Voyage to the centre of the Earth… of Tarragona

Sala Forner de la Cova Urbana / ©SIET

Entering and descending into the ‘Cova Urbana’ is penetrating the city’s core, an exciting voyage to the centre of the Earth of Tarragona. The cavity, accidentally discovered just over two decades ago at 32, carrer Gasòmetre, is still mostly unknown for the general public. However, people who have plunged into its depths have been marvelled and stunned by how concealed this remains to the world. In terms of location, this cavern is to be placed underneath the streets Gasòmotre, Pons d’Icart, Méndez Núñez, Rambla Nova, Fortuny, Reding, Lleida, and the square Plaça Ponent.

The ‘Cova Urbana’ is not a demanding cavern, but it requires a certain level of physical and mental condition in order to go through its tunnels and cat holes, to go up and down the almost constant slopes of the chambers, and to go over the three siphons existing these days. And I’m pointing out the ‘these days’ fact because the ‘Cova Urbana’ has not stopped being investigated, documented and topographed since it was first opened in November 16, 1996. Therefore, we are talking of a den, which is alive and can actually grow up and become even larger at any moment.

TBMCatSur / ©Ivan Rodon

Last May, I went back into the ‘Cova Urbana’ with a group of bloggers from the Travel Bloggers Meeting #TBMCatSur. Obviously, we were in good company thanks to Sergio Granados, from the ‘Societat d’Investigacions Espeleològiques de Tarragona’ (SIET), the company that investigates the cave, and that owns the commercial exploitation. Last time I did, it was sixteen years ago and, it is fair to be said that during this time, the cave has been equipped and improved, so that now, thanks to guides, ropes and artificial light on its first section, it is much easier for visitors to access it and move through it.

Exploring the ‘Cova Urbana’ with the people of SIET is in itself a sheer explosion of adrenaline. The guides offer the visitor either one way or another depending on the level of the group that made the reservation. Together with the guys from #TBMCatSur, we went through the basic route so that we could make the most of the visit without that much physical demand. It was over three hours of surprises and emotions.

Galeria romana / ©SIET

The visit starts from the building’s car park, going down into a well, which takes you to a shallow Roman gallery that was hand dug about two hundred years before Christ. Touching these stones and staring at the laborious work made by the Romans is indeed very impressive; it is actually the best possible start for the visit. The route continues through two more wells, of five and seven metres depth respectively, separated by a tiny cavity. We get to the first chamber through a small opening, of about 30 metres long, named CEO, which has a small pond in its interior, and that we swim across.

Sala Forner / ©SIET

Tercer llac / ©SIET

The itinerary is followed by new ponds and siphoned crossings before arriving to the two largest chambers of the cave, the ‘Sala Josep Maria Forné’ –in memory of the builder who made possible the discovering and investigation of the ‘Cova Urbana’–, and the ‘Sala Maginet’, both of about 900 square metres.

The current cavity’s limit is set by the impressive ‘Sala Rivemar’, the only one under water, of over five thousand square metres, and where we tend to take the usual group photograph. What follows is a world to explore, although it has been discovered that after diving for a hundred metres and descending into a depth of about twenty metres, there is a rising well that will take you to new chambers still on an exploring process. Under no circumstances, however, do visits to ‘Cova Urbana’ go beyond the entrance of ‘Sala Rivemar’. It will be then time to go back to the start, which can be done using alternative routes.

Sala Rivemar / ©SIET

A recommendation: on the way back, ask the instructor for permission to switch all the helmet lights at one of the ponds, and stay for about two minutes in the water, in silence, and in the most absolute darkness. Sensations are different to each person, so you’d better experience it by yourself and then tell us about it all.

Information of interest:

‘Societat d’Investigacions Espeleològiques de Tarragona’ (SIET) contact telephone numbers.

Antonio Cabezas: (0034) 645 975 960
Sergio Granados: (0034) 671 857 590

Email address:


Text: Ivan Rodon (@irodon)
Translate: Artur Santos (@artur_1983)
Photo: SIET and Ivan Rodon