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Nerja Caves (Spain)

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Address: The Nerja Caves Ctra de Maro / Famous caves near the town of Nerja.

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      15.10.2011 14:34
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      Nerja Caves

      Nerja is a beautiful town located 50km from Malaga and unlike a lot of towns along that stretch of coast it hasn't lost its unique charm. It is a lovely place to go for a holiday however it is a coastal town and the majority of people who visit here come for the lovely clean sandy beaches. That isn't to say that culture vultures won't find something to interest them. The last time I stayed in Nerja I wanted to visit the famous (well in the surrounding area anyway) Nerja caves. The Nerja caves are located about 3km from the town but aren't as easy to get to as the signs around the town would have you believe. They are located in a small village next door to Nerja and although you could walk to them from Nerja it would take you quite a long time and you would need to cross quite busy roads so it would be much more convenient and easier to go by car or bus. We went by car and they were well signposted and we found them easy enough. There is a large car park at the caves that had plenty of spaces and cost a Euro to use. When you leave the car park you walk up a small hill and come to the entrance. The entrance to the caves is quite underwhelming, I was expecting a huge entrance but it is just a small building. You pay at a window next to the entrance but make sure and be ready to defend your position as there were a lot of tour buses coming and going and the tour guides would just try to push past us in the queue to get to the front. The entry fee in to the caves is 8.50 Euros for adults and 4.50 for children. You should be aware that they don't accept payment by debit or credit cards so you need to make sure that you have taken enough cash with you. Once you have your ticket you just go to the entrance and hand it over and make your way down the stairs in to the caves. The stairs down are quite steep and when you get to the bottom there is a corridor that you walk along to get to the caves. Even though it is underground this corridor is the narrowest part of the caves and the only part that I felt some slight claustrophobia. Once you reach the end of the corridor you have to stop to get your photograph taken. This annoyed me as I told them I didn't want my photo taken but they insisted. I am not against getting my photo taken at tourist attractions per say but the place where they take the photo has no special background so I really didn't see the point in it and I didn't like their attitude when I tried to say no to getting it taken. After you have had your photo taken you enter in to the caves proper and the first chamber is a little bit of a disappointment. It is quite small and not all that impressive. In this cave they have a small museum where it gives you some history and facts on the caves and there is a small selection of fossils and artefacts that were found when the caves were first discovered in 1959. The small selection of artefacts are interesting but it doesn't take long to see them all and I was definitely feeling underwhelmed with the caves at this point. After we had looked round the artefacts we went to the next chamber and walking in to this cave was absolutely jaw dropping. This is what I had been looking forward to seeing. The cave is absolutely humongous and completely spectacular. I can't imagine anyone ever walking in here and not being impressed with the sheer size and scale of the cave. Walking down in to the cave I didn't know where to look as there was so much to see. In the middle of the cave there is a huge central column which is 32 metres high and is the largest in the world. It is certainly impressive. All around the cave there are stalagmites, stalactites and columns. There are also strange looking formations which look like huge pearls and it is undoubtedly one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen. There is a network of paths that you can walk round to be able to view the entire cave. These paths were steep and wet and unfortunately they wouldn't be suitable for people who have trouble with walking. All along the paths there are spaces where you can stand and view the different parts of the caves. There is something to see on every surface of the cave whether you are looking up or looking down and it is definitely a feast for the eyes. I found it amazing to think that these caves are over 5 million years old and were inhabited by early humans 27 thousand years ago. There are actually cave paintings and artefacts from that time period and evidence that early humans used the caves as a burial chamber for their dead. The amount of history contained here is staggering and really did make me think. In one part of the cave there is a prehistoric skeleton displayed and there is also an opportunity to view some cave art which does make you feel small and insignificant viewing this art from thousands of years ago. Although the caves are quite dark there is enough low level lighting to allow you to be able to see everything except for the highest recesses which are just too high to be able to see properly. As amazing as I found it to fathom the huge cave that you get to look round is only a small part of the network of caves and there are several other massive caves that aren't open to the public and are only accessible to archaeologists. I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything as the main cave is so large and impressive but I would still have loved to have been able to get in to those other caves and see if they were as spectacular as the main cave. Apparently the people who run the caves run occasional special tours in to the other caverns and I would love to join one of these and think it would be amazing to see something that not many humans have had the chance to see in thousands of years. The only thing that I can criticise about my visit to the caves is the fact that it was very busy with tour groups and not only was it difficult to get past these groups the tour guide would be explaining the history of the caves very loudly and as you can imagine this shouting echoed off the walls and did take away some of the atmosphere slightly. I would love to be able to visit the caves again just on my own and soak it all in but it is doubtful that this will ever happen and to be honest the tour groups were a small inconvenience for such an amazing experience. At the entrance to the main cave there was also lots of benches and seating and this is because apparently the caves are a natural amphitheatre and in June they hold the Festival de Música y Danza where singers and performers put on a show for a select group of people. I can't even begin to imagine just how amazing this would be and it is now one of my life goals to be able to attend a concert in the caves. You are not allowed to take photographs with a flash in the cave network, not that this stopped a lot of people but I found that even without a flash my photos came out ok because there was enough ambient lighting. Ideally I would have loved to have had some better photos but it is still possible to take some half decent ones without. When you leave the cave network you go back up some stairs and as soon as you get outside in the sunshine it comes as a bit of a shock after being underground for so long. Sitting along a wall were several young girls who were holding photographs, knowing exactly what these were I walked right past them but one came running after us and again wouldn't take no for an answer when I told her we didn't want to buy the picture. I felt like a bit of a misery but it really annoyed me and felt more like I was at a tourist attraction in a poorer country instead of Spain and I really didn't appreciate this hard selling of the photographs. Outside there is also a large restaurant that looks out over the sea. We went for coffee and a sandwich and although it was nice it was very overpriced. There is also a gift shop where you can buy some items relating to the cave. The caves are open from 10:00am until 19:30 during July and August and from 10:00 till 14:00 and 16:00 till 18:30 at all other times. If you are visiting outside of the summer high season when it is open all day then make sure you leave enough time to be able to properly appreciate the caves. I have been to lots of caves over the years as I personally find them to be fascinating but 9 times out of 10 they are never as spectacular as they look in pictures. In all honesty I can say the Nerja caves are the most impressive caves I have ever visited and I can't imagine that anyone visiting them will fail to be impressed. My pictures really don't do the caves justice and fail to show just how immense that they are but in person they are amazing and if you ever find yourself in the Malaga area then they are by far and away in my opinion the best sight in the region.

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