Tíscar: the Water Cave

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Tíscar: the Water Cave

If you have already visited Covadonga in Asturias and later come across this remarkable spot at the other end of the country, you will be amazed at the visual, mystical and historical parallels between Tíscar and the cave in the Cangas Valley, where it is said that Don Pelayo began the "Reconquest" against the Moors and which was known, in times past, as the Cueva Dominica. There are some who consider this breathtaking corner of southern Spain to be Andalusia’s Covadonga, as, according to tradition, the Virgin of Tíscar appeared at this spot. Her image has been worshipped here since the fall of the Moorish fortress in the 14th century. The structure built to house the shrine is less spectacular than its Asturian counterpart, but the cave itself simply has to be seen to be believed.

The site must have served as a holy place since earlier times, and although tradition speaks of the manifestation of the Virgin Mary in the Cueva del Agua, or "Water Cave", the spot in question is actually an enclosed gully carved out by the Tíscar stream. The aforementioned tradition also maintains that the Virgin was already venerated during the Moorish occupation when the Moors maintained what they considered to be an impregnable outpost, just above the cave. The modern Sanctuary of Our Lady was built over the main floor of the Moorish castle, dating back to the 15th or 16th century, with subsequent remodelling work.

In front of the entrance to the sanctuary there is a fountain bearing an inscription of a poem by Antonio Machado, dedicated to the patron saint of Quesada. All that remains today of the old fort is the majestic keep, with the coat of arms of the 11th-century King Pedro I engraved on the ashlar block and in the walled courtyard. The keep itself sits on a hard-to-reach mound forming part of Peña Negra, a spectacular sheer rock face frequented by Spanish ibex, vultures and eagles. From the sanctuary it can be reached via a metal staircase.

The Water Cave can be reached along an asphalted track descending from the A-6206, approximately 300 metres from the sanctuary, leading to a rudimentary parking area, from where a staircase leads down to a low, narrow tunnel (you will have to duck as you walk through it) through which runs an irrigation channel that supplies water to the traditional orchards nearby. After passing through the artificial cavity, the path offers different routes to visit this magical place. Here, a small hollow in the cave wall houses a small replica of the Virgin Mary, where local worshippers leave their offerings, believing that this was her first and true resting place. We recommend that you wear non-slip footwear and take care during your visit, as the ground and the steps can sometimes be slippery.


We recommend…

  • Visiting the source of the Tíscar stream and the Vadillo de Tíscar picnic area, both very close to the sanctuary.



Tíscar is located at a crossroads, just above the villages of Don Pedro and Belerda. The A-6206, also known as the Tíscar road, connecting Quesada with Hinojares and Pozo Alcón, passes through a tunnel that traverses the rock face on which the Peña Negra Sanctuary and Castle are perched, overlooking the Cueva del Agua. The sanctuary is 12 kilometres from Hinojares, 15 kilometres from Quesada and 17 kilometres from Pozo Alcón via this route. However, the nearest town is Huesa, just 10 kilometres away; a narrow local road leads out from the town and passes through Belerda before joining up with the A-6206 very close to Tíscar.

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