Best caves in Andalucia

MOST POPULAR CAVES AND CAVERNS IN ANDALUSIA

1. Aracena caves – the small sleepy white town of Aracena hides a marvelous treasure under its streets. It’s the Cave of Wonders, large network of limestone caverns connected by corridors.

Gruta de las Maravillas in Aracena

In each magical cavern you will find weird and wonderful stalagmites and stalactites forming most incredible patterns, a sheer wonder of nature.

You can only explore the caves in a guided tour of 30 people max. It is prohibited to use camera one you enter the caves. During 1,5 hour tour you will explore only 10% per cent of the caverns, but that is enough to leave you awestruck. Entrance fee for an adult: 8,5 Euros.

 

2. Nerja caves – Cuevas de Nerja are home to world’s largest stalagmite which is 32 meter long. The large caves are connected by steps going up DSCF0923_400c630and down in a circular route. It takes about 45 minutes to see all the caves on display. It is possible to visit the caves with and without a guide. In the summer time, the place can get crowdy. Entrance fee for an adult: 9 Euros.

 

3. Gibraltar caves – St. Michael’s Cave, one of the 150 caves in the Rock of Gibraltar, is an absolute must-see when you pay a visit to the British exclave on the southern Spanish coast. This impressive network of limestone caverns and chambers can be accessed from the Upper Rock Nature reserve.

St. Michael’s Cave boasts long history of military use. Today, it is often used as a venue for music concerts, because it created a vibrant musical force. Entrance fee for an adult: 9 Euros.

It is also possible to explore the Lower St. Michael’s cave which can be visited by appointment only and requires some bending, climbing and sliding to get from one chamber to another!

 

4. Pileta Cave, near the village of Benaoján, Sierra of Grazelema. Situated at 711 meters altitude in the south slope of a rocky hill. This prehistoric cave was declared National Monument by the Spanish state in 1924.

Pileta Caves are most famous for the paintings that can be found in different chambers inside. Some of those galleries date back to 31,000 B.C. The paintings show various animals and some mysterious signs as well. Only guided tours are available. Remember to wear shoes that can provide traction as it can be slippery inside. A visit lasts ca. 1 hour. It is impossible to use cameras inside the cave. Entrance fee for an adult: 8 Euros.

 

5. Cave houses of Guadix – the small city at the foothills of Sierra Nevada is famous for troglodyte caves. Around 2000 of those cave dwellings are inhabited today by locals and form a district called “Barrio Troglodyte”! It is also possible to rent some of those houses. There is a Cave-Museum of Traditional Culture in Guadix as well. Cueva Museo is located in front of the church of San Miguel.

From winter to autumn there is a steady 18-20°C temperature inside the Guadix cave houses. That means that the house owners don’t have to pay for air conditioning in summer and don’t need to pay for heating in winter. The size of a typical troglodyte house depends on the hill from which the house was carved out. Houses usually face to the south allowing for most sun exposure throughut the day. The rooms closest to the entrance are those that need warmth and light most: the kitchen and the living room. Further behind there are bedrooms and bathroom. At the very end, different storage rooms are set up.

6. Sorbas caves – located massive underground world which comprises of more than one thousand gypsum caverns connected by different corridors.  The entrance to the cave sis located only 2 kms from Sorbas (near Almeria) in the Karst en Yesos de Sorbas Park.

There are four routes for beginners are for experts. The easiest route can be completed in 2 hours. Even the Ruta Basica requires some basic physical fitness as it involves some climbing, squeezing and crawling. The most diificult route can take 4,5 h to complete. Not recommended for individuals with cluastrohopbia! Entrance fee for an adult: 15 – 50 Euros depending on which route you decide to take.

Rio Tinto Mines

Minas de Rio Tinto, which translates as the Mines of the Red River, is an ancient mining town, located on the road between Huelva and Aracena in Andalucia. The history of mining in this area dates back to 3000 BC.

In Roman times, the site along the river was extensively mined for silver and the precious metal was used to mint Roman coins. In fact, Rio Tinto used to be one of the richest sources of silver in the ancient times.

For centuries the mines were abandoned until they were rediscovered in the 18th century by a couple of Spanish companies. Exploitation of the area rich in cooper commenced. The reddish brown metal was transported to the steelworks in Seville on a massive scale.

In the second half of the 19th century, British companies started to mine pyrites in the Rio Tinto region which then was used in the production of sulphur dioxide. The largest of those companies was Rio Tinto Company active in the area between 1873 and 1954.

IMG_5130_400c630The main rivers of this region, Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel, are intensively red in colour. It is perfectly natural phenomenon, only partially enhanced by human activity. The waters of Rio Tinto and Rio Odiel are undrinkable because of high acidity and heavy metals content.

Riotinto Mining Museum is a must-see attraction of the region. It is located in the Minas de Riotinto village. Launched in 1992, the museum offers a fascinating journey through 5,000 years of mining and metallurgy in the area. There is a great number of displays and exhibitions in English, captivating even if are not really interested in the history of mining.

Another attraction is the train ride down the Rio Tinto valley. The ride in a refurbished 19th century steam locomotive allows you to get the close look-up at the fascinating landscape of Rio Tinto. The ride is 22 km long and a little bit bumpy at times. It includes a 20 minute stop to have a closer look at the Rio Tinto river. During the train ride you will be able to admire the unique and fascinating lunar-like landscape of Rio Tinto mines from different angles.IMG_5139_400x630

Pena de Hierro near Nerva, about 10 kms from the Riotinto village, is another spectacular place to visit. It’s an oval in shape, opencast mine 85 metre deep, 350 metre long and 150 metre wide. The walls of Pena de Hierro represent a mesmerizing mix of white, yellow and reddish-brown colours. Pena de Hierro is surrounded by some nice cycling and walking paths in the forest. There are some nice viewing points along those paths as well.  Rio Tinto mines are home to what used to be the biggest opencast mine in the world – Corta Atalaya. This impressive mine is 1200 metres long, 900 metres wide and 365 metres deep! However, it is impossible to access Corta Atalaya at the moment.

Not many people know that Spanish football wasn’t born in Madrid or Barcelona, but in…Minas de Rio Tinto. In 1873, the British and European investors reopened the mines forming Rio Tinto Company Limited. Spanish workers worked alongside employees from the United Kingdom, where football had already been very popular. After the work the British would often spent their free time playing football. For the Spanish football was a discipline they saw for the first time, and they would at first consider it too dangerous and leading to injuries. They would even forbid their curious children to watch the games! However, after some time the Spanish workers took to the new game. The first Spanish football club was established in Huelva in 1889.

For some reason, Rio Tinto still remains pleasantly untouristy, so no matter when you come, you should not beware of crowds.  However, try to avoid summer as the inland areas of Spain becomes really hot then.