Just outside Benaojan lies one of the most spectacular cave systems in Spain, and in the mouth of one, several galleries of cave paintings that are as old as 30,000 years, and were created by paleolithic people of Ronda before the last great ice age. Best of all, the caves are open to the public with a local tour guide to explain the significance of the artwork.
Tours often start late while the guide waits for enough people to make the tour worthwhile, but this doesn’t mean visitors should arrive late, especially since the door to the cave is closed after a tour starts. There are three groups per day at 10am, at 1pm, and at 4pm, with each guided tour being 90 minutes.
Pileta is 670m above sea level, and the cave entrance 40m above the road so views of the surrounding land are wonderful though the walk to the cave entrance can be difficult for some people, but inside the cave visitors have no problems, acually even people with poor staminac are able to enjoy the guided tour.
The cave is owned by a local family and they also guide the tours, and even though the caves are now commercialized, you can still believe you’ve stepped into a time machine from the 19th century because members in your group are given paraffin lamps to light the way.
The caves were rediscovered after thousands of years of being closed to the world, by Jose Bullon Lobato in 1905, a local farmer who followed a group of bats because he wanted to collect their droppings to use for fertilizer. The bats seemed to be living inside the mountain, and when he managed to crawl into a small space and explore, he was surprised to discover discover pictures on the walls, pieces of ancient pottery, and human bones on the floor of the cave.
At first he thought the artifacts were from the medieval times, and thinking they weren’t important, he abandoned his search, but in 1911 a retired British colonel heard about the paintings and visited to see for himself. It’s lucky he did, because the significance of the paintings was immediately obvious to him.
Since then, numerous discoveries of animal and human bones dating back more than 30,000 years have been made, and the paintings dated to over 20,000 years old, which proves that Ronda and the mountains have been home to people for a very long time, making the area one of the most important crossroads of human migration in Southern Europe.
Paintings you will see include pictures of cows, birds, deer, dolphins, tortoises, people, fish, and numerous lines that seem to be an ancient calendar. The precise meaning of many of the pictures has yet to be deciphered, but this hasn’t prevented the owners opening the cave to the public so you too can enjoy seeing what our ancestors wrote on cave walls.