The Caverna de Las Brujas is located in the district of Malargüe. The area comprises approximately 450 hectares and was declared a reservation in 1990. The entrance to the cave is located at an altitude of 1800 metres above sea level.
Cavern of the Witches, is a particular subterranean environment, where once again the diversity of the planet exceeds our capacity of being surprised. Ancient rocks of marine origin are the home to a huge cavity, embroidered with bizarre minerals shapes: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, cast, together form a strange scenario. More than 3000 metres of galleries have been developed through levels of calcareous rocks (limestone) of the Jurassic period. There are sectors or levels with abundant ammonites, molluscs that dominated the marine environment during the Jurassic and Cretaceous.
The Cavern is one of the main tourist offers in the South of Mendoza and annually receives more than 10,000 visitors.
It presents beautiful decorations with different elements, known as dripstones.
The dripstones are:
“Stalactites”: elements in the form of needles hanging from the ceilings of caves.
“Stalagmite”: similar to stalactites, but are formed on the floors. “Columns”: the union of stalactites and stalagmites.
“Veils”: which are formations similar to drapes.
The walls are decorated with white, yellow and brown flow deposits. In the deepest part, elements of plaster can be seen. The most common forms are thick crusts covering the floor, walls and in some cases, even obstructing some passages of the cave.
The formation of the Cavern has been explained as a product of the movement of underground water. During the lifting of the Andes ridge during the Tertiary period, the entire region was amended, leaving the limestone in an almost vertical position and highly fissured. At the end of the last glacial period, there has been a large water infiltration favoured by the existence of a high amount of snow and ice (much higher than what precipitates today), helping the expansion of passageways and forming the dripstones.
The archaeological studies made so far, indicate that the cave was used by Aboriginal people for various rituals or as a temporary shelter. The secrets of the flora and fauna of the cavern remain in mystery until natural scientists and speleologists conduct further surveys.
It is known that there are bats, spiders, colémbolos (small insects living in primitive soil organic matter) and field mice using its galleries as a shelter.
Legends on the Cavern
There are some legends about the Cavern, which have been told by tour guides, and they have been used to tell stories and give explanation to visitors about the Cavern:
“There is a legend that states that the Aborigines often used the first room (La Virgen Room). There the Machis, (“wizard doctors”) of each tribe, carried out their ritual ceremonies, made fires, sat around them, and danced. When making large circles in the fire, their shadows on the walls were phantasmagorical. It is also said that women would enter with children in their arms, and then suddenly, cries would be heard, and screams, strange noises and flashing lights would be seen, “bad light”, without being able to identify their cause and origin. All this mystery made the old settlers name it the “Cave of the Witches.”
The inhabitants of the area Bardas Blancas tell that one of the tribes that dominated the region had two captive white women, whose feet would be hurt, so they would not be able to flee. In an opportunity, the women escaped from prison and took refuge in the cave, in the Hall of the Virgin.
Since those days, locals began to see two ragged looking women, with long hair and very dirty, get out of the mouth of the cave in the early hours of the afternoon and then enter again. Loud cries of complaint and cries of pain were heard accompanied by lights and shadows of ghostly aspects sown terror among the locals, who began to call the place, De las Brujas.
When their wounds healed, both captives sought refuge somewhere safer thus disappearing from the first room of the cave. According to Don Ignacio Sagal, in that place two big owls took refuge, and when they left flying through the entrance door, they made people believe that witch women had definitely been transformed into birds.