The Altamira caves are located in Santillana del Mar, a small town in Cantabria. These caves are one of Spain´s most important tourist attractions and receive every year over 250,000 visitors. They are a Unesco heritage site.
Santillana del Mar is known for 3 things. The first one are the caves of Altamira, the second thing is its beauty and the third one is kind of a joke since its name, it is widely said, contains 3 lies: It is not saint (Santi), it is not flat (llana) and it is not next to the sea (Mar).
The Altamira caves are located 30 kilometers west of Santander, and 125 kmilometers west of Bilbao.
When were the Altamira caves discovered?
Altamira was discovered by pure chance in 1879 and they are amongst the best prehistoric paintings in the world. Altamira has been many times compared to Lascaux in France. The art found is similar, and both caves were discovered by chance by children. Altamira was discovered 60 years before the Lascaux caves and at the time it was not such a huge discovery and it did not change inmediatly the perception of stone-age live.
The Altamira caves were inhabited some 22,000 years ago and were abandoned and probably around 13,000 years ago the entrance got closed, which contributed to high humidity and stable temperatures.
What can be found in Altamira?
The original cave is 270 meters long. To preserve this cave a replica was built. This is the actual cave which can today be visited (though everyday there are 5 lucky visitors who are selected randomly and who have the opportunity to visit the original cave). The caves are divided in several rooms and the paintings are found not in the most external areas where living happened, but in more internal rooms where rites were meant to happen.
The paintings include animals (deers, horses, bisons, goats), hands and other geometrical shapes. Up to 25 bisons can be found at the Great room, the most famous room in the Altamira caves.