Gibraltar is an extremely unique place. With a quirky melting pot of Spanish, English, and North African cultures, it’s hard not to resist popping on over into Britain’s overseas territory of Gibraltar, when in Southern Spain. And there are likely few places in the world that you enter by walking across an airport runway to meet ‘The Rock’s’ most famous residents…the Barbary macaques!
While walking across the runway at most international airports would get you arrested, it is actually the only way to walk into Gibraltar. When planes land or take off from the single runway at the Gibraltar airport, pedestrians are quickly ushered out of the way for the oncoming aircraft. Truly a unique experience for our curious kids!
Rock of Gibraltar
The geographical feature from which Gibraltar takes its full name is a 1,312ft cliff, from the top of which you can take in spectacular views of three countries (Gibraltar itself, Spain and Morocco) and two continents (Europe and Africa). It is reached by taking the cable car up from the base station on the southern edge of the old town and is capable of carrying groups of up to 30 passengers at a time up the 412 meters to the “Top of the Rock.” It’s a breathtaking journey, and even though it only takes six minutes, offers some of the best views you’re ever likely to experience of the Mediterranean as you make your ascent.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve + Barbary Macaques
Originally known as the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, this protected area of fauna and flora was renamed the Gibraltar Nature Reserve in 2013 to reflect its wider scope: now, it covers almost 40% of the territory. It effectively runs the entire length of Gibraltar and is home to most of the territory’s 250-strong population of Barbary macaques as well as red foxes, mouse-eared bats, the Gibraltar funnel-web spider, five species of lizard and six species of snake. The views of Spain to the north and Africa to the south – including the rugged outline of the Atlas mountain range – are worth a visit for their own sake.
St. Michael’s Cave
Gibraltar’s most spectacular geological attraction is St. Michael’s Cave, a series of limestone chambers and tunnels so deep they were once believed to run under the Straits all the way to Africa. They consist of an upper section that is linked to a lower level of concavities by drops of up to 148ft, below which narrower tunnels descend up to (200ft in depth. These breathtaking underground chambers were used for defensive purposes by the Moors and Spaniards and were prepared (although never used) as a hospital during the Second World War. Today, the Cathedral Cave houses a 600-seat auditorium. The caves also feature some stunning stalagmites and stalactites.
O’Hara’s Battery + WW2 History
The military history of Gibraltar during World War II exemplifies Gibraltar’s position as a British fortress since the early 18th century and as a vital factor in British military strategy, both as a foothold on the continent of Europe, and as a bastion of British sea power.During World War II, Gibraltar served a vital role in both the Atlantic Theatre and the Mediterranean Theatre, controlling virtually all naval traffic into and out of the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
The quickest route to the city center is from the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. You will pass through a series of steps painted in red, and blue steps known as the Union Jack Steps. They were painted to celebrate the outcome of Gibraltar’s first Sovereign Referendum in 1967.
One of the most curious, even surreal, parts of Gibraltar is its old town, which occupies the northwestern corner of the territory and is only a 15-minute walk from the airport. While the traditional British pubs tell you that you’re in the UK, yet the curious blend of architecture and the spotless blue skies remind you that you that you’re in the Mediterranean. Casemates Square is the neighborhood’s principal outside space and has plenty of sunny terraces on which to enjoy a pint or a meal.
Hope you get a chance to visit this extremely unique place if you are in Southern Spain!