Located 7 miles (14 kilometers) west of Tangier, near Cape Spartel, Hercules Cave is one of the area’s top attractions. Discovered in 1906, the cave extends for 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) and is both natural and manmade. It features two openings, one to land and one to sea, with the latter known as the “Map of Africa” for its distinctive shape.
The cave system takes its name from the mythical hero Hercules, who allegedly slept in the cave before one of his 12 legendary labors. It’s been in use since prehistoric times, most recently by the Berbers to make millstones, which helped to enlarge the cave system. You can see still the indentations on the cave walls and ceiling. The “Map of Africa” is believed to have been created by the Phoenicians and is one of the most intriguing aspects of the cave. Don’t forget to take in the wonderful ocean views from inside the cave.
Hercules Cave features on many guided tours, whether half-day or full-day, which typically include nearby Cape Spartel and other top Tangier attractions such as the Kasbah. It’s also possible to visit as part of a shore excursion from Tangier, or even on a day trip from southern Spain.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Hercules Cave is a must-see for first-time visitors to Tangier.
- There are two caves, one that is free and one that charges for entry.
- Be careful of the waves on the nearby beaches, which can be treacherous.
- Full-day tours from southern Spain can last upwards of 10 hours.
How to Get There
The easiest way to visit Hercules Cave is as part of a guided tour. To visit on your own from Tangier, it’s best to take a taxi. There is also one sightseeing bus from Tangier that stops near the caves.
When to Get There
The cave system is open daily, year-round. July and August are the peak season and see the most visitors, including at the nearby beaches. Visit early morning on a weekday during peak season to avoid the crowds. Or visit in the late afternoon, then stay for the sunset at a nearby café.
Legend of Hercules
Legend has it that Hercules rested in this cave before his 11th labor, to obtain golden apples from the garden of Hesperides, located in nearby Lixus. On his way to the garden Hercules had to cross the Atlas Mountains, but instead of doing so, he smashed through them and as a result created the Strait of Gibraltar.