Gibraltar is the oversea territory of the United Kingdom that sits at the “bottom” of Spain and commands the entrance to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day you can, of course, see nearby Spain but also Morocco, across the Strait of Gibraltar to Africa. British, Spanish, and Moorish influences are everywhere – it’s literally a crossroads of the world. Over half the world’s shipping passes by its door. Gibraltar’s footprint is small, only 2.6 square miles in size but your enjoyment factor visiting this unique spot can be enormous.
Here are five of the recommended activities for your visit to this territory.
#1 Getting About & Shopping
Gibraltar (also the name of the city) is easy to reach by either land or air. Travel through Spain to cross by bus or rental car, or land at nearby Malaga Airport with a short transfer. Alternatively, fly into Gibraltar International Airport. Being such a small area, you can easily get around by foot, cable car (if ascending the hillside), or by taxi. Gibraltar is also a port-of-call on many ocean cruise itineraries.
Shop in English or Spanish, both spoken here, though the former is the official language. Locals, called Gibraltians, may also speak a dialect called Llanito. Shops usually accept pounds sterling and euros though Gibraltar has its own currency. For those visiting from the UK note that while there may be local taxes on some items, there is no VAT (value added tax), and many international brands are present here. The shopping district is a bustling place with boutiques, cafes, restaurants and duty-free outlets. Cuisine varies from the quintessential English afternoon tea to Spanish and Mediterranean dishes.
A street sign
Gibraltar street scene
#2 Explore the History
Britain attained Gibraltar in 1713 through the Treaty of Utrecht. Since then it has been a major part of its naval history, and the military still forms a huge portion of the territory’s economy with tourism another major factor, and with international finance on the rise. Visit the Moorish Castle, a medieval fortress, for breath-taking views, and explore the Great Siege Tunnels from the 1700’s. See the statue to Lord Nelson and one to the Duke of Wellington. For an great overall glimpse of the area’s military history, geology and culture, be sure to stop by the Gibraltar National Museum ,stay awhile, and absorb Gibraltar’s background.
The Great Siege Tunnels
#3 Dolphins – Who Knew?
After you’ve marveled at the museums. and shopped your way through the town, you may wish to join one of the dolphin and whale watching tours at the harbour front. The seas around Gibraltar have a vast array of marine life and you may be lucky enough to see common, bottlenose, or striped dolphins ( maybe all three) plus pilot whales and orcas. Occasionally there are fin whales and sperm whales too. Bring your camera for an exciting excursion!
#4 St. Michael’s Cave
You can hike to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve but there is also a cable car for your convenience. Not only will you see monkeys here but you may also see the Gibraltar candytuft. Here, in this territory, is the only place in Europe where this flower grows wild. Besides the panoramic views, the monkeys and the plant life, the reserve is also home to St. Michael’s Cave. Explore this underground world of limestone caves and impressive stalacites.
St. Michael’s Cave
Breathtaking view of the “Rock” & Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque
#5 Barbary Macaques
The Barbary Macaques are a protected species of primates – the only non-human ones found in Europe. Their numbers are dwindling though it may not seem like it when you visit the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Even though these animals are playful, one must not get too close or startle them as they can be aggressive. Please do not feed them as this action is prohibited. You can observe the monkeys easily from the aptly named Apes’ Den or the Queen’s Gate viewing platforms.
Legend has it (similar to the Ravens at the Tower in London) that as long as there are the Barbary Macaques in Gibraltar, it will remain a British territory.
Plan Your Visit
There are all levels of accommodation to suit your budget in Gibraltar from budget stays to luxury hotels, villas and guest houses. The best time to visit is in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall when the temperature is moderate. Note: Gibraltar never gets very cold or extremely hot, though the thermometer may top 30 degrees (86 F) some times in summer. Europe is getting hotter everywhere! Bear in mind if you are going to be walking most of the time, bring comfortable shoes, a hat and sunglasses. There’s beaches too so bring your swim attire! Eastern Bay beach is perhaps the most popular.
Before visiting Gibraltar, it is recommended to employ the services of a real travel expert to either design a custom tour of the area, book you on a guided dolphin or whale tour, or arrange a cruise day excursions, and travel worry-free!
All images courtesy of AdobeStock except the header image of Gibraltar, courtesy of Pixabay.