‘A funky party town with stylish accommodation and great eating’
Tarifa – continental Europe’s most southerly town – is always lively because it’s windy: kitesurfers and windsurfers blow in all year round. The hotels and restaurants that remain open to accommodate them attract less active off-season beach-lovers too. In recent years, Tarifa has morphed from a funky party town to a funky party town with stylish accommodation and great eating, too. Most of the good stuff flanks the narrow cobbled streets and tiny plazas crammed inside the town’s thick (somewhat wind-proof) walls. There’s a real medina feel here, not surprising given the town was the first Arab foothold on the Iberian peninsula. It is still dominated by a solid Arab fort and Morocco is just 12 miles away across the Strait of Gibraltar (the ferry takes under an hour).
West from the ancient gates lies a stretch of fabulous beaches. Los Lances and Valdevaqueros are good for seeing kitesurfers in action. If you’re inspired, a couple of dozen companies offer half-day tasters or all-inclusive packages, plus equipment to hire or buy. If that’s not your bag, continue west to Bolonia, and explore its seaside Roman ruin, Baelo Claudia. These waters are packed with dolphins and whales and, until the end of October, there’s a fairly good chance of spotting them on a two-hour boat trip.
Tarifa’s modus operandi is sleep late and eat late. Breakfast serves as lunch, and several cafes offer good ones. Try the batidos (smoothies) and fruit, yoghurt and muesli combos at Cafe Azul. While some restaurants close in October, there is still plenty of choice, such as Vaca Loca for massive marinated barbecued steaks, and Chilimosa for vegetarian food.