Soplao of Valdáliga, natural stalactite and stalagmite cavity
The Soplao is a cave where workers, meanwhile digging deeper in the Arnero mountain to extract minerals, discovered a big cavity filled of wonderful stalactites and stalagmites.
The first mining works date around the second half of the 19th century until 1979 (date of its definitive closure) to extract the calamine (carbonates mixed with zinc).
The cavity is located in the municipalities of Rionansa, Valdáliga and Herrerías close to the San Vicente de la Barquera town in Cantabria. With its 17 km, it shelters a quite quality and quantity of geological formations like helictites (eccentric stalactites defying the gravity) and
"draperies" (sheets or translucent flags hanging of the ceiling). This formation dates back to the Mesozoic, in the Cretaceous period, more than 240 million years.
The site has been opened to the public in 2005 after to have restructured the interior and the surroundings for the tourism – particularly the pedestrian tour. I am not especially fan of this kind of things but I went there to visit it after to hear some friends saying how beautiful is the place and I was quiet disappointed.
The Soplao have 7 galleries opened to the public and it offers 2 kinds of tour, the normal one called “pasarela” (pedestrian costing 10€) and the adventure one called “turismo aventura” (adventure tourism costing 30€) – both are guided visit.
I did the normal one and it lasts 1 hour. If you are planning to do the same thing, you will take a mining train to get into the cavity going through a tunnel and it takes more or less 3 minutes, after you will have to get off and continue your visit on foot by following your guide.
After walking a little, you will enter to the first gallery called “gorda” (big) where your guide will give you some details and he/she will make you listen a recorded voice telling a little history of the workers and the cavity.
In fact, the visit mixes the geological aspect and information given by your guide with the noise and information of the mining work given by a recorded off voice. You will visit 2 more galleries - “los fantasmas” (ghosts) and “los italianos” (italians), before to take back the train which will bring you again outside.
Like I tell you above, I was quite disappointed because I didn’t see something “particular”. For me, the place misses some lights to make it more special and in some section, the guide had to light a little more to focus our intention (I suppose it is done on this way for purpose). I saw a lot of stalactites and stalagmites but what about the other minerals ???? Well nothing, after all, specialists found out more than 10 different minerals like yellow and blue amber, pyrite, dolomite, sphalerite…
May be with the adventure tourism tour ???? Since I didn’t do it yet, I can’t tell you but if you plan to do it, you don’t need to bring special equipments. All things will be provided by the organization (helmet, light, boot and plastic suit with option to buy socks and glove) and it lasts about 2h30.
Prohibited for children less than 12 years old and like the pedestrian tour, you will walk during your visit although you won’t take the same entrance and you won’t visit the same sections. There are 2 guides with you and your adventure will start to the tunnel called “la isidra” and your visit will bring you to the “los italianos” (italians), “campamento” (camping), “la coliflor” (cauliflower), “puente” (bridge) and “el bosque” (forest) gallery.
In this tour, all those sections are unspoilt so the only information will be given by your guides and not a recorded off voice and of course, be careful where you put your feet since they are not restructured like the sections of the pedestrian tour.
One thing, which attracted my attention, it is the whiteness of the calcite because of the purity of the calcic carbonate. When you will end the tour, take pictures of the surrounding, there are great views.
One advice, go inside with pants and jersey because the temperature is between 10 and 11 degrees celsius. More information, check its official website.