Gibraltar is a British overseas territory, located at the southern tip of Andalucia, Spain. The territory of Gibraltar is about 2.5 miles, and has its own airport, customs area, and parliament. It also has a number of places to shop, including names tourists might find familiar. Of course, the reason tourists go there is the giant Rock of Gibraltar: a jutting, limestone beast of nature that features neat stuff like a Moorish castle and an entire colony of semi-friendly barbary macaques (monkeys).
I was traveling with my best friend. We had seen Turkey earlier in the trip, and had spent over a week in Morocco. Our plan was to drive into Spain for a couple of nights, back into Morocco, and then fly home. Since Gibraltar was right near where our ferry docked in Spain, we decided to spend a few hours there. Coolest idea ever!
Our ferry seats were one step above stowage, but fortunately we could walk up to the top and check out the views. I saw Gibraltar not long after we left Morocco…first, as an outline and then slowly coming into focus. By the time we docked it was already growing dark, so we decided to stop there on our way back to the ferry a couple of nights later.
Most of the people that live in Gibraltar are transplants from…well, everywhere. According to Wikipedia, they have over 30k people there (that’s over 12k per square mile!) so you can imagine what traffic is like trying to maneuver windy streets hugging a big rock. We didn’t do much of the touristsy stuff at the bottom (shopping, etc), but we did stop at a nice park on the shore and dip our toesies in the Mediterranean. One of my bucket list items was to dip my feet into every major ocean and sea in the world. Toemail featured our picture from this event.
We were looking for info on taking the cable car up to the top. You see, I have a fear of heights. Of the paralyzing variety. Combined with a fear of janky, dangerous roads (which was what the entire drive up was comprised of, and I could see, from the bottom, every terrifying curve). In the end, we did not feel like driving back and through town again to try and figure out where the cable car was, so I said, in my best Dolph Lundgren, “if we die, we die,” and we started the drive up The Rock
This drive can only be described as immersion shock therapy for someone like myself. I don’t want to scare you away from trying it, because, despite the scar across my heart and the arthritis in my fingers, it was worth it. I would do it again, had I some Valium. Located halfway up the rock, you can stop and explore beautiful St. Michael’s Caves (made up of limestone). Further into the trip you can see the Moorish Castle, which has its own set of tours. Driving up to it, it does not look like much, but the views from the bottom looking up show some beautiful Moorish architecture.
Of course, my favorite part was the monkeys. I knew there would be a lot of them, and I knew they would be socializing, but from the moment I spotted to the first one to the point where we had already seen a hundred, it never got old. Authorities do not recommend trying to pet or feed them, but they don’t seem aggressive unless you give them a reason to be. We even got pictures with them (flashing gangster signs, no less; you’d think that might have turned them aggressive if nothing else), and we saw a few guys throwing their arms around them. Apparently the British are very superstitious about them as well, claiming that as long as the monkeys stay, so will the UK.
Gibraltar was a lot of fun. We did it in less than a day (probably about 2-3 hours), and I’d say that’s definitely enough time unless you wanted to spend more time touring or going at a slower pace in general. I don’t know if I would have taken a vacation purely to see Gibraltar, but if you’re going to be in Southern Spain or Northern Morocco, you really can’t miss it.
Pictures from Gibraltar
- The currency of Gibraltar is the Gibraltar Pound, which is equivalent to a British Pound. Some places will also take your euros, but I’d suggest having some Pounds on you just in case.
- You CAN drive up the mountain. It IS the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Be sure you’re comfortable with whatever you are driving (i.e. if you don’t drive a stick too well, maybe driving one up a giant hill overlooking the sea is not the best idea). I wouldn’t do it again, but I’m so glad I did.
- The best views are obviously going to be at the top. There are multiple places to do it, and all of them offer amazing views of the Med or Spain.
- The monkeys are pretty chill, and they’re used to people coming up there. But they are still monkeys and they will still bite your teenager’s annoying ass if they attempt to chuck rocks at them.
- Don’t be afraid when the monkeys jump on your car and beat on it with their fists. This is your Nat Geo moment!
- If you’re on a tight timeline (i.e. you need to catch a plane, ferry, bus, etc), make sure to add in traffic time. Traffic on the island is quite nasty, and you might be surprised how long it takes you to go 2 miles.
- Watch your footing in St. Michael’s Caves. It is very slippery.
- Our expenses for the day included gas, entrance to St. Michael’s Caves, a light lunch, and a couple small souvenirs. Overall, our day cost around $40 USD.