How to climb the Rock of Gibraltar in 2019

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is most famous for its gigantic rock that towers over the landscape – it’s what most people associate Gibraltar with and is the main attraction for many visitors.

It’s one thing standing at ground level and craning your neck to look at this monstrous rock, but a whole different world viewing things from up top which is why people are so keen to climb the Rock of Gibraltar.

Luckily there are different options for reaching the top to suit a variety of budgets and fitness levels.

Here are the 3 main routes (in order of difficulty):

1 – Cable Car (easiest)

With its introduction in 1966, the cable car has made it easy for people with limited mobility to reach the top and has now become the standard tourist route. It’s an exhilarating (or perhaps terrifying!) 6 minute ride up the side of the Rock to the Top Station where you’ll find a cafe, shop and toilets.

At 412m the Top Station isn’t quite the summit (peak is 426m & inaccessible) but has magnificent views nonetheless. From here you can easily walk into the Nature Reserve and explore the rest of the Rock.

Resident Barbary Macaques roam the steep slopes of the Rock (in fact they’re the only free-roaming primates in Europe) and are often seen hanging out at the Top Station. This is a great opportunity to admire these inquisitive creatures but please don’t try to touch or feed them as they’re still wild animals and we have a responsibility to keep it that way (plus they could leave you with a nasty bite)!

Barbary Macaques

Local buses 4, 9 & 10 drop you off next to the cable car base station where you can buy your tickets up to the Rock. If you arrive by car there is a free car park called Grand Parade next to the cable car base station.

Ticket details: Adult single £18.50 (US$24) – includes mandatory £5 ‘Walkers’ ticket which enables you to exit the cable car Top Station and explore the top of the Rock. Adult return £15.50 (US$20) – cable car journeys only, ‘Walkers’ ticket needed for further exploration. Reduced prices for children, students and over-65s. Package deals are available which include entrance to the Nature Reserve – adult £25.5 (US$34). For more information, visit gibraltarinfo.gi.

2 – Charles V Wall

One of the walking options is via the steps up Charles V Wall. This route is by no means hard – sure, it will test your fitness levels but you can take your time and enjoy the jaw-dropping views on the way up.

The steps begin at Prince Ferdinand’s Battery – the walk to here from town is signposted and relatively easy:

  1. Walk south on Europa Road
  2. At the historic water tanks turn left onto Green Lane
  3. After a hairpin right-turn, continue south on Old Queen’s Road
  4. Pass under the cable car route until you reach Apes Den and Prince Ferdinand’s Battery
The Charles V Steps

Once at the top of Charles V Wall, the Top Station and it’s facilities are just a 5 min walk away. After enjoying the views and watching the monkeys you can choose a variety of paths to take you back down the Rock.

Once at the top of Charles V Wall, you have 3 options – left, right or back the way you came!

Going left (therefore heading North) would take you along the top of the Rock to the cable-car station, gift shop and cafe (all touristy things that I personally avoided). Continuing past the cafe & facilities would eventually bring you to the Northern tip of the Rock and the Military Heritage Centre (stay on Signal Station Road the whole way). This area of the Rock is home to many of the historical sites (payment required to enter) and also gives you views over Gibraltar Airport and beyond into Spain.

On the other hand, turning right from the top of Charles V Wall (heading South) would take you to the Southern tip of the Rock and attractions such as O’Hara’s Battery. This end of the Rock gives you views over the Mediterranean and on a clear day even as far as Africa! Try not to miss Douglas Lookout if you come this way (although when I visited they were doing some upgrades so it was a little difficult to reach).

I wouldn’t recommend going back the way you came (i.e. back down the Charles V Steps) as there’s so much more to explore at the top of the Rock!

So, which way you decide to turn depends on what you’d rather see – historic sites (requiring paid tickets) to the left, or the best views (in my opinion) to the right. Of course, if time and energy are on your side then do it all!

Top Tip

Combo tickets available!

You can buy tickets separately at each historic attraction (Suspension Bridge is new and therefore free). However, if you think you’ll go in more than one then it’s worth buying a combined ticket (available from any of ticket sales points).

 

3 – Mediterranean Steps (hardest)

If you’re up for a slight physical challenge and not afraid of heights then the Mediterranean Steps are the best way to climb the Rock.

To begin your epic hike you first need to reach Jews’ Cemetery Battery. If you have a car you can park for free at Grand Parade (next to the cable car base) – just arrive early to grab a spot! If you’re on foot you’ll most likely be coming from the town centre; walk south along Main Street until you reach Grand Parade car park. From here, simply follow the signs to the Nature Reserve (continue south on Europa Road, bear left onto Engineer Road and continue walking up until you see the ticket booth next to the Battery).

The Mediterranean Steps passing through a cave

Grab yourself a ticket into the Nature Reserve, make use of the toilets and then it’s time to find the Mediterranean Steps! The entrance is a little bit sneaky though – ignore Queen’s Road and instead look for a track and some steps (funnily enough) next to the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society building.

Follow the steps up through some trees, turn right at the first junction and voila you’re now on the marvellous Mediterranean Steps. The track stretches around the entire southern end of the Rock and weaves its way through a variety of endemic shrubs and flowers. After looping around the tip of the Rock the path steepens as it climbs up towards the peak.

Clouds rolling over the Rock

It’s this part of the hike that the route gets its name from – the steps on the east side of the Rock look out over the Mediterranean, and boy are those views worth it!

However, upon reaching the top of the Rock the views are even more impressive – depending on cloud conditions (which change rapidly) the 360 degree view includes Gibraltar town, mainland Spain, Morocco and vast expanses of deep blue sea. That’s 2 bodies of water, 3 countries and 2 continents – not bad huh!

Precarious in places!

The nearby Douglas Lookout is also worth going to – Barbary Macaques chill out here and there are some abandoned buildings to explore. It was partially closed and undergoing restoration when I visited though, so I’m not sure what condition it will be in now.

The main Mediterranean Steps walk shouldn’t take more than 2 hours so if you have some spare time in the afternoon I would suggest checking out other key locations dotted around the Rock. These include:

  • Top Station
  • St Michael’s Cave
  • Windsor Suspension Bridge
  • Various Batteries
  • Charles V Wall

If you’re feeling really energetic I would recommend walking the length of the Rock to its northern edge where the World War II and Great Siege Tunnels are located. From the Military Heritage Center viewpoint you can see Gibraltar’s town and airport in greater detail – being on the other side of the Rock gives you a completely different perspective so it’s worth visiting even if you don’t go inside the tunnels.

So, now you know how to climb the Rock of Gibraltar! The question is, which route are you going to choose? Or have you already been up the Rock? Let me know in the comments below!

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