Whether you land on the Rock on a cruise ship or are around for more than just a couple of days, Gibraltar has plenty of marvels to keep you enticed throughout. From ancient caves and war relics to celebrity shrines and alluring beaches, Gibraltar has it all.
Considered one of the Pillars of Hercules in Greek mythology, Gibraltar remains (in part) a pertinent British military installation. Gib is occupies a space of 6.8 square kilometers so its not much of a land mass; probably why the Spanish legally ceded it to Britain centuries ago…only to regret it much later.
Due to its small size, you can cover much of the British Overseas Territory in a relatively short time. The scarcity of land also means that there aren’t many modes of transportation available, for instance rail. However, you could always hire a car or get a taxi if you prefer not to walk around though you should be aware that the streets tend to be narrow. A car ride will also be plausible during a tour of the rock as the steep gradient proves to be a little too much for some.
Alternatively, you could get to the zenith by cable car either way once you get to the top the panoramic view is worth the effort.
Getting In By Car
Not all tourists arrive by plane (or on the cruise ships). Some prefer to take a break of Spain and get a taste of English life at the Rock. If like them you’ll be travelling into Gibraltar from Spain, its best if you leave your car at the border in La Linea. Unlike in Gibraltar, there’s a lot of parking space next to the stadium and near the town which is just approximately a kilometer away from the frontier.
Driving into Gibraltar can be a bother as the only road in runs across the airport’s runway and is shut down during the take offs and landings. This in turn leads to long delays at the border- not the best way to start off your Gib tour.
In addition, the Spanish government during territorial disputes with Gibraltar is notorious for conducting gratuitous searches which only lengthen the queues, so it’s recommended to travel light to the border.
You could also get to the border by bus. A bus plying route 120 from Algeciras San Bernado will only cost you €2.40 and will drop you 3 minutes away from the frontier. The bus service runs till very late at night (11:00 PM) with a 45-minute interval.
English is widely spoken all over Gibraltar and is in fact the official language. Due to the blending of cultures though, many of the locals speak a dialect known as Llanito in addition to English. Llanito (pronounced as Ya-ni-to), is a blend of English and Spanish and originates from Gib. There’s really no need to take the time to learn the Llanito vocabulary as it’s infamous for being ephemeral.
Gibraltar may once have been thought as a rocky strip of land without much to offer, but that’s history now. Besides the sandy beaches and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean seamlessly joining together, the Rock has lots to offer. Here’s a breakdown of some of what we’ll cover’;
Otherwise known as Punta de Europa, it is Gibraltar’s southernmost point. Europa point has some of the most scenic views you’ll experience while in Gibraltar. From here you could look across the Straits and see Morocco.
Some of the outstanding features at the Europa point include Harding’s battery, Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, Nun’s Well, Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque and Europa Point Lighthouse.
If you’ve watched the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy you’ll probably try and climb off the boat craning to hear the famous line; “so long and thanks for all the fish!” at least I know I did. There are plenty of dolphin safari companies around with years of experience so it wouldn’t be hard not to spot one.
The best time of the year to spot a dolphin is usually during the September and October months known as the Superpod season. During the months of March and April (No Do season), the dolphins swim further out into the sea and are thus harder to spot.
Barbary Macaques (Apes)
The most popular of all Gibraltar’s wildlife, Barbary Macaques are Gib’s cheeky monkeys. Widely considered innocuous, the Barbary Macaques enjoy somewhat of a celebrity status on the Rock. In addition to receiving an eclectic mix of nuts, vegetables and fruit to supplement their daily diet they also get to have a check up scheduled by Gibraltar’s official vet.
There’s a legend that’s been going around for quite sometime now that British rule on the Rock will only last for as long as the monkeys are still there.
If you’ve ever tried to imagine what 18th century engineering might have achieved, all you have to do is book a tour of the Great Siege Tunnels. Built by the British to maintain their claim of the rock from the Spaniards and French, this remarkably well built (or dug out) series of tunnels is a feat that highlights rock solid determination (pun intended).
The British desperately needed to cover a blind angle on the battlefield if they were going to defeat the dual pronged assault of France and Spain and the only way they could successfully have done it was by mounting a gun up high on the Rock of Gibraltar. Unfortunately though this would have been an uphill task; the steep gradient made it impossible to lay a path.
Sergeant Major Henry Ince finally came up with a crazy plan; dig out a tunnel through the solid limestone. Given the limited technology of 1782, where the only earthmovers were crowbars and sledgehammers its anyone’s guess why the plan got approved. But it was.
Long story short, the British won and Spain went home holding on to a grudge and a memory of what could have been.
After the Great Siege of Gibraltar, the Tunnels didn’t get much action thereafter. That was to change however with World War II.
Gibraltar in general and The Rock in particular served as a military foothold for British forces. By this time technological advancements abounded and a new round of tunneling was reinitiated yet again. Unlike the past when the Tunnels had only served as gun emplacements, during the Second World War the Great Siege Tunnels served as a garrison with a capacity to house 16,000 men together with supplies to last them a year!
Old is gold. Since the tunnels were quickly dug out during WWII they have not been as sturdy as the original channels excavated in the 18th Century. For this reason only parts of the Tunnels are open to the public due to safety concerns.
The Great Siege Tunnels are made up of around 32 miles of winding tunnels.
Getting to the Great Siege Tunnels
There are three ways to get to the Great Siege Tunnel; bus, cable car, taxi. Alternatively you could walk but it’s a long way up so really wouldn’t recommend.
To get to the Tunnels you’ll need to catch a #1 bus which will drop you off at Willis Road from which point you’ll walk a fairly short distance to the entrance of the tunnels.
If you prefer a cable car ride you’ll have to head for Elliot’s Way/Boyd Street which is within 200 meters of the Cable Car Stop. To get to Elliot’s Way you could use the #2 bus. The great thing about taking the cable car to the Tunnels is that you get to make a stop (not always) at Apes Den or middle station so you can interact a little with the monkeys.
Don’t get too concerned if the cable car doesn’t make any stop at middle station you still get to interact with the monkey’s first thing when you get out of the cable car. They have this acrobatic dance they do (sort of a welcoming committee dance) make sure you keep all plastic bags out of sight though as the Barbary Macaques will try and steal it.
Travelling to the Great Siege Tunnels by Bus can prove to be quite difficult given the narrow roads not to mention the long queues you’ll have to endure at the frontier. However, from Main Street branch to the right on King Street and turn left onto Line Wall Road driving all the way South. Once you branch into Elliot’s Road join the traffic on Europa Road and continue driving south. Take a sharp left onto Green Lane right opposite the Alameda Botanical Gardens. From here continue driving straight North. Take the first left onto Old Queen’s Road and turn right.
For best value the Cable Car & Nature Reserve ticket is the best. It encompasses a cable car ride