Caves / Tunnels, Gibraltar
With nearly a million visitors a year, St. Michael’s Cave is one of the most popular attractions in Gibraltar, having fascinated guests since Roman times"
It is situated some 300 metres above sea level and is arguably one of the most spectacular natural grottoes in Europe. Reputed to be bottomless, or linked to Africa by a subterranean passage over 15 miles (24 Km) long under the Strait of Gibraltar, the cave has been the subject of myths and stories throughout the centuries.
The cave consists of an Upper Hall with 5 connecting passages and rocks between 40ft (12.2m) and 150ft (45.7m) to a smaller hall. Beyond this, a series of narrow halls leads to a further succession of chambers, reaching depths of some 250ft (62.5m) below the entrance. During World War II the cave was prepared as an emergency hospital, but was never used as such.
Full of stalactites and stalagmites, this is the largest cave in Gibraltar. It was used as a hospital during World War II and today hosts concerts and fashion shows. The cave is lit up in places and was fun to explore. It was only spoilt by the concrete floor and seating in the Upper St Michael's Cave which gave it an unatural feel.
The network of limestone caves is extensive and our tour included entry. We walked through several caves which were typical of limestone caves. The lighting highlighted the beauty of the formations.
The main caves had pathways however you had to be aware of where you were walking as the path contained many twists and turns, sometimes a little dark and there were steps.
The caves are located on the Upper Rock approximately 300 metres above sea level. The caves are estimated as being thousands of years old and in 1974 proof that the caves were know to prehistoric man was confirmed through the finding of art on the cave walls.
The great siege tunnel is about 60 kilometers long. Excavated by the British army during the Great siege of 1779-83, these tunnels form part of what is arguably the most impressive defence system anywhere.
You will be able to visit only one part of the tunnel. It is worth the visit. Take the time to think about the battles when in the tunnel. It will give a totally other point of view!
The tradition say that this cave has no bottom and that it communicates with Africa. In reality this cave is 62 kilometers deep.
Situated at a hight of approximately 300 meters above sea level, this is one of Europe's most dramatic natural grottoes. A new sound and light system has been installed that dramatically enhances the cave's natural features.
You will see some huge Stalactites and stalagmites.
Interesting but not recommended for people who are sacred in dark places.
St. Michael’s Cave is the best-known and by far the most visited among all the caves in the rock of Gibraltar. It is the place where Neanderthal skulls were found and has been mentioned several times in ancient documents. During WWII, it was turned into a hospital, but was never in use. There are legends that there is a tunnel leading to northern Africa which was once the way the Barbary apes came to Gibraltar. In the ancient world, it was even said that it is the entrance to the Hades, the underworld of greek mythology. Now, it is not only a tourist attraction, but also a concert hall. The acoustics must be phenomenal there. Unfortunately, it is a natural hall which contains a lot of water leaks too – it can get really wet during a concert. The main cave, called cathedral cave, is open for visitors. The lower caves, which are connected through tunnels, can only be visited on appointment and with a guide. For that, please buy your ticket at least three days in advance from the tourist information. The normal entrance to St. Michael’s cave is included in the nature reserve combination ticket which also includes the 100 ton gun, Nelson’s Anchorage, the Great Siege Tunnels, the Moorish Castle and the City under Siege exhibition.
Gibraltar has experienced several sieges in all ears of history, but the best known are those between 1704 and 1783, including the 14th and last siege (1779-1783): “The Great Siege”. It was at that time that the British built the military structures into the northern part of the rock to defend it from attacking spanish forces. Some dozen miles of tunnels were blasted into the rock. It became a full-working fort, including a military hospital, rooms for ammunition storage and of course several cannon holes to attack the Spanish troops. The upper galleries of this tunnel system can be visited under the name “Great Siege tunnels”. They are included in the nature reserve combination ticket which is also valid for St. Michael’s Caves, the Moorish Castle, Nelson’s Anchorage, the 100 ton gun, the City under Siege exhibition and the neighbouring Military Heritage center.
“City under Siege” is an exhibition about how the city looked like during the time of the Great Siege (1783). It focuses on military life and is located in former 18th century military buildings. You are allowed to walk along the ruins and read about how goods were distributed in this time and what soldiers and war prisoners did. The open air exhibition is nothing I would mention on its own, but as it is located close to ther places, it is worth a visit. Indeed, you can visit many of the on a combination ticket. This ticket is valid for St. Michael’s Caves, the Moorish Castle, the Great Siege Tunnels, the Military Heritage Center, Nelson’s Anchorage, the 100 ton gun and of course the City under Siege exhibition. The City under Siege exhibition was the only place where nobody cared of showing a ticket...
Next stop on our trip was the fantastic St. Michael's Cave which is located on the Upper Rock 300 meters above sea-level. It was amazing, it just took my breath away. The stalagmites were awesome and had colourful lights which shone on them making them even more beautiful and mysterious. It was like walking into a fairytale and the music made it even more impressive.
There is a scull in the cave, which startled us a bit with a sign saying "The first visitor". The scull is a copy of a scull which was excavated from Forbe's quarry in 1848. A Neolithic bowl was discovered here in 1974, which proves that prehistoric man knew of St. Michael's Cave, and maybe the Neanderthals were the first to wander into the caves as 2 Neanderthals sculls have been found on Gibraltar. Imagine that! This makes St. Michael's Cave even more impressive.
There is a concert hall in the caves, originally prepared to be used as a hospital during WW2. It was never used and was changed into an auditorium for concerts and ballets.
The admission fee was included in the price of the tour.
If you've got astma take your medicine before you enter the caves. I didn't and even though we only stayed inside the caves for maybe 20 minutes or so I started having difficulty breathing. But it was so worth it!
Don't miss out on visiting the caves, they are fantastic.
After obtaining some Gibraltar pound notes from a bank ATM, we continued our walk beneath and into the defensive fortifications protecting the north end of Gibraltar where it links to Spain. It was quite interesting to enter the Landport Tunnel leading into the old town itself. This tunnel was first built by the Spaniards in the late 1500s but, after being destroyed during the struggles for control of Gibraltar, the present version was rebuilt by the British in 1729. It has multiple doors and defenses to protect the city from attack. In the walk leading up to Landport Tunnel we also passed beneath the Tower of Homage, part of an old Moorish castle on the ridge above (3rd photo), dating from about 1333. It now serves as the local prison! Gibraltar is also famous for the 50-km network of tunnels carved into this limestone rock over the years to provide shelter for defending forces, ammunition and water storage as well as places for artillery to rain fire down on attackers. The 4th photo shows four openings in the rock wall above the entrance to Landport, from which guns could fire upon any attacking force.
The fact that Gibraltar was lost to the British in 1713 did not sit well with Spain and they tried to regain control of it with a short siege in 1727. That did not work so they made another attempt during the American Revolution, during which both Spain and France started a siege of the 7000-man garrison that lasted for four years (1779-1803) before they finally gave up. Even in relatively recent years Spain has not been happy with the situation, with the land border being completely closed from 1969-1985.
Within the St Michaels caves is the Cathedral Cave which is the largest. The cave was though of once to be bottomless, it offers natural acoustic properties and because of that a concrete stage and seating for 100 has been built. The venue has held shows and concerts as well as the annual Miss Gibraltar pageant. All varieties of music has put the natural audio attributes
The caves of St Michael are made up of a network of some 140 limestone caves. One of the largest is St Michaels Cave which is open to the public. There is a legend which says that St Michaels Cave actually connects through a secret passage through to Africa under the sea. The cave is full of stalagmite and stalactite formations.
You will see this on the Rock tour. It is 300m above sea level very nice. I like the fact that they give concerts in there. The sound and lighting system is cool too. A must see. There is also a lower part which has a underground lake and different types of stalagmites and stalactites which I like.
During the Second World War St. Michaels Cave was being blasted to make a Hospital, the blasting resulting in a lower cave being found. Lower St. Michael Cave has four main chambers with amazing stalagmites and stalactites. There is also a lake which has a depth of between 1.20 m to 6m. Lower St. Michael Cave can only be visited with a guide in groups of 6 to 15, you would have to pre-book. There is a bit of climbing and abseiling involved but I must say it was not too difficult. Also at the lake you have to walk by a small ledge you cannot even put your whole foot in, and so run the risk of falling into the lake. The guide recommends that you leave your camera before the lake just in case you fall in the lake. You do get a bit wet and dirty, so take old clothes and shoes with a good grip, preferably trekking boots. You will not need a torch as the cave is illuminated, and safety hats are provided. This tour would not be suitable for small children or persons with claustrophobia. I paid £8 for the tour which lasted around 2.5 hours. Do not confuse Lower St. Michael Cave with the more known and accessible St. Michaels Cave.
This is a very interesting place. But there's something wrong in web information:
"Every time the Spanish attacked, the British pounded them with cannons that the Spansih couldn't even see, never mind attack".
This is not possible.
The last war against Spain finished some weeks after the first tunnel was opened.
No pounding was possible from this place.