San Blai Snow Cave - Atlas Obscura

San Blai Snow Cave

Bocairent, Spain

This human-made cave is one of the many snow storage chambers that supported the ice supply industry in the Sierra Mariola area.  

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Between the 17th and 19th centuries, snow was an important product of the mountainous regions of many countries. “Snow caves” were commonly used to support that industry.

In the higher latitudes, collected from frozen lakes in winter would provide ice for cooling drinks, preserving food, and medical treatment. In lower latitudes, snow was more available than ice and deep circular snow caves became commonplace until the development of refrigeration systems. During the winter, these caves would be packed with fallen snow that would then be re-excavated as needed during the warmer months.

The size of the industry should not be underestimated. Nor should the value of the product, which was enough to support many laborers and mule drivers in the area. This cave on the outskirts of Bocairent served the supply of ice to both local areas and the coast. Part of the San Blai chamber was excavated into the rock while part was built aboveground and insulated by backfilling.

The dome-shaped ceiling (with a manhole to allow entry of both snow and workers) is two-thirds self-supporting masonry and one-third carved from the overhanging rock. The current entrance is via the old water drainage system and visitors are provided with a spiral metal staircase to allow for a good downward view.

Know Before You Go

In 2023 the entrance fee was only €2. If you are travelling by car the best parking is probably Av. del Espanaya but at weekends you will need to arrive very early to find a space.

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December 22, 2023

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