Spain‘s major cities like Barcelona and Madrid offer an infinite number of things to do and see, but for those who are looking to go off the beaten path, the country’s beautiful islands are really something special, especially Mallorca. Guest contributor Geanie Roake from The Library Lady Writes has already taken us to popular Palma de Mallorca, but today, she’s back to take us on an excursion to one of the island’s most beloved spots, the Caves of Drach.
Visiting Mallorca’s Caves of Drach
I was sitting in a cave. It was dark and quiet except for the murmur of lake water lapping against the shore. Limestone stalactites dripped from the ceiling in fantastic shapes and a slight breeze stirred the humid air. So far this had been a travel experience I wouldn’t soon forget . . .
My husband and I and two friends had spent months planning our trip to Spain, but somehow the Caves of Drach – or Dragon Caves, never came up. We might have missed them altogether if not for a chance meeting at dinner one night. We’d discovered in the course of our visit, that Spain was a country where English speakers were few and far between, so when we caught the ring of a Texas accent a few tables over, our ears perked up.
“Excuse us,” we said, tentatively approaching the boisterous diners, “are you from the U.S?”
They certainly were, and they were as glad to meet us as we were them. It was soon apparent that they were all a bit sloshed, and while we enjoyed an enthusiastic rendition of their Spanish adventures, we weren’t sure how much to believe. Never the less, they extracted a solemn promise from us to visit their favorite place – the caves in Porto Cristo. It was with this rather dubious recommendation that we set out the next day for the sinister sounding caves of Drach.
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How to Get to the Caves of Drach
The drive was an easy freeway jaunt from our base of the Marriott Club Son Antem in Llucmajor (53 minutes via MA-5120 to be exact) and we enjoyed the scenery as the sunburnt landscape of olive trees, terraced hills and cobalt skies glided by our windows. The many roundabouts in Spain had taken some getting used to and we were thankful for our GPS lady whose unerring sense of direction showed us the way, and whose hilarious mispronunciation of all things Spanish kept us laughing.
We’d purchased our tickets and made an appointment online, but as the events of the day unfolded it was clear we’d arrived at the caves much earlier than expected. Happily, the ticket office was able to accommodate our schedule and after spending 20 minutes exploring souvenir shops and sampling gelato, we were directed towards the caves. From the rows and rows of metal stanchions we bypassed, it was clear this place can become very busy. Apparently, September is a good time to visit since our group consisted of only about 50.
Shock and Awe
To put it mildly, I was completely unprepared for the sight which met us inside.
Clusters of spiky stalactites loomed overhead, their earthbound counterparts stretching up towards them and forming weird columns when they met in the middle. The lighting was spectacular. Many of the formations shimmered in soft pastels, while small ponds glowed effervescent blues and greens from minerals in the water. Awesome formations with names like Baths of Diana, Snowcapped Mountain, and Great Flag studded the landscape, and we had fun naming some of our own. Captivated, we wandered along gaping at the sights and snapping many pictures.
Millions of Years Old
It’s hard to say how long the 4 caves of Drach have existed, but the first recorded mention was in medieval writings dated 1338. The caves weren’t thoroughly explored until the 1800’s, and in 1896 a Frenchman named E.A. Martel discovered the lake which bears his name. At 115 meters in length and 30 meters wide, this is one of the largest subterranean bodies of water in the world.
The caves were created as water was forced through an entrance from the Mediterranean Sea. Some researchers think they may have originated during the Miocene Epoch which makes them anywhere from 5 million to 23 million years old. This makes sense when you see the massive size of the limestone formations there.
Stalactites and stalagmites, sometimes called dripstones, occur when water containing calcite drops from the ceiling of a cave onto the floor below. These formations grow very slowly. Depending on the rate of the drip, it can take 1,000 years for every 10 centimeters of new growth. Judging by the size of some of the formations in the Drach caves, mother nature has been at work on this masterpiece for a very long time.
Icing on the Cake
At the end of the tour we were ushered into a large shadowy cavern fronted by the glistening black waters of lake Martel. There were risers arranged on the shore for visitors to sit and rest their bones while the guide gave a brief talk about what we’d seen. He then asked for silence, and after a few minutes of coughing and shuffling everything grew dark and quiet.
Before long a light began to bob in the distance. As it neared, the haunting strains of a classical melody met our ears. A small fishing boat soon rowed into sight, carrying a string quartet, including a cello, a harpsichord and two violins.
The musicians played for several minutes as they floated across the lake. Their lilting tunes echoed off the cave walls and tugged at the heartstrings in this poignant setting. As the boat with its ethereal occupants receded into the darkness, a group of smaller vessels begin to materialize along with a loading dock which was previously invisible. We all boarded the rustic but sturdy boats and took a farewell ride through the mysterious waters of Lake Martel and the Dragon Caves of Mallorca.
Eyes blinking in the bright sunshine, we re-entered the real world. I mentally high fived our Texas friends for their excellent recommendation and vowed to pass it forward. So . . . If you’re ever on the island of Mallorca, don’t miss this unique travel destination!
Tips for Visiting the Caves of Drach:
- The Caves of Drach, or Dragon cave, are located on the South East side of the island of Mallorca, Spain.
- There are guard rails and a well-tended cement path throughout the caves which make walking easy, though it should be noted there are winding paths and many stairs which lead down to the lake and up again. The trail is 1,200 meters long, and the tour lasts about an hour. The average temperature in the cave is 21 degrees c / with humidity at 80%.
- Tickets can be purchased either from the ticket office when you arrive, or online. It seems that buying from the website is a little less expensive and a better idea during high season. A ticket for the guided tour, concert, and a boat ride across the lake costs 15 euros for adults, and 8.00 euros for children, babies and toddlers are free. Other websites offer an all-day excursion (up to 40 euros each for adults) which includes the caves, a tour of the city of Porto Cristo and a pearl shop.
- Porto Cristo is 500 meters from the parking lot of the Drach Caves. Here you’ll find shops, and restaurants etc. There is also a beach in the next port where you can book boat trips to various local destinations.
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