- Alison Ramsey
The Underground World of Mallorca’s Drach Caves
Updated: May 18, 2022
The limestone Drach Caves, one of Mallorca’s main tourist attractions, is an opportunity to see one of the world’s longest underground lakes, as well as natural stalactite formations, and enjoy a classical music concert performed by musicians on illuminated rowboats.
The beauty of Mallorca goes far beneath the surface—in Porto Christo, you can deep-dive into the underground world of Mallorca’s most famous caves, the limestone Drach Caves, complete with the largest underground lake in Europe, Lake Martel. The caves date back to the Middle Ages and were first explored in 1880, but the underground lake wasn’t discovered until the late 19th century, when the French cartographer and speleologist E.A. Martel was commissioned by Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria to travel below and report his findings. Martel’s discovery was sea-level water canopied by countless pointed stalactites and gated by rounded-tip stalagmites rising from the cave floor. The legend of the Cuevas del Drach (Spanish for “Dragon Caves”) is that pirates used the caves to hide their stolen treasures, which were guarded by the watchful eyes of the resident dragon.
Your scenic hike below ground is surrounded on both sides by distinct rock formations, whose thickness indicate their age. The stalactites and stalagmites were sculpted by dripping rainwater, gradually eroding the limestone rocks and creating the echoing caves and deep lake-filled cavern visitors can now tour. Since its discovery, underground electric lighting has been installed to highlight spectacular rock formations and illuminate the stairways along the .75-mile-long corridor. The caves extend nearly 1.5 miles long, reach 82 feet in height, and are a comfortable 69 degrees.
The trek down the pathway of the grottos is punctuated by the quiet rippling of water from dripping stalactites, and fellow explorers’ muted voices bouncing off the limestone walls. Some viewpoints down into the water beneath the dripstone sculptures show turquoise water and a clear view to the cave floor beneath. At the end of the meandering, staircased walkway, you reach Lake Martel, measuring more than 170 meters in length and 4-12 meters in depth. Attendants guide you to a seat in underground stadium seating, where patrons eagerly await the main event—a classical music concert performed by musicians on a rowboat.
In complete darkness, the distant sound of stringed instruments makes its way to the seated attendees, followed by a faint glow emanating from a white wooden rowboat lined with ivory lights. A man rhythmically rows, water gently splashing, as the soothing melody of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons travels across the water. The leading rowboat holds two violinists, a cello musician, and a harpsicord player, each facing their music stands in the center of the boat. Trailed by two more lighted rowboats, empty save the gondoliers, the boats’ glowing lights illuminate the walls and ceiling. Circling a large stalactite deep within a cove, the musicians’ hypnotic and haunting plucking of strings is reminiscent of an eerie subterranean scene from “The Phantom of the Opera.” Returning from where they came, the boats slip back into the darkness of a cavern after 10 minutes of spellbinding music, the light dying away with the last strains of melody. Adventurous guests can then ride a boat across Lake Martel, while others choose to walk across a pedestrian bridge toward the exit.
The entire tour and concert experience last about one hour, but the memory of its breathtaking structures and mesmerizing musical performance in nature’s underground theater will last a lifetime!
If you go:
A mere 13-minute-drive away is the Ses Talaioles vineyard, home to Sestalino, Sestal, Na Pujola, and Talvin Red/White/Rosé wines. The finca (“historic manor”) sits in the breezy foothills of the Llevant Mountains, and its various vineyards encompass approximately 25 acres. A sampling of their delicious wines alongside a colorful charcuterie board of ibérico ham, artisan cheeses, marcona almonds, and dried figs and apricots, on a canopied terrace, demonstrated how well each wine paired with traditional Spanish fare.
Bouncing through the vineyards on a dirt road in a red Kawasaki, winery employee Helen Purrucker points out the various animals that are essential to the land and its history. The donkeys and sheep snack on underbrush to keep the forests open and clean, and the sheep eat herbs growing in the vineyard during the winter season and then naturally fertilize the vineyard soil with their manure to make it rich. The porc negre (black pigs) are native to Mallorca and have played an important role in the economic and cultural heritage of the island. As far as the landscape, much work is put into gleaning the rocky fields of their numerous stones, stacking them to build walls and divide the land, or adding them to the construction of buildings.
From Ses Talaioles’ red grapes they can make a white wine by crushing the grapes and expressing the juice straightaway. Their rosé is made with red grapes as well, and the color in rosé and red wine results from fermenting the grape juice with the skins. The winery team is proud to report that their wines do not contain any animal-derived product. They also use a special selection of yeasts to keep added sulfites minimal, saving customers from sulfite-induced reactions (i.e., headaches) and offering a better experience after tasting the wines. Unique to the vineyard is that they often use large clay containers to store their wine, in addition to oak barrels.
Worth a visit, or at least worth keeping an eye out for Vi de la Terra Mallorca wines in restaurants and stores, Ses Talaioles winery is up-and-coming in production. Vi de la Terra Mallorca is a must-try!
By: Alison Ramsey
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