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Port Review: Gibraltar

By:
Joanna Hall
 

A small British Overseas Territory at just under seven square kilometres in size, Gibraltar is an isthmus of Spain sharing a border to the north with the Andalucian province of Cadiz. And it’s becoming increasingly popular as a cruise destination for good reason. 

Overview

Gibraltar is most famous for The Rock, a major landmark of the region which towers above the surrounding countryside, and a densely populated area at its foot which is home to more than 30,000 people. The name Gibraltar is a Spanish derivative of the Arabic name nearing “mountain of Tariq”, and the country enjoys a long if tumultuous history and a subtropical climate. Its sovereignty is a point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations, with Spain still asserting a claim to the territory, however, in referendums in 1967 and 2002, 98 per cent of locals rejected the claims; it remains in British hands but governs its own affairs. Fortunately for cruise visitors there are no issues to worry about. Gibraltar is a welcoming port of call which can be easily explored on foot, with 12 kilometres of shoreline, an East Side with the settlements of Sandy Bay and Catalan Bay, and a Westside where most people live. 

The Facts

Location: At the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. 

Language: English and Spanish.

Currency: Gibraltar pound, but euros are widely accepted.

Docking/anchoring: Only one ship is allowed to dock at any one time at a small cruise ship terminal around 1.5 kilometres from town. 

Transport: Small shuttles are offered by the port and there are taxis available, but the centre of town is only about a 15 minute walk.

Don’t Miss

The Rock of Gibraltar towers 426 metres and is made of Jurassic limestone, and it is the port’s major draw card offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.  If you’re planning to head to the Upper Rock, the roads are very steep, so it’s best to take the cable car from Main Street which runs all day. The is home to over 500 species of flowering plants, some of which are unique, and around 230 Barbary Macaques, the famous apes of Gibraltar and the only wild monkeys in Europe. 

The Apes Den is a stop-off going up to or coming down from the Upper Rock, where you can get up-close-and-personal with the Barbary Macaques. Beware, though as they are known for snatching items from tourists who don’t pay attention, including sunglasses, cameras and hats. 

Upper St. Michael’s Cave is a fascinating concert venue, which you access from the cable car, descends over 76 metres and its worth a look. 

Lower St. Michael’s Cave is an experience which isn’t for anyone who isn’t physically fit or doesn’t have a sense of adventure, as it involves descending many metres using ropes, pulleys and ramps, but at the foot is an underground lake famous for magnificent stalactites and stalagmites. 

Best Photo Op

The view from the top of the Upper Rock of the surrounding area is literally jaw dropping, in particular on a clear day, along with snaps of the local monkeys.

Shopping

Gibraltar is a tax free territory, and there is some good shopping to be enjoyed. The primary place to head for shopping or souvenirs is Main Street, which is about a kilometre long and has plenty of shops selling goods with a British flavour. Here you’ll find department stores including Marks & Spencer, BHS and Wallis, rubbing shoulders with Spanish boutiques; souvenirs to look out for include linens and leather goods. 

Food and Drink

The place to head is Main Street, which is about a kilometre long and has plenty of places to eat. The fare is mostly British style pub food such as fish and chips and steak and kidney pie, but there are some venues serving some of Gibraltar cuisine, with dishes to look out for including pinchitos, which are kebabs cooked over hot coals. Some of the bars around the seafront serve Spanish style tapas.

Pick of the Excursions

If you are a new visitor to Gibraltar a Rock tour will give you a good overview of the top sights, the monkeys and those views from the top. 

If you’ve been there and done that, a tour of the Bay of Gibraltar is worth considering as there several species of dolphin living there to spot, and amazing views back towards The Rock from the water. Another alternative is a diving tour as there are around 30 wrecks in the surrounding waters.

 

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