Today we were finally in Gibraltar, the fourth gem of our trip to the Eurodam. We were excited to discover the British overseas territory located in Andalusia. We wanted to visit one of the most famous rocks in the world, the Monkey Rock (Apes’ Den) with the Barbary apes as well as the Europa point to and the tunnels and caves in the limestone cliffs. We had a lot to discover.
Today was a wonderful clear and sunny day and we got up extra early because we could visit Gibraltar only from 08:00 am to 1:45 pm. We started the day with British breakfast: baked bacon. We enjoyed the wonderful view from our balcony to the many cargo ships in the harbor.
Getting early into the city
We had about five hours in Gibraltar and so we disembarked shortly after 8:00 am. In the hall in the cruise terminal was a tourist information booth of Gibraltar, where we were given a map and an information sheet. In front of the terminal were several buses of Upper Rock Tour, a transfer bus from Holland America Line into the city. But there were also signs to walk into town.
We planned to stroll through the Old Town, see the Barbary apes on the Monkey Rock and the Europa Point, the southernmost point in Gibraltar. At that time we did not know how much time it would take to see all these sights. We started our day by walking into the city centre. The path was well marked. You can go straight on the North Mole Road and then along the Waterport Road until you reach Waterport Casemates. From here we were able to see the cruise terminal and archways in the wall around the old town of Gibraltar. We had a look at the bus plan and found out that we could not take the bus today, because we forgot to carry British pounds with us. Unfortunately British pounds are necessary to use the public transport in Gibraltar.
Therefore we walked on foot. After about 20 minutes walk we arrived at the gates of the old town and went to the pedestrian zone and the “Main Street” of Gibraltar. There were many shops that were still closed at this time in the morning. But there were quite a few cafes that were open. The pedestrian area itself is well worth seeing. There are many lovely old buildings, a town hall and many churches. There was also a statue as memorial remembering over 300 years of the Corps of the Royal Engineers.
We continued walking to the cable car station, because we wanted to go up to the Monkey Rock. The path took longer than expected and after 45 minutes we were finally there. In the meanwhile it was 09:00 am. However the cable car service opened at 09:30 am and there was already a long queue, so that the waiting time was about 50 minutes. Too long for us. We decided to finally take a Rock Tours bus. It was the only way to spend our time in Gibraltar effectively. The tour with the rock tour bus cost 30 euros per person. This price included the entrance to the Nature Reserve Upper Rock, the caves of St. Michael and the victory tunnel. The journey should take 2.5 to 3 hours. We had a small bus and drove up with 6 other people. We were incredibly excited.
Our first stop was the Europa Point on the southern tip of the Rock of Gibraltar. From this point you can see Africa. You just need a clear sky. We perfectly saw the Moroccan coast. In the middle between Europe and Africa many ships crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. Ships pass this point when they leave the Mediterranean Sea to enter the Atlantic Ocean. You definitely have to enjoy this view. You will be amazed by the fact how close Africa is from here.
The St. Michael’s Cave
Then we went to the cave of St. Michael’s. Here we met the first wild Barbary apes on the way to the cave. The cave is 300 meters above sea level and is the most visited cave in Gibraltar. It is illuminated in different colors and we had about 30 minutes to walk through. At the exit are toilets that you should use, because you will have no opportunity afterwards. There was also a souvenir shop, where you could buy drinks and sweets. We were amused by the warning on the refrigerator door about thieving monkeys.
The Apes’ Den
Next, we finally went to see the wild monkeys on the Upper Rock. Our bus parked in a narrow street next to several other small buses and we had 20 minutes to photograph the monkeys and enjoy the view of the harbor and the bay of Gibraltar. There were many monkeys. On the road, the cars and the rocks were large and small Barbary monkeys sunning themselves, eating mandarins and apples, which they got from the bus drivers and the tourists. The Barbary macaques are the only wild monkeys in Europe. Long time ago they escaped from an animal transport from North Africa to Spain.
From the Upper Rock we had a great view of the Eurodam. Our bus driver advised us to take no food or loose items with us, because the monkeys may jump onto you. We saw them jump on some of the tourists to sit on their backpacks and search for food. Also necklaces were great toys for the monkeys. You should better not wear sparkling objects. Only the bus drivers should feed and attract the monkeys, because they have a lot of experience. Our driver was very friendly with the monkeys, so I was able to take a monkey on my arm. The monkey remained quite calm and interested. As soon as he understood that I had nothing to feed him, he quickly got bored and went to the next tourist.
Our driver told us that according to a legend from the time of the siege, the monkeys the protected the British against an attack of the Spaniards and it therefore means that British rule in Gibraltar ends as soon as the last monkey left the rocks. Of course, we also wanted to take a picture of our cruising pillow and a monkey. So we came closer to two monkeys. One apparently slept, the other one watched the sea. But when I put the pillow next to the sleeping monkey, it suddenly looked up and stretched out for it. Luckily I pulled away the pillow fast enough to save it from the monkeys. Unfortunately we then had to get back into our bus. By then there was also a monkey sitting on our bus. A little monkey even got in the bus and wanted to drive. We then left the Upper Rock. We had a great time up there.
Siege Tunnels in Gibraltar
Our last stop was at the Great Siege Tunnels. Those tunnels were built in the 18th century by the British to defend Gibraltar from the French and Spanish. We were able to walk for 30 minutes through the tunnel system and look at the interesting information boards.
The conditions at the time of the siege were simulated with figures in historic uniforms. You could also see many guns.
Unfortunately, we had not enought time to visit the whole area, but we got a good impression of the historic circumstances. Before the tunnels was a viewing platform from which we could see the airport of Gibraltar and even the border crossing to Spain. It was fascinating that the road leading to the border crossing crossed the airfield. If an aircraft lands or passes by you can not cross the border.
After this adventurous tour we went back to our starting point at the cable car. Unfortunately the tours end where they start, so we had to hurry now to get back in time to embark the Eurodam.
TOP 5 Tips for Sightseeing in Gibraltar
We learned some lessons from our stay and have some useful tips for visiting Gibraltar:
- Go early on board. It is worth it!
- Definitely go on a bus tour. Either with Holland America or with Gibraltar Rock Tour.
- As a starting point for the bus tour we recommend either the cruise port or the bus stop at the bus terminal at the beginning of the pedestrian area.
- Carry no food in your bags if you want to visit the monkeys!
- Take a pair of binoculars with you. Then you can enjoy the the view from Europa Point.
We looked forward to a sunny afternoon on board with a Dutch tea event and the gala dinner in the evening.