The attractions of Cuba's western province of Matanzas, famous for holding the world-famous beach resort of Varadero, include a heavy load of history, traditions, culture and relics in the underground world.
The province also boasts the Bellamar Caves, which are among the most visited caverns by thousands of foreign travelers arriving in the largest Antillean Island.
Discovered in the 19th century, the Bellamar Caves are among the best known in the country. They are nearly two kilometers long and feature many crystalline formations, including a lot of stalagmites and stalactites in salons that go deeper into the aquifer, ending in lakes of crystal-clear waters.
Formed 300,000 years ago, the Bellamar caves are made up of three caverns that were one whole cave in ancient times: Bellamar, El Jarrito and Soto Jíbaro.
According to legend, the caves were discovered by accident in 1861, when a slave working in a Matanzas quarry lost its working tool in a hole in the ground, where later excavations unearthed a true natural treasure.
Speleologists consider the caves are potential laboratories to study underground crystallography, particularly those derived from calcium carbonate, since their galleries feature a wide range of crystalline formations of peculiar beauty.
Experts guide groups of tourists along the caves' galleries, where they can visit unique sites such as "the American woman's bath" or "the fountain of youth".
The ancient galleries were a safe haven for the region's quaternary fauna, a fact that has been confirmed by findings of such prehistoric animals during excavations. The caves hold the largest phreatic stratum in Cuba.
Matanzas also has the Saturno Cave, which is 20 meters deep and is a flooded cavern with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.
The Saturno Cave has two galleries inhabited by fish and blind shrimps, a typical fauna of Cuba's underground world, in addition to lakes of crystal-clear waters for the enjoyment of visitors.
The Catalina Cave, which is 10 kilometers long, is close to the Bellamar Caves.
The existence of so many caves in Cuba has a geological foundation, since two thirds of the Island's territory is made up of karst rocks, which have created the largest caverns in the Caribbean basin.
Specialized institutions estimate that Cuba has some 10,000 caves, many of which have a long history of nearly 25 million years of evolution.