A British territory bordering southern Spain, Gibraltar often pops up in the news as Britain and Spain argue over its governance. Its appeal as a holiday destination is perhaps discussed less frequently – but wrongly so! After all, why would Britain and Spain continue to quarrel if Gibraltar isn’t worth a visit?
Grab your sunnies and swot up on your Spanglish; here are 9 reasons to visit Gibraltar:
1. Make friends with the Barbary Macaques Monkeys
The Rock is home to around 200 of the apes, who will greet you when arriving by cable car to the Top Station. The only ‘wild’ monkeys in Europe, the Barbary Macaques are thought to have been brought to the island from North Africa by British troops. Old legend has it that when the apes disappear from Gibraltar, so will the British! Though they look cute, these monkeys are mischievous so keep bags closed and snacks safe from the pick-pocketing primates.
2. Bask on a beach
Despite its small size, it may surprise you to know that Gibraltar has six beaches. With a warm and sunny climate, it’s the perfect environment for paddling in the sea or lounging on the shore. Eastern Bay, Catalan Bay, Western Bay and funnily enough, Sandy Bay, are soft, sandy beaches, whilst Camp Bay and Little Bay have popular lidos to bathe in. Taste the local seafood whilst you’re here too!
3. Meander round the Moorish Castle
Sit up history buffs, this one’s for you. The Moorish Castle dates back to the 11th century and though it had to be rebuilt in 1333 after the Moors reconquered the Rock, parts of the castle remain the same today. With such rich heritage there are certainly a few stories to be told here; hundreds of people found safety inside when Turkish pirates attacked Gibraltar in 1540, and the British flag was first flown here in 1704 when Admiral Rooke captured the Rock. For more historical fun facts, make sure you add the castle to your trip.
4. Wander the Labyrinth of Tunnels
The Great Siege tunnels and the World War II tunnels help make up 50km of tunnels that penetrate Gibraltar Rock. Arguably the most impressive are the Great Siege tunnels, created with the most basic of tools: sledgehammers, crowbars and gunpowder. They date back to Gibraltar’s 14th Siege, which ran from July 1779 to February 1783 as Spain and France attempted to recapture the Rock from Britain. During World War II Gibraltar became a vital territory and civilians were evacuated to increase the size of the garrison. New tunnels catered for their accommodation, food, equipment and ammunition – they even had a bakery below ground! Take a walking tour of the elaborate burrows and hear the stories of the men who constructed them.
5. See St Michael's Cave Stunning stalactites and stalagmites adorn this network of limestone caves. A Neolithic bowl was discovered here, having been used by prehistoric humans 3.3 million years ago. Nowadays the Cathedral Cave is open for visitors to see concerts, ballets and dramas in the unique underground theatre. You can even apply to hire the cave – some party that would be!
6. Witness the One Hundred Ton Gun
Only four of these giant British-made guns were produced back in 1870, two for Gibraltar and two for Malta, and now only two remain. Despite the name, the gun actually weighs over 100 tonnes, a team of 35 men operated it and a shot fired can reach 8 miles! The gun sits on the same site where Nelson’s body was brought ashore from the HMS Victory, allegedly preserved in a barrel of brandy for the return journey home!
7. Explore Europa Point
At the southernmost point of Gibraltar, sits the Europa Point Trinity Lighthouse where you can spot Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar on a clear day. The Gibraltar Football Association had planned to build a football stadium on the point, but the plans fell through to the locals’ relief. The Mosque of The Custodian and of The Holy Mosques is another landmark here, as the most southerly mosque in Europe, and also the most expensive to build, costing five million pounds!
8. Go shopping
If you’re looking for a bargain, look no further; a VAT free jurisdiction, Gibraltar offers your favourite brands at the best value. With the Gibraltar Pound equivalent to Sterling, there isn’t a costly conversion rate either. Outside Casemates Square you’ll find the traditional, indoor public market, so mingle with the locals selling fresh produce and sample the local delicacies.
9. Glimpse wild dolphins
Apes are not the only animals to see in Gibraltar; the warm waters of Gibraltar Bay are home to diving dolphins and whales too. Many tour operators offer the chance to see these beautiful creatures so keep your eyes peeled when on the water, to witness their pointed fins working the waves.
We hope we’ve convinced you to take a trip to the sunny territory of Gibraltar. If you need any further persuasion, check out our Sunborn Gibraltar deal – you’ll be slathering on the suncream in no time!