Visiting the Rock of Gibraltar: Apes, fauna, cannons and much more!
CONTRIBUTED BY MICHELLE W., LEONBERG, GERMANY
My family and I were in Spain for Spring Break and decided there isn’t a better time to visit Gibraltar, a British territory at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and the entrance of the Mediterranean. After speaking Spanish for the past 9 days, we needed a break and desperately wanted to speak English for a day.
Our plans were to visit the major landmark of Gibraltar, the Rock of Gibraltar, standing at 1,398 ft. Britain gained control of Gibraltar in 1713 after many conquests by the Spanish and the Moors. During WWII, the Rock was heavily fortified and tunnels were dug throughout the Jurassic limestone. Today, you can tour these tunnels and walk throughout the entire pedestrian friendly rock.
Tip: You can obtain 1 hr of free wifi connection with your cable car tickets! Don’t misplace your wifi code after paying for your tickets.
There are two transportation options to visit The Rock: vehicle tours licensed to drive on the narrow roads, or if you’re like us, we decided to tour on our own on foot. Main stops on our list: See the Upper Rock (incredible views of Spain, the entrance to the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean and Africa), visit St Michael’s Cave, Great Siege Tunnels and the Moorish Castle.
Before arriving, make sure to have lots of fluids for hydration, light snacks in your daypack. There are so many Barbary macaques on the Rock that you’ll see numerous signs explaining to be vigilant of these “snack thieves”. Best advice: Eat in the café at the top of the cable car ride to the Rock. The staff warned us about how sneaky these apes are and we witnessed lots of tourists who disobeyed these warnings. They were in a fight to keep a grasp of their sandwiches but YOU WON’T WIN! Additionally, keep a tight grip on your camera bags and purses. My daughter was wearing a hot pink small camera bag with shoulder strap and the apes mistook this as a purse filled with snacks. A juvenile ape jumped at my daughter and tried to pull the bag off her. She jumped and there were no railings where she was standing. One wrong step, she could have fallen down the steep cliff. From that moment forward, we were in constant watch and also to steer clear of the cliff edge.
Walking down to St Michael’s Cave from the Café is about 10 minutes. It can take you longer if you stop to gaze at one of over 500 different species of plants. Some can only be found growing here. Entering St Michael’s Cave, you’ll be in visual overload with all the stalactites and stalagmites, lit by cheesy blue and green hues. It was our saving grace after being in the heat so we were able to cool off before setting off for our next stop. Watch your step and be careful of slick spots.
After a grueling hour-long walk with the kids in the midday heat (30 minutes if you don’t stop from the cave to the tunnels), we made it to the Great Siege Tunnels. Nestled on the northern end of the Rock, it’s a series of tunnels dug out from the solid limestone by British soldiers at the end of the 18th century. These tunnels could have housed a garrison of 16,000 soldiers with food, water, ammunition and fuel for a year if it ever came under siege. It’s damp, cold and slippery in spots but nevertheless a wonderful place to visit. There are impressive informational displays with photographs and cannons still in place by the openings of The Rock.
Our final stop was to the Moorish Castle by the city steps. This medieval fortification has a few buildings, gates and walls that you can enter. Construction of this castle began in the 8th century AD and it’s still in great shape after housing a prison on the grounds until it was relocated in 2010.
The Rock of Gibraltar has it all. Nature, flora and fauna, ancient buildings, dark tunnels and spectacular views of Europe and Africa. It’s a great day trip if you’re in Southern Spain or about to take a trip to Tangier. You can drive into Gibraltar or walk across the airstrip into town. Have your passport with you when you come up to the customs guards. Enjoy a piece of British life and you won’t regret it!