Cueva del Gato, a forbidden cave with Palaeolithic paintings

Cueva del Gato, which means “the cat’s cave” in Spanish, lies near Benaoján in the province of Málaga. It conforms the southern mouth of the cave of Hundidero, at the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, although most people call the whole cave Cueva del Gato. This is a must-see for adventurers and speleology lovers, as well as for all those interested in discovering new places in spectacular natural landscapes.

A reference point for speleology

The entry to the cave of Cueva del Gato with a lake in front of it

Cueva del Gato. | Shutterstock

Cueva del Gato is only three kilometres away from Montejaque and 15 kilometres away from Ronda. The cave encompasses 10 kilometres and it has 10 different paths, with a steepness of 219 metres.

It does not come up as a surprise that such a large cave would lie in this natural park, since Sierra de Grazalema is a karst area of lime rocks. Over the centuries, water has slowly carved these cavities, which used to host the river Guadares. Nowadays, the cave gathers water coming from creeks and rain.

From a speleological point of view, Cueva del Gato is one of the most important caves in Spain. Besides that, it is considered an Asset of Cultural Interest due to its precious cave paintings, as well as being a Natural Monument of Andalusia since 2011.

A dreamlike gateway

The interior of the cave of Cueva del Gato crossed by a stream

Cueva del Gato. | Shutterstock

One of the most outstanding aspects regarding Cueva del Gato is the dreamlike scenery it rests in. There is a crystal-clear lake right in front of the entry, and its cool waters invite the visitors to dive in, particularly in summer. Moreover, only a few metres below the entry, there is a small waterfall most travellers feel the need to take a pic of.

The name of Cueva de Gato is a consequence of its entry’s appearance, which resembles a cat’s face. However, it is important to note that its entry is forbidden for the general public, considering its interior can be dangerous, especially during the rainy season. Only expert speleologists can enter it, and even they need to get a permit beforehand.

Nonetheless, we can enjoy a nice swim in the lake in the summer days. Additionally, there are multiple hiking routes in the area, like the path departing from Benaoján and spreading for 6 kilometres until it reaches Cueva del Gato. There is another one that ends in the source of Los Cascajales, this time with a length of 9 kilometres.

The interior of Cueva del Gato

The entry to a cave surrounded by trees

Cueva del Gato. | Shutterstock

There are several deep lakes inside the cave, like Doble and Largo. We can also find fossil-rich areas with giant rock formations there, such as the space called Sala de Gours. This place holds impressive formations created due to limestone accumulation on a tilted wall.

There is also an outstanding bat colony in Cueva del Gato, although bats tend to gather in corners that are difficult to access in order to hibernate in peace. After crossing Galería de la Ciénaga, one shall reach a chamber called Plaza de Toros, with a diameter and height of over 60 metres. Next up, there is Los Toriles, with a waterfall that might be one of the most beautiful elements of the whole cave.

Another interesting spot in Cueva del Gato is a huge stalagmite that remains underwater for the most part. We cannot forget Cabo de las Tormentas either, which is a notably windy area, or Galería de la Botella, where the water is calm on one side and it runs through a narrow channel on the other. To end with, we can see the light of the outside world from Galería del Aburrimiento or Sala de las Dunas, two chambers that are connected to the mouth of Cueva del Gato.

Cave paintings from 14000 years ago

A lake in front of a wall of rock with the entry to a cave and a small waterfall

Cueva del Gato. | Shutterstock

When it comes to its origin, the history of Cueva del Gato begins thousands of years ago; more precisely, 14000 years ago, when it was used as a shelter by humans from the Palaeolithic period. We know that because they left several traces consisting of cave paintings. These paintings were found by a team of speleologists from Malaga in 2004, and they became quickly aware of its importance, since these findings proved the presence of humans in this area such a long time ago.

Of all the paintings in the cave, one of the most remarkable ones depicts a russet-coloured deer standing sideways. There is also a painting portraying a hunter, which was created shortly after. These cave paintings date back to the Upper Palaeolithic; hence they are similar to the ones found in the cave of La Pileta, which is also near Benaoján and only 13 minutes away by car.

It is worth noting that the province of Málaga amounts to eight caves with cave paintings, which makes it an internationally relevant area concerning Palaeolithic art. The six remaining spots are the caves of Ardales, Victoria and Tesoro, the rocks of Cabrera, the dolmens of Antequera, the archaeological site of La Araña, and the caves of Nerja.

All in all, Cueva del Gato is the perfect destination for those who love nature and history. At the end of the day, it is a key spot regarding Palaeolithic art in the province of Málaga and Andalusia as a whole.

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