Visiting Spain’s Archaeological Sites

Spain has an ancient landscape where you can explore ancient human sites that date back to prehistory. The earliest sites, the caves and rock shelters, date back to the Paleolithic (Stone Age). Spain’s oldest archaeology actually pre-date humans; the Orce Basin in the Andalucía of Spain has evidence of the earliest known Homo erectus in Europe, from around 1.6 million years ago.

yes, that’s me in 2009. memories.

Cave of Altamira

The Cave of Altamira is famous for its Upper Paleolithic cave paintings, which date from between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago. This was the first cave in which prehistoric paintings were discovered and helped to change the way we think about prehistoric human beings today. The cave was discovered in 1880 and it is close to Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, which is 30 km to the west of Santander.

Atapuerca

Atapuerca is the site of a series of limestone caves near Burgos in northern Spain. The main site is called Sima del Elefante (“Pit of the Elephant”) and contains fragments of human jawbones and teeth dating back 1.1 to 1.2 million years ago. Nearby is Gran Dolina, which also contains human remains and some early tools from around 800,000 years ago.

Baelo Claudia

Baelo Claudia was a Roman town in Andalusia, close to Tarifa. It is one of the finest ruined Roman towns in Spain. The town developed as an important trading post during the first century BC under the Roman Emperor Claudius. It had a forum, market and theatre. Many of the ruins have been restored and preserved.

Lugo Roman Walls

The Lugo Roman Walls date to between 200AD and 299AD and are one of the finest examples of a late Roman military fortification. They were built to protect the Roman city of Lucus Augusti, now called Lugo, in the north-west of Spain. Lugo is the only city in the world surrounded by a Roman wall (the Ronda da Muralla). The wall has ten gates. The city dates back to the Celtic period and is named after Lugus, a deity of the Celtic pantheon. In 13 BC it was conquered by Paulus Fabius Maximus and renamed Lucus Augusti.

Belchite

Belchite, in Zaragoza, is a relatively modern ruined town. It was destroyed during the Spanish Civil war in 1937 and has been left untouched since. The town was founded in 1122.

Mérida Roman Theatre

The Mérida Roman Theatre was built around 15BC and is the one of most impressive Roman ruins in Spain. When in use it could hold an audience of around 6000 people.

Mérida was known as Emerita Augusta and was the capital of Lusitania. Today you can also find the ruins of the Roman circus, amphitheater and the impressive Temple of Diana and the Alcazaba Fortress.

Castillo del Nicio

Castillo del Nicio sits upon a hilltop called Cerro del Castor in the province of Málaga. It has extensive ruins dating from the late Moorish period. Roman and Bronze Age items have also been discovered at the site.

Ruinas del Castillo de San Luis

Ruinas del Castillo de San Luis is a ruined castle dating back to 1646 on the island of Tierrabomba. It once controlled the entrance to Bocachica, an important trade route during the colonial period.

While most of the Roman and Medieval sites are within towns and cities and can be visited on public transport, it is best to rent private transport to visit the ancient archaeological sites, as rental cars are far more convenient in some areas.

What are your favorite arhcaelogical sites in Spain? Don’t miss Carmona, the dolmens in Valencina or Roman gem Itálica while you’re in Seville!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. The Dolmens in Antequera are also well worth a visit, nominated for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Also, whilst in Antequera there are Roman remains, and not long ago they found an ‘efebo’, a small bronze statue from the Roman age which is considered one of the most beautiful sculptures found on the Spanish peninsula (now found in Antequera’s museum).

    • For the many times I’ve been to Antequera, I’ve never been to the dolmenes! The city does have an interesting history with all of the different rulers and the fact that it’s smack dab in the middle of the country. I’ll have to get back there soon!

  2. Seconding the dolmens in Antequera, although they’re a bit of a hike from the city center if you don’t know how the bus system works. Very very ancient, prehistoric, chills-giving.

    I really enjoyed the monumental nature of Mérida but the ruined city of Itálica felt more intimate (thanks for the shoutout!). Tarragona south of Barcelona is supposed to have ruins similar to those of Mérida and is on my bucket list for Spain! ^_^
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..They Speak More Than Just Spanish in SpainMy Profile

    • That’s why I have a car, silly! My friend who spent years living there just moved to Seville, but it makes a good excuse to go back. I’m also interested in visiting Tarragona. There’s a blog trip and conference out there in May, I think, and you can sign up if you’re interested! I want to say it’s called CatSur.

  3. Pedro Meca Garcia says:

    the Roman Theatre of Cartagena, Murcia, is really worth a visit….i know that Murcia is less recognised and sometimes we are not even mentioned on the TV weather forecast, jumping from Andalucia to Valencia as if we were not on the map, but we do have ancient sites as well.

    http://www.photaki.es/foto-interior-del-teatro-romano-cartagena_36095.htm

    • I stayed right around the corner a few years ago while at the pabellón militar. The outside facade of the complex is really a shame – it makes what probably promises to be worth visiting.

  4. Man, despite 2 years on the peninsula I never made it to any of those. In fact, I’m not sure if any archaeological sites in Spain. Hmmm.
    Lauren @Roamingtheworld recently posted..Walking from Bakio to the beautiful hermitage of San Juan de GaztelugatxeMy Profile

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