Along the most northwestern tip of the African continent is an intriguing cave complex steeped in myths and legends. According to the lore, it was even visited by one of Roman mythology’s most famous heroes.
According to the myth, Hercules (adapted from the Greek Heracles) slept here on his way to steal three golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. Stealing the apples, which were believed to confer immortality, was the 11th of the “12 Labors of Hercules.” According to the ancient writers, the garden was located in nearby Lixus (the current city of Larache at the Atlantic coast).
Another story goes that the cave is the one end of a 15-mile-long (24 kilometers) tunnel between Morocco and Spain. A popular folktale is that the famous macaque monkeys at the rock of Gibraltar came from Africa this way.
You won’t find Hercules or monkeys within the caves, but they’re worth exploring nonetheless. The complex has two openings. The one that faces the sea resembles the shape of Africa, and is said to have been created by the Phoenicians. The opening that faces land was created by the local Berbers, who cut their stones from the rock.
The caves are close to the Cap Spartel lighthouse that was built between 1861 and 1864 by an international coalition (including the United States, France, Spain, and Morocco) and marks the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Know Before You Go
The Caves of Hercules are located at Cape Spartel, the most northwestern point of mainland Africa, just under nine miles (14 kilometers) west of Tangier. The cave is open to the public and be reached easily following national road S701.