Laja Alta Cave
Located outside of the village of Jimena de la Frontera, within the Alcornocales Natural Park, is a collection of prehistoric cave paintings which are very early examples of art in southern Spain. These are referred to by locals as La Cueva de la Laja Alta (High Stone Slab Cave).
FYI: Suitable sturdy walking boots and walking apparel are recommended for the route up to the cave. If attempting the walk in winter (e.g. October – April), wellington boots are advised, particularly when walking the route on or after rainy days.
The cave itself is north of Jimena. You head towards Ubrique on the CA-8201 road for about 6km; you’ll notice a sign on the left for the ‘Área Recreativa Los Abuches’. This is a pleasant stop-off point where people come for picnics and days out in nature as there are hiking routes available from here. This is also the closest parking area to the beginning of the route to Laja Alta.
Approximately 200 metres up the road from ‘Área Recreativa Los Abuches’ on the left there is a private farm / residence called Rancho del Barracón. At the far end of the farm there is a gate which can be opened which leads onto the path to the cave (see Google Maps image below).
A further 1km along this path, after crossing a ford of the Hozgarganta River (except for after days of heavy rainfall when the river is elevated and the water is flowing too fast and heavy to cross – without waders at least) the farm has a second gate. This gate should be open between the hours of 09:00-13:00 on a Monday, as the owner of the land must allow access to visitors at least 4 days a month, according to the Law 16/1985 “de Patrimonio Histórico Español”. If the gate does appear locked, the only option is to climb over it. Signs on the gate that say permission is necessary refer to the fact that the cave (and thereby the farm) can only be accessed during the allocated hours. After this gate, following the path for another 5km or so will bring you to a country estate called Cortijo Altabacar. From there, it is more or less a 1km walk on a path marked by white stones up to Laja Alta.
Upon arriving at the cave, visitors will notice large black iron bars which prevent people from entering into the area with the paintings directly, but still leaving them perfectly visible. There is also a gate within the bars that always remains closed to ensure adequate conservation of the paintings.
You can see a variety of images on the walls of Laja Alta cave (protected by large black metal bars), some of which are believed to depict human, animal and godlike figures, while others show scenes of boats. The issue of providing an accurate date for the ship paintings is challenging for researchers: the most accepted range for these used to be the prehistoric period between 1000 and 700 BC, attributed to the arrival of the Phoenicians to the Strait of Gibraltar during that time.
As for the other figures of humans, animals and deities, it is difficult to place them in a specific period since the drawings are so diverse and appear to represent different things. The images in Laja Alta cave are recognized as simple cave paintings; typical of the Neolithic era, but the depiction of boats makes them a unique case.
Originally, when discovered, it was thought that these ships were Phoenician and were painted 3,000 - 1,000 years ago. However, a study carried out by the University of Granada on the cave in 2013 revealed, via scientific dating of the paintings that some samples of art were between 4,000 - 6,000 years old. Part of this dating and the topic of the origin of the boats were featured in a documentary The Neolithic Gate of Civilization shown by TVE La 2 in June 2016.
Only Mondays 09:00-13:30