Caves of Hercules in Morocco
May 21, 2020
One of the interesting sites that we visited during our tour of Tangier, Morocco, was the Caves of Hercules (Grottes d’Hercule). Although the cave itself isn’t particularly fascinating compared to many other caves we have explored, its history makes it worth taking time to visit. It is located on the coast of the Strait of Gibralter and the drive from Tangier to Cape Spartel where the cave sits on the beach is quite beautiful. The cave is partially natural and partially man-made as the Berber people cut stone from the walls of the cave to use to make millstones.
There are two openings to the cave, one from the sea and one from land, but the one from one land is the actual entrance to the cave. The opening to the sea was believed to have been carved by the Phoenicians and when viewed from the sea is in the shape of Africa. There are a couple of interesting legends associated with the cave. First is the belief that Hercules, the Roman god, stayed and slept in the cave during the 11th of his 12 labours that were given to him by King Eurystheus of Tiryns. This myth is obviously the source of the current name of the cave complex. Perhaps even more interesting is the legend that the cave was believed to be the entrance of a tunnel underneath the Strait of Gibralter that led to St. Michael’s Cave in Gibraltar. That same legend has the famous Barbary Macaque Monkeys that inhabit Gibraltar having used this tunnel to get from Africa to Europe.
The Africa shaped opening, carved walls, and fascinating legends make this a worthwhile stop when visiting Tangier, Morocco. We also stopped at the Cape Spartel Lighthouse to have a snack and enjoy the amazing views. We also rode camels on the beach nearby, but that was very touristy. The Caves of Hercules remains one of our favorite memories of our tour in Morocco.