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Cape Spartel, Morocco

Caves of Hercules, Camels and a Lighthouse

Located about 14 kilometers west of the city of Tangier, Morocco, lies the famous Cave of Hercules, which is a fascinating archaeological cave and the most North Western point of mainland Africa. The cave has two openings. The one that faces the Mediterranean Sea resembles the shape of Africa. It is said to have been created by the Phoenicians, while other stories claim it was carved by the waves. I found the shape so interesting and love that it resembles Africa. The opening facing the land was carved by local Berbers, who cut their millstones from the rock. You can still see many indentations on the cave walls and ceiling.

Legend says Hercules, one of the most famous heroes of the Greek mythology, parted the continents Africa and Europe with his hands, forming the Strait of Gibraltar. He later rested and slept in a cave off the cost of Africa before he went on with his adventures.

The cave is free to enter and to explore on your own, but there were also guided tours available. We did not have a tour guide and it was lots of fun.  The cave system is open daily, year-round. July and August are the peak season and have the most visitors, including at the nearby beaches. 

There are so many myths and stories about the caves, which was definitely my favorite part and made it feel like we were visiting inside a magical story book. It was also a great way to get the kids interested about it. Climbing any kind of rock and visiting a cave, is a happy place for my boys, but adding the stores, made it even better and more adventurous. We still talked about the caves and stories days later…

According to one of the myth and legends, Hercules slept in the caves on his way to steal three golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. He had to fulfill 12 tasks in total and stealing the apples, which were believed to gave immortal life to anyone who ate them, was the 11th of the “12 Labors of Hercules.” The garden of Hesperides was located near the Atlas mountains in North Africa. When Hercules was on his way to the garden he found he had to cross these mountains. Because his way was blocked, Hercules smashed through the mountain with superhuman powers, splitting its rocky face in half and separating Europe and Africa. This was how the Strait of Gibraltar was born and the reminders of this act can be found in the Rock of Gibraltar and the Jebel Musa, east of Tangier.

We loved the stories so much that we ordered several books about the Greek mythology for kids afterwards.

Discovered in 1906, the cave extends for 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) and is both natural and man-made. 

Another story about the Cave of Hercules was that it is the one end of a 15-mile-long (24 kilometers) tunnel between Morocco and Spain. People say this is how the macaques who live at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar made their way from Africa. Click here to see our adventure with the monkeys in Gibraltar:

Gibraltar – Away we wander and discover the world… (myfamilytraveladventures.com)

The pictures are a little dark with the light coming through the opening mirroring the shape of Africa. This was the place with most of the tourists and the highlight for most people. I still think the best part is the story about the cave.

We didn’t find Hercules or monkeys at the caves, but they’re worth exploring nonetheless. And the stories make it even more exciting. Again its my favorite part…

After visiting the caves, we continued to drive to Cape Cartel to see the lighthouse. We also drove by a few camels sitting with their babies. They were so cute and of course we had to stop. 

Cape Spartel is a promontory in Morocco about 1,000 feet above sea level at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, about 15 min drive West of Tangier.  It is where the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean! 

The Spartel lighthouse that was built in the 1860s by an international coalition (including the USA, France, Spain, and Morocco) in order to mark the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar.

There also lots of tour companies that offer half or full day tours of the caves, the lighthouse and some other places as a package.