angle-left Underground treasures

It was not until the early twentieth century that the Santimamiñe Cave and its Palaeolithic rock paintings were found. A few decades later, workers at a quarry discovered Pozalagua, a treasure hidden under the ground in Armañón Nature Park, in the region of Las Encartaciones.

Santimamiñe is the main prehistoric site in Bizkaia. Located in Kortezubi, close to the Painted Forest of Oma, it contained artefacts and paintings. These remains had been there for more than 13.000 years ago, since the Magdalenian period of the Upper Palaeolithic. The cave has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008. Inside the tunnel are black charcoal paintings that represent animals: 32 bison, 7 goats, 6 horses, a deer and a bear.

Since 2006, Santimamiñe has been closed to the public. However, you can still go on a 90-minute tour and watch a 3D film of the cave, rock paintings included, at the visitor centre, housed in the nearby shrine of San Mamés.

Open to visitors since 1991, Pozalagua is a cave located in Peñas de Ranero, in Karrantza. Named in Repsol Guide as Best Corner of 2013, this cave was found by chance in 1957 after an explosion in a nearby quarry. It is a spectacular underground treasure that had been hidden for thousands of years. Curtains, stalagmites and stalactites have grown forming peculiar and beautiful shapes. What makes Pozalagua unique is the huge concentration of eccentric stalactites that, defying the laws of gravity, branch in different directions.

The 50-min tour takes visitors on a walkway flanked by stalactites, stalagmites and curtains. You will pass through a dry lake bed to reach the Versailles chamber, where you will find a huge concentration of eccentric stalactites. The tour ends on a viewpoint affording views of the chamber at large.

Routes

This is a kid-friendly, two-hour walk to the caves of Baltzola and the Jentilzubi Bridge. The caves are in Dima, in the heart of the Arratia Valley and Urkiola Nature Park. Park your car in the small parking area in the Baltzola neighbourhood in Dima, close to the bridge and the caves, where mythological creatures live.

In a pleasant two-hour walk, you can admire the caves of Baltzola and the Jentilzubi Bridge. According to the legend, diferent mythological creatures live there

Bring a flashlight with you; you will need it to explore these amazing caves that are frequently visited by spelunkers and climbers. According to legend, the caverns were inhabited by lamias, female mythological creatures that are half human and half duck, with a fish caudal tail and claws.

They say that Sugoi, goddess Mari's husband (a genie that morphs into a snake), and their son, Mikelatz, live in the caves too. On the way, you will see Jentilzubi, a natural bridge that is said to have been built by the Jentil, extremely strong legendary creatures, to pass from mountain to mountain while hiding from Christians. Climb up the Jentilzubi Bridge to watch Abrigo de Axlor, the oldest archaeological site in Bizkaia, discovered by Joxe Migel Barandiaran. A metal fence protects the remains of humans from the Middle Palaeolithic, the oldest in Bizkaia (150,000-40,000 BC).

How To Get There

The caves of Baltzola are a 30 minutes’ drive from Bilbao. You can leave your car at the small parking area in the Baltzola neighbourhood, in Dima, or in Indusi. The caves are a nice short walk from either car park.
 
  • Bus

    The Bizkaibus line A-3925 (Bilbao-Otxandio) stops in Indusi.

  • Car

    From Bilbao, take the N-240 toward Igorre. Continue on road BI-2543 in the direction of Otxandio, turning for Olabarri-Indusi.

Gastronomy

Where to eat

The areas surrounding all three caves make perfect picnic spots. Plus, the views are stunning. Next to the Pozalagua Cave there is a picnic area and also a restaurant. On your way to Baltzola, the caves wrapped in magic and legends, you can have a break to eat.

If you prefer to sit at a restaurant, go to the towns near Baltzola, Dima or Otxandio. In Dima you can taste alubias con todos los sacramentos (beans with bacon, black pudding and chorizo). In Otxandio, steak with bell peppers from Gernika is the most popular choice.

Accommodation

Where to sleep

The areas around the caves offer a good chance to understand the rural lifestyles in hinterland Bizkaia, where old traditions have been kept alive. You can stay in a country home or a baserri (farmhouse) in Dima, Otxandio, Kortezubi or Karrantza: a fully Basque experience, indeed.

Maybe you prefer to stay at a hotel in an urban environment. If so, bear in mind that Bilbao is not far away. You can go out on day trips and return to the city for the night. As you can see, there is something for every taste.

  • In Bizkaia you can take a journey to the centre of the earth. There are awe-inspiring caves, shaped by nature through the centuries. The cave paintings in the openings into the mountains in Armañón and Urkiola Nature Parks attest to the presence of man as far back as the Old Stone Age. Find information below about the caves and their wonderful natural settings in Bizkaia.

    Pozalagua Cave
    Peñas de Ranero (2km from Ranero)
    48891 Karrantza, Bizkaia
    Phone number: 649 811 673 (Cuevas) / 946 806 928 (Karrantza Valley Tourist Office)
    Email address: info@karrantza.com

    Santimamiñe Cave
    Barrio de Basondo, s/n. 48315 Kortezubi, Bizkaia.
    Phone number: 944 651 657
    Email address: santimamine@bizkaia.net
    Visit Santimamiñe Cave.

    • Timetable

      Pozalagua Cave
      From 1 April to 15 October
      11:00am to 8:00pm (last admission 7:00pm)

      From 16 October to 31 March
      11:00am to 6:00pm (las admission 5:00pm)

      Closed on Monday (except holidays), 1 and 6 January, 18 September and 24, 25 and 31 December.

      Santimamiñe Cave
      From 15 April to 14 October
      Daily 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:00 noon, 1:00pm, 3:30pm, 5:00pm, 5:30pm

      From 16 October to 14 April
      Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am, 11:00am, 12:00 noon, 1:00pm

      Tour lasts about 90min.

    • Price

      Pozalagua Cave
      Adults ages 16 and over: €7
      Children ages 8-16: €4
      Adult groups: €4
      Students (with proof of status): €4
      Adult groups: €4
      School groups: €3
      Spelunking association members: Free admission

      Santimamiñe Cave
      Adults: €5
      Groups (10 to 20 people): €3
      Concessions: €2
      Children ages 6 and under: Free admission

    • Location

      Pozalagua Cave (Karrantza Valley).
      Santimamiñe Cave (Kortezubi).
      Baltzola Cave (Dima).

  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and warm clothes. The temperatures inside the caves are usually lower than on the surface. In the Pozalagua Cave, the temperature is 13ºC all year round. Taking pictures and touching stalactites are not allowed in Pozalagua.