Hike the Rock of Gibraltar or Calpe Rock?

You probably have heard of the Rock of Gibraltar, but have you ever heard of “Mini Gibraltar”? Located about 7 or 8 hours northeast of Gibraltar in Spain is a small town West of Madrid called Calpe. It is home to a smaller but equally beautiful limestone rock known better as Peñón de Ifach. Some people refer to this rock as “Mini Gibraltar” for its visual and composition similarities to Gibraltar. It is free and open to the public during the daylight. It is a shorter, easier hike than the famous rock of Gibraltar. Once you have learned this rock you many have trouble deciding if you should hike the rock of Gibraltar of Calpe rock!

Both Peñón de Ifach and the rock of Gibraltar are well maintained nature preserves which are naturally enjoyed by numerous tourists annually. Many of whom take the opportunity to hike to the top of these monolithic limestone wonders!

How to Hike up a Rock

If you have never hiked up a rock, I am here to tell you that it is different from hiking up a mountain. Rocks cannot sustain the same kind of plant life as mountains because there is a lack of soil. Rocks have some other unique vegetation some that is on the verge of extinction. So it is important to note you should avoid walking over the few plants on the rock. The lack of soil for plants to take roots also means you will not have as much shade to protect you from the elements. So my first tip if you are going to hike the rock of Gibraltar or the Calpe rock is to make sure you have your reef friendly sunscreen! My second tip either head out early in the morning, or later in the evening so you can avoid the hottest times of the day.

It is also essential to wear proper foot attire. Although both of these rocks are well maintained for the public there are narrower parts of the paths and some areas can be difficult to find your footing. Be smart and wear the right kind of shoes! I also recommend carrying some water with you on either hike, but especially if you decide to embark on an expedition up the rock of Gibraltar. CJ and I like to carry a small backpack whenever we hike with water and snacks so keep us going! Choosing snacks high in protein like nuts helps us sustain our energy, but as I mentioned this is not as important if you are choosing to hike up Peñón de Ifach

Landscape Photography of Rock of Calp
The first impression of Calpe Rock.

Hiking Peñón de Ifach

Peñón de Ifach is one of the smallest nature preserves in all of Europe, but still manages to receive roughly 100,000 visitors each year. It sits at 332 meters above sea level and covers about half a mile of land. It is not difficult to find the entrance using the Google Maps App. There was a very small parking lot of all gravel that was empty when we arrived at sunrise. As you enter the the rock you will notice a turnstile which serves to record the number of visitors. If you care to wander around the buildings at the entrance of the park you will find some interesting facts about the rock, the flora and the area. I also think it is important to note they had relatively clean bathrooms!

The turnstile you will use to enter the hiking trails on Peñón de Ifach.

We hiked to the top and it took us roughly two hours for a round trip. There is a tunnel as you start to approach the steeper part of the rock. Just after the tunnel you come to a fork where you have two paths to choose from. If you want an easy stroll we recommend you only go on the one called “Mirador de Carabiners”. This path leads you to a beautiful view of the ocean and is fairly flat. The peak of the rock is up the other path labeled “Cim d’Ifac”. As you get closer to the top of the rock there are signs that you are approaching a dangerous area. Use the ropes and chains as guides while you hike and watch your step during this area. Red dots are used as trail markings to help guide you on your hike.

View from the bottom of the tunnel on the Calpe Rock.
The sign you will see at the fork where you can choose to climb toward the peak or not.
Gibraltar Rock Spain Border Entrance
The Rock of Gibraltar from the Spain Border Entrance.

Hiking the Rock of Gibraltar

If you are a more serious hiker or you have more time to burn the rock of Gibraltar might be the better choice for you. The town of Gibraltar has a much larger tourism industry and receives approximately 12 million visitors each year. Gibraltar is a territory of the United Kingdom so English is the primary language. The town is very lovely to explore and there are a ton of very cute shops, but our main purpose was to hike to the top of the rock of Gibraltar. This rock holds a ton of significance for it’s strategic military positioning at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea. There are still old war batteries on the rock so you can see and learn about some of its historical importance.

Mediterranean Steps with Elaine on Gibraltar Rock
Elaine on the Mediterranean Steps!

The Rock of Gibraltar juts out into the Straight of Gibraltar allowing the controlling country to monitor all boats coming and going from the Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea. It is 426 meters above sea level and stretches across about 3 miles. There are lots of trails and tunnels all around this rock. It could have kept us busy for three days! We spent about 5 or 6 hours hiking around the Rock of Gibraltar trying to see as much as we could. You can stop at the shop on the rock if you want some ice cream! But if you do, beware the monkeys may try take it from you! There is a fee (for us it was 6 Euros or 5 pounds per person) to get the upper part of the preserve, but this fee is well worth it.

Gibraltar Rock Monkeys and Line of Taxis
Barbary macaques groom themselves above a line of taxis.

You can get to the top several ways including a cable car, taxi, bus or hike like we did. CJ and I seek out amazing views and the view from the top of the rock are worth the effort. Supposedly you can see both Spain and Morocco from the top, we were not this lucky for our visit.

Gibraltar Rock Cable Car
The cable car on the Rock of Gibraltar.

Should you hike Calpe Rock or the Rock of Gibraltar?

My first recommendation would be to see both of these rocks! We made a point of incorporating them both into our road through Spain. But that may not be possible for you so I have provided a list comparison of “Mini Gibraltar” and the Rock of Gibraltar. So if you need to choose one then these are the things I would considers:

  • Time: If you have a time constraint Peñón de Ifach is definitely the shorter hike.
  • Physical Fitness: You can get tot he top of Gibraltar by simply hoping in a car so if you are not able to hike this is my best recommendation. If you are mildly in shape then you will enjoy hiking either, but may choose not to go to the peak of Peñón de Ifach because it does get tricky toward the top as you climb over rocks. The Rock of Gibraltar has much smoother trails.
  • Fear of Animals: Definitely do not go to the Rock of Gibraltar! The monkeys are very much there and they sneak up on you.
  • Views: I would say both rocks have fantastic views and this should not be the deciding factor for your trip!
Atlantic Ocean side view from on top of the Rock of Gibraltar.

Let’s Chat:

  • Have you ever been on a hike on the Rock of Gibraltar or Calpe Rock?
  • Do you like adventure hikes or easy hikes?
  • What other rocks have you heard about for hiking?
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Let me know your thoughts