About the Caves

The magnificent Nerja Caves – Cuevas de Nerja – are a series of huge caverns stretching for almost five kilometres and feature amongst the top tourist attractions in Spain.

There are two natural entrances to the caves and one man-made, the latter having been made in 1960 to allow easy access for visitors.

History

The caves are the formation of karstic cavities, their origin dating back millions of years. During the Triassic period, large quantities of calcareous mud settled on the bottom of the ancient Mediterranean sea, later transforming into the calcareous-dolomite marble which at present surround the caves.

During the Upper Miocene period, about 5 million years ago, drifts between the tectonic layers of Africa and Europe resulted in the creation of the Beticas mountains, including the Sierra Tejeda and Almijara. The abundant rain of the last 5 million years (Upper Miocene and Lower Pleistocene) infiltrated the fissures of marbles, stimulating its further dissolution.

Huge cavities, in which the underground waters circulated, were thus formed. Later, due to mountain slides in the region, the subterranean waters were forced into the lower layers and, as a consequence, the caves started to refill with carbonate deposits, stalactites and stalagmites.

In the last 800,000 years (Middle Pleistocene and Holocene) the impressive stalactites and stalagmites have formed following further settling of calcite.

Early Inhabitants

Skeletal remains found in the Nerja Caves indicate that they were inhabited from about 25,000 BC up until the Bronze Age, first being used as a seasonal dwelling place and then later becoming a year round residence for the human population in the area. When not in use by humans, the caves would be occupied by hyenas.

Cave paintings, found on the walls, date back to the Paleolithic and Post-Paleolithic periods and show a culture based upon hunting.

By 4,500 BC, the domestication of animals was part of the local culture and the caves were being used for farming purposes and pottery production.

By 3,800 BC, advanced styles of pottery and textiles were being produced in the area and parts of the caves began to be used as a burial chamber.

Inside the Caves

The caves are divided into Galleries and each Gallery is made up of a number of Halls.

Galleries

There are three galleries, the Show Gallery, the Upper Gallery and the New Gallery. Access to the Upper and New Galleries is restricted.

Show Gallery

Sala de Vestibulo – Entrance Hall

Includes some archaeological exhibits.

Sala de la Mina – Mine Hall

Excavation area, not normally open to the public.

Sala de la Torca – Hall of the Sink

Excavation area, not normally open to the public.

Sala de Belén – Hall of the Nativity

Contains columns of calcite and there is a skeleton on display in a glass case.

Sala del Colmillo – Hall of the Tusk

Sala de la Cascada o Ballet – Hall of the Waterfall or Ballet

It is here that concerts are held with around 100 seats permanently installed.

Sala de los Fantasmas – Hall of the Phantoms

Named after an unusual speleothem (secondary mineral deposit producing various types of stalagmites, stalagtites etc).

Sala del Cataclismo – Hall of the Cataclysm

Home to a huge central column which, at 32 metres high, is the tallest in the world.

Rincón del Órgano – Organ Corner

The fluted columns in this hall can be struck to produce different musical notes and it is thought that some of the columns were intentionally altered by early prehistoric inhabitants to produce different notes.

Upper Gallery

Columnas de Hércules – Columns of Hercules

Sala de la Inmensidad – Hall of Immensity

New Gallery

Sala de la Lanza – Hall of the Lance

Sala de la Montaña – Hall of the Mountain

Area

Total Surface Area: 35.484 m2

Total Volume: 64,379 m3