The Caves of Hercules (Les Grottes d’Hercule) are something of a symbol for Tangier, with their strange sea window, shaped like a map of Africa. The name, like Hercules’ legendary founding of Tangier, is purely fanciful, but the caves, 16km outside the city and above the Atlantic beach, make an attractive excursion. If you feel like staying for a few days by the sea, the beach can be a pleasant base, too; outside of July and August only stray groups of visitors share the long surf beaches. Take care with currents, however, which can be very dangerous even near the shore.
Africa’s most northwesterly promontory, Cap Spartel, is a dramatic and fertile point, and was known to the Greeks and Romans as the “Cape of the Vines”. You can visit the lighthouse and sometimes, if the keeper is around, enter and climb it.
To the south of Cap Spartel begins the vast and wild Atlantic, known locally as Robinson Plage. It is broken only by a rocky spit, 5km from the Cape, which is home to the Caves of Hercules. Natural formations, which were occupied in prehistoric times, the caves are most striking for a man-made addition – thousands of disc-shaped erosions created by centuries of quarrying for millstones. There were still people cutting stones here for a living until the 1920s, but by that time their place was beginning to be taken by professional guides and discreet sex hustlers; it must have made an exotic brothel.