While Andaluca might be famous for its world-class beaches, elegant cities and outstanding skiing, don't pass up the chance to explore some of its less-obvious attractions. If you enjoy subterranean spectacle, the Nerja Caves are the best Costa del Sol caves for a fun and fascinating day out. Less than an hour's drive from Malaga and a matter of minutes from the town of Nerja itself, these underground wonders offer a fascinating peek into the region's prehistoric past and are home to the largest stalagmite in the world. Open all year round, except on New Year's Day and during the Romeria de San Isidro (May 15th), they're a superb attraction, whenever you choose to take your holidays to this part of the Costa del Sol.
Getting to the Costa del Sol cavesGetting to the caves is easy, whether you decide to come by bus, car or on foot. You'll find them just 5km from the Balcon de Europa and, while there's an uphill stretch that lasts around 100 metres, the views and the caves are well worth the effort. If you do decide that you'd rather walk, be sure to wear plenty of sun cream, pack a hat and take some water with you as the ascent can be very hot, particularly in the afternoon. The nearby Nerja Museum operates its own land-train to the caves which can save you walking all the way. The Cueva Tren is a relaxing way to see the local sights as you make your way up to the Nerja caves and includes a stop at the Parque Verano Azul.
The history of the Nerja CavesWhile there are other Costa del Sol caves, such as the Cueva del Tesoro and the Cueva del Gato, the Nerja Caves are the most popular and extensive. They were discovered by accident in the 17th Century by five local boys who were hunting for bats. On uncovering a hidden entrance, they went inside to find a series of human skeletons and some ancient clay pots. Although they told their teachers, the caves remained little more than a local curiosity until the 1950s, archaeological investigators got wind of them and finally verified the finds as having significance. In 1960 the caves were officially opened to the public and since then have attracted visitors from all over the world.
What to expectThe caves stretch out across 5km, housing tunnels, passages and chambers. Among the stalactites and stalagmites, which sit like giant, glittering teeth throughout the caves, you'll find some outstanding examples of cave paintings. Verified as the oldest cave paintings in the world and thought to be among the first ever created, they date back around 43,000 years. Because of their importance, group numbers to see these ancient artworks are restricted. These Costa del Sol caves have another attraction. As you make your way through you'll find yourself in Cataclysm Hall, the chamber that acts as home to the world's largest and longest stalactite. Over thousands of years, the deposits left by water sinking through the layers above have created a crystalline spike that's a staggering 33 metres in length and with a base that measure approximately 12 metres, by six metres. A jaw-dropping sight, it's worth the walk, alone. However, the caves aren't merely a shrine to the past. Today they are used as the main performance space for the annual Nerja International Festival of Music and Dance each June. If you've booked your Costa del Sol holidays during this month, hearing live music echo around the millennia-old caves is a must.
Underground, OvergroundFor those who like to indulge their adventurous sides, the Nerja Caves offer a Caving Adventure Visit. Open between May and October, this specialist tour gives intrepid explorers the chance to access parts of the Costa del Sol caves that are rarely seen by the public. Under the guidance of expert guides, you'll crawl and climb your way through passages and chambers to see sights that have remained virtually untouched since the caves were discovered. Once you've made your way out of the Nerja Caves, you might like to explore the Botanical Gardens. Covering over 26,000 square metres and with more than 200 species of rare plants, the Nerja Caves Botanical Gardens offer walking trails supported by information boards, telling you all you need to know about the plants and wildlife you might encounter. Watch out for passing deer, birds of prey, and the occasional wild boar. As Costa del Sol caves go, the Caves of Nerja are a truly spectacular attraction and a fascinating way to cool off from the heat of the summer sun.