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Three Caves from Málaga of Great Geological and Archaeological Interest

Diputación de Málaga
Cueva de la Pileta, Benaoján

Three Caves from Málaga of Great Geological and Archaeological Interest

Their impressive galleries and their paintings are one of a kind

As it has recently been said in an article in Diario Sur from Málaga , this city is one of the provinces with the largest number of caves of geological or archaeological interest. Actually, there are some of the most famous caves in the country like Ardales, Pileta, Gato or Nerja.

Cave in Ardales and the Prehistory Centre

In 2021, the bicentenary of the discovery of Trinidad Grund Cave or the Cave of Ardales, as one of the mos relevant European palaeolithic sites, was celebrated. Researchers from the University of Cádiz, University of Barcelona, National Scientific Research Centre from the University of Bordeaux and the Neanderthal Museum in Germany got to conclusion that the marks in the Cave of Ardales produced by Neanderthals are the oldest cave paintings in the world.

Ardales is a well-known town in Málaga with resources such as the Gaitanes Gorge and the stunning trail Caminito del Rey. Moreover it embraces cultural heritage sites such as the medieval town Bobastro with its Mozarabic chapel next to the fortresses of  Turón and Peña de Hardales, as well as the century-old El Chorro reservoir. These are all important cultural destinations in Andalusia.

In the old town, there is a Prehistory Centre of Ardales (located in Avenida de Málaga Nº 1), which has a collection related to human origins in the town and its surroundings. There are six rooms where you can see a chronological display of tools and objects from every period in prehistory, from the the Lower Palaeolithic Period to the Bronze Age.  The visit to the cave starts in this museum.

The opening of the cave is in a small mountain to the east of the town, called Cerro de la Calinoria. You can reach it by a small steep road that starts at the Prehistory Centre and ends three kilometres later at a car park and a terraced building which protects the access to the site, a pit with the shape of a funnel, at the altitude of 565 metres above the sea level, facing north.

The cave in Ardales opens every day except on Mondays for reduced groups of people and offers cultural visits, during which we can learn about the results of two-hundred-old research that started when the cave was discovered in 1821 and see displays of one of the oldest traces of art in the world. The price of the guided tour is €5.

Pileta Cave - a private cave

This cave is linked to Bullón family, who discovered it. It was in 1905 when José Bullón explored a chasm close to his home. He saw how a flock of bats used to appear in the evenings and followed them until he found a cave with pottery and paintings which represented old animals. A reputable researcher Henri Breuil declared high importance of these rock paintings after his visit to the site in 1912. Since then, this family members have been fondly protected the cave, which was declared National Monument in 1924 and Cultural Property (or Good of Cultural Interest in Spain) in 1985, after there had been many new findings and studies on this discovery, which resulted in a confirmation that the paintings are more than 30,000 years old.

The cave is located in the town of Benaoján and has extraordinary rock paintings from the Upper Palaeolithic in the Mediterranean area and one of the most important prehistoric holy places in Europe.  There are series of the most interesting cave paintings in the Iberian Peninsula. The remains of pottery objects from that period as well as a pendant which represents Venus were found in the archaeological digs. Most of the paintings are of animals such as horses, animals with antlers, buffaloes, bison and fish, which sometimes appear one over another in different colours. The cave is opened every day but you have to make an advance booking. The entrance fee is €8 for adults and €5 for children and students.

Gato Cave - Andalusian Natural Monument

Gato [Cat] Cave is, actually, the entrance to the cave system called Hundidero-Gato, although it is commonly called Gato.

Besides beeing designated as a 'unique corner' of the province, it is one of the most beautiful natural sites in the Serranía de Ronda. A wonderful waterfall goes out of the Gato Cave into the lake called Charco Frío, which makes the most famous and breathtaking images in the Natural Park Sierra de Grazalema.

A spring flows out of the cave, which is placed next to the road that goes from Ronda to Benaoján. Hundidero-Gato Caves are more than 10 km long and have ten possible routes, which makes them the most complex system of caves in Andalusia and its Natural Monument. Their complexity became one of the reasons they are considered a natural beauty site and they became an attraction. 14,000 years ago Gato Cave was a shelter for Palaeolithic inhabitants, who left their paintings to talk about that period. The cave ends in a small lake with pure water, where you can have a swim in summer even though it is very cold.

The Palaeolithic paintings in the cave were discovered in September 2004 by a group of archaeologists from Málaga. This served as an evidence that there were humans in this areas at least 14,000 years ago.  The most prominent painting is the one of an ochre deer, which is painted in profile with a large antler, head, back, chest and the front leg.

It is easy to visit this cave in Ronda. Once you have parked in the car park (in front of the cave on the other side of the river Guadiaro), go across it and 150 metres away, you will find a lake with pure cold water, where swimming is allowed. A bit further on, there are stairs which lead to the entrance to the cave. This site is absolutely stunning. From inside the cave a spring flows and turns into a waterfall that ends in the lake surrounded by trees and a green area.

The entrance to Gato Cave is forbidden, but you can go to a view point from where you can admire it. The fee from Monday to Friday is €2 for adults and €1 for those younger than 12. At weekends and on bank holidays, the price of the visit is €2.5 for adults and €1.5 for children.