Destination Spain takes you to explore Paleolithic cave art of the Cantabrian Coast

Altamira Cave paintings, the “Sistine chapel” of Paleo Art.

17 caves that represent one of the most important ensembles of Paleolithic art in Europe.

The UNESCO designated Paleolithic Cave Art of the Cantabrian Coast includes sites in the Autonomous Regions of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Its 17 caves come together with Altamira Cave to conform this World Heritage attraction. The paintings you can see in them have an average age of 14,000 years and represent the pinnacle of Paleolithic art in Europe. The number of different caves, the diversity of techniques and styles that can be seen and their good state of conservation underline the importance of the Cantabrian coast for Paleolithic cave art.

These 17 caves, other than famous Altamira, are:

Peña de Candamo Cavern Altxerri Cave Covaciella Cave Covalanas Cave

Ekain Cave Hornos de la Peña Cave La Garma Cave La Pasiega Cave Las Chimeneas Cave Llonín Cave Santimamiñe Cave El Castillo Cave in Puente Viesgo El Chufín Cave

El Pendo Cave El Pindal Cave Tito Bustillo Cave Monte Castillo - Las Monedas Caves

We would like to point out few of them as the most significant one, without dismissing any of them, since all contain pre-historical treasures:


Located in Guipuzcoa, near San Sebastian, One of the most important prehistoric sanctuaries in Europe, which was designated World Heritage in 2008. Discovered in Deba in 1969, it contains some of the most beautiful horse paintings in French and Cantabrian rock art. It runs for 150 meters and is home to 70 rock art figures: 64 are painted and 6 are engraved. The colors ochre and black predominate. Besides horses, there are also other animals such as bison, deer and goats. To see this cave close up, you can visit a magnificent replica in Zestoa. They organize guided tours that also show you how people who lived, hunted and made fire 15,000 years ago.


An impressive labyrinth of stalactites. Designated World Heritage in 2008. Located near Santander, by the north coast line. This is the longest cave in the Monte del Castillo area. Its name comes from a cache of coins ("monedas") from the time of the Catholic Monarchs that was discovered inside the cave, one dating from 1563. It runs for 800 meters, although only 160 meters can be visited, and the route provides a wonderful spectacle of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and colored karst formations. The images are concentrated in a small side hall and comprise groups of different symbols as well as 17 animal figures (horses, reindeer, goats, bison and a bear), dating from around 10,000 BC.


Also by Santander city, this is a cave rich in paintings and symbols. The cave contains paintings of a great many animals, including drawings of dogs, which is not common in this area of Cantabria.

Remains of cave art from the Acheulean period to the Bronze Age are found along its 18 meters depth. The most primitive paintings are the 45 hand prints. There are also 50 symbols and 180 depictions of animals, especially goats. There are also fine drawings of horses, deer and bison, as well as mammoths and dogs. The black paintings belong to a middle period. Colored paintings, such as the red mammoth, are the most recent.


By Santander city, prehistoric rock art and an archaeological site, designated World Heritage in 2008.

The cave is located within the Urdaibai Estuary, a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve. The cave paintings here date from the Magdalenian period of the Late Paleolithic era (13,000 BC). They include a range of animals such as bison, horses, deer, goats and brown bears. The cave also has many stunning formations of stalactites and stalagmites. It is currently closed to the public, but you can see the wonders of its interior with the 3D virtual tours available at the Visitor Centre. Access is possible to the archaeological site located at the entrance to the cave.

Why not explore human art beyond that one in Museums and art collections?

Ask Destination Spain for including Paleo Art in your itinerary.