We were staying in the Malaga area as part of our summer vacation and looking for a good day out. The rock of Gibraltar offered plenty of options for our family of four and so we made the 1 1/2 hour self-drive down the coast to “The Rock”.
There were plenty of day trips through the local agents in hotels and on resorts. You could try your own DIY tour from Malaga, Calle Mendivil, with the local buses. They are reasonably priced at around 15 euros each way to La Linea. The buses are comfortable and airy and will follow the costa del sol giving you plenty of chance to see the coastline along the way. Travel time is 3 to 4 hours. Once in La Linea Gibraltar is pretty easy to find. It the big rock in front of you. Don’t forget your passport though as you are crossing into British territory.
Having only ever seen Gibraltar on the television is becomes quickly obvious as to why it has been disputed over for years. At the mouth of the Mediterranean and the foot of the Iberian peninsula, it provides the perfect strategic base for both the army and the navy.
Having chosen to stay in the neighboring Spanish town of La Linea we made our way to the notorious border crossing of Spain and Gibraltar. Times have changed though lately and the passport control and customs were a breeze. Once through you drive along the main road to Gibraltar. After only 200 meters we were brought to a halt by a barrier and flashing lights. On such a small place the main road runs right across the runway at Gibraltar airport. Young Teddy shouted with amazement as he watched the plane land on the main road. Once landed though, we were quickly across the runway and straight into town.
Things to do in Gibraltar.
1/ The Apes.
No trip to Gibraltar is complete without seeing the famous apes of The Rock. The Macaques are considered the top attraction in Gibraltar and around 300 of them live on the upper rock which is a nature reserve. They are free to roam and usually interact with the tour guides and even you.
There are warning signs abound to remind you they are wild animals and not to feed or approach them. It seemed on our trips though the apes were better behaved than the tourists.
You can get to the apes sanctuary a couple of ways. Either take on of the tours advertised all over the town and you will get a minibus with a guide. These guides know their stuff and will tell you everything about the apes. The guides also act as useful bodyguards against some of the more pushy apes. The tours will take you all over the rock seeing other sights too such as the tunnels and the St Michaels Cave.
Alternatively you can take a cable car up the rock. This offers fantastic views and our kids found it really exciting. The cable car goes to the restaurant right at the very top with amazing views of Spain and Africa. There is food available in the cafe and also a bar at the top should you be feeling thirsty with all the excitement.
2/ St Michaels Cave.
The caves are stunning with their lighting and presentation. They are used nowadays for concerts and although we didn’t get to see a live concert, one can only imagine how amazing the acoustics must be.
The caves do charge 10 euros to enter but if you take one of the guided tours up the rock this usually includes your entrance fee. Best check with the tour guide to confirm. The caves take around 20 minutes to visit and in the middle of the summer provide a lovely respite from the heat. There is a small shop selling food, drink and souvenirs. It is here where you usually encounter your first apes.
3/ Europa Point.
One of my personal favourite spots in the Mediterranean. The views on a clear day are fantastic. You can see the two “Pillars of Hercules”, one being the rock of Gibraltar the other being the Jebel Musa mountain in Morocco. You can also see the Spanish Territory of Ceuta in North Africa.
There are a few building to see, The Harding Battery, the mosque, the Roman Catholic shrine of our lady of Europe and of course the lighthouse. There is a small but good and clean playground which keeps the kids occupied and entertained.
There is only enough to keep the family entertained for an hour or so but I managed to convince everyone to sit down for another 20 minutes with an ice cream each from the shop there. It nice to relax and watch the world go by sometimes.
Once again Europa point is visited by the tour buses to the top but I would recommend making your own way up on a local bus for about £2 and spend a bit longer for the views alone.
4/ War Tunnels.
We found the tunnels fascinating. They were carved out over 200 years mainly by the British Army. However during WW2 this tunneling was furthered massively as defences against the Nazis. Although rock is a relatively small place only a couple of miles across, some 35 miles of tunnels were dug in to protect the soldiers and armaments from Nazi bombing.
There are small windows around the tunnels offering viewpoints all around Gibraltar. It is interesting to see the displays showing soldiers of different eras and how they utilised the tunnels in their days.
5/ Dolphin Watching.
I am is usually very cynical of such trips. Comments like that’s not a dolphin, its a wave come from my mouth as the captain usually points out something everybody else missed 800m from starboard. As a result it is very difficult to encourage me to open the wallet for these trips.
Amazingly this was one of those days and it has probably converted me into a dolphin fan.
We were taken out on a small yellow boat built specifically for dolphin viewing. The boat although not particularly big was not overcrowded which meant everyone got a good view even our 2 little ones. We chugged out to see along side the airport runway which juts out into the harbour and we were treated to the sight of a passenger plane landing which our Teddy loved.
After a few minutes maybe 10 or so we saw our first dolphin jumping in the sea.
Even I was surprised and pleased by the fantastic sight. In a matter of a minute or two we were along side a pod of 20 dolphins who were swimming with purpose and jumping out of the sea. The captain explained they were probably beginning a hunt.
As they disappeared in the distance the boat swung around and another group of dolphins ventured nearer to the boat. We got the chance to take photo after photo as everywhere you looked there seemed to be more and more dolphins. Apparently early August is one of the best times to see the dolphins as hundreds of them congregate in the bays around Gibraltar. Finally as if saving the best til last a mother with her young dolphin swam alongside which created awwws and oooos fro the party on board. I even had a tear in my eye which I quickly explained as to the sea air containing salt, probably.
After our boat trip we returned into town for a quick look around the shops. There is lots of shopping to do in Gibraltar and duty free rates makes shopping a bargain. We were worn out after the day though and made our way back to La Linea for a small rest at the hotel before venturing out into town, more on that in another post.
We visited some of the more popular day trip things to do but Gibraltar has so much more to offer and could easily be worth a short break on its own. It has wonderful beaches, plenty of military museums, great shops and wonderful place to eat.
If your down on the Costa Del Sol a trip to Gibraltar, the little Britain on the med, is to be highly recommended. Just walking around the place has a surreal feel to it. Everything seems familiar but the weather and location is definitely different.
Ever been to Gibraltar? Let us know any advise you have for our readers.xx