Walking across an airport runway, enjoying epic sea views all the way to Africa, conquering the Mediterranean Steps, and observing Gibraltar’s resident apes. It took us several hours, but we literally walked all the way from Spain to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar… and back… and saw loads of cool stuff along the way!
If you’re the active sort with a day to spend in Gibraltar, you’ve gotta try this.
Where to Park
If you’re coming from Spain, it’s easy to park on the Spain side and walk across the border, so that’s what we did. You can drive in, but your rental car agreement may not allow you across the border, and if you’re visiting at a popular time like summer, driving in Gibraltar can be stressful.
Don’t forget to bring your passport to Gibraltar. As a British territory, you’ll need it to cross the border from Spain.
How Long Does it Take?
You can see everything we saw, all by foot, in about four hours. We took our time, beginning at 2pm and ending around 9pm. We spent those three extra hours eating a meal in Casemates Square and stopping for photos and rests throughout the day.
Walking to the Cable Car
We had planned to take the cable car up, so we walked there first. I’d recommend doing the same in case anyone in your group isn’t up for the whole walk (it’s on the way anyway). If you’re hungry, eat somewhere in Casemate’s Square along the way. High winds had closed the cable car for the day, which quickly booked up all the tour vans parked outside, so we just started our trek upward from here.
Walking Up the West Side of the Rock
We set out walking through the Botanical Gardens next to the cable car station and got onto Europa Rd heading south toward Engineer Rd. From here we enjoyed amazing views of the bay and Algeciras to the west and the Strait of Gibraltar and Africa to the south. Eventually we reached the southern entrance to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve at Jews’ Gate Cemetery.
Entering by foot, we paid a small fee of only £0.50 to continue on our journey to the Mediterranean Steps, and here we had a chance for a bathroom break. (Yay!) Note: You can pay in euros, but it costs a bit more (€1 per person) and the attendant required exact change.
Hiking the Mediterranean Steps to the Top
The views for the next portion of the trek (along the Mediterranean Steps) were absolutely breathtaking. If you want to copy our walk, use this map (beginning at our parking garage in Spain, stopping at the cable car station, and ending at Jews’ Gate Battery) to find your way to the start of the Steps. Take the small staircase on the left as you enter the Nature Reserve and head south at the top of them. This path will lead you along variable but manageable terrain and wind you around the southern edge of the Upper Rock.
You’ll see wonderfully breathtaking views directly across the strait of Gibraltar to Africa and around to the eastern side of the rock where the stairs begin.
The steps are variable in height and quite steep, and it’ll take you at least an hour to reach the top at O’Hara’s Battery, but the sea views are stunning and make the effort completely worth it.
There are several opportunities to stop and rest or take photos and explore historic structures.
When you’ve reached the top, catch your breath while you enjoy views in every direction. There are two large historic guns here at the top, Lord Airey’s Battery and O’Hara’s Battery. O’Hara’s Battery is open to the public, but it was closed when we reached the top at around 6:45pm.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve
After you check out O’Hara’s Battery, take O’Hara’s Rd north to St. Michael’s Rd to find the barbary macaques around Charles V Wall. There are plenty of apes to spot in the free part of the Nature Reserve, so unless you want to visit an exhibit, you won’t need to pay the Nature Reserve fee.
Note: Don’t feed the macaques. You’ll probably see irresponsible tour guides ignoring the signs and feeding them anyway, but this is an example of horribly irresponsible tourism as it’s bad for the animals’ health and it makes them aggressive.
Spread the word if you get the chance.
The Long Way Down
After plenty of time observing the resident barbary macaques, we headed down the west side of the rock via the Charles V Wall stairs (recommended*). Alternatively, you can continue up the road to take the cable car down from the top station. *If you walk down, you may see more apes, and you’ll pass by the Moorish Castle along the way.
When you’ve passed the Moorish Castle, there are several different paths that will take you the rest of the way down. I recommend downloading a detailed offline map to your phone that shows the interconnectivity of the roads here. (We didn’t have this, and we hit one dead end on the way.)
You’ll be on the north side of the rock now, so aim to return to the Casemate’s Square rather than the cable car. Here you can treat yourself to a pitcher of sangria and congratulate yourself on finishing this epic hike!
A Shorter Alternative
If you’re more strapped for time, consider taking the cable car up (includes free shuttle from the frontier). You can then head south to see the macaques and take the Mediterranean Steps down, walking around the opposite way.
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About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.