Hispanorama travel blog

Below the surface: Cave tourism in northern Spain

Dec 11, 2019

If your group is looking for a different kind of experience while on their tour in Spain, here is something that’s really off the beaten track: exploring the caves of northern Spain. For this thrilling adventure, you’ll need more than bathing suits and sun cream. Instead, think helmets, lanterns and rubber boots. With more than 10,000 known and explored caves, sculpted by nature over millions of years, it is a little known and amazing underground world. These are some of our favorite sites.

Europe’s oldest art gallery

Some of the most famous caves in Spain are found in the green hills of Asturias and Cantabria. Some of these caves are World Heritage sites, thanks to the incredibly well-preserved artwork found inside them. Cave paintings found here date back as far as 40,000 years, like the art found inside of Cantabria’s El Castillo cave, where there are nearly 300 human and animal images. Cantabria also has many examples of cave art from the last Ice Age (ending 18,000 BC), such as that found inside the El Pendo caves, and post-Ice Age (17,000 to 13,000 BC), a period that is considered to be the pinnacle of prehistoric creativity and is well represented at the Altamira cave.

There are many other examples of prehistoric artwork in Asturias as well, like the cave paintings at Tito Bustillo, one of the most important and beautiful Paleolithic sites in Europe. Another highlight is the rare example of prehistoric sculpture found at El Buxu Cave near the village of Cangas de Onís, where a bird carved into a bear tooth was found and is on display. One of the newest cave attractions in Asturias is found at La Lluera Caves in San Juan de Priorio, which only recently opened to the public. This site boasts a unique and very complete exterior sanctuary for Paleolithic art, with many drawings of wild bulls, deer and horses. Be sure to visit one of the museums dedicated to cave art and prehistoric man – the Prehistory and Archaeology Museum of Cantabria is one of the best in Europe.

Underground nature

Along with the prehistoric cave art found in northern Spain, this underground world is also filled with unique and breathtaking natural beauty. There are crystal clear lakes of ice-cold water, majestic galleries, deep gorges, and strange rock formations in a range of colors. One of the best sites to see in this stunning environment is in Cantabria’s Soplao Cave. It has over 12 miles of bizarre stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, columns, and helictites. Soplao Cave also has a chamber filled with amber mineral formations in an array of colors, and a genuine forest of stone. Here, your group can experience the incredible sensations of total darkness and complete silence.

Another spectacular site is found north of León, at Valporquero cave, where your group can follow the course of an underground river for nearly two miles (three kilometers) through huge galleries and natural chutes, forming waterfalls and underground lakes. If this sounds like a bit too much adventure for your group, think again – tours at this cave are guided and suitable for all ages.

Visiting the caves with your group

These sites named above are just a few of the examples of cave art to be discovered in northern Spain – there are plenty of sites to fill a complete itinerary. Be sure to start making your arrangements in advance, as many of the caves have limited entry are require booking. We can help – get in touch today!