No Car Needed: Tarifa To Africa

Tarifa to Africa

Tarifa to Africa

Many travelers don’t realize that Africa is 35 minutes by ferry from Spain.  Morocco has its snake charmers, mounds of exotic spices, meandering donkeys, and beautiful leather goods.  The undulating Sahara desert is mysterious and unique.  And, no car needed from Tarifa.

By Robin Graham

The ferry ports in Tarifa, at the very southern tip of Spain, and in nearby Algeciras, make a day trip to Africa a very real possibility for the tourist or resident in Andalucia. A taste of another culture in the hooded djellabas and trinkets of the souks, the spiced fruit flavours of steaming tagines and the call to prayer of the muezzin from the minaret.

Ornate ceramics in a Fes madrasa

An excellent train service in Tangier, the ‘white city’, means that, if you’re happy to include an overnight or two, you can travel further afield and take in more of what this spectacular country has to offer. Five hours from Tangier in the comfort of a clean compartment (hint – if you bring food along to eat on the train journey, it’s considered bad manners not to share it) will bring you to the Morocco’s holy city of Fes: home to the largest preserved medieval city in the Islamic world.

Old city gates, palaces, madrasas and mosques- blues and greens are the colours of this city, displayed everywhere in its ornate ceramics, redolent of the same culture that built the Alhambra in Spain. The souks are endless and can be overpowering, as can the smell of the 14th century leather tanneries the city is famous for, but the experience, so exotic yet so near European soil, is unforgettable.

The Jemaa el Fna and the Koutoubia minaret in Marrakech-1

When some bright spark decided to dub Marrakech ‘The Red City’, they weren’t fooling around. This southern city is also accessible from Tangier via an overnight train which, at around €35 per person for a bed in the sleeper carriage, makes for a very cheap alternative to a hotel for the night. The medina here is the colour of rust, top to bottom, and the city is home to the famous Jemma el Fna, the Unesco listed central square that seethes with snake charmers by day and smokes with barbecued meat by night, not to mention the Saharan musicians that fill it with Berber music.

Marrakech is overlooked by another reminder of the Andalucian connection – the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque, one of three great towers built by the Almohad dynasty. There is another in Rabat and the third has become a symbol of Spain and stands in Seville where it is known as the Giralda.

All of this without setting foot on a plane or stepping into a car. You’d be silly not to.

-To get there by ferry, only 35 minutes to Morocco, check this out.

Where have you traveled in Southern Spain?


Robin Graham, from Tarifa in Southern Spain, writes stories. Some of them are about places and some of them are just made up. A lot of them can be found, with accompanying photography, at He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed on Twitter: @robinjgraham or liked on Facebook.

Robin Grahams enticing writing is abundant on The Spain Scoop.


9 Responses

  1. We could do with a ferry service to Africa from Gran Canaria, especially as we’re pretty near. And air travel’s expensive. Dearer than travelling from our old base in London. Beautiful photos and text, as always, Robin.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Casa Del CamineroMy Profile

  2. Lindsay says:

    It never ceases to amaze me what a different world lies just 35minutes from us here in Andalucía
    Lindsay recently posted…Flamenco; Linking cultures through “Duende”My Profile

  3. admin says:

    It’s pretty incredible. I’d love to take the ferry from Spain to Morocco…I’ve been to Morocco three times but always by plane and never to Fez.


  4. admin says:

    Doesn’t it just make you want to get on a boat and spend a week in Africa?!

  5. Josh says:

    Yet here I remain, after 2 and a half years in Granada, and I still haven’t been. I think my issue is that I wouldn’t want to rush it. Do you think a week – 10 days would be enough to really get a feel for the place Robin?
    Josh recently posted…A Few of Spain’s Famous Festive TraditionsMy Profile

  6. robin says:

    If I had a week, Josh, I would got to Fes and maybe stay there or maybe combine it with a night or two in Meknes. If I got as far as Marrakech with a week to play with, I might stay put and maybe do a day trip or two to the mountains which aren’t far away. On the north coast, you could combine a few nights in Tangier with a few in Asilah, down the coast a bit.

    With ten days, multiple locations in the south become more viable – Marrakech, The Draa Valley, the Atlas mountains, the Sahara etc.

    We’re spoiled a bit because we can make use of two or three day windows, living by the ferry port as we do.
    robin recently posted…El SobornoMy Profile

  7. Jen says:

    Hi Robin! I came across your blog while searching for all things Spain and Morocco! Thanks for posting such helpful information!!

    My friend and I are planning a trip for this fall and we cannot decide what cities to add to our destination list! Can you help us? We have a connection in Valencia but would also be interested in Barcelona, Seville, Madrid and Granada! What would you suggest if we wanted to chose the best spots in Spain and also make a trip to morocco? We are planning on spending about 10-14 days there depending on what time we can both get off of work.

    We both love exploring locally owned businesses, restaurants, and culture! I would appreciate any recommendations!! Thanks so much!!


  8. admin says:

    Jen, you might want to contact Robin directly via his website. A Lot Of Wind.

  9. robin says:

    Hi Jen,

    I don’t know anything about Barcelona but the Scoopettes know plenty.

    There is nothing more tragic than to be in Granada and be blind, and nothing crazier than visiting Spain and not going there…

    Seville is also great and Autumn is a good time to visit. The roads down here are pretty good if you’re driving so you might think about more out of the way places? Google Ronda, Grazalema, Cadiz (Cadiz might just be my favourite of them all), Arcos de la Frontera…
    robin recently posted…El Fuero InternoMy Profile

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