A few miles from the coastal town of Denía and just off the village of Benidoleig, lies one of the oldest and most interesting caves of its kind: Cuevas de las calaveras.
Traces of humans and animals have been found in the cave as far back as 50,000 - 100,000 years ago.
The black pigmented areas in front of the entrance to the cave are due to the fact that over time, bonfires have been lit in front of the entrance to keep predators out.
Geologists believe that the cave was formed 150 million years ago. It is 440 meters long and at its widest 12 meters. The visible ceiling height is up to 8-10 meters, but some of the corridors extend 60 meters upwards.
Although there are indications that the cave has been used in prehistoric times, it was considered an unexplored cave until 1768 when the first expedition was undertaken.
The expedition found skeletal remains from a dozen men who were believed to have been Muslim peasants in search of water. Hence the name "calaveras" (skull).
This gave rise to a local myth that King Ahli Moho in his time sought refuge in the cave along with 50 beautiful young women from their harem, and that they perished there.
Two scientific explorations have been carried out, one from 1913-1917 and from 1931-1933. During the Spanish Civil War, the cave was stocked for explosives.
In the 1970s, the cave was restored, secured and made available to the public. Since then it has become a popular tourist destination.
The further inward into the cave one comes in, the more beautiful the colors of the walls become. Here, people with good imagination have seen maps of Spain, pirates, crocodiles, wild boar, polar bears, Sofia Loren, Don Quijote and the late President Kenedy.
Deep inside the cave you will find stalactites (drip stones formed from the roof) and stalagmites (drip stones formed from the ground). Unfortunately, many of these are destroyed due to vandalism, but some are preserved.
At the end of the cave, it goes into an underground river. Here you can throw coins on a small bridge and make wishes.
At its lowest, the longest of us have to bend a bit, but generally there is plenty of room.
Many fossils have been discovered during the exploration of the cave. These are well preserved and some examples are exhibited in the outer part of the cave.
It may be worthwhile to arrive early in the morning (opens at 09:00), as there are few people there and the best room. Outside the cave there is a souvenir shop with very rich selection, and a restaurant.
More excursions: www.turideer.com
Excursion of the week: Cuevas de las calaveras at Benidoleig
For: Everyone. Can also use stroller and wheelchair.
Get there: Follow AP-7 from Alicante to Denía. Take the exit for Denía and follow the signs for Benidoleig. As you approach Benidoleig, there will be signs for Cuevas de las calaveras. Follow these. There is a parking space right by the cave.