Cantabria's underground paradise
- Region: Cantabria
Beneath its beautiful mountains and meadows, Cantabria hides a priceless underground treasure. It is a mysterious world of extreme beauty, packed with fanciful shapes, faint lights and shadows, and resonating sounds: a huge network of fascinating caves and caverns.
Spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, along with a host of weird and wonderful formations make the Cantabria caves a unique natural paradise, surprising both for their natural beauty and their excellent state of conservation. It is a gift from nature, with underground wells and rivers, vertical gorges and labyrinthine galleries straight out of science fiction - all sculpted by water and moisture over thousands of years. Many of these caves have remained hidden from human eyes for centuries. It is only now that some of these caverns can be visited.
There are more than 6,000 caves in Cantabria alone. The region is a must for all speleology-lovers, thanks to its spectacular and varied underground formations. However, all this hidden beauty is not the sole reserve of expert sportspeople. Anyone can explore this natural heritage and admire a good proportion of its interior monuments at close quarters.
If you want to experience an unforgettable adventure, come to El Soplao cave and explore more than a kilometre surrounded by incredible natural formations of rock and crystals, wonderful colours that hang from the ceiling or rise up from the floor to form a spectacular setting that will leave you awestruck. The cave only opens between the months of May and September, and is situated between the small villages of Valdáliga, Herrerías and Rionansa, some 20 kilometres from San Vicente de la Barquera.
Even more inter-play of light, shadow, sensations and smells can be found in the Asón-Agüera region, at the opposite end of Cantabria. Here alone there are more than 4,000 caves, some separate and a great many interlinked. Eleven of these caves offer guided visits throughout the year. There are caverns with a range of difficulties to cater for all. Anyone can visit the caves, regardless of physical fitness or experience, from children (eight years or more) to older people. There are short routes of three hours, and much more demanding itineraries of up to eight hours in an incredible setting - making you feel like an explorer in a supernatural environment, heading down towards the bowels of the earth.
Adventure, sport, mystery and beauty... and art, too, in the form of cave paintings, the mark of the planet's first human settlers. Cantabria has one of Europe's highest concentrations of prehistoric art. They are works dating back between 12,000 and 40,000 years, priceless treasures that are dotted all over the region. The finest examples are to be found in the Altamira Caves, defined by experts as the "Sistine Chapel of Quaternary art", and a designated world heritage site.