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Discovering the Salento caves

The very long Salento coast, embraced by the Adriatic and Ionian seas, is able to satisfy everyone, from lovers of low and sandy beaches, to those who prefer white cliffs instead. The caves of Salento fit perfectly into this varied context, born as a result of karst phenomena that over the years have caused their formation.

Many caves are known by everyone, tourists and locals, but some of them, a little less known, can also represent a novelty for many people from Salento. All the caves of our land deserve to be visited, both for their high historical value and for their beauty. Let’s find out together what they are and what is special about them.

Caves in Torre dell’Orso

The Torre dell’Orso area, located several kilometers from Otranto, has a jagged coast with many small caves, used in the past as a refuge for fishermen.
Among these, the best known is certainly the Grotta di San Cristoforo. However, it was probably made by man several centuries before Christ.
The importance of this cave is undoubtedly its cultural value, since it is here that very ancient inscriptions have been found in the rock, both in Greek and Latin, which testify that the place was a sort of place of worship for navigators.

Caves in Porto Badisco

Moving towards Otranto, the coast is full of caves and inlets that make this area one of the best equipped for snorkelling enthusiasts.

South of Otranto, you overlook the bay of Porto Badisco, a natural harbor formed over the millennia by the presence of an ancient river that has created many karst formations in the rocks over the years.

The most important historical site in the area, testimony to the presence of man even in prehistoric times, is undoubtedly the Grotta dei Cervi.

Grotta dei Cervi

This cave can be admired by sea and only from the outside, as it is currently not accessible to the public due to the important archaeological finds inside. Here the first inhabitants of these coasts lived more than four thousand years ago.

The cave takes its name from the graffiti inside which depict deer hunting trips. It is very deep and goes into the bowels of the earth for about three kilometers along three different corridors.

Caves between Santa Cesarea and Castro Marina

Further descending along the Salento Adriatic coast, you will reach a coastal strip rich in karst phenomena in the area that includes Santa Cesarea Terme and Castro Marina.

The caves of Santa Cesarea are famous for their thermal waters, whose healing effects were already known in the fifteenth century.

The spring waters flow underground from Porto Badisco, and are enriched with mineral properties of the sulphurous-salt-bromine-iodine type and emerge in Santa Cesarea in four caves connected to the sea: Gattulla, Fetida, Solfurea and Solfatara. Right on these caves stands today the thermal establishment.

Continuing along the coast, you will arrive in Castro, which has no beach but only rugged rocks overlooking the sea. The best place to swim in Castro is certainly near the very famous Grotta Zinzulusa, probably the best known in Salento, which offers a suggestive spectacle for the view, opening onto the sea and being, however, also visitable from land. Its name derives from the “zinzuli”, that is “hanging rags”, the dialectal name that was given by the people to the large stalactites of which the cave is rich.
Together with the stalagmites, they often take on imaginative shapes that only nature is able to conceive, contributing to making this cave a great attraction for tourists and visitors.

The Zinzulusa Cave is developed in three main parts.

The first is the “Conca”, where there are large stalactites and stalagmites, a first freshwater lake and another lake called “Trabocchetto” with very clear and crystalline waters.

The second part is the “Cripta” or “Duomo”, a smaller but very high area, capable of reaching about 25 meters; the last section is the “Cocito”, a closed basin which, thanks to its extreme isolation, has become a real underwater ecosystem.

The cave, in addition to being accessible by land, can also be visited from the sea, through boat trips and organized tours.

Not far from the Zinzulusa is the Grotta Romanelli, very small but full of finds, which it brought to light in the early twentieth century. It is closed to the public, but can be seen from the sea.

In the area there is also the Blue Grotto, which can only be visited from the sea. It is shallow and is so called for the particular color that the waters take on thanks to the continuous refracting of light.

Finally, the Adriatic area also offers us other caves, certainly less known, all with access exclusively by sea. They are the Grotta delle Striare or Grotta delle Streghe, which takes its name from the shape of its rocks, i.e. female hands with very long nails that have fueled, over the years, the legend according to which this cave was populated by witches.

The caves of Leuca and surroundings

The coast of Santa Maria di Leuca, the one that overlooks the Adriatic, has high rocks overlooking the sea which occasionally reveal several suggestive caves, reachable by sea and near which it is also possible to go diving and hiking.

These caves are not of karst origin, as in most cases they were carved into the rock directly by the waves of the sea. The Grotta delle Cazzafre, the Grotta del Brigante, the Grotta del Pozzo, and then Le Mannute, Lu Vangare and Montelungo are part of this group of caves.

Santa Maria di Leuca

The most beautiful and evocative stretch of the area is certainly that of the Ciolo inlet, near Gagliano del Capo, a real jewel that stands out very high above the sea and from whose rocks some brave people let themselves go in spectacular dives, so much so that make the area one of the most popular online too. Il Ciolo has a small pebbly beach where bathers flock every summer, with gradual access to the sea.

On the other hand, some nearby caves are perfect for boat excursions and organized tours: the Grotta delle Prazziche forty meters long; the Grotta Grande (or Grotta dei Passeri or Grotta degli Spiriti), one hundred meters deep and thirty meters high; the Grotta Piccola, which, despite its name, is about a hundred meters deep.

The other side of Leuca, the one that overlooks the Ionian Sea, near Punta Ristola, allows you to walk down to the Grotta Porcinara, 15 meters high and 30 deep, a man’s refuge in the Messapian and Roman eras from the VIII to the 2nd century BC, used by both peoples as a place of worship.

Not far from here is the Grotta del Diavolo, so called for the disturbing sounds that came out of it, due to the waves breaking inside it. It too is shallow and in the past it was considered a place of worship for Greek and Latin sailors.

Among the small caves in the area, we cannot forget the Grotta dei Giganti, which has brought to light the bones of pachyderms, mistakenly mistaken for giants; the Cave of the Child, in which a molar of an ancient child was found. It is connected to the Grotta delle Tre Porte which shows three different accesses to the sea. The Grotta del Presepe, on the other hand, has some karst formations that recall the crib; in the Grotta Cipollina prehistoric tools were found; the Grotta del Drago shows a particular rock that looks like a dragon’s head. And finally, to conclude the picture, the Grotta degli Innamorati, the Grotta della Stalla and the Grotta del Fiume.

Caves in Porto Selvaggio

Going up along the Ionian coast, at the height of Nardò and in particular of Porto Selvaggio and Uluzzo Bay, we find some rock cavities, among which, easily reachable by swimming, there is a small cave.

Near the Bay of Uluzzo there are other caves, the most important of which is the Capelvenere Cave, named in this way because of a plant that grows in the area, namely the maidenhair fern.

Caves in San Foca

In the upper Adriatic, especially near San Foca, you can admire the Grotta degli Amanti, so called because according to tradition, two lovers once found refuge here and, since then, in spring the wind blows as if they still felt their sighs.

The Grotta della Poesia in Roca Vecchia, immediately south of San Foca, is beautiful and spectacular and perhaps one of the best known by tourists and people from Salento, which we wanted to leave for last in our guide. It is characterized by being very popular with bathers in the summer, probably due to its beauty, which can be completely admired from above, and its shape which has earned it the nickname of “natural pool”. It is accessible directly by land and is divided into “Poesia Grande” and “Poesia piccola”, two caves whose roofs have collapsed and are now open to the sky, offering a unique spectacle.


Choose Delfino Blu

Do you want to live an unforgettable experience between the Ionian and Adriatic to discover the caves and wonders of the Salento coasts, aboard a super-equipped and comfortable boat? Contact us and book your excursion with Delfino Blu!


Our tours, lasting about 3 hours, depart three times a day from the port of Torre Vado, at 9.00, time in which it will be possible to witness the fantastic play of lights created by the sun’s rays that settle inside the caves and create a unique and suggestive atmosphere, at 1.00 pm and 4.30 pm, the perfect time to enjoy the wonderful Salento sunset show, with the sun slowly slipping behind the horizon.

During the excursion there will be two stops to be able to swim and dive into the fabulous crystal clear waters and, moreover, you can also enjoy pleasant refreshments on board.

Click on the button at the bottom left and contact us now to book your place!

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