St. Michael's Caves

Nature Reserve Upper Rock

Useful Information

Location: Gibraltar, Nature Reserve Upper Rock.
Open: Upper Rock Nature Reserve, including all attractions: all year daily 9:30-19:00.
Cable Car: all year daily 9:30-17:15 (up), 9:30-17:45 (down).
Fee: Upper Rock Nature Reserve, including all attractions: Adults GBP 7, Children (5-12) GBP 4, Vehicles GBP 1.50. Concessions available.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve, excluding attractions: Adults GBP 2. Concessions available.
Cable Car (return journey): Adults GBP 5.90, Children (5-12) GBP 3.95.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave SubterraneaCave Church, SubterraneaSt. Michael Caves
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: D=62.5 m.
Guided tours:
Bibliography: E P F Rose, M S Rosenbaum: A Field Guide to the Geology of Gibraltar Caves.
E P F Rose, M S Rosenbaum: Royal Engineer Geologists and the Geology of Gibraltar.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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45 AD. first mentioned by the Augustan geographer Pomponius Mela.
1942 a tunnel was being driven into the largest chamber.
1942 discovery of New St. Michael's Cave.


The rock of Gibraltar is honeycombed by natural caves as well as tunnels. Some 150 principal and natural caves have been distinguished to date situated above present day sea-level, and more are known to exist below. St Michael's Caves consists of two caves:

  1. Old St. Michael's Cave has been known since roman times.
  2. New St. Michael's Cave was discovered in 1942 when a tunnel was being driven into the largest chamber of the Old St Michael's Cave.

Old St. Michael's Cave - or Cathedral Cave - was long believed to be bottomless. Maybe this is the origin of the story that Gibraltar was linked to Africa by a subterranean passage - more than 24 km long - under the Straits of Gibraltar.

Old St. Michael's Cave consists of an Upper Hall with 5 connecting passages to a smaller hall. The largest chamber of Old St Michael's Cave is large enough to serve as a concert hall. It makes a unique auditorium for concerts, ballets, drama and presentations.

During World War II the Upper Hall was prepared as an emergency hospital, but was never used as such. In 1942 a tunnel was build to provide reasonable air ventilation, which cut into New St Michael's Cave. In this time kilometers of tunnels and chambers were dug out of the limestone and an underground city, with its own electricity supply, telephone exchanges, frozen meat stores, water distillers, bakery and hospitals was built.

At the far end of the Chamber an old stalagmite became too heavy and fell on its side. In 1972, a slice 45 cm thick was cut, revealing its interior structure. Its growth is clearly indicated during periods of excessive rain by light brown rings and during periods of less rain by dark brown rings. Two thin lines of a crumbly white substance are thought to represent glacial periods. The stalagmite is also translucent in some areas.

New St. Michael's Cave, also called Lower St Michael's Cave, has a lake some 30 meters long and up to 11 meters wide and 6 meters deep. One of its remarkable features are the calcite ledges formed at the lake margin by deposition from the surface of calcium bicarbonate-saturated water. Access into this cave system tends to be hazardous and can only be visited with the assistance of a guide.

Until recently the caves were controlled and looked after by the Royal Engineers. Many prehistoric relics have been found in Gibraltar caves, including the first Neanderthal-type skull.