You may already know that Andalucía boasts of more than 200 cuevas (‘caves’ in Spanish). Some are well known and open to the public and some are only accessible for experts and should, in any event, be tackled with the help of a guide.
The most talked about caves in Andalucía are located in Nerja, La Pileta and Ardales (in Málaga province), but there are many more hidden jewels to see and learn about.
What you will need on an adventure to Andalucía’s cave is a curiosity (for caves), some needed equipment (that includes a car hire) and shoes that are made for waking.
In the year of 1988, Andalucía’s (autonomous community located in southern Spain) mural paintings were declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO and entitled as “Arte rupestre del Arco Mediterráneo de la Península Ibérica” (which translates to “Rock Art of the Mediterranean Arch of the Iberian Peninsula”). Andalucía contributed a number of 69 prehistoric sites to this list, located between Jaén, Almería and Granada.
These add up to 42 caves in Jaén which include “Cueva de la Graja” (with neolithic people paintings) and and “La Cueva del Gabar”, with pre-historic cave paintings. There are 25 cave art samples in the Natural Park of Sierra María-LosVelez in Almería, which include “Cueva de los letreros” (also with pre-historic cave paintings) and Caves of Sorbas, caves with no man-made passages.
Although not officially recognised by UNESCO, there are cave paintings in the areas of Zújar and Castril in Granada, which are also worth a visit.
UNESCO also protects caves and rock art in Málaga and Cádiz, and has titled them as “Arte rupestra del Extremo Sur de la Península Ibérica” (which translates to “Rock Art of the Southern Rim of the Iberian Peninsula”).
A grand total of 180 caves are found these regions, most of which are located in Cádiz province. However, the famous Nerja caves are located at the east of Málaga province. Nerja holds some of the most iconic paintings that have been estimated to date back 42,000 years, perhaps the oldest art known to humanity.
Nerja is home to the Spain’s largest stalagmite, standing 105ft (32m) tall. The story of discovery goes like this…
In 1959, five local lads (Francisco Navas Montesinos, Manuel Muñoz Zorrilla, Miguel Muñoz Zorrilla, José Luis, Barbero de Miguel and José Torres Cárdenas) from the village of Maro decided to go hunting for bats and headed towards a pothole locally known as ‘La Mina’. Here they spent the night watching bats in action through the hole in the rocks.
Their curiosity took them to revisit the next day, taking with them some tools to cut off a couple of stalactites in the entrance to open up the entry to what they then found out to be a cave. This cave had number of skeletons, some ceramic pottery and rock art that dates back between 43,500 to 42,300 years.
Prior to this discovery, the oldest works of art were said to be 32,00 years old and found in Chauvet Cave in southern France.
More caves in Málaga and Cádiz
Other caves worth mentioning (if not all) in the province in Málaga are “Cueva de la Pileta” – a 22,00 year old cave from the Solutrean period (a theory that claims Europeans may have been among the earliest settlers of the Americas) – and “Cueva de Doña Trinidad”, located in the town of Ardales, a cave with 1/2 a kilometer of tunnels and underground compartments.
More caves in Málaga
- “Cueva del Gato” (in Sierra de Ronda) – a cave 4,5 km long with underground lakes and rivers and even an opportunity to bath or kayak under a waterfall.
- “Cueva de Tesoro” (in Rincón de la Victoria) – a coastal cave with 500 m of rock art paintings.
- “Cueva de la Tinaja” and “Cuevas de Los Organos”, both situated in Sierra de las Nieves, large dramatic impressive rock formations.
- El Torcal de Antequera, a nature reserve in the Sierra del Torcal mountain range with unusual landforms and impressive karst landscapes. Definitely worth a visit, a popular tourist and local attraction.
Caves in province of Cádiz
Heading towards Cádiz (from the west side of Málaga), you will find spectacular caves. As previously mentionned, there are various caves in Cádiz province, we have only mentioned. A few that stand out are “Cueva del Bacinete”, a cave with paintings that date back to the bronze age (located in village Los Barrios) and “Cueva de la Laja Alta”, a cave with multiple interesting boat paintings (located in Jimena de la Frontera, a mountain top white village).
Others that are also worth a visit are “Cueva del moro”, a 20,000 years old cave with horse paintings (located on mountain top overlooking Tarifa, southern Spain’s surf paradise) and “Tajo de las Figuras”, a cave with hidden primitive cave drawings of birds that date back to Neolithic times (located in the town of Benalup, known for it’s agriculture and rural tourism).
In Huelva, the most western province in Andalucía, one can find “Cueva de las Maravillas” (which translates to ‘cave of wonders’). Other parts of the cave has names referring to the shape of the cave itself and the stalagmites found, Hall of the Organs, Hall of the Jewels, God’s Glassworks and the Great Lake of Emeralds.
Keeping north, but central of Andalucía, to Córdoba, one can find “Cueva de los Murciélagos” (which translate to ‘cave of the bats’) with mural paintings that date back 18,000 years. Located 4km outside the interesting whitewashed village of Zuheros on the fringes of the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park. Here you will find rock paintings and Neolithic remains, impressive limestone rock formations and the superb views (once you’re up in the cave).
If you go to Gibraltar, you will find St Michael’s Cave, which hosts some classical music events, Gorham’s Cave (where the first skeleton of Neanderthal Man was uncovered), between many others.
Here is a map with all the mentioned caves marked with a golden star. The red pin points where Málaga airport, if that is where you happen to fly in from, so you more or less can direct yourself a route to visit some of Andalucía’s impressive caves:
Welcome to Andalucía!