Cueva del Yeso de Baena


Useful Information

Location: Baena, Guadalquivir valley, Córdoba.
From Baena, take the A-3125 road to Cañete de las Torres, the bridge over the Guadajoz River at kilometre 26,300, park at the restaurant La Venta de la Maturra. From here it's a short walk uphill, 200 m, 10 min, to the end of a gravel road, on the opposite side of the road.
(37.675835, -4.356675)
Open: NOV to FEB Fri-Sun 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17.
With reservation at tourist office only.
Tourist office: All year Tue-Sat 9-13:30, 16:30-19:30, Sun, Hol 9-13:30.
[2021]
Fee: Adults EUR 2, Children EUR 1, Seniors EUR 1.
Groups(10+): Adults EUR 1, educational groups free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyGypsum Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=4,000 m, T=21 °C, H=90%.
Guided tours: L=200 m, D=1 h, Max=12.
Photography:  
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Antonio Carbonell Trillo-Figueroa (1945): Espeleología Cordobesa, Boletín de la Real Academia de Ciencias Bellas Letras y Nobles Arte de Córdoba, número 53.
Address: Cueva del Yeso de Baena, A-3125, Km 26,300, 14850 Baena, Córdoba.
Oficina Municipal de Turismo de Baena, Calle Virrey del Pino, 5, 14850 Baena, Tel: +34-957-67-17-57. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1945 cave discovered and named Cueva de las Palomas, first pulishe by Antonio Carbonell Trillo-Figueroa.
1965 cave system first explored by the friends Javier Fortea, Emilio Retamosa, José Delgado, Juan Bruñere, Juan Bernier and Rafael León.
2003 declared a natural monument.
2009 Baena City Council agrees on the purchase of the land.
2015 opened to the public.

Description

The Cueva del Yeso (Gypsum Cave) is the fourth largest gypsum cave in Spain. They call it the only show cave in gypsum in Spain, which is only true if you do not classify Cuevas de Sorbas as a show cave. The cave is named simply Gypsum Cave, a name which is quite dull, and unfortunately used numerous times, so the caves are frequently mixed up. So we decided to add the location and call it Cueva del Yeso de Baena, to make it identifiable. Actually we are not the only ones and not the first ones who do this.

The cave was developed for tourism with walkways and staircases, and electric light. Nevertheless, visitors are equipped with a helmet with a headlamp before the tour begins. They explain, it is to increase visibility. We guess it is to make the tour more interesting, especially for kids.

The cave not only formed inside gypsum, the water also caused the solution and redeposition of gypsum and created so a wide range of gypsum crystals. They differ greatly from the stalactites and stalagmites you may be used from other caves. You with find thin hair like structures, flowers made of massive strings, translucent white crystals, small cave coral like concretions, and plates which look like glass. A highlight of the tour is the Sala de los Cristales (Hall of the Crystals or Crystal Room). As the cave was not created by river, the gypsum was dissolved while the cave was completely filled wit water, there is no continuous passage. The cave has a very irregular form with narrow and wide parts, with very high and very low parts. The walls have typical forms of dissolution. There are several cave lakes with gypsum rich water and the typical colour. The galería Agundo is 106 m long and contains three lakes, which are quite interesting for all the crystals which grow in the standing water.

The cave is home to a large colony of bats, and an endemic niphargus species. The bats are responsible for the fact that the cave is open only from NOV to FEB, which is quite exceptional. Publication talk that the reason is the hibernation of the bats. But we guess it's the other way round, the cave is actually used by the bats during the summer as a roost and thus closed. For hibernation, it is a little too warm, bats like cold places, so they can shut down all body processes during hibernation. So we guess there are no bats in the winter because they have gone somewhere else for hibernation. A typical behaviour for bats is that they actually have three locations during the year, one for hibernation, one for roosting, and one for hunting. The Sala del Pozo, final chamber before you return, shows the presence of bats quite impressively. The floor is covered with thick layers of bat guano which produces the characteristic stench.

The gypsum in the area is 220 Million years old and was formed at the end of the Permian. At this time the area was a depression in arid climate, which was flooded at certain events or continually by sea water. The water evaporated in the depression, precipitating and depositing the gypsum. It seems it never evaporated completely as very little salt was deposited. That's about the situation of the Dead Sea today, except that the water originated from the ocean. Today the deposit covers an area 60,000 m², is karstified and estimates were made that there could be some 20 km of cave passages.

The cave was discovered in 1945 and named Cueva de las Palomas. Probably it was named after the nearby Salinas de Cuesta Paloma, 650m to the north, a series of artificial pools called salt flats, which were used to catch and evaporate salt water from a spring. The spring has only a production of one to ten liters per second, but it flows the whole year. The salt water was used for centuries, the Romans named the area Salsum for its salt, and it seems the salt production was still in full operation in the 1960s. Later it was abandoned, probably due to falling prices for salt. In Baena, there were more than 20 such salt flats, and this one was among the 22 largest salt flats which were inventoried in Córdoba. The geologic connection between the gypsum cave and the salt springs is obvious. The evaporite deposition is a cycle starting with limestone, then gypsum, then rock salt and finally potassium salt. The local evaporites consist mainly of gypsum, but there are some salt layers, and the salt is dissolved by the karst groundwater, which reaches the salt layers through the caves.

A local legend about the cave is, that was created by the Moors digging for salt. It was such a vast undergroudn mine, that it was connected to some of the Arab towers in the area, such as the Torre del Montecillo or the Torre de Torreparedones. That's the reason why the locals call the cave mine.

The cave has no ticket office, so you have to go to the tourist office at Baena first, to buy the tickets. The guides meet the participants at the restaurant La Venta de la Maturra. Make sure to be there at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time, for the walk to the cave entrance. If you have some time before your cave tour starts, the city Baena has a lot to offer, a castle-citadel from the 9th century, a much recommended Municipal Museum of History, and historic buildings and city walls. The area is famous for olives and even has an interesting museum on the topic.