Gruta do Limoeiro

Useful Information

Location: Limoeiro, Castelo.
15 km from Castelo city centre, ES-166 highway Castelo to Venda Nova do Imigrante. 300 m from the highway. 150 m walk to the cave.
(-20.484423, -41.172105)
Open: All year Tue-Sun 9-16, last tour 15:30.
Fee: Adults BRL 6.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: torch and helmet provided
Guided tours: D=60min
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Centro de Visitantes, Gruta do Limoeiro, Limoeiro, Castelo - ES, 29360-000, Tel: +55-28-99986-1542.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1935 a local teacher discovers bones and ceramic objects in the cave.
1979 excavation by archaeologist Celso Perota and a team of researchers from the Federal University of Espírito Santo (Ufes).
1984 declared Historic Heritage of Espírito Santo by the State Council of Culture.


The Gruta do Limoeiro (Lemon Tree Cave) is named after the village Limoeiro, where it is located. It is an important archaeological site for the prehistory of Espírito Santo, traces of human presence dating back more than 5000 years were found. The cave is located at the foot of a 30 m high reddish limestone cliff. The entrance is rather wide, but only about 2 m high. It actually looks like a room with rather low ceiling and columns supporting the ceiling. The columns are, at a closer look, stalagnates.

In the small village is a sort of visitor center called Centro de Visitantes Gruta do Limoeiro. It has an exhibition on the history of the cave. There is also a small shop called “Paiol da Gruta” and restrooms. From here it's a 150 m walk to the cave entrance. At the entrance to the cave is an image of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is frequented by praying devotees. Nearby is the Pedra do Sino, named for its shape and the sound it produces. People were hitting the stone to produce the unique sound, but the damages caused by them are the reason why it is no longer allowed to hit the stone.

The cave is almost undeveloped, there are only a few wooden walkways at the entrance. But most of the time the visitors walk on the dirt floor, which is mostly horizontal. There are some narrow sections, but the main obstacle is the low ceiling. It is quite common that visitors must stoop between the chambers, in some cases its necessary to crawl. It's a good thing that visitors are equipped with helmets.

Castelo is located in the mountainous region of Espírito Santo, called the Capixaba Mountains. The cave was known to the locals for a long time, but more or less ignored. In 1935 a teacher and her pupils were cleaning the area and removing the bush from the cave. They discovered bones and ceramic objects on the floor. As a result the teacher requested that an image of Our Lady of Lourdes was placed there on an altar. Probably she wanted to save the souls of those unknown ancestors. She obviously also told the authorities about their findings, but it took 45 years before the first archaeologist visited the cave. The archaeologist Professor Celso Perota examined the cave in 1979. As a result he started an excavation which revealed several skeletons, two of them almost complete. The C14 dating revealed an age around 4500 BP, they were obviously indigenous inhabitants of this area.

There is a legend that the Spaniard José Lacerda organized a scientific caravan aimed at discovering the cave's mysteries in 1904. When he reached the vicinity he found passages formed by blocks of granite on a hill with an elevation between 70 m and 80 m. The passages were formed like bones and they were connected by skulls that formed columns. From the shapes, José Lacerda concluded that the place had hosted an extinct volcano. He also found spongy bodies, which indicated the presence of petrified lavas.

We have no idea about the origin of this story, but its actually complete nonsense. Granites are not formed by volcanism, lava does not produce spongy forms, and the cave is a karst cave with speleothems. Probably there were early discoveries of bones in the cave which resulted in this exaggerated story of a bone cave.