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Tarifa - Causeway and Isla de las Palomas

Causeway and Isla de las Palomas

Near the Alameda is the old fishing port.  To the west, walk down Calle Alcalde Juan Nuñez to the causeway called Muelle de Rivera or Calle Segismundo Moret out towards Isla de las Palomas. 

On the causeway you are now almost at the southern tip of Spain. Punta de Tarifa on the other side of the island is the southerly tip of mainland Spain and mainland Europe (Europe not counting islands and enclaves, but counting this island as it is joined by a causway).   The causway to Islas de las Palomas was first established in 1808. It is the most southerly road in mainland Spain and mainland Europe,  the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean are clearly only a few feet apart. You are 'entre dos aguas' (between two waters) as the iconic flamenco / rumba instrumental by Paco de Lucia goes.   

Isla de las Palomas is closed to visitors except for pre-booked guided tours as part of the Parque Natural del  Estrecho de Gibraltar.  This lack of access is a disapointment to many tourists.  On the island are remains of at least five Phoenician-Punic funeral chambers dated between 6th and 4th century BC.  The island was used a limestone quary from Roman times. The fortification of the island was carried out from the seventeenth century when a small millitary battery was established. Defensive bunkers were added at the begining of WW2 as part of a definsive line against a posible allied invasion. The military status has protected the island from development and it was handed over to the national coastal agency in 1988 as public domain coastal land. There was a military presence until the end of the 20th century and  the island was used as a temporary holding point for illegal imigrants arriving from the dangerous crossing across the Strait of Gibraltar from Africa. In 2003 the island and its surrounding waters were further protected by being declared part of the Parque Natural del Estrecho de Gibraltar.  

There is a unmanned 33m tall lighthouse on the island called Faro de Punta Tarifa. The lighthouse is maintained by the Algeciras Port Authority, it was constructed on the base of a 16m  watchtower which part of the chain ordered by King Filipe II in 1595 to warn of Barbary Pirates. The original watchtower was converted into a lighthouse around 1812, three small lighthouse keeper dwellings remain.