Visit ancient Levantine cave paintings near Ulldecona, Spain.
I have always had a fascination with ancient art and architecture — hence my art history degree. Has it been useful for my career? Well…no, but it does influence me when I plan our family trips. Luckily, my husband is also intrigued by ancient history and wholeheartedly indulges me when I want to leave the beaten path to go explore some ancient cave paintings.
There are so many famous places to visit in Spain, but ancient cave paintings don’t usually pop up on the “must see” lists. I was surprised to find that the entire eastern coast of Spain is sprinkled with ancient cave paintings. Some sites are easier to access than others. We were traveling south from the Priorat wine region to Ontinyent and stopped off at Abrics de’Ermita to see some examples of ancient European civilization, easily located just outside of Ulldecona.
Before You Go:
Check this website for information about open days and hours. The rupestres (cave paintings) are only accessible by tour.
Depending on where you are coming from, the easiest way to find it, is to follow directions to Ermita de la Pietat, located about 10 min northeast of Ulldecona.
We were late…funny story:
We hit up Abrics de’Ermita on our drive from the Priorat wine region to Ontinyent. Breakfast in the Priorat area took longer than expected — as does every meal in Spain when you are accustomed to the speed of meals in the United States. We had called to let them know we were coming and to please wait for us, only to be reassured that it would be fine.
We arrived at Ermita de la Pietat and ran to where the tour starts, arriving about 10 minutes late. We found the door to the Visitor’s Center locked and the lights off. The gate to the trail was also locked. We could not see anyone up the trail, but we weren’t exactly sure where it went, so we couldn’t be certain.
Dismayed we went to the bar. That’s right, Ermita de la Pietat is a church…with a bar. In its defense, the location is mostly used for special events now, but we had a good laugh nonetheless — or at least we laugh about it now, because we were a bit grumpy at this particular moment. We ordered some sodas for our whole family. As the bartender fixed our drinks, we told him our predicament. Luckily my husband speaks Spanish, making this exchange much easier. The bartender starts laughing and tells us that the guy sitting at the bar having a beer is actually the tour guide! So, problem solved, we all leisurely finish our drinks, and then head out to start our tour. We had a blast because it ended up being a private tour with just our family.
Adjacent to the Ermita de la Pietat, there is a quaint and well-kept visitor center that explains many features of ancient rock art both in this location and around the world. Tours start here.
From the Visitor’s Center, we climbed the trail and hike up the trail and well-built metal staircases to the side of the cliffs. If climbing stairs or being on the side of a mountain sound daunting to you, this may not be a great outing. I never felt unsafe — the stairs were in good condition. Difficulty is similar to a short, moderate hike.
Visiting the site was very interesting and the views of the valley were absolutely stunning. We enjoyed imagining what it would be like to sit by a fire in those caves, while watching the valley for signs of animals that could be hunted for food.
We had such a great time on our tour, especially since our tour guide was extremely kind and knowledgeable. We talked a lot about the current culture in Spain, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We tried to tip him, but he explained that it was his job and he did not expect a tip from us. So we offered to buy him a beer instead, which he accepted! We continued our fun conversation with a round of beers.
Then, something amazing happened! Our guide mentioned that Ulldecona (the town that we were just outside of) was well known for having one of the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in the world. Say what?!?! We immediately got on the phone, and by some miracle, got a reservation that started in 15 minutes. We thanked our guide and zipped down to L’Antic Moli. For only 15 Euros per person, we had the most amazing meal, which included wine. What an amazing experience!
Book a reservation at L’Antic Moli: https://www.anticmoli.com/