The Rock Of Gibraltar: Pillars of Hercules


Probably the most famous rock in the world, the Rock of Gibraltar rises 426 m (1,396 ft) from sea level to tower over the narrow body of water that separates Europe from north Africa, namely the Strait of Gibraltar. In Mythology, Hercules pulled Spain and Africa apart, and from time immemorial, the two mountains on either side of the Strait, the Rock and Djebel Moussa, have been known as the Pillars of Hercules.


In reality, the Rock is a monolithic limestone promontory, linked to Spain by a narrow, sandy isthmus. Formed by the collision of European and African tectonic plates, a subsequent shift enabled the Atlantic Ocean to break through, creating the Mediterranean Sea. The location of the Rock is of extreme strategic importance: transferred to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, it has, since then, played a major part in the protection of the Mediterranean seaways during times of war.

Covering some 6.5 sq km (2.5 sq mi), the eastern side is formed by almost sheer cliffs, with sandy beaches at the base. The western side is a much gentler slope, the lower half being the city, while the upper half is a nature reserve, home to some 250 Barbary macaques (more often known as apes) that are the only wild monkeys in Europe.

The range of flora and fauna on the Rock is surprisingly rich and includes endemic species such as Gibraltar thyme, candytuft and chick wood. As well as the macaques, there is the endemic Barbary partridge, and as it is on the migration route, this is a great place for twitchers. Sea mammals such as dolphins, Pilot whales, orcas and even Sperm whales can be seen here too – for such a tiny, infertile territory, Gibraltar is of considerable interest.

How to reach

By air, by sea or by road from Spain

When to visit

The climate is pleasant throughout the year.


  • Europa Point Lighthouse
  • Nelson’s Anchorage
  • the Moorish Castle
  • St. Michael’s Caves.

You should know

The interior of the Rock is an enormous and famous labyrinth of fortified tunnels, built to defend the Rock against invaders.


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