Magnificent caves are part of the long human history of Spain. Prehistoric man left amazing cave paintings in Altamira, Cantabria (which has 6500 caves in total). These caves are now closed to the public, because the works were being degraded by the change in humidity caused by the hordes of visitors. Reproductions of the caves have been created in several museums. Impressive.
The Cueva El Soplao in Cantabria is considered unique for the quality and quantity of geological formations in its 17 miles length, 6 of which have been open to the public since 2005. In its galleries are formations such as helíctites (eccentric stalactites defying gravity – they head off in all directions); curtains (draperies, or sheets of calcite, sometimes translucent, hanging from the ceiling); flowstones, columns and cave pearls. Amber deposits dating back to the Lower Cretaceous period were found only as recently as 2008. An exhibition of fossilised microorganisms includes insects and other arthropods, spiders’ webs, leaves and pollen. Its extraordinary, quite unlike any cave I’ve visited before.
Quite different is Cueva Valporquero in Leon. At a height of 1308m, the cave is reached via a switchback road that ascends from a deep ravine in the Cantabrian Mountains. The cave is described as an underground cathedral with its stalagmites, stalactites, flowstone and columns. The Gran Via is 200m long and 30m high. The Great Rotonda has 100,000 sam of space. A river which flows through the cave, and slow drips of water forming on the stalactites continue the creation of this colossal underground space. Up until the mid 60s, the cave mouth was used to shelter sheep, until some speleologists started tootling around and found what was hidden within.