Outside of Palma, atop a hill called Puig de Sa Mesquida, sits the Castell de Bellver, built between 1300 and 1309 for Rei Jaume II., Mallorca’s first ever very own king. The castle today probably is the second most visited site by tourists in Palma, after La Seu, the cathedral.
Underneath the castle an array of caves and tunnels crisscross the puig, providing an escape route for the royal family if that is what was needed, as well as facilities to cool the regal drinks and stockpile the vast quantities of supplies that a royal household would get through in a month or three, in times before aircraft were invented and airports were built.
More to the point, the Coves de Bellver, the vast caves found underneath Bellver Castle, in reality are man-made caves that served as quarries for the main purpose of cutting sandstone for the construction of the castillo.
Whilst the outer façade of the castle was built in Santanyí stone, as was Palma’s cathedral, the interior walls and lesser façades were built from the supply that Bellver’s very own quarry provided. These caves reach down to some 70 m below the ground level of Bellver Castle and extend to an area of some 35,000 m².
After 1717, Palma’s castle was used as a prison and so were the caves – dungeons in a way – in its underbelly. Again, during the Guerra Civil (1936-39) the castle and its underground caves were used to imprison Republicanos before they were fusilladed or hung.
At the occasion of Palma celebrating its Sant Sebastià festivities, the Coves de Bellver are now opened for the interested public. Guided 30 mins. tours are held daily between 10h00 and 13h30, until next Sunday, January 25th. Admission is free. Additional tours will be held during the following weekend (January 31st/February 1st) at the same times. Other than these dates, the caves will not be open to the public. If you can go, you should go now. It is rather interesting. Access is from the castle car park, following down a footpath signposted ‘Policía Muntada’.
The photo was taken near Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 21st, 2009. The time was 11:39:45.