Here’s a place we didn’t know a thing about before visiting. And it’s a strange place indeed. British overseas citizens, with their proper English, pints, pounds, and fish and chips live happily among palm trees, views of Africa across the Strait, and a whole colony of famous Barbary macaques.
Known as “the Rock” for its massive limestone edifice, Gibraltar forms a peninsula that juts out from the southern coast of Spain. The territory holds significant military and commercial importance for Britain, and debates over Gibraltar’s sovereignty still loom large in relations between the two countries.
The thing about Gibraltar, though, is that we almost missed out. Our research on hotels turned up one pricey option after another, so we thought we’d have to skip it. Couchsurfing to the rescue! We met great new friends, Maria and Steve, who agreed to host us for a couple days while we explored the Rock. Maria is Estonian and Steve is Polish, so while they aren’t native Gibraltarians (I just like that word), they’ve been living there for some time and were able to show us around during our short stay.
So, lodging: Free!
On our first day there Steve and Maria took us up a local’s trail on the Rock, thus avoiding the $20 fee that many people pay to ride the cable car up to the top.
It’s a steep climb, but there are plenty of opportunities to stop and see the macaques along the way. Take care around them, though. On a good day they’re thieves, and on a bad day they can be pretty aggressive.
The city of Gibraltar does their best to care for the monkeys, setting up playgrounds and even a “restaurant” up top. The idea is to keep them away from town and preserve a symbol that has become synonymous with the Rock of Gibraltar.
Maria, in an effort to make friends, got herself into a whole barrel of fun.
The macaques aren’t phased by humans with cameras, so if you’re courageous enough you can get pretty close to them.
According to this recent Daily Mail article, at least 120 of the macaques are being deported back to northern Africa since they earned a reputation for “…attacking people, vandalising hotel rooms and trashing the streets.”
Steve is a wealth of knowledge and told us all sorts of information about Gibraltar and its history. For instance, he informed us that inside the Rock is a huge labyrinth of roads and tunnels, the distance of which is significantly longer than surface roads in the whole territory.
Cost to see the sights, local tour guide included: Free.
Since we had a kitchen and were able to make meals, the cost for food was also extremely low. There’s one supermarket on the whole peninsula, so it’s a pretty busy place but it has a great selection. On our last evening there Steve even made us dinner. Did I mention these guys were awesome?
Food Costs: $15 a day for two people.
I also mentioned pints before. You can go to the bars and spend $5 each, or stop by the market for drinks instead. Due to extremely low taxes there, alcohol and cigarettes are really affordable compared to much of Europe.
Drink Costs: $3 per person per day.
So there you have it. If you’re in the south of Spain and want to do something different, stop by Gibraltar for a couple of days!