Nerja is a small town on the Axarquia Costa del Sol east of Malaga. In itself it is an attractive little town to visit but is also home to the Nerja caves (Cuevas de Nerja). These caves are considered one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century and they have become one of Spain’s most popular attractions.
Easily accessible to visitors, the caves are just 3km from Nerja town centre on the slopes of the Sierra Almijara mountains, with regular bus services. From Malaga, only a 35 minute drive. (add 2 hours more from Ronda.)
Tickets to Nerja cave and other activities in Nerja
Formed over the last five million years from water erosion inside the Cretaceous age calcereous-dolomite marble. The caves stretch nearly 5km, though at least 3km are easily accessible by visitors. So large are the caverns that an annual flamenco concert is staged within the cave for hundreds of aficionados due to the natural acoustics of the karstic walls.
The caves are particularly known for the impressive 800,000 year old stalagmites and stalactites that create a masterpiece of natural sculpture in a variety of shapes and sizes. Amongst them is the largest stalagmite in the world at 32m high and 13m x 7m at the base, a truly staggering size.
Within the cave, archeologists have also discovered paleolithic paintings dating back as much as 25,000 years. It is estimated the caves have been inhabited until around 3,000 years ago, a time when bronze age people finally abandoned caves and began to build villages and towns.
Find a hotel in Nerja
Really, it’s better to stay a bit closer rather than day tripping from Ronda to the Nerja caves. Here are a few hotels to browse.
What is there to see in the Nerja caves
Most visitors only see around a third of the caves in specially marked trails that form a 45 minute walk through some of the best caverns. Visitors wanting more can join special interest speleological groups that travel further and experience galleries not open to the general public.
One of the highlights of the caves is the Organ Corner in the Hall of the Cataclysm. This is a series of fluted columns that can be hit with different objects to produce melodic sounds. In fact archeologists believe that some of these were intentionally sculpted by ancient people to use as musical instruments for religious purposes. (I think, perhaps just for entertainment. :) )
From the entrance, visitor to the Nerja Caves will pass through the entrance hall with static displays of some of the archeological finds discovered. Then, to the Mine Hall (and the Hall of the Sink which isn’t open to the public). The Hall of Nativity with columns of calcite. The Hall of the Waterfall (or Ballet) with 100 seats permanently installed for concerts. The Hall of the Phantoms named for the “speleothem” within it, and finally to the Hall of the Cataclysm.
What are speleothem
Speleothems are mineral deposits that form in caves, caverns, and other underground spaces. They are created through the slow precipitation of minerals from water that drips, flows, or pools in these spaces. The term “speleothem” comes from the Greek words “spelaion” (cave) and “thema” (deposit).
Speleothems can take on a variety of shapes and forms, including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, helictites, and draperies. Stalactites form from the ceiling of a cave and grow downward, while stalagmites form from the floor and grow upward. Flowstones are sheet-like deposits that form on walls or floors, and helictites are twisting, irregularly shaped formations that grow in all directions.
Speleothems can provide important information about past climates, since the growth rate of the mineral deposits is influenced by temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors. They also serve as natural archives of information about the history of the cave environment and the organisms that inhabit it.
Opening times for the Nerja caves
The caves are open every day from 10am till 2pm, and then from 4pm till 8pm in July and August, and from 10am till 2pm, and 4pm till 6:30pm for the rest of the year.
The Caminito del Rey
Find tickets for the Caminito del Rey: https://www.caminodelrey.es/
Wildside Holidays – Spain
Take a trip on the Wildside! Discover the wildlife and nature of Spain, its Natural and National Parks and find the top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies.
Iberia Nature Forum
Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!
Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.