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Ardales

 

Ardales is a lovely little whitewashed town nestling into the borders of the Ronda mountains on one side and a short drive away from the lakes and El Chorro on the other.

Ardales is a friendly, tranquil and quiet town with a small supermarket and a range of shops which provide everything you might need if you are staying nearby. Ardales olive oil and Ardales crisps are famous locally for being of excellent quality and taste.

Over the centuries various peoples have conquered and lived in Ardales,  leaving an interesting historical trail in the form of buildings, monuments and archaeological sites, including the famous Ardales Cave.

The Romans built a castle here and the remains can still be seen. When the Moors took over, they re-christened the town "Land of Allah" and left their mark here with monuments and a mosque, which now forms the foundation of a 15th century church.

There is a museum in Ardales in which you can book tickets to visit the Ardales Cave.

Ardales Cave

The cave is sometimes known as the Cueva de Doña Trinidad or Cueva de la Calinoria, and contains wall paintings dating back to the Solutrean period (20,000 years B.C.). It is an important Neolithic site (3,800 years B.C.) with several burial grounds dating from the Chalcolithic age (2,700 years B.C.).

A visit to the cave reveals an incredible labyrinth of columns, permanent lakes and beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations. There are also paintings and engravings dating back to the Superior Palaeolithic period of about 20,000 years ago. The most important of these is the Gran Cierva en Negro or the Cierva de Ardales. This is painted in black with a thick red tip where the heart is. There are other drawings of deer, goats, and fish. The cave is one of only ten in the world with similar characteristics and is of great historical importance.

The cave has been closed to the public for many years and now, due to its historical significance, it is legally protected, so a carefully balanced system of visits has to be managed. Only 1000 people a year are allowed to visit (and always with an official guide) and the visits must be in groups of a maximum of 15 people a day. Such visits must be previously arranged by ringing 952 458 046 (it will help if you can speak Spanish or get someone who can to help you). Due to the type and length of the tour, it is recommendable for visitors to wear comfortable rubber-soled shoes. The temperature inside the cavity is 16.5º C and the humidity level is stable at 90 and 100%. The tour lasts for approximately three hours. The normal guide speaks a bit of English but most of the commentary is Spanish.

The Prehistory Information Centre is a museum which offers an educational information on the area during that period. You start with an illustrative 15-minute video and then explore the two floors of the building, which contains more than 800 items which help to explain what the Prehistoric Ardales and the Guadalteba region were like.

Ardales Museum

 

La Pena Castle

This Moorish fortress sits at the top of Ardales. It was built in the 9th century and was allied to the rebel cause of Bobastro. It was also of great historic importance in the long frontier war between Moors and Christians in the final period of the old Al-Ándalus. There are no visible remains of the original construction.

La Molina Bridge

The Romans built this bridge because one of the roads that linked the countryside with the Mediterranean coast of Andalucía passed through here. The base dates back to the first century. With three horseshoe-shaped arches, it is one of the most important works of engineering in the Guadalteba Valley region. It was used to cross the Turón river, which passes below the village of Ardales.