Date: Dec, 2014
Location: Sacromonte, Granada, Andalucia, Spain
Sacromonte is located in the valley of Valparaiso, in the city of Granada, and offers great views of the Alhambra, Albaicín, and other landmarks which are all located along the banks of the River Darro.
The area is the home to the Gypsy (or Roma) community and famous for its cave homes which are carved right into the mountain face. Both the English word Gypsy and its Spanish equivalent gitano come from the word Egypt, where Europeans used to think these nomadic people originated. We now know they actually came from India in the 14th century and settled mostly in the Muslim occupied lands in the south (such as the Balkan Peninsula). Under the Muslims, the Roma enjoyed relative tolerance and are traditionally considered good with crafts and animals.
Although the origin of the caves are not known, it is largely attributed to the first settlers on the hills looking to make cheap shelters. Its history as a neighborhood really begins in the 16th century when Muslims and Jews were forced out of their homes in the city after it fell to the Christian Monarchs and began to make their homes beyond the city walls. As the community thrived and cave owners became richer and more affluent, they expanded outwards adding additional rooms, patios, and entry ways to the outside front of the caves. Today, most of the caves along the main streets look like they could be regular houses from the outside.
Most of the caves are privately owned; however, the main street, Camino del Sacromonte, is lined with caves primed for tourists, having been converted to restaurants, gift shops, and Flamenco studios. Strolling around here and on the alleys that run above and below is specially rewarding during sunset.
Also accessible from Camino del Sacromonte is the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte (The Cave Museum) which is a collection of restored cave houses that serve as a living history museum. You can walk into the caves and learn what life would have been like for people who started this community.
Still curious about Sacromonte? Check out these posts:
- Rick Steves: Granada’s Sacromonte District
- Travel Tales: The Gypsy Caves of Sacromonte, Granada
- Would You Live Like This? Meet Spain’s Nomadic Cave Gypsies