Photo: Andreas Poertner/Shutterstock

This British Territory Has the Only Wild Population of Monkeys in Europe

Insider Guides
by Morgane Croissant May 31, 2023

The United Kingdom has 14 Overseas Territories spread out throughout the world, and among them is one particularly unusual patch of land: Gibraltar. Also referred to as “The Rock” for obvious geological reasons, Gibraltar is nearly 2,000 miles from Britain, is self-governing, and has its own flag, but its citizens (known as Gibraltarians or Llanitos) are British. While it may seem out of the way, outsiders can come and check out The Rock. In fact, in 2021, nearly 130,000 people did just that.

Where is Gibraltar?

Gibraltar is a peninsula located on the south coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is surrounded by water on three sides and is attached to Spain on one side. On its eastern side, it faces the Mediterranean Sea; on its western side it faces the Bay of Gibraltar and the Spanish town of Algeciras; on its southern side, it faces the Strait of Gibraltar and the continent of Africa; on its northern side, it is attached to the Spanish province of Cadiz.

Is Gibraltar an island?

Gibraltar is not an island. It is a peninsula, that is to say that it is attached to land on one side but otherwise surrounded by water.

What is the Rock of Gibraltar?

The Rock of Gibraltar viewed from the beach

Photo: Andreas Poertner/Shutterstock

The Rock of Gibraltar is a monolithic 1400-foot-tall peak of limestone that dominates the area. It is a promontory, i.e. a raised point of rock projecting into a body of water. It is sometimes called “Pillar of Hercules”.

Gibraltar itself is often referred to as “The Rock” by its inhabitants.

Is Gibraltar a country?

Gibraltar is not a country but a British Overseas Territory. It is self-governing, except when it comes to matters of defence and foreign policy.

Who owns Gibraltar?

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory that has been ruled by Britain since 1713. The citizens of Gibraltar are British citizens.

What’s the population of Gibraltar?

In 2016, the year of the last count, there were 34,003 people living there.

How big is Gibraltar?

It is very small, only 2.62 square miles. It is, however, much bigger than Vatican City, the smallest country in the world at 0.17 square miles.

Does Gibraltar have its own flag?

Flag of Gibraltar

Photo: Denis Kabanov/Shutterstock

Yes, despite not being its own country, Gibraltar has its own flag. It is red and white and does not feature the Union Jack, but a red castle with three towers made to represent the fortress of Gibraltar. The key featured on the flag is said to symbolize the strategic position of Gibraltar as the entrance to the Mediterranean.

What language do people speak in Gibraltar?

English is the official language of this British Overseas Territory, but many people also speak Spanish and some speak Llanito, a dialect that is specific to Gibraltar and which consists of a mix of English and Spanish, peppered with words from other languages such as Hebrew and Maltese.

Why are there monkeys in Gibraltar?

Monkeys in Gibraltar

Photo: oksana.perkins/Shutterstock

Gibraltar is home to large groups of Barbary macaques, sometimes referred to as “Gibraltar Monkeys”. It is the only wild population of monkeys in Europe.

Nobody knows exactly why there are monkeys in this part of the world, but they have been there since before it became a British Overseas Territory in 1713.

While they attract curious tourists, it is strictly illegal to feed the Barbary macaques and you should avoid interacting with them in any ways. Keep a safe distance between you and the monkeys as they can be aggressive and steal food and belongings.

Can you see Africa from Gibraltar?

The African continent, more specifically the country of Morocco, is only 20 miles away from Gibraltar, across the strait of the same name. The higher you go, the better you’ll see the African coast so make your way to the Skywalk, located on the ridge of the Rock, over 1100 feet above sea level, to get the best view.

How to get to Gibraltar?

There is an international airport with daily flights to and from the UK (Bristol, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, and Manchester). You can also enter on land (on foot or by car) via Spain through the border. The border is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This British Overseas Territory is a popular stop for cruises, and passengers get to disembark and visit briefly, but if you want to arrive via the Mediterranean Sea without taking a cruise, the easiest way is to take the ferry that links Tangier in Morocco to Gibraltar.

To enter this Overseas British Territory, visitors must present a valid passport. EU nationals can show a valid national identity card or a valid passport.

What is there to do in Gibraltar?

Cable car in Gibraltar

Photo: Raimundo79/Shutterstock

Gibraltar may be small, but there are plenty of things to see and do. If you want to relax and enjoy the warm climate, there are beautiful beaches to lounge on, including Sandy Bay, a more remote beach with orange sand from the Sahara. To get the full experience, however, you need to get higher up, so take the cable car for six minutes and get to the top of the Rock — you’ll find great views and lots of monkeys! From there, you can walk easily to the Nature Reserve, a protected area where you will find Michael’s cave (a stunning network of limestone caves), the Skywalk (for an adrenaline rush), as well as historical sites such as World War II Tunnels, the Moorish castle, and more to learn about the history of this unique patch of land.

Gibraltar is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Gorham’s Cave Complex, where archaeological and paleontological deposits have been found. Those deposits prove Neanderthal occupation of the area over more than 100,000 years. Follow The Mediterranean Steps trail that is within the Nature Reserve to take in this exceptional site.

Note that the fees for a lot of the attractions within the Nature Reserve are included in the Nature Reserve tickets.

The best hotels to stay while in Gibraltar

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend in Gibraltar! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

Sunborn Gibraltar

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

See more photos

Sunborn Gibraltar is like no other hotel you’ve ever stayed at. The five-star property is actually a massive yacht parked in the marina. In this floating hotel, there are 189 elegant rooms and suites, a full-service spa offering all sorts of amazing treatments, a casino with 35 slot machines and 7 game tables, several bars and restaurants, and a fitness center. And, of course it would not be a luxury property without a seasonal outdoor pool.

Book Now

The Eliott Hotel

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

See more photos

The Eliott Hotel is a four-star property located right in the centre of Old Town. This luxury hotel has beautifully decorated rooms and suites with views on the Mediterranean Sea, a rooftop pool and a rooftop solarium, a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views, a poolside bar, a bar and terrace on the ground floor, and a fitness center.

Book Now

The Rock Hotel

Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia
Photo: Expedia

See more photos

The Rock Hotel is a historic four-star property located at the foot of the famous Rock with beautiful views of the Bay and Straits of Gibraltar. The bedrooms and suites, as well as the common areas, are decorated in a beautiful and simple classic style that creates an aura of comfort and luxury. The Rock Hotel has several on-site restaurants and bars and even offers afternoon tea. There is a terrace and an outdoor pool with sun loungers and parasols for guests to enjoy the warm climate.

Book Now

Discover Matador