23km (14 miles) W of Algeciras, 713km (443 miles) S of Madrid, 98km (61 miles) SE of Cádiz
West of Cádiz, near Huelva and the Portuguese frontier, is the rapidly developing Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light), which hopes to pick up the overflow from Costa del Sol. The Luz coast stretches from the mouth of the Guadiana River, forming the boundary with Portugal, to Tarifa Point on the Straits of Gibraltar. Dotting the coast are long stretches of sand, pine trees, fishing cottages, and lazy whitewashed villages. The Costa de la Luz has much more of a Spanish flavor than the Costa del Sol, which is overrun by international visitors, especially northern Europeans.
The Huelva district forms the northwestern half of the Costa de la Luz. The southern half stretches from Tarifa to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the spot from which Magellan embarked in 1519 on his voyage around the globe. Columbus also made this the homeport for his third journey to the New World. To travel between the northern and southern portions of the Costa de la Luz, you must go inland to Seville, since no roads go across the Cota Doñana and the marshland near the mouth of the Guadalquivir.
With a population of some 17,000 people, Tarifa is the southernmost city in continental Europe. It's so close to the North African coastline that it's practically in Morocco, to which it was joined in prehistoric times. It is directly across the Strait of Gibraltar from the Moroccan coastal city of Tangier. This is one of the few places in the world where you can view two different continents and two wide-open seas at once, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.
The old Moorish town of Tarifa is on the coast between Cádiz, in the west, and Algeciras, which for most motorists is the gateway to the Costa del Sol. Tarifa, the far eastern extension of the Costa de la Luz, makes a good stopover before plunging into the attractions of the Costa del Sol. In the distance you'll see Gibraltar, the straits, and the green hills of Africa -- in fact, you can sometimes get a glimpse of houses in Ceuta and Tangier on the Moroccan coastline. Alternatively you can also visit Tarifa from Cádiz along a coastal route, although it's a much longer run. For more details on this drive, see below.
Named for the Moorish military hero Tarik, Tarifa has retained more of its Arab character than any other town in Andalusia. Narrow cobblestone streets lead to charming patios filled with flowers. The main square is the Plaza San Mateo.
Two factors have inhibited the development of Tarifa's beautiful 5km-long (3-mile) white beach, the Playa de Lances: It's still a Spanish military zone, and the wind blows almost half the time. For windsurfers, though, the strong western breezes are unbeatable. Tarifa is filled with shops that rent windsurfing equipment and give advice about the best locales.