home Local Info Monuments and tourist attractions

Monuments and tourist attractions

If you rent one of our apartments in Tarifa, you should know that our town is not only its beaches and sliding sports, but it has an immense historical cultural heritage, being a millenary city of habitual settlement for many civilizations due to its strategic enclave.

The name of Tarifa comes from the Arabic Al Yazirat Tarif (Tarifa island), a name given in 710 by the expeditionary troops of Tarif, commander of Tarik, on their first landing on the Iberian Peninsula.

But much earlier than that, Tarifa is a rich area of Paleolithic rock art. It has about sixty of these shelters, the most important being that of the Cueva del Moro, with cave recordings of horses and local fauna, which can be visited near the Camarinal Point in Zahara de los Atunes.

From the Ancient period Tarifa has Punic and Visigothic settlements, one of them is visible on the Island of La Palomas, where remains of hypogean tombs can be seen. The island of Tarifa currently has an Interpretation Center that can be visited by obtaining your ticket at the Tourist Office. The Island of Las Palomas is the southernmost point of Continental Europe. Many civilizations used this islet as a strategic enclave on the route to North Africa, in addition the Romans established quarries to obtain limestone rock. In the Moderna Age, around the SXVII begins its fortification establishing a small battery. During the SXX it became the domain of the Ministry of Defense, which established a series of barracks due to its strategic location as a gateway to the Mediterranean. In 2003 it became part of the Natural Park of the Strait and finally the project to establish an Interpretation Center and its opening to the public was consummated. The visitor will be able to discover the history and characteristics of the Isla de la Palomas and its important Lighthouse, through a tour divided by themes: 1) The Strait of Gibraltar, crossroads of roads, 2) The bottoms of the Island, bottoms full of life and history, 3) The history from the Island, 4) The Island as a defensive bulwark and 5) The lighthouse of the Island: lookout of the Strait.

The ruins of Bologna, just 30 minutes from Tarifa, testify to the importance for the Roman Empire of its settlement in this area. The city of Baelo Claudia can be visited and is one of the biggest attractions for cultural tourism in the province of Cadiz. You can get information to organize your visit at www.museosdeandalucia.es/web/conjuntoarqueologicobaeloclaudia. Its settlement dates from the s. II BC and was an important city as a fishing and trading enclave with North Africa for the Roman Empire, in fact it took the rank of a Roman municipality in the first century during the reign of Claudius. It is believed that it was abandoned in the IV century when it was affected by an earthquake, to later be used by Vandals and Byzantines in the VII century.

In the Middle Ages it was a fishing village and from the 10th century the city began to be fortified. During the Omeya dynasty reigning in Al-Andalus, by order of Abderraman III, the construction of its caliphate fortress began around 912. In 1292, Sancho IV of Castile besieged the city, which was finally in Castilian hands. The caliphal fortress was used in the Castilian defense of the city during the Reconquista. Its defense was entrusted to Alonso Pérez de Guzmán who resisted the Benimerines forces on numerous occasions, hence the current name of Guzmán el Bueno Castle, which is preserved in very good condition and is another of the places of interest to be visited by our tourists. The fortress is located in front of the Port of Tarifa and has two emblematic statues at its gates, one in honor of Sancho IV the Brave and the other of Guzmán the Good, well known for his feat in the heroic defense of Tarifa against the Muslims in 1294. Alonso Pérez de Guzmán threw his own dagger at the besiegers who were threatening to kill his young son kidnapped by the Muslims. The Castle perfectly preserves the Church of Santa María, built in the thirteenth century on an old Muslim mosque. The views of the Strait of Gibraltar and Africa from the Castle towers are a unique picture in the world.

Due to its strategic place, Tarifa continued to be the object of desire in the numerous war contests that take place during the Moderna Era. In 1812 the siege of Tarifa takes place by the Napoleonic troops, during the War of Spanish Independence. The Anglo-Spanish forces made up of 3,000 soldiers and commanded by the  general Francisco Copons, contained for 17 days the siege of the Napoleonic imperial forces that had 10,000 troops. A statue of General Copons in the place where they held Napoleon's army commemorates this feat, very close to the Church of San Mateo and next to the access to the walled enclosure of the old Almedina, which can also be visited.

If what you want is to visit Christian temples, in addition to the aforementioned chapel of Santa María located in the Guzmán el Bueno Castle, Tarifa has two churches located in the historic center of Tarifa that can be accessed through the famous Puerta de Jerez, since after the reconquista the city walls were expanded surrounding what we know today as the historic center and this access was opened.

Once through the Jerez Gate we go down Nuestra Señora de la Luz Street to the Calzada Street. On the left in the background we can see the facade of the Church of San Mateo, finished in 1778 with Baroque style and Corinthian capitals. The construction of this temple dates back to 1506 with a floor plan of three vaulted Gothic style naves. Last century, between 1940-19450 the spectacular recently restored stained glass windows were placed.

The other church of the historic center is the Parish of San Francisco of the XVI century. It was damaged by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and was rebuilt following Baroque and neoclassical stylistic models. It has a spectacular tubular organ from the Baroque era worth seeing.

Just 8km from Tarifa you can also visit the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Luz. Built in the XVI century, it houses the image of the Virgin of Light, patron saint of Tarifa, except in September, when she returns in procession to Tarifa to be exhibited throughout the month of September in the Church of San Mateo.

If we go from the Castle of Guzmán el Bueno towards the Island of Tarifa, about 200m away we find the fishing port with its statue in honor of the men of the sea presiding over the entrance. In the fish market we can see the catches of the day, mostly they are fishing boats dedicated to fishing for the besugo de la pinta called voraz. Also during the summer season, coinciding with the Almadraba, the fish market is filled with catches of the famous wild red tuna of the Strait. This fish of exquisite flavor and so coveted in Asian gastronomy, has its own statue on the promenade on the right bank of the Island of Tarifa.

Also in this idyllic place stands on a hill, opposite the Isla de las Palomas, the Castle of Santa Catalina. At present it cannot be visited, but its print well deserves a photo with the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the port and the African Atlas Mountains in the background. This Renaissance-style castle was built in 1932 to house a maritime traffic light.

If we talk about unique photos on the way to the Island, there are two very recurrent ones among our tourists. One is next to the sign that indicates that you are at the southernmost point of Europe just before entering the enclosure of the Isla de las Palomas. The other is on the island's path, crossed on each side by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean signs. In addition to being the southernmost point of the European continent, it has the peculiarity of being the junction between a sea and an ocean, one of the few places on Earth where this happens.

If you are thinking of taking advantage of and getting to know other nearby places of interest, Tarifa offers a unique possibility at hand. Just 35 minutes by taking a fast ferry you can visit another continent. Shipping companies like F.R.S offer different excursions to get to know the best of Morocco, from a one-day tour of Tangier if you don't have much time. You can also visit another country such as Gibraltar, just 45km from Tarifa. It is worth visiting the spectacular marina, Calle Real (Main Street) for duty-free shopping and of course, take a cable car to the top of the Rock, meet its wild monkeys and visit the Glass Viewpoint, erected on Mount Misery, at 340 meters and with 360º views of the entire Strait of Gibraltar.

Other places that deserve to be visited if you are in Tarifa and have time, are the Sotogrande Marina and the Marbella Marina. In Sotogrande you can enjoy the best polo in its international championships organized by the Santa María Polo Club. If you like shopping, the popular Sotogrande flea market is organized every Sunday in its marina. If you are more of a golfer, you can't miss visiting Valderrama, considered the best golf course in Continental Europe, where the legendary Ryder Cup took place in 1997. If you want to play golf, the closest options are the Dehesa de Montenmedio golf course, in the direction of Cadiz, 45km from Tarifa, and the Alcaidesa golf course in the direction of Malaga and the same distance. Before arriving in Marbella, at the height of Estepona about 80km from Tarifa, there is Selwo Aventura, where you can live the unique experience of a safari with its more than 100 hectares of park and more than 2000 animals. About 95 km away is the spectacular marina of Marbella, Puerto Banús, where you can see a wide range of exclusive sports cars along with spectacular yachts moored in their pontoons. It has a multitude of restaurants and luxury shops as in the case of the Port of Sotogrande.


Local Info

Monuments and tourist attractions