Updated: February 14, 2023Published: October 13, 2022
It may surprise you, but Spain has some of the most beautiful and best-preserved caves in Europe!
These are spectacular caves that date back thousands of years and that today we are lucky enough to be able to visit. Many of these caves were the habitat of our ancestors, where they left their small footprints, and others stand out for their unique beauty.
Inside many of them, you can enjoy the presence of stalactites, stalagmites, and even cave paintings!
And not only that, one of them will surprise you with hidden dark legends.
So bring out your speleologist side and go with me into some of the most famous caves in Spain!
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1. Altamira Cave
Did you know that this was the first place in the world where the existence of Upper Paleolithic Rock Art was identified?
Inside this cave is preserved one of the most essential artistic cycles of prehistoric times. In 1985, it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Suppose you want to visit it, which I highly recommend. In that case, you should travel to Cantabria, more specifically to the beautiful town of Santillana del Mar.
Most of the paintings you will see belong to the Magdalenian and Solutrense periods. However, you can also see some from the Gravetian and Aurignacian periods. The cave of Altamira is about 270 meters long. Inside, you will see paintings of animals everywhere, especially species already extinct in Spain and Europe. You will see bison, deer, wild boars, horses, and even mammoths!
The first samples of Paleolithic art from the cave of Altamira (Cantabria) date back at least 23,000 years, between 36,000 and 13,000 years before the present! A real madness!
The cave was discovered by Modesto Cubillos in 1868. However, its value wasn’t recognized until other caves in Europe were found where Paleolithic rock art could also be appreciated.
Perhaps you are wondering how it’s possible that the paintings have remained in such good condition after so many years. It was thanks to a landslide about 14000 years ago, which buried the entrance of the cave.
I think it’s interesting to know that to protect the original paintings in 2001, a reconstruction of the Altamira Cave was made, and the Neocave was inaugurated. Due to the difficulty of visiting the original cave, a visit to the Neocave can be another option to get an idea of what is inside the original one.
The cave of Altamira is an icon of our country. The quality and conservation found in almost all the paintings are incredible, an actual work of art!
AHH! I almost forgot! This cave is very close to the famous redwood forest, so in addition to the cave, you will also have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful forest!
You should know that, unfortunately, few are lucky enough to visit the original cave. Due to many visitors, the cave was closed in 1977, so today, only 5 people are fortunate enough to enjoy this marvel!\
2. Nerja Cave
What better idea than to come to spend your vacations in Malaga! A beautiful place in the south of Spain where you can enjoy its beaches, its food, its people, and the opportunity to visit the spectacular Nerja Cave!
If you want to enjoy a lovely walk of about 45 minutes through a historical and artistic monument, here’s your chance! It’s the cave with the world’s most prehistoric artistic and symbolic manifestations!
The Nerja Cave is located 158 meters above sea level and is one of Andalusia’s most topographically developed caves.
This cave was discovered in 1959 by a group of young people from the area. It’s currently the most visited natural monument in Andalusia. The Cave of Nerja is declared of Cultural Interest and Historical Heritage.
Inside the cave, you can find stalactites, stalagmites, and even cave paintings from the Upper Paleolithic! Although you should know that you can only visit a third of the cave’s surface (the area known as “Galerías Bajas”).
3. The Caves of Drach
Location: Mallorca, Balearic Islands
Did you know that the Drach Caves have a lake inside? It’s known as Martel Lake and has a length of 115 meters. It’s considered one of the largest subway lakes in the world!
If you want to enjoy this incredible work of Spanish nature you will have to take the next flight to Mallorca and drive to the village of Porto Cristo.
Porto Cristo is a cute fishing village and one of the most beautiful of the Balearic Islands. I’m sure you will fall in love with it!
The Caves of Drach constitute one of the main tourist attractions. They are undoubtedly one of the most remarkable on the island. The caves are four natural beauties: Cueva Negra, Cueva Blanca, Cueva de Luis Salvador, and Cueva de Los Franceses. All of them are connected to each other and form one of the great heritages of the area.
The caves extend to a depth of 25 m, reaching 1.2 km in length.
The caves have been formed as a result of the action of rainwater. Some believe that their formation could date back to the Miocene era.
Don’t worry, you won’t need a coat to visit them, maybe something to cover yourself, but just so you know, the temperature is around 18ºC all year round.
The water rises or falls depending on the wind and the moon. It’s a unique phenomenon; depending on the water’s color, you can guess the depth. If the color is green, the bottom will be about three meters; if it’s blue, about eight meters; and if it’s white, only one meter. Don’t you think this is a curious fact?
The Caves of Drach will leave you impressed, and they’re no doubt a must-visit if you come to Mallorca!
Carolina, 27 yo from Madrid shares her experience with us: “My experience in the caves, even though it was high season, was amazing! Although there were people, the space was ample and we had plenty time to take pictures and enjoy the moment.
It’s not a guided tour, you just follow the indicated path.
At the end of the tour, there’s a larger lagoon where they offer a small concert of classical music. It’s definitely worth it! They turn off the lights and you see some boats illuminated with candles approaching along the lagoon. So beautiful!!
At the end you can choose to cross to the other side by boat or walking.
It was an incredible experience!!”
One of the things I loved about this visit was that we enjoyed a live classical music concert inside the cave! A real spectacle that made our experience even more special!
4. Los Verdes
Location: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Come and discover this impressive cave hidden in the interior of the island of Lanzarote! It’s a natural wonder located in the north of the island and integrated into the volcanic landscape of Malpaís de la Corona.
Los Verdes has something special, a kind of mysterious mythological character that enchants everyone who visits it.
Its interior reaches almost 8 kilometers, and you can get lost among its tunnels, nooks, and crannies. Although the visible section of the cave is 1 kilometer of galleries, some are up to 50 meters high.
As in the well-known Jameos del Agua that we will see later, Los Verdes is a part of the volcanic tube that appeared after the eruption of the Corona Volcano. But don’t let this worry you because it happened 4000 years ago!
In fact, the underwater part of this tube is known as the Atlantis Tunnel and is one of the most important volcanic tunnels in the world!
It caught my attention that during the XVI and XVII centuries, this cave served as a refuge for the population to protect themselves from the North African pirates. Legend says Los Verdes owes its name to the surname of a family that used to keep their livestock inside the cave.
In 1964, the Cabildo of Lanzarote commissioned the artist Jesús Soto to work on the cave. This artist undoubtedly made a work of art; today, its interior is a spectacle of illumination.
This cave has become one of the most desired attractions on the island, and people come from all over the world to visit it. So you know, I hope you’ll be the next one to see it!
Here’s our sensational video of the cave!
Los Verdes keeps a secret that I can’t tell you and that you will only discover when you visit it. It’s the best-kept secret of Lanzarote!
5. Jameos del Agua
Location: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Maybe you are interested in knowing where the word “jameo” comes from. I can tell you that it’s a word of aboriginal origin. It refers to a hole produced as a result of the collapse of the roof of a volcanic tube. This volcanic tube contains water at the bottom that is filtered from the sea.
Like Los Verdes, Jameos del Agua is located on the island of Lanzarote at the foot of the volcano La Corona. So it’s an excellent opportunity to visit these two wonders!
It’s curious because both were formed by the lava flow produced during an eruption of the volcano La Corona, which advanced while the surface solidified about three to four thousand years ago!
Inside this cave, you will see a natural lake of crystalline waters, up to 7 meters deep, in which live dozens of endemic species that, to this day, are still of great interest to scientists.
Jameos del Agua is the first Center of Art, Culture, and Tourism created by César Manrique, which was inaugurated in 1968. This artist turned this space into a unique place in the world.
In 1977, it was declared a Site of Scientific Interest and an Asset of Cultural Interest in the category of a Historical Garden.
The space consists of three “jameos” in total. The Jameo Chico, where you can access the interior and where you will find a restaurant, as well as a hidden entrance to the famous Tunnel of Atlantis. The Jameo Grande is where the swimming pool is, and the Jameo de la Cazuela is located behind the auditorium stage.
The best time to visit if you want to avoid the big crowds is when they open at 10am or late in the afternoon.
Here’s our sensational video of Jameos del Agua!
Something you should know is that it’s forbidden to swim in this lagoon due, among other things, to the presence of blind crabs. This is a super tiny crab, barely one centimeter long. It’s white and blind and in serious danger of extinction. So let’s respect this beautiful area!
6. Eagle Caves
These caves are full of stalactites, stalagmites, and multicolored limestone columns that will leave you speechless!
Aguila Caves are an authentic jewel of the geological heritage of the town of Avila.
Apparently, they were discovered in 1963 by some local boys who were hunting in the surrounding area. Still, the caves are more than 500 million years old!
But it was in 1964 when they were opened to the public so we could enjoy this natural spectacle.
It’s a karst cave originated by a series of geological processes.
You can enter its 50 meters deep and enjoy its perfect state of preservation during a tour of about 1000 meters that will last approximately 40 minutes.
Depending on how cold you are, wear warm clothes since the temperature inside the cave is around 17ºC all year round.
It’s the subway water currents that give rise to the cavity. In contrast, the slow and small filtrations of rainwater are the ones that generate the different types of speleothems. It seems incredible and difficult to imagine if you don’t see it!
Nowadays, Aguila Caves are owned by a society of the heirs of Dolores Muñoz.
7. Zugarramurdi Caves
This cave is only 400 meters from the village of Zugarramurdi. This village is north of Navarra, 3 km from the French border.
In fact, this small village has only 240 inhabitants. Still, the main reason why the town is well known is because of the case of the Witches of Zugarramurdi that took place in the XVII century.
A fact that might interest you is that this episode inspired the film director Alex de la Iglesia to create a movie based on what happened.
The walk through the forest to reach the grotto is super nice and beautiful. You will love it!
The cave’s dimensions are spectacular; you will see a natural tunnel 120 meters long and up to 12 meters high.
BUT don’t expect stalactites or cave paintings as in the other caves I have mentioned above.
Zugarramurdi is a different cave that, according to legend, was a place of covens where a group of people worshipped the devil.
Actually, as I am writing this, I’m getting goosebumps!
The myth of the Witches of Zugarramurdi was reaffirmed in 1610 when the Inquisition Court of Logroño decided to investigate 40 women accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. It’s a sorrowful story since 11 of them were condemned to die at stake.
I think all this history makes the Cave of Zugarramurdi an unforgettable experience and very different from the rest!
Here’s a map so you know where to find them!
If you don’t know any of them or if you miss any, don’t wait any longer!
Really, they all deserve a visit because they are a spectacle that the Spanish nature offers us and you can’t miss it!
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!