'About Gibraltar'

INTRODUCTION:

There's no getting away from it, Gibraltar is unique. Unique in an historic sense, unique in terms of geographical location and unique in what it can offer the holidaymaker. An historical anomaly, Gibraltar is not quite Spanish, not quite English but every bit Gibraltarian. Down the years, Gibraltar has been at the heart of one of the most high profile territorial struggles of modern times which has shaped what it is today. What remains is a thoroughly charming, quirky but modern chunk of Britain in the sunshine.

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Why Gibraltar?

The question should rather be why not Gibraltar?! It is impossible to give an exhaustive list but here are some of the reasons (in no particular order) that we think will make you seriously consider this little Mediterranean gem:

1. Location

Gibraltar is only two and a half hours flying time from the UK. Yes, that's right - guaranteed sunshine which takes less time to get to than some people's commute!

2. Climate

Sunshine comes as standard (well, almost). Located at the southernmost tip of Spain, Gibraltar enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate, delightfully tempered by the North African breezes in the summertime. Even winters remain pleasantly warm allowing visitors the chance to escape the long, cold, dark winters in the UK.

3. Familiarity

It really is a little piece of Britain in the sun. More British than many parts of Britain in many respects, it retains some of the more traditional aspects of British life that have long since disappeared or have been forgotten on these shores. Red telephone boxes, "bobbies" on the beat, fish and chips, Sunday roasts and shopping with your hard earned pounds are just a few of the things that will make you feel at home the moment you step off of that short flight.

4. Shopping

Forget the bureau de change, forget Euros and queueing at strange looking ATMs, in Gibraltar all you need do is open your wallet or purse and pull out your pounds sterling. The currency in Gibraltar is the Gibraltar Pound which is on a par with sterling, meaning that you don't have to scratch your head trying to work out complicated exchange rates and prices. What you see is what you get - and the fact is that you get a lot more in Gibraltar due to its tax free status. Shopping is made easier still by the fact that many of the familiar UK high street brands can be found in Gibraltar - M&S has never been cheaper! Whether you are after great value electronics, perfumes, clothing or just the obligatory duty free cigarettes and alcohol, you will almost certainly what you are looking for cheaper in Gibraltar than just about anywhere else in Europe.

5. History

Gibraltar enjoys a unique position standing as it does at the entrance of the Mediterranean. Believed to be one of the ancient "Pillars of Hercules" (the other being on the North African side), it has stood guard over the Mediterranean for millennia. It is rich in history and influences and has been touched by just about every civilisation down the ages. Nowadays it is one of the few surviving places from the British Empire which is what makes it fiercely and overwhelmingly proud to be British. But the British influence is merely the tip of the iceberg. Known to the invading moors as Jebel Tarik in 711AD (after the general tarik ibn Ziyad), Gibraltar was a Muslim fortress for almost 400 years, ended only in 1309 when the Spanish re-took the rock. The tug of war did not stop there though as the Dutch and English captured Gibraltar in 1704, officially becoming part of the British Empire in 1713 when the Spanish ceded control to Britain. Since becoming British, Gibraltar has seen some turbulent times including a ringside seat to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 which was fought nearby in the straits. Indeed, Admiral Lord Nelson's body was taken to the Trafalgar Cemetery in Gibraltar which tourists can still visit today.

6. Quirkiness

Being quintessentially and traditionally British is just one of the many quirks that make a trip to Gibraltar both fascinating and rewarding. Even as you land in Gibraltar, you will experience one of the things that makes Gibraltar unique - the incredibly short and precarious runway! Originally built during the Second World War, the runway literally goes through the middle of the road connecting Spain to Gibraltar! The traffic literally grinds to a halt when a plane is taking off or landing. We have spoken at length about the Gibraltar's unique mix of Spanish and British culture and influences but this runs much deeper in the form of the local dialect "Llanito". Although English is the first language that most people will speak, the hybrid language of Llanito is also widely spoken. A blend of British English and Andalusian Spabish, it is just another quirk that sets Gibraltar out from the rest.

What to See and Do

Once you've had the obligatory top up of vitamin D in the warm Gibraltar sunshine, you will be spoilt for choice deciding what to do in Gibraltar. Here we will try to give you some of our top picks to make your decision making process that bit easier.

1. Head to the beach

You probably came for the warmth and 300 days of sunshine and thus the pristine white sandy beaches at Catalan Bay, Sandy Bay and Eastern Beach are probably the best places to head for to experience the Gibraltar sunshine at its best and to experience the warm, clear Mediterranean Sea. At Catalan Bay, tourist can make use of the wealth of activities on offer including para-sailing, jet-skiing and sailing which take place most of the year.

2. Hit the shops

As we mentioned above, shopping is not only a reason to come to Gibraltar in the first place, it is also a pastime in its own right. From clothes to jewellery to electronics and photography equipment, Gibraltar's shopping will feel very familiar in that you will be spending pounds sterling shopping at the likes of Marks and Spencers, BHS, Morrisons and Dorothy Perkins. However, the big difference is the price. As a tax haven, Gibraltar offers some of the cheapest prices in Europe. If you are looking for duty free cigarettes and alcohol, we recommend that you buy your tobacco products downtown and your alcohol at the airport. Remember, although you can buy as much as alcohol as you want downtown, you won't get it past customs and excise at the airport - always be sure to check the allowance.

3. Relax and unwind

This may seem an obvious thing to say when you are on holiday but there is nowhere quite like Gibraltar to do this. Stop off at an English pub and enjoy a pie and a pint whilst watching the world go by or pop in to Latino's Bar in Casemate Square where you will find no end of locals eager to help you plan your Gibraltar itinerary!

4. Explore the Rock

The Rock of Gibraltar isn't just there for the obligatory photo opportunities. It is a destination in its own right. Whether you choose to explore the miles of tunnels carved out of the Jurassic limestone inside the rock (the combined length of tunnels in Gibraltar is greater than its entire road network!) or whether you prefer to take the cable car to the dizzying heights at the top (a great place for photo opportunities from a completely different perspective), the Rock is a "must do" during your stay in Gibraltar. For lovers of history, the Great Siege Tunnels of WW2 are a fascinating look at the strategic importance of Gibraltar to the British during WW2.

5. Enjoy the natural environment

Its unique geography and location mean that you have a plethora of nature's wonders to experience in Gibraltar. You will of course already be familiar with the Barbary Apes who are synonymous with Gibraltar. Cute and scary in equal measure, Gibraltar would not be Gibraltar without them. Great for photos, these locals can, however, be a pest and have been known to steal things from hotel balconies or from unsuspecting passers-by. As with any wild animal, we recommend that you practice caution when dealing with them. For some nature of the floral variety, why not head to the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens at The Alameda. With its huge variety of local and more exotic plants, every season brings something special to see. And if you are an animal lover, you will love the reptiles, birds, bats, butterflies and moths and other creepy-crawlies that are on show here! The Upper Rock Nature Reserve is another great place to see some of Gibraltar's natural wonders and this is often visited in conjunction with the Great Siege Tunnels. St. Michaels' Cave is another must-see tourist natural wonder of Gibraltar. It has a naturally formed auditorium at its heart known as the Cathedral Cave due to the resemblance of a cathedral organ made by the stalagmites and stalactites that adorn the chamber. Nearby is Leonora's Cave which is said by some to be a tunnel link stretching all the way to North Africa - allegedly how the apes made it to Gibraltar! The cave system is a great place to explore year-round but particularly in summer as the cave temperature remains cool throughout the year. For something completely different but equally Gibraltarian, why not take a Dolphin Safari where you have a 99% guarantee to see these amazing and friendly creatures whatever time of the year that you visit.

6. Excursions

Due to its location, Gibraltar is an ideal destination to use a base for visiting other places in the region. Southern Spain is an obvious choice of course, given its proximity and road links. Explore the Costa Del Sol, enjoy some true Andalusian cuisine or enjoy the nightlife in Marbella - all very accessible from your base in Gibraltar. For the more adventurous, a trip to Tangiers in Morocco is a must. Just 18 miles away from Gibraltar, Tangiers is easily accessible by a short ferry ride from nearby Tarifa. Tangiers is Moroccan but has a rich and fascinating history of its very own. Explore the souks, haggle for bargains and enjoy the architecture and warmth of the locals that attracted so many artists and writers to Tangiers in the 50s and 60s. Tours can be booked before departure or locally via your hotel. If you are staying for longer and looking to go further afield, Malaga, Seville, the Alhambra at Granada and even the Sahara are all possibilities worth considering. Whatever takes you to Gibraltar, one thing is for sure you won't want to leave. For more information or inspiration, why not call and speak to our dedicated sales teams who have years or experience of dealing with the fascinating and unique destination.