Gibraltar, UK

The main reason to visit the British territory of Gibraltar is to visit the Barbary macaques, the only wild monkeys you’ll find on the European continent. Gibraltar, a British territory located on the southwestern tip of Spain across from Morocco, doesn’t have much else to offer. It’s said that if the macaques leave Gibraltar, the British do. I don’t blame them.

These tailless monkeys are a riot. They’re semi-wild, meaning they love people. They get a little too friendly — stand close enough and they’ll jump right on you, as it happened with me. They’re smart enough to open your backpack and search for food, too.

Me with a Barbary macaque
This Babary macaque combed through my hair. It was oddly soothing.

There are big fines if you feed the macaques — if you’re caught, signs signify you could be dishing out 4,000 pounds — that’s more than $5,200 USD. Don’t worry, the monkeys are fed well. Tour guides will bring them snacks and the Gibraltar government will drop off carrots and fruit in the morning.

Warning signs at the Gibraltar Cable Car base
That monkey on the left could do some serious harm.

If you’re planning a trip to southern Spain or even Portugal, a visit to see the macaques in Gibraltar is worth it. Don’t spend the night, there’s not enough to do. The territory looks like you took an amusement park but didn’t clean or update it in 25 years.

The monkeys live at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, located over 400 meters up — that’s higher than the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building. The views from the top are gorgeous — the day I went, fog was pouring over us creating for some cool time lapse video.

Rock of Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar, surrounded by water.

There’s a couple ways to get to the top of the Rock. Tour guides will gladly take you by taxi. The Gibraltar Cable Car is also available (about $15 a person), and if you’re group is good with vigorous walking, take that to save some money and walk at your own pace. If you’re on a cruise, it’s a good 30 minute walk from the port terminal to the base of the cable cars. You’ll then walk a lot once you’re higher up.

The top of the Rock is home to a nature preserve. The most significant spot for visitors is St. Michael’s Cave, one of about 150 limestone caves found inside the Rock of Gibraltar. It draws nearly 1 million visitors a year, and it was a little too tourist-y for me — they overdid the spectacle by pumping in pop music set to lights. It’s not necessary. However, if you find yourself in Gibraltar, see if the Cave is hosting a concert — I’m sure it would make for a beautiful venue. It is about $10 a person to access the cave and the rest of the nature preserve. Visiting the top of the Rock of Gibraltar is free once you make it up there.

St. Michael's Cave
St. Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar.

Remember that since Gibraltar is a British territory, your Euros won’t work. Bring a credit card. I was smart and packed leftover pounds from a trip to England and was able to use those.

Click here to watch a Twin Cities Live (KSTP-TV, ABC) piece I produced showcasing our trip to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.

 

 

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