Tarifa and Malaga don’t see as much mention in popular culture as Barcelona or Madrid or even Sevilla. So visiting southern coastal Spain needed a little more research on my part. Malaga was already on my list. You see, a November vacation for a Massachusetts native has to include sunny, warm and beach and how can you not touch the ocean when you are visiting a Mediterranean country?
Lucky for us, we found out one of our friends actually had family living in Malaga who introduced us to the idea of visiting Tarifa. By means of introduction, 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 and across the Straits of Gibraltar facing Morocco. It is a kite-surfing paradise, pristine beaches washed by aqua and teal waters crashing into foamy waves.
Our initial plan was to take a train from Madrid to Sevilla, rent a car from Sevilla and drive to Cadiz and then along the coast up to Malaga. One-way rentals and the overall lack of interest in Cadiz (bad miss?) we ended up taking a train from Sevilla to Malaga and then renting a roundtrip car ride to Tarifa. As I understand you can get taxis which cost around 300-400 euros for a 4 hour trip to Malaga. (comparable in cost to 1 day rental car + overnight hotel accomodation) Might be a good option for those not interested in driving in an unknown city for we all know that has its downsides- like not enjoying the view, getting lost, worrying about rental cars etc. But it had its upsides for us we could stay a night in Tarifa and hit an amazing little zoo on our way there- Zoo de Castellar.
It is a small rescue organization that houses animals seized from the black market or those living in miserable living conditions. What is amazing about this zoo is you get to interact very closely with the animals. What looks like a modest opening, paves your way into a setting where veternaries and caretakers accompany baby animals for you to touch and pet and hold. If you like animals or have kids who do, you don’t want to miss this. And I am not talking your ordinary petting zoo with llamas. We got to play with a 6 month old baby Ocelot, we saw a little 2 month old white tiger lapping up from a feeding bottle, we saw lemurs and monkeys cradled and swinging in their caretakers’ arms.
Another great stop was the lookout point Mirador del Estrecho. It is said that it is the closest you can get from Europe to Africa and you can really appreciate the views of the Moroccan Mount Atlas, and the North Africa horizon.
The drive from Malaga to Tarifa was scenic but only sparsely so. It wasn’t exactly Pacific Coast Highway overwhelmingly scenic but yes every now and then, you could see the sea. What was fabulous for me at one point was the unexpected sighting of Gibraltar. We knew we were in the neighborhood but we had decided not to go to Gibraltar. Driving on the highway suddenly a rock looked like I’d seen the shape somewhere… I guessed it was Gibraltar and we were right, there it was looming on glistening waters of the Strait of Gibraltar.
When we reached Tarifa, it soon got dark, so really another day or two just relaxing there would have been fantastic. That night the storm raged so much we found it hard to sleep. That’s right, that’s how close we were to the beach at our hotel Dos Mares. The next morning it was still raining pretty heavy when we said farewell to the roaring crashing sea and set for Malaga.
Malaga, turned out exactly as planned. Sea and seafood. Blue green waters and major R&R. We stayed (and snacked) at the beachside La Chancla, We ate a lot of Malaga style pescado frito (fried fish) at Pedregalejo and Miguelito and gorged on homemade dessert at Miguelito, proving how in the heart of heart we are true Bengalis. We skipped the museums and in-city walking. The weather cooperated after half a day of storms and mega waves but the town looked too dirty to appeal a walk beyond their seaside facade. So we lazed all day and enjoyed the ocean in uber-doses.
Malaga is not as much a walking city as Sevilla or Madrid so if you were ever to leave the ocean view to see something else, we recommend the following:
One-day tours from Malaga might include: Nerja (try the Balcon de Europa and caves), Marbella (too touristy though), Tarifa, Castellar, Granada and Ronda.
Or do as we did and book a beachside hotel, enjoy some local fish and enjoy the waves.