Gibraltar, U.K.Location: Europe
Gibraltar in the United Kingdom is one of the exciting ports of call on a Disney Cruise Line Transatlantic Cruise vacation. A British overseas territory perched on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, it has risen in the ranks as a popular tourist destination over the years for its stunning geological features and unspoiled natural beauty. With its abundant greenery and wildlife, Gibraltar is a place that has inspired legend.
At Gibraltar is the narrow neck that separates Europe from Africa, and the only place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. Its geographic position makes it a "Gateway to the Mediterranean," and thus an important base of operations for the British navy today.
Things to See and Do
Much more than a naval base, Gibraltar is a destination where there are plenty of pleasures awaiting curious explorers and their families. You can tour the Gibraltar Museum, which was built on the site of 14th-century Moorish baths and currently exhibits the history of Gibraltar's British rule. Or, elect to enjoy a traditional English tea break at the Caleta Hotel, while drinking in the spectacular views stretching from Spain to North Africa. You can even take convenient trips by boat to the beautiful Spanish fishing villages of Marbella, Ronda and Mijas.
As a visitor, you can also take a panoramic ride up the majestic and formidable Rock of Gibraltar in a cable car. The Rock is composed of 426 meters (1,396 feet) of sheer, towering limestone. Over the centuries, roads have been tunneled through it, though most are operated by the military and not open for public use.
Local Culture and Flavor
Gibraltar provides a sublime retreat and an escape from city squalor. In fact, the natural aspects of Gibraltar color the overall culture of the peninsula.
As a visitor to Gibraltar, you will find an abundance of these natural treasures that make your trip well worthwhile. Gibraltar is home to over 500 species of flowering plants—olive and pine trees being prominent among them. Most of the upper portion of the region encompasses a nature reserve which provides sanctuary and protection for 230 native Macaques (Barbary Macaques), the only wild monkeys found in Europe. They'll occasionally visit the local towns, bringing their mischief with them and drawing the attention of curious tourists. Cetaceans, including dolphins and whales, are a common and ethereal sight in the Bay of Gibraltar, for those who would care to wait for their appearance. You can also elect to embark on a boating expedition in search of the wild sirens of the sea.
Past and Present
The Rock of Gibraltar—once named "Mons Calpe" after one of the mythical "Pillars of Hercules"—is surely this port's most recognizable feature (as it dominates most of the territory) and a site of historical significance. Over the centuries, the rock has served as the distinguishing feature of a peninsula highly coveted by conquerors.
Gibraltar was first settled by the Phoenicians in 950 BC, then by the Carthaginians and the ancient Romans. A string of sieges saw the region change hands from the Romans to the Visigoths, Moors and the Franco-Spanish forces before entering a period of stability under British rule.
Modern-day Gibraltar rests, still, in the hands of Great Britain and has become a popular destination with an economy fueled by financial services and tourism. In the latter, it thrives, with frequent visits from cruises and day trippers from Spain. The population itself is a diverse mix of people, numbering around 28,000, distributed densely.
Visitors year after year are taken with the port city's charm and its harmony with the surrounding nature. Gibraltar is a welcome vacation find for those who are fortunate to discover it.