The Rock Of Gibraltar, Visit one of the most curious and unique natural monuments in Europe!
Many people have heard of the territory of Gibraltar, but few realize quite how interesting a place it is. Located on a thin peninsula in the South of Spain, it’s technically a British overseas territory. It’s marked by a fascinating history, and even more so by the mountain-like rock that dominates its landscape. Equal parts landmark and natural wonder, it’s certainly a place to include on your list for a broader tour of Europe or the Iberian Peninsula.
About The Rock Of Gibraltar:
The Rock of Gibraltar can trace its significance back to the ancient world. Located where the southern tip of Spain nearly touches the northern tip of Morocco, it was known to the ancients as one of the so-called Pillars of Hercules, denoting the end of the known world. It is essentially a limestone mountain, just over 400m high and covered in large part by greenery.
The Rock and its surrounding area, known as Gibraltar, have been controlled at different times by the Moors the Spanish, and the British. To this day there are minor disputes between Spain and the UK over the sovereignty of the little peninsula, yet despite its geographical location it remains under British rule. Indeed, it may be more firmly so than it has been in years, thanks to new British prime minister Theresa May’s hard line on the territory. She’s vowed to keep it British, and this is probably for the best given the actual citizens’ preferences. In 2002, 99% of the population voted to remain British, despite Spain’s preferences.
Star Attraction Of The Place:
The main attraction in Gibraltar is one that will probably surprise a lot of people who haven’t ever been there or read about it: a population of native Macaques. They’re fascinating creatures, not least because it’s so unusual they’re there. It’s a little bit of a mystery how they came to live there in the first place given that there are no other native monkeys in Europe, and some suspect the ancient Barbary pirates of bringing a population across the Mediterranean from Africa. Legend has it that when the Macaques leave Gibraltar, the British will leave as well.
As things stand now, however, these clever and adorable monkeys populate the Rock itself, and are more or less free to mingle with visitors. While they can certainly bite if frightened, the Macaques are vegetarian by nature, and generally used to human company. To say that they’re friendly or domesticated would be a stretch, but hikers on the Rock can certainly enjoy interacting with the monkeys in relatively close proximity.
Top Three Reasons To Visit The Rock:
- The view from the top of the Rock is one that will not only appeal visually, but also cause you to muse about human history. That’s perhaps a touch dramatic, but when you consider where you are – perched above the Strait of Gibraltar, in some respects the gateway from the ancient world to the rest of civilization – you can’t help but feel humbled. A hike to the top of the Rock is not the most strenuous one you can enjoy in Europe, but it’s certainly among the most memorable.
- St. Michael’s Cave is a fascinating natural attraction that’s located fairly high up on the Rock. It’s been known to mankind since AD 45, and there are some interesting legends associated with it. For instance, a travel guide to Gibraltar notes that some believe Gibraltar is secretly connected to Africa via a 24km tunnel that begins in the cave. This is of course not true, but it adds a layer of mystique to the attraction. And actually, you can see where the legend came from. The cave includes many small tunnels to deeper chambers, and even an underground lake.
- Perhaps the most famous draw to the Rock besides the Macaques is the presence of the so-called Great Siege Tunnels. In the late-18th century, British soldiers at Gibraltar withstood a joint siege effort by the French and Spanish, hurriedly carving a network of tunnels into the Rock in order to do it. The tunnels were also occupied by soldiers during World War II and you can tour them today. It’s quite something to imagine soldiers scurrying through the Rock avoiding enemy attacks, and even mounting cannons to return fire from within the Rock.
The Best Time To Visit This Place:
Broadly speaking it’s best to visit the Rock of Gibraltar during the milder seasons of the year. Spring and fall both offer warm temperatures and light breezes without the oppressive heat of deep summer. You don’t have to worry too much about anything else, as you can tour the attractions, hike the Rock, and see the Macaques during either season.