Hundreds of Gypsies once lived on the “Holy Mountain” on the outskirts of Granada above the Albaicín. The mountain was named for the Christians martyred here and for its long-ago role as a pilgrimage site. Many of the caves were heavily damaged by rain in 1962, forcing most occupants to seek shelter elsewhere. Nearly all the Gypsies remaining are in one way or another involved with tourism. (Some don’t even live here—they commute from modern apartments in the city.)
You can walk uphill, but you might want to save time by taking a bus or taxi, and you should definitely use a bus or taxi after dark. The best way to see some of the caves and to actually learn something about Gypsy Granada is to visit the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, Barranco de los Negros (tel. 95-821-51-20; www.sacromontegranada.com). This interpretation center is a great source of Roma (Gypsy) pride. Several caves are shown as lodgings while others are set up as studios for traditional weaving, pottery, basketry, and metalwork. The museum is open mid-March to mid-October daily 10am to 8pm, mid-October to mid-March daily 10am to 6pm. Admission is 5€, take bus 35 to get here.
In the evenings, many caves become performance venues for the Granada Gypsy flamenco style known as zambra. Performances demonstrate varying degrees of authenticity and artistry, but one of the best is presented at Venta El Gallo, Barranco Los Negros 5, (tel. 95-822-84-76; www.ventaelgallo.com). A zambra performance has three stages, corresponding to the three parts of a Gypsy wedding. It is an atmospheric evening that you will not soon forget, but expect a certain amount of ostentatious showmanship for the benefit of tourists and attempts to sell you overpriced drinks. Make your reservation for the show without dinner (unless you feel you have to sit in front), but do pay the extra charge for transportation via minibus because city buses stop running at 11pm, when the musicians and dancers will just be hitting their stride. Admission is 27€, with an additional 6€ for transportation. Dinner and show are 58€.