Jan 30, 2012
The Coves de Sant Josep is the longest underground river and cave system in Europe. Found in the Sierra de Espadan Natural Park in Castellon, the Coves de Sant Josep is visited by more than 14,000 people ever year.
This vacation destination in Spain was not always so popular or accessible for tourists. In the early 1900s, people began to explore the caves. Some groups even competed to see who go the farthest into the Coves de Sant Josep. A few people died in these attempts; mostly while trying to pass the Boca del Forn.
In 1936, electric lighting was installed in the caves and they became safer and more convenient to explore. The Boca del Forn was widened and in the 1950s, boats began to pass through it. Over the next few decades, more areas of the caves were widened; allowing visitors to pass through and explore further. Some specialists began to make maps of the extensive cave system.
Even though the caves did not become a popular tourist attraction until the 20th century, human traffic in the caves dates back 17,000 years. The walls of the Coves de Sant Josep are covered with wall paintings dating back thousands of years. Remains of an Iberian settlement nearby indicate that these people knew about and explored the caves. There is even evidence to suggest that the Romans knew about the underground river.
Tourists who visit the caves today make most of the 800 meter trip by boat. As they float down the river, electricity lights up the way and display the man-made and time-made wonders of the Coves de Sant Josep.
Expansion and further exploration is still being done in the caves. In the future, more galleries and waterways will become accessible. In the meantime, tourists who visit the Sierra de Espadan Natural Park will experience a small, but staggering glimpse of the wonder that is the Coves de Sant Josep.