A cathedral under the ground
The Pozalagua Cave has the highest number of eccentric stalactites per square metre in the world – a show of nature under the ground in Bizkaia.
In the mid-twentieth century, workers at a nearby quarry found a treasure by chance under the ground. It was Pozalagua, a 125m-long hollow with a spectacular concentration of eccentric stalactites that, defying the laws of gravity, branch in different directions, creating beautiful shapes.
The cave, named in Repsol Guide as Best Corner of 2013, has been open to the public since 1991. It is one of the most interesting attractions for travellers in Bizkaia.
Pozalagua is in the heart of Armañón Nature Park, in the Karrantza Valley, in the region Las Encartaciones. We kindly invite you to come over to one of the most beautiful and less known areas of Bizkaia.
Hinterland of Bizkaia
Mountain traditions not far from the city
Karrantza has a rich natural heritage on the surface. Under the ground, however, it is a brand-new world whose unique characteristics are all illustrated in the Pozalagua Cave.
Pozalagua was found by chance, as it does not open to the exterior. Dolomite exploitation activity in a nearby quarry was carried out using dynamite. In 1957, one such explosions revealed a veritable geological treasure. Unfortunately, the blast destroyed many stalactites and stalagmites, but most of the cave, which formed in about 50 million years, remained intact.
The cave has been carefully equipped for visitors to come in by way of a metal walkway flanked by stalactites, curtains and stalagmite columns.
The central chamber has a 20m dome supported by majestic limestone and dolostone columns, coloured by iron oxide. Everything here has grown from subsequent drops falling and forming a Baroque decoration of fragile and twisting eccentric stalactites.
The causes of such eccentric formations are unknown. The walls of the cave show peculiar images like the face of a witch, a sirloin steak or a willow. Visitors are not allowed to touch anything inside the cave.
A few metres away from the cave there stands Torca del Carlista, the largest sinkhole in Europe and the second largest in the world. It is only open to experienced cavers.
There must have been a central lagoon where the roof looked at itself as in a mirror, but the last explosion in the quarry caused leaks that let the water out. At the far end of the cave is a viewpoint to soak up the hidden beauty of Pozalagua.
A visit to the cave is great for families travelling with kids, since the little ones will have fun trying to discover new images between the stalactites. Also, children love Karpin Fauna, an educational park and wildlife recovery centre only 10km from Pozalagua.
Adjoining the cave, on the site of the old quarry, there is auditorium with a seating area. In mid-July, the auditorium plays host to an open-air music festival starring Basque musicians and singers.
How to get there
Long distances between towns in the Karrantza Valley, the widest in Bizkaia, are commonplace. There are bus lines that carry passengers to some of the neighbourhoods but not to Ranero, where the cave lies.
The FEVE line runs from Bilbao to Karrantza in an hour. Get off at Ambasaguas (La Estación). Take a taxi at the train station or head to the cave on foot (two-hour walk).
Two bus lines depart from Termibus: Bilbao-Zalla-Karrantza and Bilbao-Zalla-Lanestosa. You will need to transfer at Zalla to reach your destination.
You can take either the coastal road or the one that runs across the interior. From Bilbao, take highway A-8 (Bilbao-Santander), exit at Balmaseda by way of Corredor del Cadagua (road BI-636), which passes through Alonsotegi, Zaramillo and Zalla to get to Malabrigo. Then get onto road BI-630 and continue past Traslaviña to reach the mountain pass of La Escrita, which leads to Karrantza. If you choose to take the coastal route, get into highway A-8 (Bilbao-Santander), exit at Colindres, then take road N-629 in the direction of Burgos-Logroño. Pass through Limpias, Ampuero and Rasines. On arriving at the narrow pass of Gibaja, take road BI-630 toward Balmaseda-Vitoria. You will get into the valley by the gorge of Karrantza.
Where to eat
Very close to the cave you will find a picnic area. The views of the valley are majestic. If you prefer to sit at a restaurant or bar, there are a lot of them in the nearby towns. They serve the best of our traditional recipes. Our recommendations: bean stew or lamb. Prices are accessible.
You can bring home an edible souvenir like Carranzana sheep milk cheese, Idiazabal cheese, organic cheese or yoghurt, cold meats (black pudding, bacon, chorizo), or artisan pastries and desserts.
Where to sleep
Lodges and country homes are the best choice to stay in the Karrantza Valley, surrounded by a rather unknown yet fabulous natural setting in Bizkaia.
For an extra treat, try the healing waters from the hot springs at El Molinar, in Karrantza. The spring water, whose temperature ranges between 29 and 33 ºC, has been used since the nineteenth century. They say it works wonders for rheumatism and arthritis, among other musculoskeletal conditions.