A fascinating journey into the heart of Cantabria: from El Soplao to Altamira



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 6,500 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. This cave is situated between the municipal districts of Valdáliga, Herrerías and Rionansa, some 20 kilometres from San Vicente de la Barquera, and you can visit it on an unusual tourist mine train.

Even more inter-play of light, shadow, sensations and smells can be found in the Asón-Agüera region, at the opposite end of Cantabria. At this point alone there are more than 4,000 caves forming some of Europe's largest underground systems. There are guided visits available to these caves 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 through to older people. You will feel like an explorer in a supernatural environment, sliding down into the bowels of the earth.

Prehistoric art route

Adventure, sport, mystery and beauty... and art, too, in the form of cave paintings, the mark of the planet’s first human settlers. Cantabria is home to the world's highest density of caves with prehistoric paintings. They are artistic manifestations dating back between 12,000 and 40,000 years, an incalculable treasure to be found dotted around the entire region. Visit El Chufín Cave in Rionansa, Castillo Cave in Puente Viesgo, El Pendo Cave in Escobedo de Camargo and Covalanas Cave in Ramales de la Victoria, and feel the excitement of discovering the Palaeolithic artists' skill.

This fascinating underground paradise reaches its peak at the Altamira Caves, in Santillana. Defined by experts as the "Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art", and designated World Heritage, it is no longer possible to visit the original cave, but there is an exact replica located at the Altamira Museum. Come and get carried away by this amazing underground legacy.

More information: Association of Spanish Tourist Caves Altamira Museum Prehistoric Caves of Cantabria


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