How to Plan a Gibraltar Day Trip from Malaga in 2024

One of the great things about visiting Malaga is how easily you can pop over to another country like Gibraltar, a British territory right on the Spanish Peninsula. It’s been on my bucket list for a while because it’s such a fascinating mix of cultures, packed into less than 7 square kilometres—about 59 times smaller than Malaga!

Despite its size, I was pleasantly surprised by how many amazing things there are to do in Gibraltar. I’ve put together all the research and insights from our day trip into a single blog post to help you plan a day trip from Malaga. While it’s tricky to cover everything in one day, this guide should give you a good starting point for what to do and how to get there.

How to get from Malaga to Gibraltar

Driving from Malaga to Gibraltar is the quickest way to get there—it’s about 140 kilometres and should take you around 2 hours. Renting a car definitely works out cheaper than taking a taxi, as you could end up paying anywhere from €110 to €200 just for one way. But, if you can’t or simply don’t feel like driving, no worries—there are other ways to get to Gibraltar too.

You can join a group tour like this one-day tour from Malaga and Costa del Sol to Gibraltar, which seemed like a good deal at about €33 or £28 per person. We almost went for it but decided against it because we were worried it wouldn’t give us enough free time to explore.

Unfortunately, there’s no train service to Gibraltar, but the bus is a solid option. Avanza operates this route and you can catch the bus from Malaga Bus Station, right next to the María Zambrano Train Station. You can check the current schedule on the Avanza website. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes and will cost you between €16-18 one way.

The bus drops you off in La Linea de la Concepción—the last Spanish city before Gibraltar. From there, it’s just a quick 7-minute walk to the border. Walking across is much faster than driving anyway, especially during rush hours when everyone’s heading to or back from work, so it can end up saving you time!

Tips for visiting Gibraltar on a day trip

If you’re heading on a day trip to Gibraltar, there are a few practical things to consider:

  1. Since Gibraltar is a British overseas territory, you’ll need a passport to get in. Non-EU and non-UK visitors might need a visa too – here’s a website where you can check if you need a visa to enter Gibraltar. Also, because of Brexit, expect to pay UK roaming rates for mobile data.
  2. Gibraltar is quite small, and a lot of its space is taken up by the airport, so parking is tight. It’s often easier to leave your car in La Linea de la Concepción and walk across the border. This also tends to make getting through immigration quicker, which can get busy since lots of people commute between Gibraltar and Spain on a daily basis. If you choose to drive, always check with your rental company about cross-border policies.
  3. Remember, you have to walk across the Gibraltar airport runway to enter or leave, which means if a plane’s landing or taking off, you might have to wait up to 30 minutes. Always plan your timings carefully, especially if you have a bus to catch.
  4. While you can use both pounds and euros in Gibraltar (but you will always get your change back in pounds), you’ll get a better deal using pounds because of the exchange rate.
  5. Lastly, if you’re taking the bus, note that the station in La Linea doesn’t have clear signs. For example, our bus didn’t have any Avanza markings and didn’t even mention Malaga on the route board, so it’s a good idea to double-check with the driver to make sure you’re on the right bus. We’d have missed our bus if we hadn’t asked!
Runway of the Gibraltar International Airport

Best things to do in Gibraltar on a day trip from Malaga

1. Take the Gibraltar Cable Car

One of Gibraltar’s highlights is the Rock of Gibraltar, towering 426 meters above the area. If you’re there just for the day, taking the cable car up to the top is your best bet to save time.

The cable car operates daily: from 9:30 am to 7:15 pm in the warmer months and until 5:15 pm from 30th October to the end of March. You’ll find the entrance next to the Alameda Botanical Gardens.

If you book your tickets online ahead of time, you can also catch a complimentary shuttle from the border to the cable car station. As we got to Gibraltar before it opened, we walked the 40 minutes to the lower station to buy tickets directly. Luckily, it wasn’t busy at all, and we bought our tickets without any wait.

There are a few ticket options: a return ticket for £19, a return with Upper Nature Reserve access for £38, or a one-way with Upper Nature Reserve access for £35.50. You might also consider packages that include a dolphin watching trip, which I’ll talk more about in another section.

The ride to the top takes just 6 minutes, offering stunning views over Spain and Gibraltar, and if you visit between November and March, you can also stop at the midway station, known as Apes Den.

2. Explore the Upper Nature Reserve

About 40% of Gibraltar is a nature reserve right on top of the Rock, and it’s pretty special because it’s the only place in Europe where you can see Barbary macaques wandering around freely.

If you’re up for a hike, there are 3 entry points to the reserve: Jews’ Gate, Moorish Castle, and Devil’s Gap, and it costs £19 to get in.

If you come up by cable car, there’s a café and a restaurant at the top station where you can grab a bite with a view, and there’s also an observation deck. You can access this part with just your cable car ticket.

Just a heads up, the weather can switch up super fast – so much so that there’s a special name for the unique cloud that often envelops the Rock: the Levanter! I’ve genuinely never seen anything like it in my life. It can roll in suddenly, covering the Rock in dense fog and making visibility almost zero before clearing up just as quickly.

Rock of Gibraltar partially covered by the clouds, surrounded by water

If you’re keen to explore more past that point, you’ll need a ticket for the Upper Nature Reserve, which gives you access to all the sites and some scenic walking trails.

A panoramic view of Gibraltar from the Upper Nature Reserve
A view of the Gibraltar Strait from the Upper Nature Reserve

Sadly, we couldn’t cover everything in one visit, so here are the sites we chose to see:

St. Michael’s Cave

If you’ve only got time for one thing in the Upper Nature Reserve, St. Michael’s Cave should definitely be it. Nature’s been at work on these limestone caves for millions of years, turning them into a spectacular display of caverns filled with all sorts of uniquely patterned stalactites and stalagmites.

Sharp, detailed stalactites illuminated by white light against the dark ceiling of Saint Michael's Cave in Gibraltar

Over the years, the cave has been wrapped in many interesting urban legends, including one that suggested the Cathedral Cave was bottomless. Others believed there was a secret passage leading all the way to Morocco, through which the Barbary apes first came to Gibraltar. Some even said it was one of Hercules’ pillars that doubled as a gateway to Hades.

There’s also a story about two officers who disappeared in the caves back in 1840, and no trace of them was ever found, which has sparked curiosity, and even fear.

During World War II, they prepared the caves to serve as an emergency hospital. Luckily, they never had to use them. Unfortunately, they did suffer some damage from smoke grenades during rescue and fire exercises, though.

My personal highlight was this rock formation that looked just like an angel – honestly, it was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes!

They have also transformed the Cathedral Cave into an auditorium that can seat up to 400 people, hosting everything from concerts to theatre shows, and even the Miss Gibraltar beauty pageant.

The auditorium inside Saint Michael's Cave in Gibraltar, illuminated by purple and blue lights

Skywalk

If you’re after stunning 360º views across 3 countries and 2 continents (and don’t mind walking across a glass floor to get them!), the Skywalk is the place to go.

The Skywalk is the youngest attraction in the Upper Nature Reserve, opened in 2018 by none other than Mark Hamill – yes, Luke Skywalker himself! I’ve always wanted to try a skywalk, and thankfully, this one wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be. The photos make it look much bigger than it really is, but it’s still quite an impressive experience!

Apes Den

You’ll spot Barbary macaques all over the reserve, but there are a few places where you can expect more ape action than others.

The area next to the top cable car station is a real hotspot for these cheeky monkeys—just watch your belongings as they’re known to snatch anything visible, even entire backpacks! We also saw a monkey make a huge leap onto a girl’s shoulder when it seemed impossibly far away.

Remember, they’re protected animals, so no feeding or touching. They’re usually harmless but can get defensive, especially around their young, and might scratch or bite if they feel threatened. We’ve noticed signs of blood on the ground, but it might have been from hikers injuring themselves, and the apes themselves often scratch a lot, which could also be a reason.

The Apes Den, an open area near the middle station (not an actual den), is another good spot for seeing them. Just note that it’s less accessible during April to October as the cable car doesn’t stop there, so brace yourself for quite a hike.

During our visit, it seemed like all the monkeys were chilling up top because the area was deserted. However, we had to wait out a family of macaques that blocked the stairs and weren’t too happy about us being there, hissing whenever we got too close. It took about 20 minutes for them to move on, which was pretty tense and a bit scary at the time, but now it’s just another funny story to tell.

Windsor Suspension Bridge

We wrapped up our visit to the Nature Reserve with a walk across the Windsor Suspension Bridge. This 70-meter bridge runs across a deep gorge and offers unbeatable views of the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a brilliant spot to snap some photos if you’re up to brave the heights!

A panoramic view of Gibraltar from the Upper Nature Reserve

Just around the corner is the Queen’s Balcony, where Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip once stood and admired the views back in 1954. It was a bit reassuring to see we’re not the only ones who put up plaques for everything 😉

3. Go to the Europa Point lighthouse

If you find yourself with a bit of extra time, consider heading over to the Europa Point lighthouse. It’s right at Gibraltar’s southern tip, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Honestly, there’s not that much to see once you’re out there, but it’s not every day you get to stand on one continent and look at another!

As a Polish person, I was particularly keen to see the Sikorski Memorial there. It commemorates Polish General Władysław Sikorski, who tragically died back in 1943 after his plane crashed into the sea shortly after leaving Gibraltar Airport.

It’s about a 45-minute walk from the cable car station, but a quick bus ride can save you some time and only costs a couple of pounds. A single bus ticket is £1.80 or €2.40, while a return one is £2.50 or €3.30. Just remember, the buses are cash-only and you need to pay the driver with exact change.

4. Go on a dolphin watching tour

One of the coolest things to do in Gibraltar is go on a dolphin watching tour. We couldn’t manage it this time with our packed schedule at the Upper Nature Reserve, but if you can, you should definitely give it a go.

You can add it to your cable car ticket or buy a separate one at the ticket office. It costs £25 just for the tour, £39.50 with a return cable car trip, or £58.50 for a full package that includes the Nature Reserve. I also spotted some cheaper options on Get Your Guide, but I’m not sure if there was any difference.

5. Do some shopping on the Main Street

If you’ve still got some time and energy after all the exploring, Gibraltar is the perfect place for some final retail therapy—there’s no VAT, which means you can grab some seriously good deals on things like alcohol, tobacco, jewellery, and perfumes.

You’ll find all the usual British high street shops like Marks & Spencer, BHS, Next, and Matalan (one of my personal faves!). Sadly, I didn’t have much time to shop and didn’t spot any beauty deals, but I noticed the liquor prices were a steal—just around £10 for a litre of various spirits. We were travelling light with just hand luggage, so I passed on the bargains this time, but it’s definitely something to explore if you can.

Plus, Gibraltar has its own award-winning distillery producing gin, rum, and whisky where you can book a free tasting session. And if you’re into lighter drinks, try some of Gibraltar’s Barbary Beer. We had a round at The Lord Nelson pub in Casemates Square and it was the perfect end to our trip.


And there you have it—my guide on how to plan a day trip to Gibraltar from Malaga! Honestly, I was amazed by how much there is to see and do in Gibraltar and sort of regret not staying overnight. We packed in as much as we could, but I’m already looking forward to going back one day. When I do, I’ll definitely update this guide, so watch this space!

What would you most like to see in Gibraltar?


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