Nerja - Caves

Las Cuevas de Nerja

 © Michelle Chaplow Glorious Entrance to Las Cuevas de Nerja
Entrance to Las Cuevas de Nerja

Take me to: Hotels near the Caves of Nerja

Las Cuevas de Nerja (the Caves of Nerja) are a series of naturally formed caves and caverns in the hills of Maro, 4km North-East of Nerja, some of which have taken up to two million years to form. The caves contain the widest naturally-formed column in the world, at 32m high and 13x7m at its base. Formed by the merging of a stalagmite and stalactite, it has held the Guinness World Record since 1989. The caves also famously host the annual Nerja International Festival of Music and Dance. A visit to these caves is a truly unique experience. In 2010 the caves were the most visited attraction in Málaga province.

The site is steeped in both geological and archaeological interest; cave paintings depict images of goats, horses, deer, seals and birds, drawn using red and black pigments. The images have been dated between at 25,000 and 3,600 B.C.

The Nerja caves were used by many different tribes including: hunters, fishermen and harvesters, from the Neolithic to Paleolithic period, and the Bronze Age. For this reason, these caves are one of the major references for the study of prehistory in the southern Iberian Peninsula.

The discovery of Las Cuevas de Nerja revolutionized Nerja, converting this agricultural and fishing town into one of the most popular tourist destinations in Andalucía.

Formation of the caves

Rainwater passes over the surface of the impermeable rock that forms the hillside, to the permeable earth and limestone rock above the caves, which it is able to seep through. Where the permeable and impermeable rocks meet, a sinkhole is formed. It is through this hole that the caverns would later be discovered.

The water passes through the sinkhole and travels through existing strata and cracks in the rocks, dissolving the soluble calcium and washing away the non-soluble elements of the rock, creating cavities which grow progressively larger over time through further chemical erosion.
The stalactites and stalagmites are formed by the dripping of the calcium bicarbonate solution from the roof of the cavern, leaving deposits hanging from the roof and on the base where it lands. When a stalactite and stalagmite grow large enough, they eventually meet and join together, forming a column - like the world record-holding column found in these caves.
The formation of the caves, and a column of this size, have taken millions of years. You will notice, as you pass through the caves, that these processes haven't stopped; you can see, hear and feel water dripping from the roof of the cavern.

Nerja Caves
Nerja Caves

Discovery of the caves

On 12 January 1959, five local boys (Francisco Navas Montesinos, Miguel Muñoz Zorrilla, Manuel Muñoz Zorrilla, José Luis Barbero de Miguel and José Torres Cárdenas) from the nearby village of Maro, decided to go hunting for bats in a pothole known as ‘La Mina'. They spent the night there watching the bats swooping in and out of holes in the rocks. Curious, the boys decided to return the next day with tools to dislodge stalactites blocking another entrance in the pothole, allowing them to climb through. They were then able to descend into a huge cavern where they uncovered human remains and ceramic pottery. Excited, the boys rushed back to tell friends and family, and later the local authorities, who sent an expert to examine the remains and a photographer to document the discoveries.

Due to all of the research and documentation that had to be completed after the discovery was reported, photos of the caves were not published in the press until 100 days after the date of the original discovery. They were published in El Sur newspaper and named Cueva de las Maravillas, which was later changed to Las Cuevas de Nerja.

Eighteen months later, on 12 June 1960, the caves were opened to the public. The inauguration was marked by a music and dance festival, at which La Tour de Paris ballet group and the Málaga Symphonic Orchestra performed. Every year since, in the first two weeks of July, The Nerja International Festival of Music and Dance has been celebrated in the caves, as their natural acoustics provide an unparalleled performing environment.

On 15 June 1961 the festival was declared a Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest.

Inside the caves

Inside the caves you will learn about their history and use as: a Neolithic burial site; a hyenas´ hide-out; a pantry (or a fridge, due to their consistently cool temperatures) for storing farm produce; a shelter for livestock; and a home. There is also information about the archaeological (ceramics and tools) and scientific (early herbal medication and treatments) discoveries made in the caves.

Just over a third (106,286 m3) of the total volume (264,379.33 m3) of the caves is open to the public - they are so vast it would be impossible to maintain and monitor the entire maze of caverns, and also a very long walk!

 

The caves are divided into three areas, or galleries: the Lower, Upper and New Galleries. It is the Lower Galleries which are open to the public, excluding certain areas such as La Mina itself and an area called the Doline sinkhole, which are home to important archaeological remains that are currently being researched by speleologists (cave experts).

The Upper and New Galleries are closed to the general public and are only visited by speleologists and researchers, as part of these chambers contain examples of cave art, and extremely delicate and beautiful geological formations.

Each cavern has been named accordingly: Sala de las Fantasmas (Hall of Ghosts) has a range of stalactites and stalagmites which cast eerie shadows against the cavern walls; Sala del Cataclismo (Hall of the Cataclysm) is a chaotic cavern filled with debris and rubble caused by fallen stalactites that were dislodged and destroyed in an immense earthquake which occurred over 800,000 years ago, and is home to the world's largest column; Sala de la Cascada (Hall of the Waterfall - also known as Sala del Ballet) hosts a collection of speleothems (cave formations) called gours which resemble a dry stone waterfall, and is where The Nerja International Festival of Music and Dance is held each year.

Some advice for visitors

1. The chambers are joined by a series of tunnels, bridges and pathways, and the journey around the caves involves a lot of steps and slopes, so be wary of taking small children or those who may have trouble walking and climbing.
2. The entrance is quite narrow and so is not recommended if you suffer from claustrophobia.
3. Flash photography is not permitted, but your photo is taken on entry and is available for purchase at the exit for 8€.
4. It is cold in the caverns so a jumper or jacket is advisable.
5. There is a lot of walking so wear sensible footwear.
6. With the exception of July and August the caves are closed between 14:00 and 16:00
7. Parking costs 1€

Timetable

09.00 to 16.00hrs (last admission 15.00hrs)

July and August: 09:00 - 18:30  (last admission 17.30)
& Easter Thursday, Triday and Saturday

Closed: 1 January and 15 May

Prices

Entrance: Adults 10.00€, Children 6€
Purchase Tickets in Advance

Bus

Bus from Nerja 'bus station': 1,05€
The bus journey takes around 15 minutes and has an hourly service from the 'bus station' on N340 near Plaza Cantarero from 08.00 - 17.30, returning from 11.00 - 20.30.

CuevaTren


There is red hop on hop off tourist  'Cueva Tren' with four stops at the Caves, Maro square, Nerja Museum and Parque Verano Azul (Chanquete boat). Ticket cost is 15€ ( 6 to 10 yes 10€, under six free) including admision to the Nerja caves (you must reserve a time) and the Nerja Museum. It has an audio-guide in Spanish and English that briefly and enjoyably explains the monuments and places that can be seen in its route. 

Hotels nearby

Nearby the caves there are two hotels, and many more a few km away in Nerja town or down on the beach.

Contact

Address: Carretera de Maro, 29787 Nerja, Málaga.
Tel: 952 529 520
Email: admin@cuevadenerja.es


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