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# The Costa del Windsurf
Tarifa: The capital of the "Costa del Windsurf" and the most happening town on the Costa de la Luz. With its lively, party atmosphere, brightly painted bars, sunny plazas and warren-like, cobblestoned streets, Tarifa has a unique vibe that belongs more to the Caribbean, California and nearby Africa than it does Spain!
It is one of the foremost windsurfing and kitesurfing destinations in the world, and the constant wind has led to hundreds of power-generating windmills erected in the area. Tarifa is the southernmost point of Europe and is a mere 11 kilometres across the straits to Africa. Tarifa’s name is derived from the Moorish leader Tarif ibn Malik who took possession of the town in 710 and was the first Moorish possession in Spain and made it in the springboard for the Arab conquest.
Six hundred years later the Castilian troops captured Tarifa (1292), however, today you will see two-thirds of the city walls that they built, plus the main gate, the Puerta de Jerez, still standing. The 15th Century church of San Mateo hides behind a beautiful late-Gothic interior behind a baroque exterior. The most impressive sight of all, however, is across the straits - the smoky-blue outline of Africa’s Rif Mountains, best seen from atop the ramparts of the tenth-century Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno.
The majority of Tarifa’s visitors come for the sand, surf and summer beach parties along Playa de Los Lances, due west of the town centre. Tarifa has one of the most varied international restaurant scenes on the coast, ranging from pizza and pasta to Mexican, Greek and North African.
# Old Town
A wander around the old town’s narrow streets, which are mainly Islamic origin, is an appetiser for Morocco. The Mudéjar Puerta de Jerez was built after the Reconquista. Look in the small but action packed market (Calle Cólon) before wending your way to the mainly 15th Century Iglesia de San Mateo (Calle Sancho IV El Bravo). South of he church, the Mirador El Estrecho, atop part of the castle walls, has spectacular views across to Africa, located only 14km away.
# Castillo de Guzmán
Originally built in 960 on the orders of Cordoban caliph Abd ar-Rahman III, this fortress is named after Reconquista hero Guzmán El Bueno. In 1294, when threatened with the death of his captured son unless he surrendered the castle to attacking Islamic forces, El Bueno threw down his dagger for the deed to be done.
# Out & About
Sandy Beach Dining
Many boats are available for diving expeditions and usually done from boats around the Isla de la Palomas where shipwrecks, corals, dolphins and octopuses await. One tank dives generally cost around €50, including equipment rental.
# Horse Riding
Contemplating Tarifa’s wind-lashed coast line on horseback is a terrific way to pass an afternoon or even longer. A one-hour beach ride along Playa de Los Lances costs around €30, a 2 hour beach and mountain ride will set you back around €50. Molino el Mastral is a lodge which offers horseback riding in and around Tarifa.
# Whale Watching
The waters off Tarifa are one of the best places in Europe to see whales and dolphins as they swim between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, during April to October, sightings of some description are almost guaranteed between these months. In addition to striped and bottlenose dolphins, long-finned pilot whales, orcas (killer whales), and sperm whales, you may also see endangered fin whales and the misleadingly named common dolphin. The best months for orcas are July and August, while sperm whales are present in the straits of Gibraltar from April to July.
# Windsurfing and Kitesurfing
Occupying the spot where the Atlantic meets the Med, Tarifa’s legendary winds have turned the city into one of Europe’s premier windsurfing and kitesurfing destinations. The most popular strip is along the coast between Tarifa and Punto Paloma, 10km to the northwest, but you’ll see kitesurfers on Tarifa’s town beach as well. Surfing is a great spectator sport!