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The Puerta de Jerez, an entrance to the old town. Ricardo Pastor
Tarifa: The point where Europe and Africa meet

Tarifa: The point where Europe and Africa meet

There is much more to discover; numerous civilisations have occupied Tarifa. Iberians, Phoenicians and Visigoths have all wanted control over the territory due to its location, just as it is now desired due to its appeal for tourists

Javier Almellones

Tarifa

Friday, 5 July 2024, 15:41

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The year 711 is one of the most significant in Tarifa's history. One spring day, Tariq ibn Ziyad arrived at the Strait of Gibraltar from North Africa - the start of an incursion which reached France. Tariq ibn Ziyad would become the town's namesake.

This is just one of many stories fundamental to understanding Tarifa's strategic importance. As the southernmost town in Europe, it has countless historical ties with Africa.

The territory has been coveted by various civilisations due to its strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar. At the connection between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, it sits just where Europe and Africa meet.

Tarifa's coastline therefore boasts more than idyllic white sand beaches, as it is also home to some of Spain's most important Roman ruins. Located near the dune of Bolonia - a beach which itself is protected as a natural monument of Andalucía - stands the particularly impressive remains of Baelo Claudia.

This ancient Roman town was granted its title by Emperor Claudius. Located just over 20 kilometres from the centre of Tarifa, it is the most extensive Roman complex on the entire Iberian Peninsula. Key monuments in Baelo Claudia include the basilica, theatre, market and the Temple of Isis.

But there is much more to discover; numerous civilisations have occupied Tarifa. Iberians, Phoenicians and Visigoths have all wanted control over the territory due to its location, just as it is now desired due to its appeal for tourists.

It is certainly worth visiting Tarifa, and those who do will discover a legacy much richer than one might expect. Its ancient walls, for instance, are surprisingly well preserved. One of the main entrances to the town, the Puerta de Jerez, still stands and is an important symbol for the people of Tarifa.

Today, the walls demarcate the outline of the old town. Not only are its narrow streets striking, so too is the variety of buildings from distinct periods, ranging from Baroque to neo-Mudéjar.

One of Tarifa's greatest architectural jewels is its castle, the castle of Guzmán el Bueno, named after the protagonist of a famous tale which blends reality with a thirteenth-century myth. Some accounts claim that Alonso Pérez Guzmán chose to hand his enemies a dagger to be used to kill his son instead of surrendering Tarifa.

The castle itself was ordered to be built in this strategic location by Abderramán III, and became a stronghold occupied both by Phoenicians and Romans. Inside is the ancient church of Santa María, which was Tarifa's main temple until 1546.

Some other incredible sites include the churches of San Mateo and San Francisco de Asís, in the town centre, and the castle of Santa Catalina. Located around eight kilometres from the centre, the sanctuary of the Virgen de la Luz, Tarifa's patron saint, is well worth a visit.

Tarifa is also a wonderful place to enjoy nature. With almost 38 kilometres of beaches, it is paradise for those in search of the fine white sands of the Atlantic, and for those looking for ideal surfing conditions. Idyllic beaches, dunes, pine forests and marshland are just a few features of this magnificent coastline.

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