Grotto of Wonders, the treasure of Aracena
Do you like caves? Of those full of stalactites that hang from the ceiling and where intermittent dripping of water is heard. If so, you have to visit the Grotto of Wonders, one of the most spectacular places to see in the Sierra de Aracena and the most visited place in the town that gives name to this part of Sierra Morena.
To visit this Cave of the Wonders of Aracena you don't have to leave the town. On the contrary, it is necessary to go to the urban center of the same, because it is there, under the hill on which the Castle of Aracena was built, where the cave is located. The entrance is on a pedestrian street and near it there are souvenir shops and restaurants. Most close shortly after the last visitors leave the cave. But a little further, next to the Hermitage of San Pedro, there are another handful of bars with tables in the street. A perfect place to sit and have a drink after visiting the cave and comment on how amazing the place is.
Visit the Grotto of the Wonders of Aracena
Here you have the practical information that will help you organize your visit to the Grotto of Wonders:
- You can only enter these caves with guided tours. The duration of these is about 50 minutes during which you walk 1 kilometer in a circular route.
- The access to the caves is limited to 1,000 daily visitors. In high season (summer, weekends and bridges) it is convenient to buy the ticket in advance so as not to run out of the possibility of knowing the Grotto of the Wonders of Aracena.
- There is an extended visit, also guided, somewhat more extensive than the basic one. To be able to do it you have to contact the office of the Grotto of Wonders (Telephone 663937876/664493306).
- For group visits you must make a timely reservation. In the previous phones they provide all the information.
- The opening hours to the public are from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The grotto opens every day of the year except for December 24, 25, 31, January 1 and 6.
- Prices Grotto of Wonders. The ticket price (general rate) is € 10. Over 65 years, people with disabilities, children and schoolchildren have a reduced price. There is the possibility of acquiring the Tourist Aracena card for € 12.50 which also includes the entrance to the Castle and the Aracena Ham Museum.
- Inside the cave it is forbidden to take pictures. Those who illustrate this article could do it by having a press pass.
- The temperature inside is constant throughout the year, ranging between 14º and 19º. The humidity is 98% and at no time you feel cold inside the cave.
- It is important to wear comfortable shoes. The floor is slippery.
- Access to the Grotto of Wonders is not prepared for people with mobility problems. There are stairs both for access to the caves and inside.
Interior of the Grotto of Wonders
The caves are divided into three levels that go up and down the interior of the hill overlooking Aracena. It is a place that continues to form with each new drop of water that seeps through its walls. The presence of visitors implies a change in the usual conditions of the cave as well as the light with which the different spaces are illuminated. This has resulted in moss appearing in some places, both on walls and in lakes. The human presence has also been staining some formations that today are seen with a dark tone instead of the light that they had in origin. Therefore, we must be very respectful of the place we are visiting and not touch anything, no matter how much it attracts our attention or is in our way.
At present The natural conditions of the cave are tried to be preserved as much as possible, limiting the number of visitors and turning off the lights when they are not necessary. Still there are those who consider whether this colossal work of nature should not be closed to the public to try to keep it in the best possible state. Without doubt, there arises the debate. Hide this place forever or expose it to the risk of producing an irreversible alteration ?.
At the moment it seems that he wins the option of having these caves discovered open in 1850. It was several decades later when the Grotto of the Wonders of Aracena opened its doors to the public. Since then we have passed through thousands of visitors. Before, so much importance was not given to the conservation of the place or it may be that the effect that the passage of man through the caves could not be known was simply known. They even got to shoot movies inside as Journey to the Center of the Earth. Today this has changed and being able to do one of the guided tours to the Grotto of Wonders is a privilege.
What is inside the caves?
Explaining what these caves hide inside is complicated. When we think of caves, the typical formations known as stalactites (those that come down from the ceiling) and stalagmites come to mind. Of course, within the Grotto of Wonders there is no lack of these formations or speleothems. But there are many others with different names and forms that we had never heard of.
During the guided tour you go up and down the three levels of caves that form this cave. It goes from one cave to another and each one has some element that differentiates it from the rest and that has even given it its name. In some there are lakes, in all the water is heard dripping. This is indicative that the cave is still forming, which is alive and that although none of us can appreciate any change in the formations, the cave continues to modify its appearance and within a few thousand years the speleothems we see today, if the Grotto of Wonders is properly preserved, they will have very different forms.
Types of speleothems
There are many different speleothems that can be seen inside these Aracena caves. I leave here a brief explanation of each of them. I had no idea that there were so many karst formations, so for me it was a discovery.
- Eccentric Its shape reminds of a star. The ones inside the Grotto of the Wonders of Aracena are very white and can be seen on the floor and walls of several rooms.
- Gours These formations create small staggered lagoons.
- Banderoles They would be something like a stalactite. Only in this case the water does not circulate inside, it does so on the outside so that it thickens the formation laterally. Visually they really look like flags hanging from the ceiling.
Other formations that can be seen inside these caves are those already mentioned stalactites and stalagmites, in addition to castings or columns. But calm down, that if you don't know how to recognize something, your guide inside the cave will tell you that it is every element that you see on walls, roof and even within the lakes that are in the cave.
Brief tour of the rooms of the Grotto of Wonders
Before I told you that the route is circular and that during it you will go down and up the three levels of the cave. There are caves that only seem to be the prelude to what comes next, because of their simplicity or because compared to what is behind them one immediately forgets them. And it is that some caves are so spectacular that they will leave you with your mouth open, so pay attention, open your eyes and enjoy the ride, because everything will have to be recorded in your memory.
Among all the rooms that you pass during the guided tour One of the most spectacular is the Great Hall. It is located 100 meters below the surface and is located just below the hill on which the castle was built. This cave has a height of 50 meters and in it there is a lake that reaches 11 meters deep.
From the previous cave you climb to Cathedral. A room in which the protagonists are stalagmites and stalactites. It is fun to look for formations that remember human figures, such as that of the Virgin Mary. Also in this cave is the largest column of the Grotto of Wonders.
Following the tour you will pass through three rooms where you can see gours. Are the Bath of the Sultana, the Lake of the Emerald and the Glassware of God. This last cave seems taken from a magic story, with the turquoise color of its lake and the different formations that adorn every corner among which there is no lack of laundry, eccentric and banners.
Taking the line that leads to the exit you will pass through two very unique caves. One is that of The chickpeas. Its name is due to the rounded formations that cover the walls and that when they were formed when 50,000 years ago the water level that covered the room fell. Another of the rooms that are not forgotten is known as The Nudes. Just look at the formations in this cave to understand why its name is due.
No doubt these caves are one of the places to see in Aracena, so if you plan to visit this beautiful town, book your tickets and enjoy the bowels of the Earth.
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