Impressive massif of limestone rocks that the rivers Guareña and Trema have been in charge of drilling into its interior and originating the karstic complex of Ojo Guareña, rises on the southern slope of the Cantabrian Mountain Range, north of the province of Burgos, forming part of the Merindad de Sotoscueva. The Natural Monument of Ojo Guareña is made up of a complex network of galleries, some of them connected to each other, forming a network of 110 kilometres that extend over several levels. It is the largest set of caves in the Iberian Peninsula and can be included among the ten largest in the world. The magnitude of this complex, of an extraordinary morphological, hydrological and scientific interest, and the archaeological importance that it has, have made it be declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1970 and in 1996, in addition, the natural area of Ojo Guareña has become a Natural Monument. Inside there are many archaeological sites of great importance ranging from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages. Paintings, engravings and traces of the Upper Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age have been found, as well as ceramics from the Roman period and remains of habitat from the Middle Ages.
One of the most important finds, as well as being unique in Spain and Europe, is the barefoot prints in the Sala de las Huellas (Footsteps Room). In an area of around 400 metres, footprints can be found in both directions. Religious values are also present in Ojo Guareña, as can be seen in the cave of San Bernabé. The name of the merindad of which it forms part also seems to revolve around the caves "Sotoscueva".
To understand and enjoy more and, if possible, better than what the Ojo Guareña complex offers is a good option to approach the House of the Park, located in Quintanilla del Rebollar occupying the building of the old schools. Afterwards, in the cave of San Bernabé, formerly known as Río Escondido, which is one of the fourteen caves that make up the 110-kilometre network, and which houses the semi-cave hermitage of San Tirso and San Bernabé, you can admire a popular artistic activity.
The guided tour begins with the cave where you begin to understand the greatness of the natural space in which we move. A few small pools accumulate the water, they say that with healing powers, it filters into the cave; washing with it can cure eye problems or eczema in the skin. Some enigmatic holes, which have the shape of a truncated cone widening downwards, speak of how the grain and diverse fruits were stored in them, that is to say, they acted as silos and pantries. Upon entering the hermitage, a pleasant surprise floods us with admiration, its mural paintings. Painted on the same rock in the year 1705, in the central part of the vault they relate the martyrdom of Saint Tirso; and in the area of the low relief of the walls it is the miracles of Saint Barnabas and Saint Tirso that are represented. The first archive of the town hall is also kept here, with its original coat of arms from the 17th century, year 1616, as the place was the seat of the consistory until the middle of the 20th century, and was also used as a prison. 60 meters below the cave you can see the cause of the name of the place, Ojo Guareña, is the sumidero-ojo where the river Guareña stops running on the surface to submerge and flow underground thus continuing with its millenary work of excavation and formation of the caves of this fantastic karst of the Natural Monument, in which the river Trema has also had something to do.
The other cave that can be visited, that of Palomera, is a real underground hiking incursion, with different sections of routes and duration, adapted to the peculiarities of the visitor. The access ramp, with its 40 metres of unevenness, together with the small caving equipment, water boots, helmet, headlight...with which we will have to equip ourselves, already gives us an idea of the environment where we are going to move. Culture, nature and a bit of adventure tourism are intermingled as we go through different rooms where we will discover archaeological sites, cave paintings, waterfalls, stalactites ..., without forgetting the inhabitants of the place, trying to discover in them the endemic species that live here. The Fountain Room is characterized by its natural steps, the Wax Museum, the Cacique Room... After about an hour's walk you reach the Sima Dolencia, which is another of the main entrances to the caves, where a large number of animal bones were found and converted into phosphates. The San Martín stream precipitates through it, offering a beautiful spectacle in times of rain or thaw. In the Via Seca was found the skeleton of a young person who could enter the cave back in the sixth century BC and then found no way out. In the Natural Monument of Ojo Guareña nature sports and hiking are guaranteed, and from its viewpoints you can see and admire all its majestic surroundings.
On the Sunday after 11 June, the feast day of San Bernabé, a traditional pilgrimage is held in the cave hermitage of San Tirso y San Bernabé. A typical act of it was that, after the religious service, the children were soaked with the curative waters of the cave.
The Palomera Cave, in the Natural Monument of Ojo Guareña, was opened to the public for the first time in November of the year 2.013 becoming the largest visitable cave in Spain.
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Legend has it that the skeleton found in the Vía Seca is that of a Gothic king who, while hunting around the place, saw a shepherdess and was enchanted by her beauty. The zagala when seeing herself persecuted entered the cave and the Goth king behind her penetrated in the labyrinthine place and they say that during days, of the entrails of the caverns shouts of help came out, but of the enamored king nothing was heard again. When his skeleton was discovered, it was seen how he tried to find his way out, because he found marks of footprints, footprints of his knees when he tried to crawl through narrow cavities, and even how he made a small dam in order to get water. But the poor king died lost and of starvation inside the cave.
To get to the small town of Cueva, before the Ojo Guareña complex formed by the hermitage and the cave of San Bernabé, we have to do it through the BU-526 road that joins the national N-232, at Soncillo, with the N-629 in Bercedo. Both national ones communicate Santander and Laredo, respectively, with Oña and later with Pancorbo in the N-1. It is in this BU-526 where after passing through Espinosa de los Monteros, Quintanilla del Rebollar or Pedrosa de Valdeporres, Vallejo de Sotoscueva depending on our point of origin, we will find the road that leads to Cueva, from there ascend to Ojo Guareña where we will have, in its highest part, parking areas near the initial point of the route. Through this same road but by its other slope, following local roads, we can also reach Ojo Guareña from towns such as Villarcayo or Puentedey among others.
This zone of the Natural Monument of Ojo Guareña has several zones of parking where we will be able to leave our vehicle. From them we can approach to visit the cave and the hermitage of San Bernabé or the Cave of Palomera. Also through the various roads that we can access to this area also lead to the rest of corners of this wide natural area.
SENDITUR is not responsible for any variation in the information described, as well as for the misuse of its guides and recommends that everyone be responsible and prudent in carrying out the activity. Likewise, we invite you to document yourself with books and specialized guides to complement the information described. From the commitment of SENDITUR with Nature and the respect to the balance of the environment, SENDITUR urges you to travel in a responsible way, with low environmental impact and respecting at all times the Natural, Cultural and Social environment wherever you go. For any suggestion, SENDITUR invites you to send an email to
Una maravilla de zona, no me la esperaba así.