“Hey, I can see Gibraltar from the window,” I called out to Steve, who was still setting down his backpack in our room in Algeciras, Spain.
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory in the southern coast of Spain. A city of 33,000 residents with an airport and massive marina sits in the shadow of a 1,300 foot high mountain of limestone.
The peninsula is like a finger very nearly reaching across from Europe to Africa. The 9 mile wide Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea between the two continents. Half of the world’s seaborne traffic passes through that stretch.
We looked at a few tours that traveled from Spain to Gibraltar and took you to the top destinations. With prices hovering around €150 that option was quickly canned. We decided to take the €2.50 regional bus to the border crossing, walk in, and see what we could find.
A few blocks to from the bus station we had our passport stamped and headed down the road, crossed the active runway of the airport (no planes landed or took off while we crossed), and made our way through the town’s very active shopping and dining district.
We only bought a postcard but we heard others say the deals on everything from electronics to leather jackets were not bad. The lunch we had of proper fish and chips and a beer, a gazpacho and a sangria ran us €21, a bit higher than we’re used to paying.
Outside the launch of the cable car to the peak of the rock (€21 per person each way) we met a tour driver who offered to take us to the peak in a van, with stops at several of the major attractions for €35 apiece.
Normally, we don’t go for such things but the walk up to the summit and back, along narrow, bus- and taxi-choked switchback roads is nearly 6 miles (half of it steeply uphill). We are in decent shape for people our age, but that was not a trek we wanted to attempt.
So, we hopped in the van with 4 others and made our first stop at the Pillars of Hercules — a spot, it is said, that the Romans considered the end of the world. From this tip of the rock, you can see two continents. The rock is one pillar and, across the water, a peak in the Atlas Mountains forms the other.
A short hop through a few rooms of St. Michael’s Cave, which snake some 700 feet down into the mountain, was awe inspiring. Limestone, shaped over millennia by dripping water, is dramatically lit.
The caves have been used by humans in one form or another since Neolithic times. Most recently — before becoming a tourist destination — it had been set up as an emergency hospital during World War II. In an effort to improve the air quality in the hospital, an opening was made on the rock face below and more cave areas, including a lake were discovered. (This area isn’t open to the public.)
An opportunity to interact with the Barbary macaque monkeys that live wild on the rock is a very popular stop for visitors. I think people forget they are wild animals (with very sharp teeth, I might add) and they feed them and want to take selfies with them.
The glass Skywalk, inaugurated in 2018 by Luke Skywalker, himself, Mark Hamill, juts out from the cliff, to a sheer 1,000 foot drop to an isolated beach below. If you’re not afraid of heights this is a great opportunity to get a feel for just how high you are and just how sheer the cliff is!
Another short drive to an overlook at the north end of the rock looks out over the airport runway toward Spain. No matter where you look from the top of the rock, the views are spectacular.
We exceeded our daily budget by a little, but we had expected to do it. Still I think we got a pretty good deal at the end of the world.