For our last weekend away from Sevilla, we headed down to San Roque, Cadiz to visit one of my friends who lives there. One of the highlight’s of our trip was visiting Gibraltar for one afternoon. For those of you who don’t know, Gibraltar is a small piece of land (2.6 square miles to be exact) that is technically part of the United Kingdom. During WWII it played a very important role as a base for the Royal Navy because it allowed them to control entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea. Now, Gibraltar is home to 30,000 people (who speak an interesting dialect of english and spanish).
It also has an airport, which was deemed the 5th most extreme airport in the world, due to the fact that the runway is short and has water on both sides. There is also a main road that connects Spain to Gibraltar, where cars driving and people walking have to be stopped every time a plane lands or takes off. My friend described flying into Gibraltar airport as scary, because you only see water out the windows of the plane right before you touch down on land!
My friend advised us that we should take a tour with a local guide, who could drive us to the top of the rock and explain a lot about the history. We each paid 30 euros (which seems a little pricy but is definitely worth it if you are trying to see all of Gibraltar in one day) and that includes tickets to get inside St. Michael’s Cave and The Great Siege Tunnels. This also saves you a lot of time walking (since it takes over 4.5 hours to climb the entire thing)!
First the tour takes you to the Pillars of Hercules. Greek mythology claims that while Hercules was on his way to perform one of the 12 labors, he had to cross the Atlas Mountains (a mountain range in Northern Morocco, Africa). Instead of climbing the mountains, he used his superhuman strength to smash through the mountain, creating a passage between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The Rock of Gibraltar is said to be part of the Atlas Mountain Range. The Pillars themselves are nothing too special, just a monument depicting the myth, but the views from here are incredible! You can see Europe and Africa all within one view!
The next stop of the tour brings you to St. Michael’s Cave. This network of limestone caves is filled with large stalagmites hanging from above. It’s said to have gotten its name from a similar grotto in Italy with the archangel Michael appeared.
Our third stop on the tour is to see the Apes! That’s right, there are wild apes living at the top of the Rock, how cool? Our tour guide referred to them as “cheeky monkeys” because sometimes they’re not always very nice to the tourists! (Example: Stealing sunglasses, food etc.) However, they were very calm when we visited. We only witnessed one ape trying to steal a bag of chips. It was definitely funny to watch! (Because we visited in the late Spring, we saw a lot of apes with their babies. It was so amazing to see, I highly recommend going at this time of year).
We were also able to enjoy some stunning views on top of the Rock (with the Mediterranean on our left, the Atlantic on our right and Africa in the distance). After watching the apes for a while, it was time to get back into our small van and climb higher up the Rock. As we began driving we heard a loud thud on the roof of the car and watched as an ape slid down the back window!
The last stop was to the Great Siege Tunnels. These are man-made caves that were used during many wars for soldiers to live and keep watch. The most tunneling happened during WWII, where the Rock was home to 16,000 soldiers! There are more than 30 miles worth of tunnels inside the Rock of Gibraltar–all man-made!! (Imagine your job was to chisel away at rocks to create these?!)
After our tour ended, we spent a little time exploring Main Street. It was fun to be in a place where all the signs were in English again! We ate lunch at a pub called The Clipper. Mark tried the fish & chips (obviously) and said it was really good!
Gibraltar is certainly a unique place. We actually crossed the boarder by walking (we parked in Spain and walked through Passport control). I can now officially say I’ve walked from Spain to the United Kingdom! There is a lot of controversy over whether or not Gibraltar belongs to Spain or the UK. However the people say that as long as their are apes on the rock, Gibraltar will be British. (Considering they feed the apes twice a day, I’m sure Gibraltar will be staying under UK control for a long time!)
After our busy day in Gibraltar, we spent our Sunday relaxing on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen! We went to Faro in San Roque. It was only about a 15 minute drive from where my friend lived, but once you are off the highway you have to take a windy dirt road to get to the isolated beach!
The weather was perfect and the water was comfortable (much better than going to the beach in New England)! This beach is on the other side of Gibraltar so we were swimming in the Mediterranean. The water was crystal clear! We had a lot of fun swimming and taking pictures with our GoPro! This beach also had great views of the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance!
We were lucky enough to have an incredible weekend visiting my friend! Our next trip is heading back home in 3 days to be reunited with our family and friends! Can’t wait to see everyone!
Check out this video blog Mark made of our time in Gibraltar and at the beach!