Cueva de Urallaga

La Magdalena - Urallagako Kobazuloa

Useful Information

Location: Galdames.
From Muskiz BI-2701 towards Sopuerta, in El Arenao left on BI-3632, towards San Pedro de Galdames, parking in La Aceña. It's possible to drive some up the hill on a single lane gravel road, Magdalena basilica and Uragalla are signposted.
From West Motorway AP-8/E-70 exit 130 Santurtzi Ortuella, BI-3724, in roundabout BI-3724 Ortuella.
From East Motorway AP-8/E-70 exit 126 B toward Portugalete/Ortuella/Trapagaran/Santurtzi, keep left on fork, in roundabout B-3791 towards Antonio Alzaga Etorbidea, in roundabout BI-3724 Ortuella.
At the end of the road turn left to the Ekoetxea Meatzaldea-Korta. Turn right and follow BI-2757 and signs Ekoetxea Peñas Negras.
(43.2738804, -3.0977442)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Portal: W=33 m, H=15 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: José Ignacio Homobono Martínez (2018): Romería Y Fiestas De La Magdalena En Urállaga (galdames) Y En La Arboleda: Exaltación De Las Identidades Local Y Minera, Kobie Serie Antropología Cultural, nº 21: 17-62, Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia, Bilbao - 2018, ISSN 0214-7971. Español - Spanish pdf
(): Cueva Urallaga Kobazuloa (La Magdalena), Centro de Interpretación Ambiental PENAS NEGRAS Ingurumen Interpretazioko Zentroa. Español - Spanish Euskara - Basque pdf
Antonio Trueba (1882): De Flor en Flor, (From flower to flower), Delmas. Alma-Negra.
Address: Cueva de Urallaga, Urallaga Auzoa, 1, 48191 Bizkaia
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1906 during a strike, anarchist miners destroyed the image of the virgin by shooting at it.
1935 a miner blows up the hermitage because he had lost a fortune at cards.
1942 cave church destroyed during the war.
1960s end of mining.


The Cueva de Urallaga (Urallaga Cave), in Basque Urallagako kobazuloa, is a karst cave, which is actually only accessible to cavers. It is also called Cueva Urallaga de Galdames sometimes, and if the emphasis is on the cave church also La Magdalena koba (Cave of La MAgdalena). This page is about the cave church La Magdalena, which was built into the huge entrance passage of the cave. It has a huge portal followed by a chamber of similar dimensions which is about 50 m long. The cave church, actually more like a chapel, was built at the end of this chamber. It was named after the hill Urallaga (593 m asl) where it is located.

This cave also was the entrance to an iron mine during the 19th and 20th century. The Galdanes mountains are full of underground mining galleries, in opposition to the nearby open cast mining, here the ore was found underground. The mines had their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th century, disturbed by two world wars, and it finally ended in the 1960s. The cave was used as the entrance to the Mina Pepita (Pepita Mine), which was owned by the Sociedad Bilbaína Urállaga y La Magdalena. The miners lived in a small mining town named Urallaga a few hundred meters down the hill, which is now abandoned. The iron ore was transported underground to El Saúco, from where it was lowered by a funicular, which they actually called a cadena flotante (Floating chain). The crates were mining carts which were pulled on two parallel railroad tracks by iron chains, hence the name. They reached the railroad tracks near La Aceña (Galdames), from here the ore was transported by train to the furnaces. The chapel is a remnant of the miners, although the Ermita de la Magdalena (Hermitage of Magdalena) existed on this site before mining began. Saint Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of miners and the nearby town of La Arboleda. Until today, a pilgrimage to the cave takes place on 22-JUL, and is increasingly very popular.

Nearby of the cave entrance, on the left side, is a karst spring which is the source of the Eskatxabel brook. The cave is the location of a story in the book De Flor en Flor by the author Antonio Trueba. He was a historian and wrote several popular books in the 19th century. In this book he tells the story of Alma-Negra, who was condemned to live eternally, and thus was a little suicidal. Alma-Negra translates black soul, and he was cursed by an ancestor to restore the wealth of the family or loos life and soul. So he became greedy and started to trade slaves and other things. Finally, he vanished in the sima de Escachabelza (Escachabelza chasm), in Basque Eskatxabel. The story also explains that the rivers vanish at the bottom of this abyss and reappear in the spring at Cueva de Urallaga. This is a typical karst feature, loosing and reappearing streams. It seems in the 140 years since this story was written, the abyss was lost, there is still a hill, a dolmen, and a lake of this name, but no abyss. Most likely, the abyss was blocked by slack from the mining operations, and it is now the lake.

The cave is located in the Grumerán mountains in the Meatzaldeko biotopo babestua (Biotopo Protegido de la Zona Minera de Vizcaya), which is a former open cast mining area, which is now protected as a biotope. It can be reached only by foot from the south and from the north, both hikes are about 8 km in total and between 300 and 500 m ascent. During the walk to the cave, you can see numerous former open casts. The mining followed ore rich gangues in the karstified limestone, so they are typically deep and very long. There are numerous hiking portals offering trail descriptions and gpx data for download. One possible starting point is the recreational area of La Aceña, at the Montes de Hierro Greenway. But the best starting point is the Centro de Interpretación Ambiental Peñas Negras or Meatzaldea Ingurumen Interpretazioko Zentroa. The museum is about the Bizkaia mining basin, iron ore, abandonded mining towns, fauna, and flora. From the center follow the purple route number 4 for one hour. Along the hike is also the Cueva del Sauco, a small cave located at the ruins of the abandoned Mina "Dolores" burdin-meatzea.

If the hike to the cave is not enough, there are numerous other hikes to stone forests and open cast mines. It is best to spend a full day in this area full of caves, geology, and mining remains. The Peñas Negras Environmental Interpretation Centre is located in the heart of the mining area. Route 6 of Peñas Negras, marked in green, leads to some old abandoned mines after only 800 m, then it goes to the Pickwick mine, which the locals call Picuí. Here the iron ore reached the surface, and so this was an open-cast mine. The rock formations here are covered by iron oxide, rust, which is the ore which was mined here.

Following the trail, the Laberinto Natural La Arboleda (The Labyrinth of Arboleda) is reached. This is an area with strange rock formations which almost look like a Karststone forest but are actually still a Karstkarren field. Karren are vertical ditches in the rocks, dissolved by rain water flowing down the surface. In older karst with subtropical or tropical weather conditions, the karren get so deep, they separate the limestone into pinnacles which are then called stone forest. This place is so close to a stone forest, possibly because it formed under different climate conditions or, more likely, due to mining activities.