Rock Art of Altamira

Bison
Bison
Guggenheim Museum - Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum - Bilbao
City of Bilbao
City of Bilbao
View over Santillana
View over Santillana

Decorated 15-35,000 years ago, the caves of Altamira still displays some of humankind’s first great artistic achievements. This is a unique chance to view the vivid images of horse, bison and deer that have come to epitomise Palaeolithic art. We stay in historic towns in the hills of Northern Spain. A visit to an Ice Age cave really is a tremendous privilege; where else could you approach original masterpieces of such immense antiquity in situ?

Led by rock art expert Dr Paul Bahn, we have arranged special access to numerous caves and rock art sites. View the images precisely where they were created, standing or crouching exactly as the original artists did.

  • Special access to eight original painted caves, accompanied by renowned expert Dr Paul Bahn
  • A uniquely close encounter with our Stone Age antecedants, frequently standing on the same spot as the artists
  • See the juxtaposition of the most ancient art and the most contemporary with a visit to the Guggenheim Museum

Themes

  • Cultural Excursion
  • Prehistory
  • Rock Art

Practicalities

  • Small Group
  • All Inclusive
  • Special Access

Itinerary 2017

Day 1

We fly to Bilbao and transfer to our hotel.

Day 2

This morning we drive to the facsimile of the painted cave discovered in 1969 at Ekain in the Basque country, with some of the most realistic colourful depictions of horse and bison. We leave the prehistoric era behind this afternoon, with a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Note the stark contrast between ancient and modern art.

Day 3

We have an attractive drive through the mountains to the small cave of Covalanas, decorated with deer drawn entirely in red dotted outline. After lunch we visit the cave of El Pendo, which hides a panel 8.8m long of painted animals. Portable art in bone and antler was also found here, perhaps the tools used by the ancient artists to create their work.

Day 4

Today we reach the famous cave of Altamira; we approach the site on foot, a pleasant short walk up a country road. We see the superb facsimile of the cave and the museum. Continue along the coast to El Pindal, a cave set into the cliffs above the sea - one of the most beautiful and spectacular locations of all the decorated caves. Here there is a series of geometric signs, and a variety of animal figures, including bison, deer, a fish and an unusual painting of a mammoth.

Day 5

We travel into the hills to the south of Santillana, site of several decorated caves, two of which we will visit: Las Monedas is a large, labyrinthine cave in which bear bones were also found. The art found here is extremely homogeneous and it is considered likely that it was produced by just one person. The art of El Castillo, by contrast, clearly belongs to a number of different phases, and recently produced the earliest dates for cave art in the world, more than 40,000 years. There are hundreds of animal figures and 50 red hand stencils. The cave is so large, and the art so abundant that only a fraction can be seen during our visit. This afternoon there will be free time to explore the historic town of Santillana.

Day 6

We travel west along the coast into the mountainous region of Asturias to La Loja - a cave with some fine engravings which stand out clearly in white against the dark rock. This afternoon we see the huge and famous cave of Tito Bustillo which was only discovered in 1968 by a group of young cavers. The main panel here is one of the glories of Ice Age art. The cave is rich in artworks, but is most famed for a spectacular frieze of horses and reindeer.

Day 7

We visit Candamo, where the most famous engraving is a big stag turning its head, and apparently pierced by many spears. We also view many other fine figures, some in surprising locations. Our final visit of the tour is to the Prehistoric park at Teverga, for a superb final overview of the caves, and their discovery.

Day 8

We return home today.

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

We fly to Bilbao and transfer to our hotel.

Day 2

This morning we drive to the facsimile of the painted cave discovered in 1969 at Ekain in the Basque country, with some of the most realistic colourful depictions of horse and bison. We leave the prehistoric era behind this afternoon, with a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Note the stark contrast between ancient and modern art.

Day 3

We have an attractive drive through the mountains to the small cave of Covalanas, decorated with deer drawn entirely in red dotted outline. After lunch we visit the cave of El Pendo, which hides a panel 8.8m long of painted animals. Portable art in bone and antler was also found here, perhaps the tools used by the ancient artists to create their work.

Day 4

Today we reach the famous cave of Altamira; we approach the site on foot, a pleasant short walk up a country road. We see the superb facsimile of the cave and the museum. Continue along the coast to El Pindal, a cave set into the cliffs above the sea - one of the most beautiful and spectacular locations of all the decorated caves. Here there is a series of geometric signs, and a variety of animal figures, including bison, deer, a fish and an unusual painting of a mammoth.

Day 5

We travel into the hills to the south of Santillana, site of several decorated caves, two of which we will visit: Las Monedas is a large, labyrinthine cave in which bear bones were also found. The art found here is extremely homogeneous and it is considered likely that it was produced by just one person. The art of El Castillo, by contrast, clearly belongs to a number of different phases, and recently produced the earliest dates for cave art in the world, more than 40,000 years. There are hundreds of animal figures and 50 red hand stencils. The cave is so large, and the art so abundant that only a fraction can be seen during our visit. This afternoon there will be free time to explore the historic town of Santillana.

Day 6

We travel west along the coast into the mountainous region of Asturias to La Loja - a cave with some fine engravings which stand out clearly in white against the dark rock. This afternoon we see the huge and famous cave of Tito Bustillo which was only discovered in 1968 by a group of young cavers. The main panel here is one of the glories of Ice Age art. The cave is rich in artworks, but is most famed for a spectacular frieze of horses and reindeer.

Day 7

We visit Candamo, where the most famous engraving is a big stag turning its head, and apparently pierced by many spears. We also view many other fine figures, some in surprising locations. Our final visit of the tour is to the Prehistoric park at Teverga, for a superb final overview of the caves, and their discovery.

Day 8

We return home today.

What's Included

  1. Tour Manager
  2. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  3. Meals - All meals included - dinners with wine
  4. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  5. Field Notes
  6. Hotels - 2 nights in a landmark 5* hotel in the centre of bustling Bilbao, 3 nights in a newly built, traditionally styled mansion in the UNESCO village of Santillana del Mar, 2 nights in a luxurious hotel with a Baroque facade, situated in the historic town centre of Oviedo
  7. Flights - London to Bilbao; Oviedo to London

Hotel Info

2 nights in a landmark 5* hotel in the centre of bustling Bilbao
3 nights in a newly built, traditionally styled mansion in the UNESCO village of Santillana del Mar
2 nights in a luxurious hotel with a Baroque facade, situated in the historic town centre of Oviedo

Useful Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

Book now

2018 Tour Details

Mon 11th June - Mon 18th June

Available

£2,395

ex. flights: £2,250

sgl supp: £460

ALT18A

Led By: Dr Paul Bahn

Guide Lecturer

Tour Manager

Share tour with friends

Have a question, or unsure if this tour is for you?

Contact us here