The Rock of Gibraltar is a massive (426 Meter) limestone monolith. It is connected to south-western Spain by a narrow Peninsula to the north and overlooks Morocco to the south.
The tiny British Overseas Territory is the only place in the world where you can view 3 countries (Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco) and two continents (Europe and Africa).
Every visit to Gibraltar, or ‘Gib’ to the locals, I learn something new about this funny little place that is home to 30,000 people and 200 monkeys!
Gibraltar, believed to be one of the Pillars of Hercules has a long interesting history spanning nearly 3000 years. For the last centuries it’s been a military stronghold and a well guarded fortress. Today, the British Territory remains a bone of contention between Spain and Great Britain as the Spanish still assert claim to Gibraltar.
In an effort to force Sovereignty to Spain, the Spanish closed the border from 1969 to 1982. However, the border closure only strengthened ties to Great Britain. Today, Gibraltarians are fiercely patriotic to Britain and refuse to align themselves with Spain. Despite their British patriotism, all locals speak Spanish as well as they do English and both languages are frequently interchanged around the Rock.
Gib is only 7 square kilometers, so you can do the main sights in a few hours. I recommend taking the “Rock Tour” taxi. However, you can take a cable car, or walk the Mediterranean Steps, aka, “The Med Steps“, a gorgeous, STEEP climb up the side of the rock and through the nature reserve. The steps are worth the hike, but not suitable for everyone. It’s considered a HARD grade hike, and not for people wary of heights.
The taxi tour includes the 4 most popular attractions. The tour begins at The Pillars of Hercules. Which offers views across the Strait of Gibraltar to North Africa. This is also the beginning of the Nature Reserve and the beginning of the Med Steps if you are hiking.
From the Pillars, your taxi guide will take you to St. Michael’s Cave. The grotto has an awesome array of stalactites and stalagmites and is used as a natural amphitheater for local concerts.
From the caves, your tour continues to the Apes Den at the top of the rock. The apes are actually Barbary Macaques and a type of tail-less monkey. The monkeys are definitely the most popular attraction in Gib. They are vaccinated, fed, and implanted with birth control.
Although used to humans….these guys are WILD. Don’t even think about eating near them and don’t carry food. They will snatch food from your hand and steal your bag.
The last stop is the Great Siege Tunnels. An intricate 50 km labyrinth defense system dug out in the 18th century. Most of the tunnels are off-limits to the public. However, you still can view the cannons and the first portion of the tunnels.
The taxi will then drop you off at the border, or to Casemates Square. Casemates is the center of the commercial area. Irish Town, a pedestrian street, extends from the square and is home to the majority of shops (VAT free).
EAT in Gibraltar
- Roy’s Fish & Chips – the authentic British deal
- The Clipper – English Breakfast and good pub fare.
STAY in Gibraltar
Gibraltar’s economy relies heavily on tourism. Most tourists are cruise ship passengers or day trippers from Spain. If you want to spend the night, try the Sunborn Hotel. The Sunborn is a luxury super-yacht Casino Hotel located in Ocean Village.
AIRPORT & OTHER STUFF
There is a Moorish Castle, the 100 Ton Gun, and some other odds and sods.
Last and certainly not least is the Gibraltar International Airport. GIA is the 4th most dangerous airport in the world. The airstrip crosses a 4-lane road and lies just yards from the centre of Gibraltar and the Border. Every time a plane lands or takes off, the main road must be closed.
If in Andalusia be sure to jump over to Gibraltar (passport required). Spend a few hours or a night. You’ll be sure to find something of interest on The Rock.