Archibald Hill once said, “The pursuit of natural knowledge, the investigation of the world-mental and material- in which we live, is not a dull and spiritless affair; rather it is a voyage of adventure of the human mind, a holiday for reckless and imaginative souls.”
The human mind loves mysteries and caves are one of them. Caves are natural underground spaces, large enough for humans to enter. In prehistoric times, caves were used as shelters. Today, caves are more of an adventure for men. It is also something that helps them connect to the past and know about the earth. Exploring caves, apart from a profession is seen as a fun and adventurous activity. Some of these caves are so mystical and magical that humans are naturally attracted to them. Below is a list of 25 caves that one should try and visit at least once in a lifetime. Happy exploring!
25. Ajanta and Ellora Caves, India
Ajanta and Ellora are a series of Buddhist cave temples in Maharashtra, India. The first caves were made during the 2nd century BCE. Located close to each other, these caves contain spectacular Buddhist sculptures portraying folktales.
24. Barton Creek Cave, Belize
Barton Creek Cave is a natural cave in Belize. It is an archaeological site and a major tourist attraction. It is a single passage stream cave. Pieces of evidence supporting that the caves were used by the Mayans have been found. Apart from that, shreds of pottery indicating use from early classic to late classic periods. The remains of humans have also been discovered.
23. Cango Caves, South Africa
The Congo Caves, situated near Oudtshoorn, offers a fascinating sight of limestone formations in various colors. According to the common myth in that area, the caves were first discovered by a farmer named Jacobus van Zyl, but no one with such a name was found during research. The caves have many tunnels which attract many tourists and explorers each year. Tour guides are present to guide people through the worlds finest stalactite caves.
22. Carlsbad Cavern, New Mexico
Carlsbad Cavern is a part of Carlsbad Cavern National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico. The park contains more than 100 limestone caves. Carlsbad Cavern, one of the primary caves, is well known for its beautiful rock formations. It is also the 7th largest cave chamber in the world.
21. Deer Cave, Malaysia
Deer Cave, in Gunung Mulu National Park-Malaysia, is a show cave. It got this name because of the deer that go there to lick the walls of the caves, which are made of salt-bearing rocks, and take shelter. The landscape of that area attracts visitors from all over the world. There are unique stalagmites and a formation near the cave entrance which resembles the profile of Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President.
20. Dongzhong Cave, China
Dongzhong Cave is located in the province of Guizhou, China. The unique feature of this cave is that it had an elementary school and residents till 2011! The school was a small structure put together by the residents due to the lack of a proper school. The cave school could accommodate up to 200 children and even had a basketball court. After the government’s promise to build a proper school the cave school was closed. The cave, however, has not lost its popularity among the tourists.
19. Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves, Austria
It is a natural limestone and ice cave located in Werfen, Austria. It is the largest ice cave in the world, as long as 42 km! The cold winds inside the caves keep the snow from melting during summers. Before it’s discovery in 1879, the cave was only known to the locals who never tried to explore it. They believed that the cave was an entrance to hell. Today, the cave is a major tourist attraction of Austria and is visited by about 200,000 tourists every year.
18. Fantasy and Crystal Caves, Bermuda
Both these caves are situated in the British Overseas Territories of Bermuda. The lower 20 meters or so of the caves are below water. The caves were initially formed above sea level but, as the sea level rose, many formations inside were damaged. They were discovered in 1905, by two 12 year boys. After this, the owner of the area lowered his 14-year-old son with a bicycle lamp into the cave to explore. He went inside with the help of a rope tied to a tree. Both these caves are known for their beautiful structures and have clear underground pools.
17. Majlis Al Jinn Cave, Oman
Majlis Al Jinn cave is located on the Selma Plateau in the Sultanate of Oman. The name Majlis al jinn in Arabic means meeting/ gathering place of the jinns. It is the second largest known cave chamber as measured by the surface area of the floor. The cave grew in popularity as a BASE jumping site. It required specialized rope to descend and ascend into and from the cave. In 2008, due to the degradation of the surrounding area, the government decided to ban BASE jumping and develop the cave as a show cave.
16. Mammoth Cave, USA
Mammoth caves, located in the state of Kentucky, the USA, are perhaps, the greatest natural attraction in the state. It is the world’s longest cave system and a limestone labyrinth! Furthermore, it also contains famous giant sinkholes, Cedar sink, and Frozen Niagara.
15. Onondaga Cave, Missouri
The cave is a part of the Onondaga Cave State Park, located near Meramec River, Missouri. It is one of the most spectacular caves in the nation because of its amazing formations. Other activities around the cave area include swimming, hiking, fishing, and camping.
14. Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam
Phong Nha cave is situated in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. It is 7,729 meters long and contains 14 grottoes along with an underground river. Spectacular boat trips through the caves are organized on a regular basis, except during floods. The boat cruises along the limestone peaks and church steeples. The tourists are given an option of climbing and trekking inside the cave.
13. Puerto Princesa Cavern, Philippines
It is located in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines. The cave is a beautiful creation of nature; it has a dome measuring 300m, an underground river with waterfalls and amazing rock formations! It was officially declared as one of the 7 wonders of nature on 28 January 2012. Tourists can explore some parts of the cave and river with the help of boats.
12. Skocjan Caves, Slovenia
It is a cave system located in Slovenia, attracting tourists all year long. The underground river is a major add-on. Due to its high significance, it was made a world heritage site in 1986. Tourists visit this place throughout the year. It is a great example of natural beauty and aesthetic value and is also one of the largest known underground canyons in the world. The area has been inhabited since the prehistoric times and because of the climatic conditions inside it has developed a special ecosystem.
11. The Reed Flute Cave, China
Also known as “the Palace of Natural Arts”, the Reed Flute Cave, located in the small city of Guilin, China is a major tourist attraction. This 180 million-year-old limestone cave got its name from the type of reed growing there, which can be made into flutes. The cave is decorated with multicolored lighting and has beautiful rock formations along with ink inscriptions from 792 AD.
10. Ellison Cave, Georgia
Ellison Cave is a pit cave located on pigeon mountain, northwest Georgia. It is the 12th deepest cave in the United States and extends 1063 feet vertically! Two of it’s most famous and deepest pits are the fantastic pit (586 feet) and incredible pit(440 feet). Only expert cavers are allowed to enter the pit due to technical and dangerous issues.
9. Kverkfjöll Ice Caves, Iceland
They are located in the northeast highlands of Vatnajokull, Iceland. Active volcanoes in that region create geothermal activity, resulting in beautiful ice caves. Ice caves form every winter and melt during spring and summer. Hence, you will never walk into the same ice cave twice. A very rare phenomenon of a hot river flowing beneath an ice glacier can be witnessed here.
8. Lascaux Caves, France
Located in southwestern France, this is a complex set of prehistoric caves. More than 600 paintings adorn the inner walls of the cave. The drawings are estimated to be around 17,000 years old. Most parts of the caves are now closed for the public to protect the paintings. The caves have been added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
7. Cave of Crystals, Mexico
Cave of crystals or Giant crystal cave is located in Chihuahua, Mexico. It is a paradise of crystals. The crystals are formed due to highly concentrated calcium sulphate. The caves have not been explored enough due to flooding and extreme heat and fumes.
6. Blue Grotto Cave, Italy
The Blue Grotto is a natural sea cave located on the coast of the island of Capri, Italy. The cave is exactly as you see in the picture above, the water azure blue in color with silver reflections. The water is like this because of the sunlight that shines throughout the water. The cave is accessible through a small opening. Unfortunately, on windy days or during high-tides the mouth in inaccessible, so one needs to carefully look at the weather and decide. This place is definitely worth a visit!
5. Cave of the Swallows, Mexico
Cave of the Swallows is an open-air pit cave in Mexico. It got its name owing to the various birds that live in the holes on the walls of the cave. It is perhaps the 11th deepest cave pit and the largest known cave shaft in the world. The cave is a popular vertical caving destination. Other sports like rappelling and BASE jumping are also popular here.
4. Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
It is a sea cave located on an uninhabited island of Staffa, Scotland. Very well known for its acoustics, and the sounds made when the waves hit the beach, it is a great tourist spot.
3. Glowworm Cave, New Zealand
This cave glows! Located on the north island of New Zealand, this cave is known for its population of a glowworm species found exclusively in New Zealand. The tours in this cave are in three levels. The third level goes down into the cathedral. The cathedral is an enclosed area with rough surfaces and amazing acoustics. Many famous singers like Dame Kiri Te Kanawa have performed here. The trip concludes with a boat ride through the glowworm grotto, where the only light coming, is from the glowworms. It’s magical!
2. The Cave of Three Bridges, Lebanon
The cave of three bridges is a sight to behold! This cave has been around since the times of the dinosaurs. After winters, the snow on mount Lebanon melts creating a waterfall through these limestones. Throughout the years the water has given the walls of the cave a beautiful shape, giving the waterfall its characteristic features.
1. Phraya Nakhon Cave, Thailand
One of Thailand’s most beautiful caves is Phraya Nakhon Cave. This impressive cave is located inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. The cave has two chambers, both are open, allowing sunlight, rain and plenty of air. This allows many trees and plants to grow here. This mystical cave has a pavilion inside, built in the 19th century.
In case you have visited any of these before, do share your experience in the comment section, and if not, it’s time to add this to your bucket list!