What to visit


The first regular guided tours of the Sierra de Atapuerca sites began in 1998, an initiative of the Duques de Soria Foundation and ACAHIA (Friends of Ibeas-Atapuerca Man Cultural Association). Since then, visitor management has been run by Paleorama, Arqueocio, UTE Paleorama-Schola Didàctica Activa and SierrActiva. Following the official opening of the Atapuerca Archaeological Park -now the Experimental Archaeology Centre- in 2001 and the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos in 2010, there are now three zones that can be visited in addition to the sites themselves, which together form a single unit: Atapuerca System, Evolutionary Culture (SACE).

SACE is an administrative system under the Castilla y Leon Regional Government's Culture and Tourism Ministry. It was set up to ensure smooth collaboration and integrated management of the different centres, facilities, services and departments, for the purpose of value-adding, exploiting and enriching the cultural and scientific resources associated with the archaeo-palaeontological sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca area.

Since March 2011, visits to the sites and the Experimental Archaeology Centre have been managed by the Atapuerca Foundation as part of SACE, under an agreement with the Siglo Foundation. Both Foundations and the Museum of Human Evolution are jointly responsible for coordinating visits to all three locations.

The Sierra de Atapuerca sites are an extraordinary place to study human evolution, as acknowledged by UNESCO in its declaration of this World Heritage Site on 30 November 2000, and by the Castilla y León Government in 2007 with the declaration of the Atapuerca Cultural Space. In addition, Europe's most important pilgrimage route, St. James Way or Camino de Santiago, runs through this area. It was also declared part of the World Heritage in 1993.

Visiting the Sierra de Atapuerca sites

Visitors enter the sites along the Railway Cutting. When it was dug into the Sierra limestone in the early 20th century, it exposed a massive trove of archaeo-palaeontological remains at three of Atapuerca's most important focal points, which can now be viewed: la Sima del Elefante (Elephant Pit), Galería (Gallery) and la Gran Dolina.

Please bear in mind that these sites are in a natural setting and are therefore subject to certain restrictions on movements.

Visiting the Site Access Centre (CAYAC)

CAYAC is in Ibeas de Juarros. This is the meeting point for visitors and the departure point for shuttle buses to the sites. CAYAC also has a permanent exhibition, "Sierra de Atapuerca, natural and cultural heritage", with graphic panels about the origins of the Sierra, the formation of the caves, the discoverers of the sites and caves, the animals and plants that live in these hills, and other details.

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Visiting the Experimental Archaeology Centre (CAREX)

CAREX, the Experimental Archaeology Centre, is in Atapuerca. This initiative by the Castilla y León Government is aimed at disseminating knowledge about experimental archaeology, which provides accurate information about the production and use of tools, shelters, textiles, ceramics and works of art in the distant past.

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Visiting the Museum of Human Evolution

The Museum of Human Evolution is in the centre of Burgos, a few minute's walk from the Cathedral and just 15 km from the Sierra de Atapuerca sites. Inside visitors can take an extensive journey through human evolution -both biological and cultural- and see more than 200 original items discovered in Sierra de Atapuerca, including Homo heilderbergensis and Homo antecessor.

Other points of interest around Sierra de Atapuerca

Esperanza Mine

Esperanza Mine in Olmos de Atapuerca has been reopened. After decades of neglect, its tunnels await visitors with an urge to explore. The secrets of one of the biggest industries in the history of humanity are revealed on a day of adventure for the whole family.

Now you can explore the underground passages, travel on special 4WDs, discover the Sierra de Atapuerca landscape and venture into the depths of the mine with a lamp, all full of surprises. The tour takes visitors into the most inaccessible, unexplored labyrinths of this mine.

You can also discover open cast mines and their fantastic colours (a veritable mineral forest), walk the forest trails, visit the old mining town and discover its tunnels.

You can learn from Mother Earth with educational workshops and guided sessions about mining, geology and the environment with suggestive names such as 'Mum's Skin', 'From the Mine to the Kitchen', 'Coloured Bison' and 'Storytelling in the Cave'.

One of the aims of the Atapuerca Foundation is to improve and promote tourism in the vicinity of the Sierra de Atapuerca sites. This commitment has led the Foundation to lend its support to the Olmos de Atapuerca Residents' Council initiative to organise tours of the Esperanza Mine. Under an agreement signed by the two institutions, the Foundation provides advice to the Council about visitor management and also acts as a facilitator for contacts the Atapuerca Research Team and other entities that may help to update and develop tourist access to this destination.

Juan Luis Arsuaga, Jose María Bermúdez de Castro and Eudald Carbonell, Deputy chairs of the Atapuerca Foundation and co-directors of Atapuerca project, have made several visits to this new project, undoubtedly a powerful new tourist attraction for the area.

Find out more about the exciting adventure awaiting you at www.minaesperanza.es