Cueva de la Pileta

This item appears on page 18 of the February 2012 issue.

A highlight of my two-month trip to Spain in February and March ’11 was a day trip from Ronda to Benaojan to see La Cueva de la Pileta, which contains some of the oldest cave paintings found in Europe. Amazingly, the public may view the original prehistoric paintings (not reproductions). I visited the cave in the first week of March. I took the train from Ronda (round trip fare, €5). Guided tours of the cave are about an hour long, cost €8 (near $10.50) and are limited to 25 people. Tours leave hourly from 10 to 1 and 4 to 6. The tours are in Spanish, but the guides will translate the highlights into English. Tours are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Upon arrival, you are given a ticket with the time slot of your tour. Weekend tickets go fast; I arrived at 11 a.m. on a holiday weekend and was given a ticket for 4 p.m. The last train to Ronda left the station, a 1½-hour walk away from the cave, at 5 p.m. If the guide had not let me slip into an earlier private tour, I would have missed out on seeing this ancient artwork. I would recommend calling ahead for reservations and to confirm hours, especially if you have a large group or are relying on public transportation. Some lighting is provided in the cave, but I was glad to have my own flashlight. The rooms and passages inside the cave were very open and did not inspire claustrophobia. I watched my step on the sometimes-damp rock, but the tour did not require a great deal of physical stamina or any squeezing into tight spaces. Photography is not permitted inside. While it is possible to access the cave via public transportation, it is not easy. Trains and buses make the short trip from Ronda to Benaojan two or three times per day but at inconvenient times. From the train station, the cave is a five- to six-kilometer hike up a mountain to where you purchase your tickets. I waited several hours for my tour. Everyone else I saw drove up to the site, registered for a tour later in the day, then drove off to do other things until the scheduled time. If you don’t have a car, ask the tourist office in Ronda to suggest an alternative way to make the trip. If I were to do it over, I would make reservations for a weekday and look for a cab or driver in Ronda. I found La Cueva de la Pileta much more interesting than the overcommercialized caves near Nerja. If you are anywhere near Ronda, I highly recommend making the effort to visit this cave. For info or reservations, call (34) 952 167343. EVA HOLMES Portland, ME