For humans, caves are spaces of natural, defensive, economic and even religious value. Sometimes, in areas where the geology does not offer caverns, it is humans themselves who create them. In La Rioja, sandstones are the most frequent rocks. These rocks do not form caves when eroded by water or wind but, on the other hand, they are easily drilled by man’s hand and creating caves in thick sandstone banks, although an arduous task, is simple. The “La Rioja Cave Route” shows us man’s ability to create caves and the different uses to which these spaces have been put, from the Bronze Age to recent times.
Sites to visit: 1. Centro de interpretación/Museo de Aguilar del Río Alhama; 2. Yacimiento arqueológico de Contrebia Leucade (Aguilar del Río Alhama); 3. Cuevas del Ajedrezado (Santa Eulalia Somera, Arnedillo); 4. Cueva de los Cien Pilares (Arnedo).
Not to be missed: In Contrebia Leucade we admire the great capacity of man to model the rock, creating moats, channels, food storage structures, wells to accumulate and conserve water and, of course, dwellings. In the Ajedrezado Caves, we discover the religious uses of the spaces excavated by hermits and ascetics from the beginnings of Christianity in Late Antiquity of Spain. Finally, in the Cueva de los Cien Pilares (Cave of the Hundred Pillars) we will visit a formidable cave space overlooking the Cidacos Valley that may have housed a large early medieval monastery.
How to get there: The route starts in the uninhabited spot where the Contrebia Leucade site is located, in a boxed-in area of the river Alhama, halfway between the towns of Aguilar (in whose municipal district it is located) and Cervera del Río Alhama, on the regional road LR284. We then travel along the LR123 (which we take in Cervera) to Arnedo, turning onto the LR115 to the nearby village of Santa Eulalia Somera (Arnedillo), where we visit the Ajedrezado Caves. Returning to Arnedo, we visit the Cueva de los Cien Pilares (Cave of the Hundred Pillars), where the route ends. It is an ideal route to be done in two days.