One of only three aragonite caves in the world open to the public. It is a beautiful and amazing experience to wander through this small but incredibly colourful and delicate cave. You can't help but be reminded of the crystals you could make as a child with a Christmas bought chemistry set.
Nearest main town is Roznava. There is poor public transport.
Ochtinská aragonitová jaskyňa, 049 35 Ochtiná-Rožňava, Slovakia
+421 58/488 10 51
Google map: bit.ly/vU5LW1
La Grotta del Vento in the Apuane Alps is named for the draught that blows through it owing to one entrance being 1000m higher than the other and thus at a very different temperature. Now the only time you feel the wind is when the steel doors at the lower entrance to the cave are opened to allow access. There are a choice of one, two or three hour guided tours. We went on the two hour tour which takes you through galleries full of stalactites, stalagmites and other glittering structures before a long descent down a vertical abyss to an underground river. It's a fascinating trip and the accompanying audio tour in English provides lots of interesting information about the discovery of the cave and its use for psychological experiments and health therapies as well as the various natural formations. Those looking for something more challenging can go on an adventure tour which uses ladders and ropes to visit parts of the cave not accessible by walkways and staircases.
Take a trip to the mines of Cerro Rico in Potosi, once famous for silver. In the mines it is claustrophobic, hard to breathe and hot but a trip down these narrow tunnels gives an emotional insight into the miner's world and their way of life. Mouths stuffed with coca leaves, they slave on for hours spurred on by the gifts of drinks and dynamite that tourists bring from the miner’s market. Tours are run by ex-miners who talk about the history and legends of the mines, including ‘El Tio’, a figure who the miners make offerings to, to keep them safe. The tour is not easy, but definitely worth it to see how the miners work. You will definitely appreciate your own job more!!
Koala Tours: Calle Ayacucho #3, 33 Potosí, Bolivia.
A stunning cave set high in the mountains of Luzon, Sumaguing boasts beautiful limestone formations, deep, clear pools and the feeling that you're the first visitor to have stumbled into its depths in a long time.
Sumaguing Cave, Sagada, Luzon, the Philippines. Approximately six hours by bus from Baguio City.
Google map: bit.ly/nPKP0B
On the south east corner of the island of Graciosa in the Azores, the Furna do Enxofre lies beneath the Caldeira. I walked and hitch-hiked from the village of Praia (also known as Sao Mateus).
A winding stairway of 183 steps partly cut into a volcanic chimney leads down to a domed volcanic cave where there is a sulphurous lake. It's best to go between 11am and 2pm as sunlight beams through a shaft and casts light in a spectacular way.
It's even wiser to phone ahead as the CO2 levels are closely monitored and the cave closes when levels are dangerous. It's a bit disconcerting to say the least, when you're peering into the boiling mud pool and the alarm sounds!
There is an eeriness and stillness in the subterranean world enhanced by knowing you are 100m below the earth's surface inside a volcano.
A little rowing boat sits at the lake edge, though when I visited, the lake was out of bounds. Bring a torch to explore the darker areas and to admire the numerous stalactites. Finally, bring a packed lunch as the food offered is only a few chocolate bars and drinks from a vending machine. There are a few picnic benches outside to enjoy a well deserved snack and a rest.
If you have the energy, you can walk around the edge of the volcano where there are stunning views into the Caldeira and explore lava tunnels as you continue to hike.
All in all a great work for the thighs and bum!
Ilha Graciosa, Portugal
+351 295 712 124
Google map: bit.ly/rbUFyt
This incredible three mile cave system is set in the heart of a Belizean nature reserve. You enter straight in at the deep end, immersing yourself in water and squeezing between rocks. The cave houses artefacts and skeleton remains of Mayan sacrificial ceremonies, including 'The Crystal Maiden' - a calcified skeleton of a sacrificed teenage girl sparkling away like crystals. The cave has been left exactly how it was found, the ceramics are lying on the altars just as they were. The atmosphere is thick with magic, and the Belizean Tourist Board only permits small groups from a few select guides, making it feel as if you are discovering it for the very first time!
45 minute drive from San Ignacio, then a 45 minute trek.
Can be booked through selected guides in San Ignacio, Belize.
This is the artist Manriques house. Built in 1968 it holds a strong test of time for great design and inspiration. Manrique used the remaining underground chambers and lava bubbles from an eruption in the early 1730's to create this subterranean wonder. The rooms are painted cool white with a lot of classic 60's style furnishings inside. There are little outside bits where the earths crust must have broken and these create pretty areas with water features and some are natural atriums to let the strong sunlight in. This place is truly unique thanks to the genius of Manrique.
A miniature railway takes you on the half mile journey in the dark into the caves at Rouffignac, south of Perigueux in the Dordogne. Deep in the interior you get off the train and can wander round finding the outlines of deer, horses and other animals sketched on the walls. Half way into the journey you stop to see some shallow ledges in the rock, with round depressions - the winter "nests" for hibernating bears.
Recent discovery has also revealed children's hand prints. A fascinating experience into pre-history.
Walking across Cerkvenik Bridge, 47 metres above the Reka River, it’s hard not to think of Tolkein’s Middle Earth. As the water thunders beneath you, the walls of this Karst cave soar above you like pillars in a cathedral. The Skocjan Caves boast stalagmites 15 metres high, one of the largest underground chambers in the world, and a rare creature known as a cave salamander.
The World of the Ice Giants, some 20 km south of Salzburg, is a natural ice cave inside a mountain in the Alps, the largest one in the world. David Attenborough included this spectacular cave in his series Wonders of Nature.
It's absolutely breathtaking. You are guided through the first kilometer of the cave 400 meters underground, walking around huge ice formations shaped like fairytale castles, vast cathedrals, and sparkling palaces. There are huge stalagmites and stalactites - everywhere you look is a spectacular natural wonder. It is permanently frozen inside so very cold even in the summer - you need to wrap up well for this unique journey through an icy Neverland.
Eishoehlenstrasse 30, A - 5450 Werfen
Postojna Cave, near Ljubljana in Slovenia is one of the best showcaves in the world. The cave is a network of 20 kilometres of passages, galleries and chambers. Some of the stalagmites are at least fifty feet high and the views are amazing. An underground train takes you to the walking section of the cave, where you then follow the tour through the chambers which can be visited. The cave is full of amazing calcite formations, stalactites and stalagmites in a variety of shapes, colours and age. At the end of the tour you can see an aquarium tank which contains several Vivarij Proteus, cave salamanders known for their long lifespan. The guided visit lasts an hour and a half approximately.
Postojna is located in the south-west of Slovenia. There is a bus connecting the Postojna railway station with the Postojna Cave or you can get a bus from Ljubljana.
+386 5 7000 100
Google map: bit.ly/nWB7GR
Altamira Cave was discovered in 1879. It contains Palaeolithic cave art, and the cave is of one of the most spectacular sites. It houses prehistoric paintings of bison, horses, deer, hands and mysterious signs painted over 15,000 years ago, in the Upper Palaeolithic. Altamira Cave became a World Heritage site in 1985. Although you cannot visit the original cave, the replica feels authentic and worth a visit and the museum gives a lot of information about the finding of the cave and the prehistoric time when the paintings were made. There is also a dedicated space for children to have a go at prehistoric painting.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is only 80 km from Krakow and a great experience. The mine has been producing salt since the 1200s and was the source of one-third of Poland's total income under King Kazimierz the Great. In the 1800s the miners started creating sculptures and even carved the largest among underground chapels carved in rock salt and embellished with salty sculptures, salt chandeliers and bas-reliefs. There are over 200 miles of tunnels and chambers that are currently maintained by former miners. The tour inside the mine is informative and fun. Also, if you suffer from asthma or breathing problems (like me) you will love being down there as the air in the mine contains large quantities of sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium ions which help control and improve the respiratory system. This is also the reason why the salt mine has its own Underground Rehabilitation and Respiratory Treatment Camp.
Daniłowicza Street 10, 32-020 Kraków, Poland
+48 12 278 73 75
Google map: bit.ly/qSBb3k
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is only 80 km from Krakow. There are organised tours which take you there or you can catch a local bus www.krakow-info.com/wielicz.htm
The Respiratory Rehabilitation Camp has its own website: www.kopalnia.pl
A network of underground river caves that are certainly not for the faint hearted! Entering these caves must be done with a guide from one of the local hostels, which considering the nature of the caves is probably a good thing. A two hour adrenaline filled trip, scrambling over rocks and stalagmites, wading through pools, climbing up gushing waterfalls, swimming through narrow channels, squeezing through tiny holes and if your're needing a little more adventure a cliff jump into a pitch black pool! Naturally, all this is done while holding a trusty candle above your head for light and clinging onto your flip flops which have been loosely tied on with string! If you're keen for adrenaline, like uncertainty and are willing to put your trust in a small Guatemalan lad with a candle, then this is undoubtedly the best and most unforgettable cave experience in the world!
Semuc Champey, near Las Marias hostel, Guatemala. Reached by bus from Lanquin.
There’s something primal about sleeping in a cave – being inside the earth cuts off the man-made world. Due to its volcanic past southern Italy is a veritable Swiss cheese of caves, and Cave Central is Matera in Basilicata. Up until the 1980s it was a disease-ridden town of troglodytes, now an astonishing Unesco site where we visited ancient churches in caves, ate in restaurants in caves, and stayed in a cave - albeit nowadays with marble floors, room service and a Jacuzzi bath.
Descend through the four subtly lit chambers hosting a multitude of impressive snowy white stalactites and stalagmites, before arriving at one of the world’s largest subterranean lakes.
There is a magical atmosphere as the darkness and silence are punctuated by the pockets of light and the sounds from the classical musicians floating by on their boats. Despite verging on the kitsch, this is a breathtaking and very special excursion.
Just a short bus ride from Mayrhofen followed by a chairlift leads you onto the Hintertux Glacier. Once up there you will find the Spannagelhaus which is at the entrance to the underground Spannagel cave – the largest and most important cave in the Tyrol. There is a charge of around 10Euro for the tour and you are kitted out with hard hats and waterproofs and you’ll need them for the adventure to follow!
There are wonderful rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, ribbon marble and crystals to be discovered as you feel like a real caver (there’s even a couple of places you have to squeeze through the rock!) exploring this secret underground world. While there it is of course worthwhile exploring the glacier, admiring the views and having a coffee at the excellent mountain huts that Austrians seem so good at providing in even the remotest of settings.
A wonderful Lord-of-the-Rings style subterranean adventure, reached by kayak. After climbing to the cave entrance we waded, up to our chests, up a stream flowing out of the cave. Then, lit only by the candles we carried, we followed the guide through passageways to a cathedral-like cavern where people retreated to live during more troubled times. Eventually we scrambled up towards a point of light to emerge higher up the tree-covered hillside. Not for the faint-hearted!
Enquire in one of the tour/trip offices in Vang Vieng / Luang Prabang, or www.greendiscoverylaos.com/
A legendary cave found hidden in the western slope of Wawel Hill, where visitors can journey down a tight, spiral staircase into the 81m cavernous dragon's den below. Children and adults alike will enjoy the rich 12th century story and history attached to the cave and, better yet, the metal sculpture of the dragon itself that breathes fire every few minutes.
These chalk caves in Kent have hourly conducted tours by interested guides who can show you the chequered history of this place. Each visitor is supplied with their own lamp and among other things is given the opportunity to experience the pitch black (with all lights out) and what a really loud noise sounds like reverberating through the cavernous space. The caves were used as an air raid shelter in the second world war and the remnants of this occupation is also on view, including a hospital and a chapel. You may be in time to catch the Halloween Ghost Walk at 7.30 on October 30th.
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