The Spanish left Africa nearly 50 years ago. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. Morocco, Western Sahara, and Equatorial Guinea declared their independence in 1956, 1958, and 1968, respectively. Only the Canary Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, remained. But that’s not quite true. Two Spanish cities, Ceuta and Melilla, are still located there.
You’re on a ferry en route to Africa. You departed from Algeciras, a Spanish port city. You passed the Rock of Gibraltar and stared at the Pillars of Hercules from the boat. Then you crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and headed toward Morocco. You won’t dock in Tangier, though. This time, you’re bound for Ceuta instead. You can already see the Royal Walls of Ceuta and Monte Hacho ahead.
Ceuta is an autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. The seven-square-mile city shares a western border with Morocco. Throughout history, it’s location has made it an important military port. Everyone from the Carthaginians to the Romans, the Muslims to the Berbers, the Portuguese to the Spanish wanted to control this little enclave. In fact, the land is still disputed. Morocco continues to claim Ceuta as its own. The city remains very Spanish, though.
Your tour of Ceuta begins in the medieval Royal Walls of Ceuta that you could see from the water. The defensive walls now house an art gallery. Walk around the Plaza de África. The heart of the city has cobblestone streets and tropical plants. Gorgeous architecture, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, surrounds it. Nearby, the Parque Marítimo del Mediterráneo is filled with sculptures, waterfalls, and pools, while the Museo de Ceuta displays ceramics, coins, and weapons from its tumultuous history.
After exploring the historical heart of the city, head east toward the Península de Almina. Hike Monte Hacho for a stunning view over the port and the Mediterranean Sea. Gibraltar is in the distance. Fortaleza de Hacho, a Byzantine fort, sits on the summit. It’s still an active military post. Reach a smaller fort, Castillo del Desnarigado, as you head back down the mountain toward the southeastern tip. A lighthouse and a little beach, Playa Torrecilla, await you on the other side. Now you just need to find a tapas restaurant, preferably along the waterfront, and your perfect day in Spain—or Africa—is complete.