WWII Tunnels, Gibraltar
The extensive system of tunnels and caverns dug into the Rock of Gibraltar
when the colony was a massive fortress and garrison. Parts of this system have been made accessible for tourists, but only on guided tours. This is easily the most impressive attraction of dark-tourism relevance in Gibraltar!
What there is to see:
This is one of those sites where images say more than a thousand words. So I'll keep this section short and generally refer you to the photo gallery below
When I visited Gibraltar
in April 2015, my wife and I just turned up at the gate and waited for the guide to arrive. When he did it turned out we were the only ones, so we had a private tour, in effect. Cool. The guide was a very pleasant guy resident in Gibraltar but not originally from there or even Britain
, but from Holland
! Still, his spoken English was excellent (with just a bit of that rather endearing Dutch accent, which I happen to quite like) and his knowledge of the site and its history was impeccable too.
We first entered a tunnel that had some flags, historic photos (giving an impression of what the soldiers' underground life was like in these tunnels) and charts that showed the locations of all the tunnels dug into the Rock – a veritable warren of miles upon miles of tunnels, only a small part of which would be accessible on these tours, though. Most remain out of bounds to normal civilians to this day.
Equipped with mandatory hard hats we then moved on, first into a large cavern that was decked out to look like a mock storage depot full of make-believe crates of goods, plus a few dummies in uniforms, as well as a WWII
-era piece of field artillery.
Next came what used to be the underground hospital part, and here rows of bunk beds with mannequin solders standing around smoking or lying bandaged in beds peopled this part. A section of tunnel further on was blocked because of water influx (it was a very rainy day, maybe hence) so we couldn't get close to all the hospital mock-ups.
Carrying on along yet more tunnels, now getting a bit narrower in places, we passed various side passages, water supplies, and a section that was marked WRAF – which stood for women of the RAF
, i.e. it was a separate female section (gender segregation apparently).
Further along yet more long and dank tunnels we passed a few intersections, one funnily named “Clapham Junction” (after the railway interchange of that name in London
Eventually we reached a point were we could step out into the daylight, namely onto a balcony overlooking the airport and the north of Gibraltar
Then we headed back and spent a little more time by the front part of the tunnels for a bit more talk and a look around the various artefacts on display here, including an ancient typewriter, a small field kitchen, some guns as well as all manner of digging tools and some more items.
All in all
, I found this the most fascinating, visually engaging and also entertaining (thanks to the guide) part of my visit to Gibraltar
. Highly recommended. Not to be missed, in fact!
on the northern part of the Upper Rock of Gibraltar
, just north of the iconic Moorish Castle tower.
Access and costs: restricted, by guided tour only, and these should ideally be pre-booked in advance; not cheap but worth it.
Details: To get to the tunnels you first of all need to get an entry ticket for the Nature Reserve that is Upper Rock, and have a comprehensive ticket that includes the various attractions up here. That ticket costs £12. In addition you have to pay £8 for the guided tour. That brings it to a total of £20, which is quite a steep price, but I'd still say it's absolutely worth it. The “Visit Gibraltar” website these days recommends pre-booking guided tours (which can be done by emailing them: naturereserve(at)gibraltar.gov.gi, office hours are Mondays to Fridays 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.).
When I went in April 2015, I just turned up at the gate and waited for a guide to show up to start the tour. As it happened my wife and I were the only takers, so it was in effect a private tour! At busier times, however, you may not be quite so lucky. There are restrictions as to how many people are allowed on the tour, though the website does not specify the exact maximum number. In any case, given that these tours are apparently getting ever more popular it is probably a good idea to book well in advance in any case to avoid disappointment.
Tours run daily between 9 a.m. and 6:15 p.m.
Time required: the guided tours last ca. 40 minutes, but add a little extra time for getting there and for viewing the panels outside the entrance.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
see under Gibraltar
The closest other points of interest are the City Under Siege Exhibition just up the road, and the Military Heritage Centre one stretch of switchback road up from there.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: The tunnel entrance lies within the Nature Reserve that is the Upper Rock of Gibraltar, so it easily combines with all the attractions included in this. The closest is the ancient Moorish Castle just down the road. This is also a very good spot for watching Gibraltar's famous “apes” (they're not actually apes but monkeys, though – Barbary macaques, to be precise).
- WW II Tunnels 01 - entrance
- WW II Tunnels 02 - just inside
- WW II Tunnels 03 - flaunting flags
- WW II Tunnels 04 - miles and miles of tunnels
- WW II Tunnels 05 - cannon
- WW II Tunnels 06 - mock supply stacks
- WW II Tunnels 07 - mock hospital
- WW II Tunnels 08 - dummy patients
- WW II Tunnels 09 - dummy soldiers
- WW II Tunnels 10 - inaccessible due to water influx
- WW II Tunnels 11 - more mock hospital commodification
- WW II Tunnels 12 - cavern
- WW II Tunnels 13 - women were here too
- WW II Tunnels 14 - war years
- WW II Tunnels 15 - deeper into the rock
- WW II Tunnels 16 - deeper still
- WW II Tunnels 17 - old cable hooks
- WW II Tunnels 18 - passageway branching off to the side
- WW II Tunnels 19 - water reservoir
- WW II Tunnels 20 - stairs leading somewhere out of bounds
- WW II Tunnels 21 - crossroads
- WW II Tunnels 22 - junction
- WW II Tunnels 23 - a promise of daylight
- WW II Tunnels 24 - indeed
- WW II Tunnels 25 - names carved into the rock
- WW II Tunnels 26 - Welsh
- WW II Tunnels 27 - view over the airport and cemetery
- WW II Tunnels 28 - heading back
- WW II Tunnels 29 - a hidden corner near the entrance
- WW II Tunnels 30 - with an old typewriter
- WW II Tunnels 31 - storage cavern