Europa Point, Gibraltar

Photo: AlexCurl at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Photo: AlexCurl at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
What’s mostly British, a little bit Spanish, and has views of Africa? It’s Gibraltar, home of a big rock, an extensive cave system, and Europe’s only wild monkeys. And that’s only the beginning.

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. It’s bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and Andalusia, Spain. The Spanish still assert claims over the 2.3 square miles of land, even though Gibraltarians have been fiercely loyal to the British flag since the early 1700s. Fish and chips are more popular than jamón, the currency is called a pound, English is the preferred language, and the Union Jack proudly waves atop the Rock of Gibraltar.

Given its small size, you could explore all of Gibraltar by foot. But there are steep—very steep—hills. To reach the Rock of Gibraltar, you could climb the dangerous Mediterranean Steps. A better choice might be the Gibraltar Cable Car, an aerial tram that departs outside of the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. The Rock, a monolithic limestone promontory, reaches nearly 1,400 feet. It’s covered with a military base and a nature reserve, while the interior is full of tunnels and caves.

Photo: Paul Handley (original digital photograph) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Paul Handley (original digital photograph) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
You can’t visit the military base, but you can wander through the nature reserve, where you’ll find olive and pine trees, Barbary partridges, and Barbary macaques, those famous monkeys. Then see St. Michael’s Cave, a natural grotto where Neolithic inhabitants once lives, and the Great Siege Tunnels, which acted as a defense system during wartime.

From high on the Rock, you can see the Moorish Castle, your next stop. The 14th-century, medieval castle housed a prison until a few years ago. Now you can explore the Tower of Homage, the Gate House, and the fortified walls. Then head to the eastern side of the peninsula, for a seaside lunch in Catalan Bay, a traditional fishing village, and a swim on Eastern Beach, the largest and sunniest stretch of sand in Gibraltar.

Eventually, you end up on Europa Point. Gibraltar’s southern tip is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. Stop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe, a Roman Catholic Church that was once a mosque and a lighthouse. See the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque and the Europa Point Lighthouse. Watch the water for dolphins and whales. And stare across the Strait of Gibraltar at Morocco’s Rif mountains. No wonder the Spanish keep wanting to call this place their own. You do, too.

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