If your adventurous spirit thirsts for something more exciting than mountain climbing, deep sea diving, bungee jumping, sky diving or what have you, then you will certainly get an adrenalin rush exploring the European caves. A cave adventure is refreshingly different from other adventures, since it possesses an element of mystique.
Although the caves in Europe have already been explored and mapped by speleologists (cave scientists), you still get goosebumps descending into Earth’s dark and mysterious depths, as you don’t really know how far they go. Most of these European caves were once inhabited by our ancestors in prehistoric times. The amazing cave paintings of that era still exist.
We bring you some of the best caves in Europe to quench your thirst for adventure:
9. St. Beatus Caves
Located near Lake Thun
at the northern rim of the Alps in Switzerland, St. Beatus Caves are carved out in the heart of the gigantic Niederhorn Massif. These largely unexplored caverns send shivers up the spine, as they descend 1000 meters (3,281 feet) into the dark depths
through narrow passages and the stalactites and stalagmites infested grottos and continue past the roaring subterranean waterfalls. But, this is only part of the charm of these caves. The other part is an enchanting legend that revolves around St. Beatus, a monk who lived in the region in 100 AD. When the monk decided to retire in these caves in pious hermitage, he discovered a terrifying dragon, with blazing eyes that spewed fire, residing there. Undeterred, St. Beatus drove the beast away from the caves by holding up his cross and invoking the Holy Trinity. The scared dragon plunged into the lake, made its waters boil and perished.
8. Grotta Palazzese
The traditional Italian town of Polignano a Mare
in southern Italy, sits atop a 20-meter (65-feet) high limestone cliff that houses the magnificent caverns carved by the Adriatic Sea
. The largest of these caves is the Grotta Palazzese, overlooking the crystalline waters of the sea. Since 1700s this cave has been the picturesque site for one-of-its-kind restaurant that in those times served the wealthy local nobility and today this Grotta Palazzese restaurant
offers a world class cuisine, not to mention the entrancing panoramic view
of the sea and the sheer seaside cliffs. The cave interiors get lighted up by the natural aquamarine reflection of the sea, making it one of the most enchanting hideaways for a romantic tête-à-tête. The Summer Cave restaurant of Grotta Palazzese remains open from May to October. It serves two kinds of menu – the tasting menu and an à la carte menu. A five-star luxury hotel also snuggles in this limestone cliff.
7. Blue Grotto (Italy)
The shimmering blue sea under the azure sky of the Capri Island of southern Italy is something to behold, but the surrealistically glowing blue waters of the Blue Grotto
that this region showcases is really something out of this world. The Blue Grotto may not strictly qualify for caving adventure, since it is simply a conducted boat ride inside the cave. However, entering a small hole on the rock face in a boat bobbing up and down in the sea is a unique Blue Grotto experience
that you won’t forget in a hurry. This is what makes it one of the most famous must-visit places in Europe, drawing tourists in droves.
6. Postojnska Jama (Slovenia)
Ever imagined a train ride through the caves? The Postojnska Jama
cave system, located in western Slovenia, runs an underground train
for visitors. This subterranean world of caves stretches for 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) under the surface of Postojna Cave Park, a short distance from Predjama Castle. Opened to public in 1819, it is the world’s best-known tourist destination that can be visited all-round the year. It is not all rocks, stalactites and stalagmites that you get to see inside the caves, but fauna too. If you are lucky you may see an Olm
, a small pinkish blind salamander that inhabits the cave’s waters. For visitors, it is not only the train ride all the way, but trekking too. When the train stops deep underground, you get a chance to explore the caves on foot. The cave is so huge that it houses a 10,000-capacity concert hall, where music events are held.
5. Cuevas del Drach (Spain)
Already discovered during the Middle Ages, Cuevas del Drach
, also known as the Dragon Caves of Mallorca, were first explored by MF Will in 1880. However, it was EA Martel in 1886, who came up with the astonishing discovery of a lake inside these caves, now known as Lake Martel. It counts as one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world and is a major tourist attraction of Mallorca, where the caves are situated. The work for modification of the caves was undertaken from 1922 to 1935. Today, it has a new entrance, paths and stairs. You will get completely bowled over by its creatively designed lighting that illuminates the incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations. Their reflections on the surface of the lake bestow a surrealistic ambience to the caves. Out here, you not only get to explore the caves
, but also ride a boat and attend classical music concerts. The subterranean scenario reminds one of the book ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ by Jules Verne and the movie by the same name.
4. Eisriesenwelt (Austria)
is an Alpine cave that will certainly have you shivering, not because it is scary, but because its rocky interior is totally covered in snow and ice. This 26-mile (42-kilometer) long ice cave, located inside the Hochkogel Mountain
in Austria, holds the distinction of being the largest in the world. It was discovered in 1879 by nature explorer Anton Posselt-Czorich, but the discovery remained largely ignored until after World War I, when its labyrinthine interiors were fully explored and made a tourist attraction. The presence of ice inside the cave is due to the thawing snow of the mountain that drains inside the cave and freezes during winter. Today, you can explore this beautiful frosty cave
by foot and experience an awesome aerial cable car ride that ascends almost vertically from 3,556 feet (1,084 meters) to 5,203 feet (1,586 meters), within minutes, to give you a fantastic panoramic view of the region.
3. Hölloch Caves (Switzerland)
In vastness, there is no parallel to Hölloch Caves
that twist and turn underground for a stupendous length of 118 miles (190 kilometers). Little wonder it is Europe’s longest
and the world’s fourth longest cave system. The first advice to over eager cavers is not to venture inside without a guide, as there is every possibility of getting lost in its labyrinthine innards. Three kinds of tours are on offer – short guided tours, expeditions of longer duration and Hölloch Course
, a mix of guided tour and expedition. Needless to say, except for the short tours, all others require physical fitness, appropriate clothing and good hiking skills.
2. Gouffre Berger (France)
Among the deepest caves in the world, Gouffre Berger
ranks 28th. This limestone cave, located in southeastern France, was discovered in 1953 by Joseph Berger. It plummets to an astonishing depth of 3,680 feet (1,122 meters) and is one of the most popular destinations for cavers. The kind of skills you require to explore it can be seen in this awesome video titled ‘Immersion’
. It is the first cave to be explored to a depth of more than 3,000 feet (1,000 meters). Caving here is dangerous as the cave is prone to flooding that has resulted in fatalities.
1. Kurbera-Voronja (Georgia)
Welcome to the deepest cave in the world, the Kurbera-Voronja
located on the European border in the Arabika Massif on the edge of the Black Sea in Georgia. It plunges to a staggering depth of 7,208 feet (2,197 meters), its deepest explored point, making it the only known cave on the Earth that crosses the 1.2-mile (2-kilometer) mark. Is it any wonder that this deepest cave is called the ‘Everest of caves’? The explored depth of this ‘Everest of caves’
stands at 5,610 feet (1,710 meters). Exploring it is akin to scaling the Mount Everest, since it requires all the mountaineering gear and is certainly not for amateurs.