Hang out like a smuggler in the north of Ibiza in this magical underground cave system, the largest on the island.
Over 100,000 years old, this cave system was created through flaws in the Earth’s plates, shaped by underground rivers and waterfalls and remained through ice ages, glaciers, tropical heat and all manner of changes to the hills and countryside around it. The large system of caves and tunnels was used by smugglers up until the mid 20th century, and then work began in 1975 making the caves fit for tourism. In 1980, the caves opened to the public complete with lighting, stairways and paths for ease of access.
Visitors arrive at the site at the top of the cliffs and purchase a ticket at the bar, before descending the many steps down the side of the cliff to the entrance far below. Tour groups leave every 30 minutes throughout the day and are carried out in Spanish, English and French.
Upon first entering the cave system, visitors will be surprised by the space and light. The guide will explain how these spaces have been excavated for the public, but that there is far more of the cave system that is still too narrow for the public to visit. Visitors will then be shown the smuggler's original entrance to the cave, which sits 8m above sea level down a narrow and claustrophobic tunnel. A second exit, higher up the cliff, was used by the smugglers in case of emergency, and visitors can still see the red and black markings on the stones that showed them the way to these two exits.
Visitors will then pass along smooth pathways, past open caverns and terraces filled with surreal stalactites and stalagmites that have formed at the rate of 1cm every 100 years. Some have created strange shapes, such as the one resembling a finger, complete with fingernail, or the fat little Buddha sitting on a rock. Fossilised bird bones can also be clearly seen, as well as the incredible sight of a fossilised waterfall. The guide will point out all of these things to you whilst filling you in on the science of how the caves were made and how the flow of water has shaped them into what you see today.
One of the additions for tourism, as well as the paths and stairways, is the creation of a waterfall within the cave system to replicate what you would have seen if the old waterfall still flowed. The waterfall rushes suddenly through the cave accompanied by electro music and a coloured light show, beautiful and dramatic to behold.
Later on, visitors will come to a display they will think similarly man-made, but that is, in fact, natural: a large cavern space in which the ground lies in terraces of stone on which pools of water have gathered. In photographs, these seem lit from within with another light show, but in reality it is fluorescence within the water that makes them look solid when observed by eye, and glow when caught on camera. Make sure to take a camera with you or you will miss this strange spectacle.
A visit to these caves is a must if you're visiting the north of the island. The size of the system alone is amazing, as well as the human effort involved in excavating the huge space. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and will answer any questions you have. Whether you’re impressed by the science behind the caves, the majesty of nature or the thrill of smugglers, everyone is bound to find something that impresses them about these caves.
Guided tours of the caves take from 30 to 45minutes. They don’t involve a huge amount of walking once inside the caves, but you must climb up and down many steps to get to the entrance and return from the exit. There is no disabled or pushchair access. Visitors who are unable to make the tour or those feeling claustrophobic can enjoy sitting at the small café restaurant atop the cliffs, which offers an incredible view out over the ocean and surrounding coastline. A photographer is on hand to take pictures of your group at this viewpoint, the pictures can be purchased after your tour. A gift shop is also available.
Find Cova de Can Marca by following the signs from either Benirras beach or from the Port of San Miguel. The caves are well signposted and there’s ample parking available. If you’re coming by bus, the number 25 stops just down the hill from the caves after passing through Port San Miguel from Ibiza town.
Entrance to the caves costs €10.50 for adults €6.50 for children. Opening hours are Winter 11:00-17:30, Summer 10:30-20:00.