The 60th anniversary of the opening of Nerja’s famous complex of caves at Maro was marked in January by a gathering of the four survivors of the group of five youngsters who made the accidental discovery in 1959.

José Torres, Francisco Navas and the brothers Manuel and Miguel Muñoz met to remember the day when the first true descent into the caverns was made.  They paid tribute to their missing friend, José Luis Barbero, who died in June 2007.

Before 1959, the boys had seen bats flying out of an opening in the ground and had peered inside with a lantern, reporting what they had seen to friends.  When the significance of their explorations was finally revealed on January 12, 1959, the local newspaper headlined the story, “Cave of Wonders.”

Further exploration continued and in November 1959, when the Upper Galleries were discovered, it was realised that the network of caverns was one of the most extensive in Spain.  Two months later, the Governor of the time, Rodríguez Acosta, established the Foundation which still manages the caves today and which formally opened the complex to the public on June 12, 1960.

The inauguration ceremony included the first artistic performance to be given in the huge central cavern: the Ballet La Tour de París performed to the accompaniment of the Málaga Symphony Orchestra and the evening included scenes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, believed to be the first time in history that ballet had been performed in such a setting.

On June 15, 1961, the caves were declared a Heritage Site and since then have continued to be amongst the most visited tourist sites in the country with more than 18 million people now having entered the caverns.  Last year, the total was 45,000, an increase of 12 per cent on 2017.

Research and conservation remain of prime importance inside the caves.  A monitoring network was first installed in 1993 to record a number of parameters on an hourly basis, hydrochemical controls at points of dripping water have been carried out since 1991, and the Nerja Caves Investigation Institute was founded in 1999 to develop scientific investigation into the caverns and promote their conservation.  The research team, led by Professor José Luis Sanchidrián, and conservationist Luis Efrén Fernández, continue to investigate the area’s pre-history.

The 60th anniversary was celebrated with the appearance of the Nerja Caves on the National Lottery tickets on January 12.  Other events are planned for later in the year, including a very special 60th International Festival of Music and Dance in the summer.