There is an impressive subterranean world in Spain. Truly magical underground places that amaze us with their strange formations. Inside, the art of nature translates into stalactites and stalagmites capable of leaving you perplex before such beauty and grandeur.
There are two important Spanish cave complexes from the Palaeolithic period: the Caves of Altamira, in Cantabria, and the Caves of Tito Bustillo, in the Asturias. They are located in Cornija Cantábrica, the northern region of Spain.
This region is a document to the history of humanity due to its enormous number of well-preserved caverns and the diverse techniques of cave art from the Palaeolithic (30.000 to 10.000 years B.C.) in what was the first artistic representation of Homo Sapiens. We will also present some examples of other caverns in other regions of Spain.
1. Cueva de Altamira
Discovered in 1868 by a hunter, Santillana del Mar in Cantabria is the Sistine Chapel of the Palaeolithic. For conservation purposes, visiting is restricted, taking place only one day per week with five people selected among those who bought tickets to the Museum. The visit lasts only around 37 minutes and there is a whole protocol to follow from clothing to lighting. There is also Nova Cova, a tridimensional replica of the cavern and of its figures. It is well recreated, but it is obviously better to see the real one.
There are guided tours in Spanish or English, where it is explained how pre-historic artists used the rocks’ prominences such as lines, to create their drawings, thus giving them volume and realism. Since you’re there, you can also visit the Museum of Altamira, you can watch a film and see holograms of animals and people.
We’ll also recommend visiting the town known as “of Three Lies” in Santillana del Mar. The streets and shops have a medieval look and here you can visit the “Museum of Torture”. Beware though, visitors have reported uneasy feelings after discovering some of the cruel torture practices, some of which are unfortunately still in use nowadays.
2. Tito Bustillo, Cuevona de Ardines e Cuevona de Cueves
Caverna Tito Bustillo, situated in Ribadesella, in the Asturias, has been a World Heritage Site since July 2008. Its discovery in 1968 by a group of alpinists was accidental. They were hiking in an abyss known as Pozu’l Ramu in Ribadesella. One of the most complete deposits of Palaeolithic art, with painting and drawings of animals, lies here, along with the everyday tools of the pre-historic families that lived there.
With the entrance included in the ticket price, you can also visit Cuevona de Ardines, located next to Cueva Tito Bustillo. Cuevona has, as a main hall, a circular plant with a diameter of 80 metres and hight of 40 metres. On top, an enormous hole lets the sunlight come in. The visit lasts an average of 45 minutes and is limited to 20 visitors. To reach its entrance, you need to go up a stairway with about 300 steps and, on the inside, you will also face many staircases.
In the Cuevona, music concerts take place given its perfect natural acoustics. In addition to it, the guides will tell funny stories like when they had to remove the images and sounds of ancient animals from the tour of the cave, since many children that took part left scared and crying.
Five kilometres away from Ribadesella, you can also visit Cuevona de Cuevas. It is an impressive scenery because a road goes through this cavern, which is the single access by car to the village of Cuevas del Agua. Should you want it, you can do the 250 meters of the road on foot, but beware that, albeit being illuminated, it is still dangerous, just like any other road, so you should wear reflective clothing. When arriving, do the Ruta de los Molinos on foot as well, the landscape is magnificent and the region’s traditional windmills remain a very interesting attraction.
3. Gruta de las Maravillas
In Aracena, in the mountain ridge of the same name, and north of the region of Huelva, we find a system of caverns discovered by chance by a shepherd from the region in 1886. Gruta de las Maravillas was Spain’s first touristic cave, opened to the public since 1914. There, you can walk over 1200 meters of cave galleries divided in two levels. In the caves you will find several names such as Cristalería de Dios (God’s Glazier), Sala de los Garbanzos (Chickpeas’ Hall), Sala de los Mantones de Manila, Salon de los Desnudos (Naked Hall). Here, the subterranean lakes are wonderful!
4. Cueva del Tesoro
In Malaga, Rincón de la Victoria, just a few kilometres from the sea, you can visit Cueva del Tesoro (The Treasure Cave). This is one of the three marine caves that exist in the world and the only one in Europe (the other two are in Asia and America) and the only one that can be visited. The Treasure Cave is small but very beautiful, and when there aren’t that many people, the silence can be overwhelming.
5. Cueva El Soplao
Cueva El Soplao has more than 20 kilometres of galleries of unmatched beauty. El Soplao has the largest concentration of helictites in the world. Helictites are stalactites that grow in random directions, with no defined sense, with an impressive aesthetic effect.
It is indeed worth a tour of these subterranean wonders that look almost supernatural. Dare to discover them!