There aren’t many landmarks that are so big, they can be seen easily for about 400km when the weather conditions are right. But at 426m, the Rock of Gibraltar, a British Territory sitting off the southern coast of Spain, fits the bill.
We spoke to Carl Mesilio, who arranges guided tours to the top of the rock. His company Inside-Out Rock Tours is allowed to travel a hundred metres higher up the rock than the other tour buses because they use smaller vehicles.
And you’ll be rewarded with stunning views. On a good day you can see the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, 400 km in the distance, maybe even spotting the snow on the peaks. And looking in the other direction, you might catch a glimpse of Granada in the Sierra Nevada.
Carl says the rock has a one-way system because the road up it is so tight and private vehicles are not allowed to enter the upper rock. He stops at St Michael’s Cave, which is a 200million-year-old natural phenomenon. It’s a beautiful cavern with a concert hall inside and in the Second World War it was prepared for use as an auxiliary hospital.
The next stop is O’Hara’s Battery, which also has military connections. You’ll see two 9.2-inch guns capable of firing up to 80 miles. And there’s 52km of tunnels carved out of the rock. You can journey 500m inside the passages but the rest of the site is still Ministry of Defence-operated and off-limits. Further down are the remains of even older fortifications – the Moorish castle built in 1333. Carl says the outside is scarred with cannonball shots.
The stop by the cable car station lets you take in the views and see the world-famous Barbary macaques, the only wild monkey colony on the European continent. I’ve heard that they misbehave and you have to watch your personal effects. Carl says they’ve associated plastic bags with food so if you are going to the upper rock with a carrier bag containing your camera, passport and belongings a monkey will take it, assuming there’s food inside. He’s seen some of the cheeky primates try and pinch baseball caps too. But most people are unaffected if they follow the guidance given on his tour.
Carl offers a range of five different excursions ranging from a one-hour duration tour to a seven-hour ‘ultimate’ tour, including a shopping trip and lunch. He says that’s mainly aimed at people who are onshore for the day as part of a cruise ship excursion. He recommends his 3-hour tour as the best option to see everything you need to in this historic British outpost.
You can find out more at RockToursGibraltar.com and Carl says you will see the monkeys on every trip!
Listen to our conversation with Carl on the Great Destinations Radio Show here: