Discoverers and local authorities gathered at the cave on Wednesday to mark the anniversary / e. cabezas

Nerja Cave doubles the number of visitors but remains 34 per cent below the number registered in 2019

The historical site today commemorates the 63rd anniversary of its discovery and hopes to hold the music festival again this summer after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic

Eugenio Cabezas

Today, Wednesday 12 January, marks 63 years since the discovery of the Nerja cave by brothers Manuel and Miguel Muñoz, José Torres, José Luis Barbero - who died in 2007 - and Francisco Navas.

Miguel and José Torres recalled the events that changed the course of the coastal town’s history in 1959, when the five friends came across a hole which turned out to be an entrance to the site. "We are grateful that we are still being called on to help the cave as much as possible," they said.

The pandemic continues to affect the cave’s takings, although in 2021 it managed to almost double the number of visitors recorded in 2020, when it had to close for almost four months due to the restrictions. Last year it closed with 289,349 visitors, compared with 149,271 in 2020.

This figure, driven mainly by national tourism, is still far from the figure recorded in 2019, when there were 441,590 visitors. It is still 34.4 per cent below pre-pandemic figures. The attraction is financed entirely by the sale of tickets to the cave and the museum.

Festival hopes

This year the aim is to get up to at least 75 per cent of pre-Covid numbers; around 350,000 visitors. The sub-delegate of the central government in Malaga and president of the Nerja Cave Foundation, Javier Salas, along with the cave's manager, Chema Domínguez, explained to SUR that they also hope to hold the International Festival of Music and Dance again in summer, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Among the challenges that the foundation has set itself for this year is to set up a virtual reality room, with the dual aim of making the cave more accessible and bringing it closer to visitors. This project was planned for 2019, but the pandemic put it on hold.

New technology

Thanks to new technology it will be possible to show the upper galleries and new galleries, which cannot be visited in person. The project will also mean that cave art, which is not shown to the public for conservation reasons, will also be on display and people who are unable to access the cave for mobility reasons, will be able to experience it online.

"There is also an important medium-term objective for the cave, which is to be declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, for which we are working on the necessary steps," said Salas.