In early June the Culture Ministry and the Altamira board of directors unanimously approved the reopening of the Altamira Cave which has been closed to visitors since 2002. The cave, located in northern Spain near Santander is known as the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art”. It is decorated with vivid depictions of bison and other animals dating back 15,000 years, a testament to the artists’ skill in using rock formations to accentuate perspective.
The cave was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 and is considered a masterpiece of Palaeolithic art, along with the Lascaux cave in France.
The Spanish authorities suggest that while the cave may not adapt to touristic uses, it is a heritage sight for all of humanity, a museum and a place for research. They request patience for the moment as requests to visit the museum are not being taken until after the summer. Currently it is being decided how many visitors would be allowed per day in order to protect the paintings. As reported by USA Today, the Spanish scientific research body has recommended that the caves remain closed.
We recommend visiting Altamira II, an exact replica of the cave that opened in 2001 and is located near the original. At the same location there is the Altamira Museum, with its highly informative exhibits on Cantabrian prehistory and cave art.
In the area, we suggest visiting the delightful medieval town of Santillana del Mar, just a couple of kilometres away. For those interested in visiting more caves we suggest a visit to Puente Viesgo, the “Prehistoric Capital of Cantabria.” Visit the Las Monedas Caves and the Cueva del Castillo, where 180 images of horses, bison, deer, goats and mammoth, dating back 12,000-14,000 years cavort on the walls.
Ask us about private tours with expert guides throughout northern Spain. As an example we are organizing a special cave focused tour of the Archaeology Institute of America. This October the group will be led by world-renowned archaeological author Paul Bahn.