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Tarifa, Spain

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Tarifa, Spain


View of the Puerta de Jerez, the traditional entrance to the old city centre.

Coat of arms

Location in the province of Cádiz
Location in Spain

Coordinates: 36°1′N 5°36′W / 36.017°N 5.600°W / 36.017; -5.600

Country Spain
Autonomous community Andalusia
Province Cádiz
Comarca Campo de Gibraltar
Judicial district Algeciras
 • Mayor Juan Andrés Gil García (2011) (People's Party[PP])
 • Total 419.67 km2 (162.04 sq mi)
Elevation 7 m (23 ft)
Population (2009)
 • Total 17,793
 • Density 42/km2 (110/sq mi)
Demonym Tarifeños
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 11380
Dialing code (+34) 956
Official language(s) Spanish

Tarifa is a small town in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia, on the southernmost coast of Spain. The town is located on the Costa de la Luz ("coast of light") and across the Straits of Gibraltar facing Morocco.

At exactly 36 degrees latitude, it is the southernmost point of the European continent, situated south of both African capital cities of Tunis and Algiers.

The municipality includes Punta de Tarifa, the southernmost point in continental Europe. There are several villages which depend economically on Tarifa in the municipality, including Tahivilla, Facinas, and Bolonia.


It used to be thought that Tarifa was once the site of the Roman settlement of Julia Transducta (also known as Julia Joza, or just Transducta). However, that settlement is now thought to have been where Algeciras now stands, while Tarifa may have been the site of the settlement of Mellaria.[1][2] Tarifa was given its present name after the attack of Tarif ibn Malik in 710, a Berber military commander of Musa bin Nusayr.[3] The village of Bolonia near Tarifa was also populated in Roman times (called Baelo Claudia). Roman ruins still exist near the village today.

After the Islamic conquest of southern Spain, the city was fortified starting from the 10th century. Later Tarifa was held by the taifa of Algeciras (1031) and by that of Seville (1057), and subsequently by the Almoravids. After the latter's fall, it lived a short period under another taifa of Algeciras (1231), until becoming part of the Kingdom of Granada. In 1292 it was conquered by Sancho IV of Castile, and two years later it resisted a siege by North African Islamic troops. The town resisted another siege in 1340 from Moroccan troops, eventually leading to the Battle of Río Salado.

In 1514 it become the seat of marquisate including also Bornos, Espera and Alcalá de los Gazules. In the course of the Peninsular War, Tarifa was besieged by French troops on 20 December 1810, and again on 18 October 1811. In both of these cases the town was defended by British troops from Gibraltar as the Spanish and British were allies against the French. In 1811 there were 3,000 defending troops with 1,200 of those British including Colonel Charles Holloway who as commanding Royal Engineer made improvements to Taerif'a defences. On 19 December the town was attacked again by General Laval who bomarded the town over Christmas to the point where surrender was demanded on the 30 December. Both the British and Spanish commanders refused to comply and their defiance was rewarded by rain that started the next day. By 5 January the attacking force realised that their powder was wet and their guns were bogged down in mud, and retreated.[4]


Tarifa is sometimes credited with being the origin of the word "tariff, since it was the first port in history to charge merchants for the use of its docks, but other sources[5] point to the Arabic word ta'rïf, as the origin. The name "Tarifa" itself is derived from the name of the Berber warrior, Tarif ibn Malik.

Main sights

Historical landmarks of the city include:

  • the well-preserved Guzman castle, near the port, built by order of caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III (960). Annexed are the Guzmán el Bueno Tower (13th century) and the church of St. Mary, on the site of a former mosque
  • remains of the medieval walls. Of three gates once existing, today only the Puerta de Jerez (13th century) has survived
  • Church of St. Matthew, built in the early 16th century in Gothic style, also over a former mosque. The façade was redesigned by Torcuato Cayón de la Vega in 1774.
  • The ruins of the Roman city of Baelo Claudia, located nearby.

Tarifa has become a popular spot for northern-Europeans to spend their summers. The coast of Tarifa is also popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers due to the strong winds of the straits. For this reason Tarifa is also dotted with hundreds of wind turbines.

Tarifa is a renowned place to watch migrating birds, in particular the storks which cross the Straits of Gibraltar in spring and autumn. Also whale and dolphin watching can be done on the 14 kilometer wide Straits.


Tarifa is renowned for its African Film Festival, whose first edition took place in 2004.


There are regular ferry services between Tarifa and Tangier and bus services between Tarifa and Algeciras, about 20 km to the northeast, and Seville about 200 km to the north.


Tarifa features a Mediterranean climate with Oceanic influences, with warm summers and very mild winters. Rain is concentrated in winter, with the summers being largely dry. Because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, precipitation in the wet period is quite high; monthly averages exceed 80mm in the two wettest months, December and January. The influence of the ocean has the additional effect of creating a very small annual variation in temperature. Winters are much warmer than those of continental Spain - a phenomenon also due to its southerly location - and summers are cooler than most of the country - the average daily high in the hottest month, August, is only 24°C, significantly cooler than the temperatures experienced further inland in the Guadalquivir valley, and also a little cooler than those felt further East along the Mediterranean coast in places such as Málaga and Almería.

Climate data for Tarifa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 15.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 13.4
Average low °C (°F) 11.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 83
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 8 8 6 7 4 2 0 0 2 6 7 10 60
Mean monthly sunshine hours 153 161 199 218 264 284 307 297 233 202 170 142 2,538
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[6]


External links

  • Official website (Spanish)
  • Estrecho Natural Park (Spanish)
  • Lances Beach Natural Paraje (Spanish)

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