by Michael Madsen, your guide to the authentic
Take the road less travelled and venture up the ‘Spanish Stairs’ to get to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. You will avoid getting squashed in a cable car, bus or taxi, and still be rewarded by spectacular views of the Mediterranean to Spain and Morocco.
Other than the curiosity value of being a small part of the UK which has a land border with Spain, Gibraltar itself is not a must-see as far as I´m concerned. The view from the Rock, however, is breath-taking and well worth a visit, in spite of being a view that you unfortunately cannot avoid sharing with hundreds of other tourists.
Unless you are arriving by plane or sea, you have to cross the border from the neighbouring town of La Linea de la Concepción. You will have to go through customs and border control, though fortunately this is a lot quicker and easier nowadays than it used to be. If you are driving across by car, you can park in the large parking garage just past the airport. First impressions are of an ugly, run down and slightly seedy town, with a lot of traffic and construction noise. Fortunately these soon melt away as you reach the old city wall and the pedestrian zone within.
It is the view from the top of the rock that makes the visit worthwhile. It can be reached on foot, by cable car, by bus or by taxi.
The comfortable choice is a taxi shared with up to 8 people, costing 35 euros per person, including entrance fees to the Nature Reserve. The taxis all run a scheduled route to the traditional sights and viewing points, which means that there are 15 – 20 taxis in line waiting for their corresponding tourists to move forwards. It is relatively well organized, but you do not exactly feel alone in nature or with the monkeys – there are tourists everywhere!
Option number 2 is taking one of the official tour buses, which carry approximately 25 passengers and are of course cheaper. However, as with option number 1 above, with the 8 – 12 tour buses gathering together at the sights, there is no escape from the melee of tourists.
Your third option is to take the cable car, which involves queueing up before being packed into a tight cabin, and eventually getting out onto the same piece of rock as hundreds of other tourists. The advantage of taking the cable car is that you have time to walk around on the rock unhurried. If you walk up you will have expended most of your energy by the time you get there, and if you take the bus or taxi you will be briskly shepherded back on board after just a short stop there.
So we have three options which are all variants of a well-oiled tourist processing machine. And then finally there are the ‘Spanish Stairs’. Not a well-oiled machine, and definitely not for the weak of limb or dizzy of head. Rather, it is an ancient stairway built by the Spaniards before the British arrived on the Rock, and with very uneven and varied steps. According to the taxi drivers, it is downright dangerous, but then they would say that as if you take the stairs that means lost earnings for them. Either way, braving the Spanish Stairs is probably your most authentic option: the Rock in the raw. Only recommended if you are in shape, and remember you still have to pay 15 euros per person to enter the national park.
St. Michael’s Cave, which is one of the stops with the taxis and tour buses, is not worth a visit – unless you have never seen a stalactite cave before. Go for the views instead, and it’s ok if you only see them from the top. There’s no need to try to see them from every possible angle. The monkeys are fun to see, but you will see them anyway no matter what route you take.
Back in town you will find the main street, called Main Street. It is lined by expensive shops, British pubs, Spanish-style cafés and restaurants, and a lot of tourists. Enjoy a pub meal of shepherd’s pie or fish ‘n’ chips, and then make a quick exit. Head over to the nearby Bohemian town of Tarifa – also touristy, but less so. We loved exploring the lovely streets and squares, as well as the many fine shops and restaurants – they really have made an effort here!
3 beautiful places to stay in Tarifa – not far from Gibraltar:
||Room Tarifa. Remember that you found it on Autentical! Book it on|
||Arte Vida. Remember that you found it on Autentical! Book it on|
||Silos 19 Suites. Remember that you found it on Autentical! Book it on|
Ever since childhood, I have experienced artificial tourist areas. But when I tried to create holidays with authentic experiences myself, I ran into big problems… It was deeply frustrating, I couldn’t make a living from it and I was afraid of losing everything.
I was weak and vulnerable – it was a painful time. But I succeeded in the end – and it is a fantastic feeling to know the secret to having authentic holidays. You can also ensure holidays without tourist crowds – fortunately, there is still hope!Read my full story