Have you ever even heard of Tarifa? I shall assume that like me before I went on this trip, you have not. It never ceases to amaze me when I discover something lovely or great or special that I have never even heard of. It’s a big world out there, I guess.
The reason that people go to Tarifa is that it’s where you take the ferry to Tangier. Now, earlier in our trip, we had got the wrong end of the stick and thought that we were supposed to ferry from Algeciras. Word to the wise: this is old information. If you take the ferry from Algeciras, you will end up in Tangier Med and then have to transfer into Tangier. The ferry from Tarifa is a shorter trip and it will take you where you actually want to be. We figured this out while on the bus from Cadiz to Algeciras. Fortunately, Tarifa is a stop on the bus ride from Cadiz to Algeciras. (Especially fortunate because it turns out that Algeciras is not much of a destination at all. We missed nothing in this change of plans.)
Now, when I was 23, I moved to Puerto Vallarta on a bit of a whim and lived there for almost three years. Before that I had always loved being near the ocean, but living in Mexico gave me a solid appreciation for beach towns. In fact, I am a total sucker for them. So in Tarifa, I felt right at home.
Tarifa is small. You could stroll from one end to the other in under forty minutes with no troubles at all. The newer part of town is full of surfer shops and sandwich places. The older part is all beautiful white stucco buildings with flower boxes in every window.
The pace is slow. I think it is one of those places where time loses its meaning a bit. I experienced this phenomenon in Mexico. Countless times I would hear the same story from Canadians and Americans living there: “Oh, I came here on vacation for a week and just never left. I’ve been here, oh, fifteen years. Not really sure how that happened.” Tarifa had a pull on me that made me want to own that story there. I gave strong consideration to quitting my job and opening up a cookie shop or something. It was a town that made the rat race seem more pointless than it usually does. I did manage to drag myself away, but Tarifa has definitely put itself on my list of potential places to retire.
Things to see: The town and the beach. There were some pretty churches and squares. And — just across the water there — a view of Africa. Holy smokes.
Things to do: Surfing and parasailing seem to be big there. Or, if you happen to be there at the bicentennial like we were (unlikely at this stage, I suppose), you can check out the battle re-enactment parades. Also, you can take ferries to Morocco.
Things to eat: This seems to be a big paella town. Also, ice cream.
If you’re going to buy it, buy it here: Stuff from Morocco if you aren’t planning to go to Morocco. There were also just a lot of beautiful boutiques with unique stuff, maybe not especially Spanish, but lovely regardless.
Worth the trip, on a scale of one to five: 4. I loved it, and if you’re already as far as Cadiz, I’d bump that to a 5, but otherwise if you aren’t going to Morocco, it’s pretty far out of the way, so if you’re short on time, you should probably leave it.