We discovered Slovenia almost by accident on our roadtrip of Europe from Krakow Poland to Venice Italy. Very simply, the unspoiled beauty of this country knocked our socks off. We were exploring Slovenia in a campervan and our route took us through delightful small towns, vineyards, and rolling green landscapes. However, one feature of Slovenia which deserves a post of its own is its wondrous Karst Caves – Amazing Caves in Slovenia which were one of the best things to see in Slovenia.
Introduction – Karst Landscapes
There are many reasons to visit Slovenia, but perhaps the most impressive sights in this beautiful region are found in its caves and sunken rivers. They create a mystical and entirely different underground world. These caves and geological formations have been a source of inspiration to both scientists and artists and are the main national pride of Slovenia.
The caves didn’t just appear overnight. In fact, they have been forming for thousands of years. About 43 percent of Slovenian territory comprises the karst landscape. This limestone is slightly soluble in rainwater, gradually creating sculptured river valleys and most notably over 10,000 Karst caves. In places, these cave systems grew so large that their roofs collapsed centuries ago, creating beautiful chasms and valleys which in time were clothed in forests and meadows.
Slovenia is not a mountainous land, and its gently rolling landscape is fairly windy. The rural building tradition includes solid little stone houses, set in green pastures with dry stone field boundaries, all of which adds to the romantic wonderland of the landscape. This makes Slovenian travel a dream trip for anyone who enjoys exploring picturesque rural buildings set against the natural sculptures of karst geology.
How many caves are there in Slovenia?
Today, there are more 10,000 registered caves in the country, and about 100 new being discovered each year.
So, how do you visit 10,000 caves? You can’t of course, but some of the best known cave systems comprise several caves each. This means that you can spend a day there exploring several caves at one location. So by the time you have seen a few of these sites you can tick off more caves from the list of ten thousand than you might have expected!
Anyway – read on to decide which sites to explore and get the most out of your time in Slovenia. In this article, we will try to share the best accessible Slovenian Caves for the best karst cave experience
Major Slovenia Cave Sites
Postojna Cave has been called “the Queen of the Underground World” and is the biggest cave site in Slovenia, comprising no fewer than 12 different cave systems. The cave is so popular that it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Europe. Much of the cave system was discovered in 1818 by a cave lamplighter, while the smaller original cave was being prepared for the visit of the Austrian Emperor Franz I.
Postojna Cave is more than just a system of subterranean chambers. Today, it is known as Postojna Cave Park and covers 24 kilometers of underground galleries, tunnels, and halls. In the last 200 years, the cave has been visited by more than 38 million people! And with train rides taking visitors through the tunnels, this is Slovenia’s underground flagship.
Continuing water action in the caves has created stalagmites and stalactites, one of which is named the Brilliant and at 5m high is the icon of Postojna Cave.
Baby Dragons in Postojna Cave
The cave system is also inhabited by Baby Dragons also known as human fish because of their pink skin, arms and legs. These are Olms – a kind of pale, bind, aquatic cave salamander. They were discovered back in the 17th century and are endemic to South Eastern Europe. Olms don’t get about a lot and so those found in different caves have evolved into different species. The species found here in Postojna Caves are believed to be able to go without food for 12 years and live up to 100 years.
Cave Castle – Predjama Castle
A short distance from the cave is Predjama Castle, which is also one of the top tourist spots in Europe. It might be called a cave castle because it is not only situated on the side of a vertical cliff, but also many of the rooms are hewn out of a solid rock. The castle resisted siege because the occupants could receive food and reinforcement by means of secret tunnels to the surface above. Predjama is breathtaking as well as a delight for lovers of the mythology of the time of knights.
Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle – Visitor Information
To reach the caves, you can use the A1 motorway from Ljubljana, Koper, or Trieste (though we always travelled in Slovenia by secondary roads for good reason) Take motorway exit 41, a few kilometers from the Park.
The cave is open throughout the year including public holidays. The guided tours start from 10 AM to 4 PM every day. But there are additional tour hours from May to September starting from 9 AM to 6 PM.
The caves experience constant temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius, and therefore you should wear appropriate clothes and shoes.
There are three main tours to choose from with ticket prices varying depending on the season.
- Meet the Queen of Caves: This tour includes Postojna Cave as well as 2 kilometers of a train ride with a stop at The Brilliant. Ticket price goes for 27.90 EUR for an adult during high season, and 25.80 EUR during the low season.
- Two Adventures: With this package, you get to tour Postojna Cave and the Predjama Castle. The ticket price for adults is 38.50 EUR during the high season and 35.70 EUR during the low season.
- 100% Cave Experience: This deal includes tickets to Postojna Caves, Expo Cave Karst, the Vivarium, and the Butterflies of the World exhibitions. With this tour, you will experience a total drive-in in the networks of caves with everything you need to know about this underground world. Price Tickets goes for 39.20 EUR for adults in high season and 37.90 EUR in the low season.
- You can also get tickets for the Castle only, without visiting the caves.
The Caves of Skocjan are the second most popular cave in Slovenia and offer a more informal way of exploring the caves as well as an option to stay for more than one day. The caves are listed in the UNESCO natural world heritage sites alongside the likes of the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon.
These cave systems come to existence as a result of the Reka river running underground, creating vast chasms as soft materials collapsed into the stream resulting in the largest subterranean canyon in the whole of Europe standing 146 meters high.
Skocjan Caves have long trails with over 500 steps, leading across incredible bridges that allow visitors to see the over 26 underground waterfalls, grand halls as well as huge stalagmites and stalactites of up to 15 meters high and many other underground formations as a result of the water effects on the karst geology.
The cave systems also feature two magnificent valleys known as Mala Valley (120 meters) and Velika Valley (165 meters), which were formed some 400 years ago after a cave ceiling collapsed from about 200 meters. The valleys are separated by a strip of the remaining cave ceiling, thus forming a natural bridge.
We loved rambling through the forests and meadows around these valleys. The Skocjan Educational Trail is well marked and there are fascinating information boards describing the unique nature of the region. These walks are entirely free and accessible from the car park which serves the caves or you can follow a guide for €6.
Skocjan Caves – Visitor Information
These caves can be easily accessed via the A1 highway from Ljubljana, Koper or Trieste, exit Divaca.
The caves are also served by three tours:
- Through the Underground Canyon: This is a guided tour that will take you underground the caves in 3 kilometers of manmade tunnels. The tour runs all year round and starts at 10 AM to 1 Pm daily. There are additional hours during the weekends and public holidays. With this tour, the prices changes with months. For an adult, the ticket price goes for 16 EUR from November to January, 18 EUR from March to October, and 20 EUR in July and August.
- Following the Reka River Underground: This can be a self-guided or guided tour. The entrance is the Reka River and the first part of the cave is near the Skocjan village. There is also an amazing waterfall along this trail. This tour is available from April to October beginning at 11 AM to 2 PM while extending hours in June through September starting from 10 AM to 3 PM. The price for this tour is fixed at 12.50 EUR per adult.
- Along the Skocjan Educational Trail: As the name says, this is an educational tour and takes about 2 hours. It can also be a self-guided or guided tour and will take you past the two collapsed canyons and through the small villages of Skocjan, Betajna, and Matavun. The tour provides all the information and history of the caves including its formations, the historical heritage in the area as well as the flora and fauna. You can also visit the museum exhibitions as part of the tour. The tour is available all year round and if choose a guided option, you will pay 6 EUR. The unguided tour is free.
Krizna Jama is one of the most spectacular cave in Slovenia. While it is not a show cave, Krizna Jama has every right to be included in this list. Stretching five miles, the cave has more than 22 underground lakes some of which visitors can navigate in a rubber dingy.
photo credit https://krizna-jama.si/en/photogallery/
This is also the only naturally preserved cave in Slovenia, and a visit will surely make you feel that you have entered into another universe. Delicate karst formations surround you, while along the way you may come across huge bear skulls and some wildlife that resides in the caves, including bats, hedgehogs, cave spiders, and cave worms.
The tours of the caves take around an hour and comprise of a short walk followed by a rubber dingy ride. You can book a longer tour, which is usually four hours. But since the caves are preserved, the limit is only 1000 persons per year. While one hundred people can take the seven hours tour each year. Longer tours should be booked in advance.
Krizna Jama – Visitor Information
The cave is located less than half an hour from Ljubljana and just off the A1 between Sneznik Castle and Cerknica.
Short tours are available between April and June including weekends and public holidays. You will need special gear for the tour, including torch and boots and warm clothes.
The prices depend on the type of tour. Visit with a boat ride on the first lake:
- Adults 10.00 EUR, July to September 12.00 EUR
- Children between 3 to 15 years 7.00 EUR, July to September 8.00 EUR
Water part to Calvary:
- 50.00 EUR per person for a group of 4 persons
- 60.00 EUR per person for a group of 3 persons
- 80.00 EUR per person for a group of 2 persons
- 40.00 EUR per person for a group of 4 persons
- 50.00 EUR per person for a group of 3 persons
- 70.00 EUR per person for a group of 2 persons.
Alternative tours: Water Party to Crystal Mountain : The price for this tour is 280.00 EUR per group between October 2019 and March 2020. The visit must be in winter between October and March. Book here
Visit with Boat Ride on First Lake and Bear Tunnel: This tour is available for only a group of 2 to 12 people who must be physically fit. The price per person is 15.00 EUR and 18.00 EUR between July and September. The visit is possible all year round but must be booked in advance.
Other Caves in Slovenia
If you want to explore, trek, and stay off the beaten path, there are other lesser-known caves you can visit. They include:
Vilinica is considered the oldest show cave in Europe and potentially the world. It has been open to the public since the 1600s and the local folklore says fairies reside in them. The caves hauntingly beautiful. The passageways are adorned with dripping karst formations. The trail will take you past the Ally of Dripstones and Red Room which boasts vast, red stalagmites and stalactites. But the main attraction is the Hall of Fairies – a giant gallery overlooking a cave filled with huge limestone formations and will surely make you feel as though you are in a fairyland.
Vilenica Cave – Visitor Information
The cave is open to visitors throughout the year and on Sundays and Slovenian public holidays between April and October. However, you will need to book the tour in advance during the winter season. And in autumn, Vilenica’s dance hall opens to the visitors when celebrating the Vilenica International Literary Festival.
The ticket price is 10 EUR for adults and 5 EUR for children. While for the group is 8 EUR for adults and 4 EUR for children…View Map
The name of this cave translates as Hell Cave due to the steam emanating from it during the winter months. The cave is divided into two levels – the dry part above and the watery part beneath.
Pekel Cave boasts some impressive karst formations that appear to resemble people and nocturnal animals. The Peklenscica Creek at 21 feet tall is the highest underground waterfall in Slovenia. Lichen and moss-covered walls sparkle and glimmer with minerals carried the waters. The cave is wondrous and is home to rare beetle as well as many other animals.
Pekel Cave – Visitor Information
Pekel Cave can be accessed via the A1 and E57 from Ljubljana. There is also train and buses plying that route from two regularly.
Ticket price 8 EUR for groups, 6 EUR for students, and 5 EUR for children.
Pekel Cave location
Useful Tips for visiting caves
Here are some useful tips you should keep in mind when visiting Slovenia for its caves.
- Even if the weather is warm outside, inside the caves will be 100 C or lower. it’s a good idea to dress in layers to enjoy both the cool interiors and whatever the seasonal weather outside.
- Carry food or snacks for the tour. Remember you will be traversing underground in the middle of nowhere, where there aren’t shops or restaurant. Moreover, the tours take 2 hours and above. This is important particularly if you have kids.
- The tour might not be great for toddlers because strollers are not allowed inside the caves. However, some caves might allow small strollers that are foldable.
- Buy tickets online to avoid wasting time in queues on the day.
- If you don’t have a picnic with you, some caves have restaurants onsite so be sure to fill up before and after the tour.
- Postojna Trains are open topped, so be careful with your head as some sections have reduced headroom..
- Be careful with wildlife, particularly the delicate olms as they don’t have pigmentation, and even light can harm them.
Slovenia – Conclusion
Visiting Slovenia Caves made a deep impression on us. We tend to think of geological change in terms of millions of years, but the karst limestone is dissolved by rainwater so fast that many of these natural features are only a few hundred years old, and those stalactites and stalagmites are still growing today. The memories of these subterranean landscapes and caverns will stay with us as the features themselves continue to develop and grow.
Slovenia Caves – Pin it
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