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Tabarca - pirate island

A 20 minute boat ride from Santa Pola just outside Alicante is a small, flat island that has been both a haven for pirates and a prison for dangerous prisoners.

For hundreds of years, African pirates used the good harbor on the north side of the island as a base for attacks both on merchant ships and on the coastal population of the Alican region.

Already in 1427 it was proposed to make a fort on the island to prevent pirates occupying the island which they used as a base for their raids.

The plans were shelved for financial reasons, but in 1760 they startet do build the first houses there.

In 1768, King Carlos III succeeded to free 69 Tunisian slave families on the Tunisian Tabarca Island off Africa. On October 14, 1768, they were transported by boat to Cartagena.

The price to be released was that they had to settle on the island which was then called "New Tabarca" (today's Spanish Tabarca) approx. 8 kilometers from the port of Santa Pola.

The purpose was to secure Spanish sovereignty and prevent pirates from settling there. The new tabarcas were to do fishing and farming as they had done before. The picture above shows the remains of one of the farm buildings.

Tabarca is located in an area with many dangerous reefs. On the bottom outside are numerous wrecked boats dating back to Roman times.

The cross on the small islet on the north side is a memorial to those killed. On this side of the island (north-east), the seabed in the area is protected due to the large diversity of species and a peculiar environment. Only scientists can get permission to dive here.

The beaches are kept clean for garbage by volunteers. On the south and west sides there are great beaches and good opportunities for snorkelling and diving. Great underwater nature.



The island is 1800 meters long and 450 meters wide at its widest. It is mostly flat with a maximum height of 15 meters above sea level. Most of the coastline is covered with black volcanic rock.


It is believed that the island has been the peak of a volcano.

Agriculture was a failure due to lack of soil and water.

Today we can walk on beautiful paths in the flat landscape where only a few hardy shrubs and plants survive the hot summer.

To prevent boat loss, a lighthouse which still is in use, was constructed.

In the northern half of the island there is only the lighthouse, an old Gardia Civil settlement, a cemetery and the remains of some farmhouses.


On the south side there is a small village with less than hundred houses. They are still is use although there are less than ten residents left, and you can rent an apartment or house from them for about 300 Euros for a weekend.

The city was originally surrounded by a fortress wall. Parts of it is preserved.



Here and there you will find small nice outdoor restaurants.

The town also has its own small police car, and a church that has had better days.


In late October and until spring, the streets are sleepy and peaceful. Then you can have beaches and streets for yourself if you wish.

After the attempts at agriculture had to be abandoned, a prison was set up for particularly dangerous prisoners. They were placed in dark dungeons under the city wall to be forgotten forever.

You can spend a whole day at Tabarca without getting bored. Take the first boat in the morning (10 am) and the last one back (about 6 pm). The tour costs 10 Euro per person round trip.

There are several restaurants by the harbor. The food is ok but quite pricey.

Line up early when you want to leave. The queue often gets long, and the boat leaves at time schedule, if not sooner if it gets full.

Excursion of the week: Day trip to Tabarca


Suitable for: Everybody.


Duration: A tour along the coast of the island is 2-3 kilometers.


Get there: The boat leaves from the port of Santa Pola just south of Alicante. There are many parking spaces right by the harbor. You can buy tickets online (islatabarca.com) before departure, or at the pier when you arrive at one of the sales stalls there. Online sales (islatabarca.com) advertise with 5 euros in discount, but at least in October the price of the pier, was just the same - 10 Euro round trip. Timetables vary throughout the year. You should therefore check in advance (islatabarca.com).





#Spain #English #Tabarca #Island #History #Pirate #Prison #Diving

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