Gibraltar

The Rock crouches over the sea like an ancient stone beast, looking Sphinx-like to Africa. Beneath the white cliffs of this natural fortress grows a profusion of palm, pine, and cypress. No fewer than 600 varieties of flowers thrive here, some not found anywhere else on Earth. Gibraltar’s stunning setting is matched by its history – five countries have battled for 13 centuries to control the passage between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The result made for a cultural melting pot. Veiled Moroccan women in caftans and vacationing Englishmen and Spaniards stroll along the narrow, steep lanes. The locals revert to a liquid Spanish when talking among themselves. And visitors to a 15th-century cathedral pass through a blue-tiled courtyard, once part of a 13th-century mosque.

Helmeted bobbies, pillar-boxes and pubs make for a bit of Britain in the Mediterranean. Gibraltar is a fascinating place, from its caves and batteries to the Barbary apes gamboling on the slopes of the Rock.