Caves of Drach & Caves of Hams
The Caves of Drach
The two cave systems on the outskirts of Porto Cristo are two of Mallorca's best know attractions. The Caves of Drach, or the Dragon's Caves, are to the south side of the village, just off the Ma-4014 to Port Colom.
The caves were first mentioned in 1338 by the head of King Jaime III's Royal Household, Roger de Rovenach, in a letter to the mayor of Manacor. The name did not appear until 1632, by which time Porto Cristo was no more than a small harbour, and the locals probably spoke of a mythical dragon which lived deep in the cave.
A German cave explorer, M.F. Will, made the first plan of the caves in 1880, mapping out the Black Cave and the White Cave. Archduke Ludwig Salvator, a member of the Austrian royal family who had lived on Mallorca since 1867, was interested in the caves and wanted to find out more. In 1896 he invited the Frenchman Edouard A. Martel and his assistant Louis Armand to explore them. Martel is considered to be the father of modern speleology (the study of caves) and he had been leading underground expeditions across Europe since 1888. He made his way through the first two caves and into a third, which he named Luis Salvador's Cave, and then set about exploring a huge underground lake. Using two boats, his small group paddled over 170 metres to reach the far end where they discovered another cave, now called the French Cave. The lake was named Lake Martel in his honour.
The author Jules Verne wrote a novel in 1896 called 'Clovis Dartentor', a story of a two cousins who try to con the wealthy Mr. Dartentor out of inheritance while sailing to North Africa to join the army. The group stop off in Mallorca in the story and the Caves of Drach get a mention as being "... comparable with the most beautiful in the world, with their legendary lakes, their stalactite filled vaults, their cool, limpid pools, their theatre, their hell - fantastic denominations if wanted, but what the wonders of these vast caverns deserve." Verne also mentions the Archduke Louis Salvador.
In 1922 the caves were bought by Don Juan Severa and Angela Amer Nadal with the intention of opening them to the public. It took three years to build the paths while a new entrance was opened in 1929. In 1935 Carlos Buigias spent five months installing the lighting, making sure that they brought out the best in the rock formations. The first visitors arrived the same year. In 1951 archaeologists discovered finds from the Bronze Age, Carthaginian, Roman and Moorish times proving that the caves were occupied for around 2,000 years.
The tour lasts an hour and you are taken along the 1200 metre underground route in groups. There are many steps along the illuminated route and the paths can be slippy, so do wear appropriate footwear. The chamber next to Lake Martel can accommodate hundreds of visitors at a time and when everyone is inside, a boat brings a quartet of musicians out onto the lake to play four classical pieces by Caballero, Martini, Chopin and Offenbach. You can then take the boat trip across the lake or use the bridge to cross it.
Find out more about the Caves of Drach at www.cuevasdeldrach.com
The Caves of Hams
The caves are on the Ma-4020, on the west side of Porto Cristo. They were discovered by the speleologist Pedro Caldentey Santandreu in 1905 when he was searching for onyx, a colourful version of silica. While digging along a narrow tunnel he discovered cave he called March Second, the date it was discovered. The next cave was called the Owl's Hall because owls were discovered nesting inside. He continued exploring and found a chain of caves culminating in an underground lake.
By 1912 Caldentey was concerned by the damage the sooty smoke made by the carbide lamps was doing to the rock formations. He installed an environmentally friendly electricity system using a windmill and a waterfall to drive the turbine. His son Lorenzo installed a new electric system in 1953 and it still lights up the rock formations today.
The first part of the visit is the 'Fantastic Dreams' sound and light show which presents Jules Verne's visions in underground theatre. After passing through Caldentey's original caves you enter the Angel's Dream Cave which is filled with hook shaped stalactites. Fish hook translates to Ham, hence the name of the caves. After making your way through the Hall of Images, the Valley of Delights, the Enchanted Lake City, Paradise Lost and the Column Lake, you enter a large cave with an underground lake called the Sea of Venice. A boat brings musicians onto the water and they give a short classical concert called 'Magical Mozart'. The final caves have delightful names like Fairies Cemetery, the Imperial Palace and the Valley of Delights.
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