The World’s Best Caves For Spelunking, Just In Time For National Caves And Karst Day
Since the beginning of time, human beings have been fascinated with caves, and there’s a good reason for that fact. Caves are beautiful, mysterious and hold the promise of the unknown. They have managed to capture our collective imaginations as we wonder what strange and hidden worlds are waiting to be discovered. Caves and karsts have always had symbolic and spiritual meanings for many cultures. They have been seen as sacred spaces and places for people to go to commune with the forces of the universe.
Of course, the majority of people who are exploring caves and karsts nowadays are doing so to satisfy their sense of adventure. Exploring these spaces can stir feelings of adventure or a sense of awe in the face of their natural beautiful and geological wonder. There are also scientific discoveries that are waiting to be uncovered, which is why scientists from all around the world can be found trudging through the cave systems found on just about every continent.
Why are we even talking about caves? Well, we’ve decided to go ahead and talk about the beauty and wonder of exploring caves because June 6th is observed every year as National Caves and Karst Day. This is a holiday that is dedicated to encouraging everyone in the United States to explore the cave systems that are local to them. Although spelunking can be physically demanding, and potentially hazardous if a person doesn’t know what they’re doing, there is a way for people to begin this sport slowly and carefully. All people have to do is do their research, purchase the correct spelunking equipment, and use their head If they do that, then spelunking can be a rewarding experience.
To help do our part in inspiring people to begin this hobby, we thought that we’d take a few moments to introduce people to some of the best caves in the world for spelunking. These are caves that are known for their exceptional beauty, and for being unique environments for people to explore. However, before we begin listing these exceptional caves, cave systems, and karsts, we have to warn people that some of these caves might require more spelunking skills than others, so people should take an honest assessment of their abilities to make sure that they aren’t getting in over their heads. We also like to remind people that the below caves aren’t placed in any particular order. All of them have their pros and cons that spelunkers are going to need to consider before they explore them.
Reed Flute Cave (Guilin, China)
Located in Guilin, China, Reed Flute Cave is known as the “Palace of Natural Arts.” It was given its name because there’s a type of reed that grows outside of it, and this reed can be made into flutes. It’s a cave that’s been explored since the Tang Dynasty and there are over 70 inscriptions that go back as far as 792 AD that can be found within it. For years, it was basically unknown to many residents in the area but was rediscovered during World War II as refugees escaped advancing Japanese troops. Today, this cave is colored with multicolored artificial light, and there is a multitude of stalagmites and stalactites for people to see. Many of them are named according to the legends that are associated with them or to what they look like, so they have names such as Fish Tail Peak, Crystal Palace, and Dragon Pagoda. Although these caves provide more of a guided tour feel than a true spelunking experience, it’s still an amazing cave to explore.
Škocjan Caves (Kras Plateau of South-West Slovenia)
Comprising more than 6 kilometers of underground passage and having a total depth of 200 meters, this cave system has plenty to explore for the casual spelunker. It’s known for its many waterfalls and one of the largest known underground chambers in the world. It’s a site that is visited by scientists from all over the world who study it for its unique karstic phenomena. It has also been certified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This is due to the fact that this has had great historical and cultural significance and has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Every year, the caves attract over 100,000 visitors, and tours are not only conducted in Slovenian, but also in English, German, and Italian.
Mammoth Caves (Mammoth Cave National Park in South-Central Kentucky)
Mammoth Cave is one of the longest cave systems in the world and the park which encompasses parts of it was first established as a National Park in 1941. In 1981, the site was named a World Heritage Site. In 1990, it was also named an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 2021, it was designated as a Dark Sky Park. Mammoth Cave has more than 420 miles of passageway to explore. Tourists can also expect lighted tours of parts of the cave system that range from as short as an hour to as long as six hours. Although there used to be a boat ride on the underground river that can be found in this cave system, that was discontinued in 1990 due to environmental, logistical, and safety reasons.
Blue Grotto (Anacapri, Campania, Italy)
This is probably one of the more unique caves on our list because it’s actually a sea cave that’s situated on the island of Capri in Southern Italy. Sunlight shines through seawater and through an underwater cavern, and this causes the caverns to be illuminated in a mystical-looking blue light. During the 18th century, the caverns were avoided by islanders and passing sailing ships because there were legends that it was filled with monsters and/or sea hags. It would be rediscovered by the public during the 19th century when German writer August Kopisch was taken to the grotto by local fisherman Angelo Ferraro. Nowadays, the caves can be visited by tourists, but even booking transportation to them can become pricey.
Fingal’s Cave (Staffa, Scotland)
This is another sea cave on our list. It’s located on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It’s a part of the National Nature Reserves of Scotland and it’s named after the eponymous hero of a poem written by James Macpherson. This rugged cave was first discovered by the world in 1772 and has been an important place in folklore and Scotland’s culture. This cave is known for its fantastic acoustics, as well as its surreal and seemingly supernatural atmosphere.
Waitomo Caves (North Island Of New Zealand)
A surreal experience that no one should ever miss is a visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Located on the North Island of New Zealand, this cave is known for its population of Arachnocampa luminosa — a species of glowworm that can only be found in New Zealand. These worms light up in the caves in a way that gives them an almost supernatural aura. These caves are widely accessible to the public, and there are plenty of adventure and rafting tours for people to enjoy.
Hopefully, the above caves on our list provide everyone who is thinking about cave exploration some ideas of where to start. Of course, there are thousands of more amazing caves out there waiting to be explored, so we encourage everyone to find the ones they think they might be interested in exploring and find out more about them.