon summer wine) on another classic kitesurfing day. We’re watching some last colourful kites playing in the ocean and admire the sunset spectacle of today. This is ‘Tarifeando‘, the verb used for spending good times in the outdoor playground of Europe: Tarifa!
A casual day in Tarifa
And Tarifeando we are! With an absurd number of sunny days per year, most time is spend outdoors. A casual day starts with a café con leche and tostada aceite-tomate (typical Spanish breakfast) in la calle (the street), continues with some thrill seeking in the water or mountains, and gets topped off with some tapas (little food plates) and Cañas (cold small glass of tap beer) at night, of course in, la calle.
This adventure sport paradise is set in the most southern point of mainland Europe. When approaching Tarifa from the north, the green mystical moon style landscape and views make me speechless, every time again. It feels like you’re near the end of the world. That magical. Although it’s not the end, you are driving towards a different world: the Arabian one. Put on the radio and the Moroccan berber music starts to dominate the speakers. You can even see the windmills in action on the other side. Africa is thát close.
Tarifa’s special location
Beside two continents, Tarifa is also the merging point of two seas, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. This special location made Tarifa a strategic military point in history and made Tarifa what it is today. The landscape is scattered with bunkers and cannons from the time Napoleons troops were hopping around. The Moors that ruled for almost six centuries gave Tarifa town its Arabian style architecture. Its white narrow streets make it easy to get lost. Doesn’t matter. Every street eventually ends at your destination, which is mostly likely la calle anyway.
Tarifa has about 300 windy days per year. No wonder El Viento (the wind) is the talk of the town and an even more popular resource here than the sun. ‘Discovered’ by windsurfers back in the days, Tarifa now attracts kitesurfers from all over the world to see what the buzz is about. As opposed to most other Andalusian coastal towns, here it’s not the beach, but the sky that is crowded. Tarifa has more kitesurf shops than grocery shops. Dogs are walked with a kite leash. And the number of party people at night depends on the wind forecast for tomorrow. I was also drawn to Tarifa because of the wind. But i’m still in this place because it’s so much more than just wind. The excitement I felt when moving to this town , is still present after eight months… That’s a record! Its bohemian ambience, divers sportive, artistic, multi-national crowd, and endless exploration options, make it very damn hard to leave.
Active in the outdoors
So no wind, no worries! Tarifa’s surroundings are a fascinating place for wildlife watching. It’s on the migration route for both whales and birds. On the north side of Tarifa there are the mountains to explore. Tarifa borders with the natural park of Los Alcornocales, one of world’s largest cork tree forests. It’s a mountainbikers, hikers and climbers heaven. Access is easy but be aware when out there. Your trail may be occasionally blocked by some bulls, donkeys, cows, horses, Iberico (Spanish ham) pigs, or goats giving away a music play with their bells. Uphill exercise efforts are rewarded with magical views of the strait and Morocco. Add the fragrance of pine trees and eucalyptus, migrating birds above you, and your expedition becomes priceless!
Relax, don’t worry
Tarifa has more international vibes than I ever felt elsewhere in Spain. Still, the Spanish lifestyle dominates. Although quiet some people are going through some rough times here economically, happiness rules. There is no crisis complaining but every day again the calles and chiringuitos are bursting with people enjoying the climate, food, nature, and each others company. The wind is free, the sun is free, smiles are free. These simple pleasures of life are very appreciated here, every day. What else do we need? Check out my Tarifa travel guide to get your exploration started!