Cape Spartel, the Lesser-Known Counterpart of the Cape of Good Hope

Cape Spartel's rugged coastline and lighthouse

photography by: Omri Westmark

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The northwesternmost point of the African continent, Cape Spartel straddles the border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, making it one of Tangier’s most scenic locations. While this verdant promontory is far eclipsed by its more famous counterpart in South Africa, it is by no means a less worthy place to explore. In fact, given its relatively modest number of annual tourists, Cape Spartel boasts a great deal of unspoiled nature and authenticity, as well as a refreshing respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.

History and Basic Info

Nestled about 14 kilometers away from downtown Tangier, Cape Spartel serves as the meeting point between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In contrary to the common belief, the cape is not the northmost point of Africa, a title that belongs to Ras ben Sakka in Tunisia, but rather the continent’s northwesternmost tip. At 326 meters (1000 feet) above sea level, the promontory overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar, providing a distant glimpse of Spain’s southern coastline, including Gibraltar’s famous rock.


Over the centuries, the nearby waters witnessed countless maritime battles between world powers. Perhaps the most notable of which was the Battle of Cape Spartel, where the British navy engaged in an intense fighting with dozens of French and Spanish vessels as it sought to break the Great Siege of Gibraltar and resupply the coveted colony with basic commodities.

Notable Places

Awash with scores of interesting places to explore in and around, the cape encompasses a vast area of hilly terrain along a narrow sliver of rugged coastline. Probably the single most famous site across the area is the cape’s lighthouse. Constructed in 1864, it was one of Morocco’s first lighthouses, erected in response to the growing number of fatal cases where merchant ships were lost in the surrounding choppy waters.


The 30-meter-tall lighthouse is decorated with Moroccan-style ornaments, which coupled with its scenic location, makes it a recognizable landmark from afar. Unfortunately, the building is not always open for visitors, but it can still be well-appreciated from the adjacent Hespérides Garden (requires an admission fee upon entrance).


Half a kilometer downhill lies the iconic sign that indicates where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. The wooden mark sits atop a porch from where one can see for himself the imaginary border between the two bodies of water.


The cape’s peak, otherwise known as Jebel Kebir, is topped by the Borj Spartel tower. While not an eye-catching monument by its own right, the tower is steeped in pristine nature that can be explored via the many hiking trails around. As you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views that stretch up to Spain.


Located slightly south of Cape Spartel is a string of golden beaches and the mystical Hercules Caves, known for their Africa-shaped natural window as well as their many associated fables.

Alternative Trails

As it turns out, alongside the cape’s more famous sites are also a couple of hideaways, skipped by the vast majority of travelers who visit the area. Tucked away amid the cliff’s lush shrubbery and trees is Slouquia viewpoint. This northeastern corner of the cape offers a somewhat closer glimpse of the strait and the Spanish coast. Nevertheless, its true appeal are the hordes of Barbary macaques who roam around, only a few kilometers away from their more famous counterparts in Gibraltar. To access the secluded observatory, take the Agla route that branches off the main parking lot.


Last but not least is a rustic trail that follows the cape’s rugged coastline. Unlike the many paved pathways that traverse the area, this narrow track takes hikers through the promontory’s hilly shore, where they can witness a dozen or so rock formations that dramatically perch amid the battering waves. In many cases, those often-steep monoliths are used by local intrepid fishermen as a fishing platform. Along the trails are also plenty of spots, where ocean gazers can sit calmly and enjoy the infinite tranquility. The trail is accessible from a sea balcony, situated right next to a giant boulder.