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12 May 1960: Nerja's 'natural cathedral' opens to the public

A photograph of the opening performance published in SUR on 14 June 1960.
A photograph of the opening performance published in SUR on 14 June 1960. / SUR
  • The now world-famous caves, opened 18 months after their discovery with a gala performance of music and dance

On 12 June 1960, the Nerja Caves were opened to the public. This came exactly 18 months after the discovery of this natural treasure by five local boys from the nearby village of Maro. Just after the discovery, experts started researching the entire complex consisting of a series of huge caverns stretching for almost five kilometres. After preparing all the paperwork it was decided to open less than one third (9,371 m2) of the total area (35,484 m2) of the caves to the public. Besides the two natural entrances, a third was built at the southern end of the caves to allow easy access for visitors.

The Nerja Caves are made up of galleries and each gallery has a number of halls. Unsurprisingly, the caves were immediately called 'Catedral Natural de Málaga' (Malaga's Natural Cathedral) by the locals. The resemblance to a cathedral lies in its acoustics as well. The natural underground cavern provides unparalleled surroundings for performances. The Sala de la Cascada - Hall of the Waterfall - indeed looked like a natural concert hall. It was chosen as an arena for the extravagant inauguration with a unique show held on 12 June.

La Tour de Paris ballet group and the Malaga Symphony Orchestra were invited to help make a memorable impact on the first visitors and VIPs at the gala. After that ballet show, the Hall of the Waterfall got its second name - Ballet Hall (Sala de Ballet).

The inauguration was the beginnings of an annual music and dance festival. Since 1960, the spectacular cave venue has appealed to many famous international stars. A highlight of classical ballet in the caves came in 1991 with the famous Russian prima, Maya Plisetskaya. In 2002, the Hall filled with the voice of the renowned New Zealand soprano, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who ten years ago picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Classical BRIT Awards. Legendary Spanish dancers and singers also consider it an honour to perform in the Nerja Caves. Antonio el Bailarín, Joaquín Cortés, Monserrat Caballé and José Carreras have all passed taken to the stage in the Ballet Hall. Every summer over the last six decades, dancers and musicians have created a magical atmosphere in the caves, each one of them one of the most extraordinary events in the world.

On 15 June 1961, the Nerja Caves were declared a Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest.