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The ground beneath Mallorca conceals an incomparable geological treasure. A world of fantasy that has been created by dripping water over thousands of years and where stalactites and stalagmites form fanciful and surprising shapes. Some of the island’s caves are among the most beautiful in the world.
In the 15th century Sant Vicent Ferrer, in one of his stirring speeches, warned the Mallorcan people that the island was hollow and compared it to an inverted pot. Nowadays we know that he was mistaken, even though more than 200 natural caves have been listed. The last cave discovered is the Cave of la Gleda, in Manacor. It is over 11,000 metres long, which makes it the longest underwater cave in Europe to date. Only five caves are open to visitors and constitute one of the major attractions of the island.
The most famous caves are the Drac Cave in Porto Cristo, which contains one of the largest underground lakes in the world. The oldest written evidence of the cave is found in a message from Rover de Rovenach, the governor of the island, to the mayor of Manacor dating from 1338. In 1878 it burst onto the international scene when two travellers accompanied by a local guide got lost in the cave for 30 hours. Years later, in 1896, Archduke Louis Salvator hired the French speleologist E.A. Martel to explore the cave. He discovered the lake named after him.The Drac Cave were brilliantly illuminated by the Catalan engineer Carles Buigas, known in Spain as the “magician of light”. The 1,200 metre path is an explosion of stalactites and stalagmites that create scenes and figures that can often be identified with the outside world. You just have to take a look at their names: the Virgin of the cave, Saint Anthony of Padua, venus of the Nile, Buddha, the Indian pagoda, the valley of Montserrat, etc. It has beautiful lakes like the bath of Diana, a fragile location, and lake Martel with 117 metres length, 30 metres width and up to 14 metres depth. This makes it one of largest undeground lakes in the world. A classical music concert takes place in the lake chamber. The audience sits in a kind of Roman theatre. The musicians appear from the darkness in three illuminated boats. After the concert and “sunrise over the lake” visitors can enjoy the wonderful experience of taking a boat across the lake.
The Cave of els Hams is also located in Porto Cristo. It was named “Coves dels Hams” because of the tree-shaped formations resembling hooks (“Hams”). It seems that these strange shapes are the result of the interaction of the currents and the industrious web-weaving spiders. The cave was discovered by the Mallorcan speleologist Pedro Caldentey on 2 March 1905. A chamber is named after the date of the discovery. The names of other chambers make reference to fantasy, e.g., the Fairy cemetery with cypress-like stalactites, and literature, e.g., Milton’s Paradise Lost. The latter was Caldentey’s hommage to one of his favourite authors. The “Sea of Venice” is the deepest point with a depth of 30 metres, where a concert on an illuminated boat also takes place.
You can also visit the Cave of Campanet, which is profusely ornamented with stalactites and stalagmites that stand out for their thinness and whiteness. Furthermore, the caves are of great interest to scientists because they contain a peculiar endemic cave fauna and paleontological remains of Myotragus balearicus, which became extinct 5,000 years ago. The latest genetic testing relate Myotragus balearicus to the sheep family.
The Cave of Génova, in Palma, has a characteristic that makes it unique. It contains coralloid formations that, according to the studies made by the Universitat de les Illes Balears, formed in the presence of magnesium during the cave formation around 4 million years ago. They were discovered in 1906 while digging a well and were subsequently bought by Natacha Rambova, the widow of Rudolf Valentino. She was the first to prepare the cave for visitors.
Lastly, the Cave of Artà is one of the highest caves in Europe with stalactites of prodigious shapes and extraordinary sizes hanging from the ceiling. The most spectacular stalactite is the 22metres high “Queen of the columns”. Visitors will go through “El Infierno” (hell), including a light and sound show, “El Purgatorio” (purgatory) and the chamber of flags, among many others. Here the guide will strike three columns that offer different shades. You will also find stones made of carbon that look like genuine diamonds.
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