Limited Tours to Resume at Spain’s Altamira Cave

April 8, 2015 / Spain, Europe
Bison Art in Spain's famed Altamira Cave.

Bison Art in Spain’s famed Altamira Cave.

Despite criticism from researchers, officials have decided to re-open Spain’s famed Altamira Cave to visitors starting on April 17th.

The decision, handed down by the Board of the National Museum and Research Center of Altamira, will allow five people, plus two guides, access to the cave, known for its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings of wild mammals and human hands, each week.

The trips will be limited to 37 minutes, with a strict itinerary and length of stay defined for each area of the cave. Visitors will also be equipped with special lighting as well as disposable overalls, hat, masks and shoes in an attempt to defend against microbial threats.

It was a microbial infestation that first closed the cave in the late 1970s, before it reopened it in 1982 to limited numbers of visitors. Unfortunately the limit wasn’t enough to keep the cave’s delicate ecosystem in balance and the cave was again closed to the public in 2002.

2014 saw a return of limited visits on an experimental basis. It pioneered the same 5 visitor 37 minute protocol that has just been approved.

As a result of the experiment, which saw 250 visitors enter the cave by the time the program ended in February 2015, researchers concluded that the human presence was not significant for the conservation of the cave.

In any case, the cave will be heavily monitored, including analysis of environmental and microbiological conditions, and the continuation of the tours will be subject to the stability of those conditions.

For more information on visiting the cave, visit the Museo de Altamira website.

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