The Rock of Gibraltar is one of the coolest places I have ever traveled to. While doing a road trip throughout the southern half of Spain, we decided to shoot down to the British Overseas Territory which happens to be the southern most point of Europe. We planned on seeing The Rock of Gibraltar- which I thought would be a small rock, fenced in, similar to The Plymouth Rock in Eastern Massachusetts, USA. Well, was I mistaken! Read on to find out 5 super interesting facts about visiting The British Territory of Gibraltar, and what I was shocked to learn.
1. Monkeys LIVE on The Rock
More than 300 years ago, these monkeys made their way across the ocean from The Atlas and Rif Mountains in Morocco. They chose to settle at the highest point in Gibraltar – 1,398 feet tall, on top of a massive rock.
When you start your hike up, you won’t see any monkeys. We walked for probably a mile, over Windsor Bridge (showing stunning views of the city below us) and still nothing. We were starting to doubt if they were even there, until in the distance we saw one running. They were running at the top of a super steep set of stairs we had to take – it was the only way up. So, we headed towards the crazy monkeys, hesitating when we had to walk around them on the stairway.
Because this is such a tourist site, these monkeys have become fairly used to humans. You are strongly discouraged from coming in contact with them or feeding them, but when we got to the top, all the tour companies were giving them peanuts anyways. Since we went on our own, we didn’t have to pay for a tour guide to get a monkey to jump on our shoulder – it just happened!
Eventually we wanted to see the other sites on the rock, like the view of Africa and the glass sky walk. And we did, but first the monkeys had other plans for us.
On our walk to the highest point, we kept seeing shadows of monkeys and hearing them in the trees. All of a sudden, I felt fingernails in my hair and on the back of my neck. I whipped around only to see a monkey sitting on the ground, shoveling handfuls of Pringles into his mouth. He knew exactly where they were in my bag and how to open it! They are super smart, and will follow you until you are alone where they can raid you of your snacks. Be careful and don’t wear expensive jewelry or sunglasses, they might steal those too.
Yes, they are cute! But be very careful with them because if you get bit or scratched, you’ll have to go to the emergency room for a rabies shot.
2. The Rock is EXTREMELY Historical
When we were driving through the Spanish countryside and mountains to get to Gibraltar, I was imagining what the rock would look like. I didn’t Google it, research it or ask anyone what it is. I wanted to see for myself. So, when the road rounded a corner and this massive rock was sticking up out of the ocean, I was in shock! This rock looks like it is the size of a small mountain!
When we began exploring, we noticed a lot of war memorials and eventually came across a few tunnels. Tunnels are primarily from The British, as this is still a strongly fortified area. The reason for this is because this is the only place where The Mediterranean meets The Atlantic – and it has become one of the most heavily sought after pieces of land in all of Europe!
But, this rock has way more history than that. It was inhabited by Neanderthals over 50,000 years ago, and The Romans later worshiped their gods in Shrines that were supposedly set up on The Rock of Gibraltar.
So all in all, this place has a huge presence, and we could definitely feel it during our 4 hour hike. And you can still see a lot of left over history here too – from forts to tunnels.
3. It’s English Speaking With British Accents
It is always crazy to me when you cross a border and go from one language to another. That’s what happened when we went from Spain to Gibraltar – it instantly switched to English as a primary language, and almost all the people we came into contact with had British accents.
There are influences from Britain all over the city. From big red double decker buses to phone booths, you will feel like you are in London!
Even for lunch we had fish and chips with mushy peas. A true English experience, in the strangest of places.
4. It’s only 2.65 Square Miles
During our day trip here, we walked for pretty much the whole day on foot. Even though we walked I think 11 miles, it still was a great way to see everything and to exercise.
Although the city is small, it still packs a punch. When you cross the border, you literally walk across an airport runway to get to the city center. You’ll see all of the colorful buildings in the distance (and The Rock of course), and so many small shops and restaurants.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was when we got lost on our way to hike up to the top of The Rock. We took a wrong turn, and ended up at a doorway to a mosque that had the most beautiful call to prayer I’ve ever heard. This moment, looking out over the water with The Rock behind us, was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever had.
So when you take your trip to Gibraltar, be sure to walk a little more than you normally would and I can guarantee you will enjoy what you find along the way.
5. All You need to Enter is Your Passport
This was one of the coolest border crossings I’ve ever done. Cars had to wait in line to get into Gibraltar, but we decided to park and walk over the boarder. Let me tell you, this was so worth it!
Two words that are never supposed to go together: easy and border. But Gibraltar had both! We walked in, the lady standing at a pedestal looked at our passports, and off we went. It took about 30 seconds with no real line. Same with the way out, except about a 5 minute line. Only downside – no passport stamp! Maybe you could ask for it, but we didn’t.
Finally we headed back to our hotel in Spain after a long day in Gibraltar. As for the rest of the night, we spent it laughing so hard until our bellies hurt, retelling the crazy stories of the day – like me getting attacked by a monkey in Gibraltar and Libby getting hit in the face by a branch while on a double decker bus.
And after reading all this, I truly hope you make it to Gibraltar sometime soon and get to experience all of the amazing aspects this territory has to offer.