Top Ten Caves

Top Ten Caves

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       Galleries of artistic evolution, homes, and even tunnels into the depths of our soul, caves have had a profound influence on the human experience. Here is a look at some of the most profound.

  1. Cave of Crystals, Mexico
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           Geologist Juan Manuel García-Ruiz calls it “the Sistine Chapel of crystals,” but Superman could call it home. A sort of south-of-the-border Fortress of Solitude, Mexico’s Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) contains some of the world’s largest known natural crystals, translucent beams of gypsum as long as 36 feet (11 meters). How did the crystals reach such superheroic proportions? In the new issue of the journal Geology, García-Ruiz reports that for millennia the crystals thrived in the cave’s extremely rare and stable natural environment. Temperatures hovered consistently around a steamy 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius), and the cave was filled with mineral-rich water that drove the crystals’ growth. Modern-day mining operations exposed the natural wonder by pumping water out of the 30-by-90-foot (10-by-30-meter) cave, which was found in 2000 near the town of Delicias (Chihuahua state map). Now García-Ruiz is advising the mining company to preserve the caves. “There is no other place on the planet,” García-Ruiz said, “where the mineral world reveals itself in such beauty.” Buried in the mineral-rich lands of the Chihuahua region, the crystals are estimated to be more than half a million years old. The cave in which they are found sits above an intrusion of magma, the heat of which, combined with the cave’s mineral-rich groundwater, allowing the crystals to form.
    Links: Top Ten Mexican Attractions, 
  2. Jeita Grotto, Lebanon
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    The Jeita Grotto is a system of two separate, but interconnected, karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of nearly 9 km (5.6 mi). The caves are situated in the Nahr al-Kalb valley within the locality of Jeita, 18 km (11 mi) north of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Though inhabited in prehistoric times, the lower cave was not rediscovered until 1836 by Reverend William Thomson; it can only be visited by boat since it channels an underground river that provides fresh drinking water to more than a million Lebanese. In 1958, Lebanese speleologists discovered the upper galleries 60 m (200 ft.) above the lower cave which have been accommodated with an access tunnel and a series of walkways to enable tourists safe access without disturbing the natural landscape. The upper galleries house the world’s largest known stalactite. The galleries are composed of a series of chambers the largest of which peaks at a height of 120 m (390 ft). Aside from being a Lebanese national symbol and a top tourist destination, the Jeita grotto plays an important social, economic and cultural role and is a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition.
    Links: Top Ten Lebanese Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeita_Grotto,
  3. Reed Flute Cave, China
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    The Reed Flute Cave is a landmark and tourist attraction in Guilin, Guangxi, China. It is a natural limestone cave with multicolored lighting and has been one of Guilin’s most interesting attractions for over 1,200 years. It is over 180 million years old. The cave got its name from the type of reed growing outside, which can be made into melodious flutes. Reed Flute Cave is filled with a large number of stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations in weird and wonderful shapes. Inside, there are more than 70 inscriptions written in ink, which can be dated back as far as 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty. These aged inscriptions tell us that it has been an attraction in Guilin since ancient times. It was rediscovered in the 1940’s by a group of refugees fleeing the Japanese troops.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reed_Flute_Cave,
  4. Crystal Caves, Bermuda
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           Located in Bermuda, the Crystal Caves are famous for the clear water that runs through them, which allows visitors to see 55 ft. down into their depths.
    Links: Top Ten Bermudian Attractions,
  5. Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
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           Son Doong cave is a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. The cave is located near the Laos-Vietnam border. It has a large fast-flowing underground river inside. The cave was found by a local man named Hồ-Khanh in 1991. The local jungle men were afraid of the cave for the whistling sound it makes from the underground river. However, not until 2009 was it made known to the public when a group of British scientists from the British Cave Research Association, led by Howard and Deb Limbert, conducted a survey in Phong Nha-Ke Bang from April 10-14, 2009. Their progress was stopped by a large calcite wall. According to Limbert, this cave is five times larger than the Phong Nha cave, previously considered the biggest cave in Vietnam. The biggest chamber of Son Doong is over five kilometers in length, 200 m high and 150 m wide. With these dimensions, Son Doong overtakes Deer Cave in Malaysia to take the title of the world’s largest cave.
    Links: Top Ten Vietnamese Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Son_Doong_Cave,
  6. Eisriesenwelt Cave, Austria
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           The Eisriesenwelt, German for “World of the Ice Giants,” is a natural limestone ice cave located in Werfen, Austria, about 40 km south of Salzburg. The cave is inside the Hochkogel mountain in the Tennengebirge section of the Alps. It is the largest ice cave in the world, extending more than 42km and visited by about 200,000 tourists every year.
    Links: Top Ten Austrian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisriesenwelt,
  7. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, The Philippines
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    The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 km (31 mi) north of the city center of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. The National Park is located in the Saint Paul Mountain Range on the northern coast of the island. It is bordered by St. Paul Bay to the north and the Babuyan River to the east. The City Government of Puerto Princesa has managed the National Park since 1992. It is also known as St. Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, or St. Paul Underground River. The entrance to the Subterranean River is a short hike from the town of Sabang. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the 28 finalists for the “New Seven Wonders of Nature” competition.
    Links: Top Ten Philippine Attractions, National Parks, Top Ten Asian National Parks,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Princesa_Subterranean_River_National_Park,
  8. Waitamo Caves, New Zealand
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    The Waitomo Caves are a village and cave system forming a major tourist attraction in the northern King Country region of the North Island of New Zealand, 12 km northwest of Te Kuiti. The community of Waitomo Caves itself is very small, though the village has many temporary service workers living there as well. The word Waitomo comes from the Māori language wai meaning water and tomo meaning a doline or sinkhole; it can thus be translated to be water passing through a hole. These Caves are believed to be over two million years old.
    Links: Top Ten New Zealand Attractions, Top Ten Bioluminescent Animals,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waitomo_Caves,
  9. Škocjan Caves, Slovenia
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           The Skocjan Caves comprise a cave system in Slovenia. International scientific circles have acknowledged the importance of the caves as one of the natural treasures of planet Earth. Ranking among the most important caves in the world, Škocjan Caves represents the most significant underground phenomena in both the Karst region and Slovenia. Following its independence, the Republic of Slovenia committed itself to actively protecting the Škocjan Caves area; for this reason, it established the Škocjan Caves Regional Park, Slovenia and its Managing Authority, the Škocjan Caves Park Public Service Agency.
    Links: Top Ten Slovenian Attractions, Top Ten Cave Paintings, National Parks, Top Ten European National Parks,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%A0kocjan_Caves,
  10. Majilis al Jinn, Oman
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    Majlis al Jinn, also Majlis al-Jinn, Arabic for “meeting/gathering place of the Jinn,” is the 2nd largest known cave chamber in the world, as measured by the surface area of the floor. It ranks lower when measured by volume. The cave is located in a remote area of the Selma Plateau at 1,380 m above sea level in the Sultanate of Oman, 100 km south-east from Muscat.
    Links: Top Ten Omani Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majlis_al_Jinn,
  11. Harrison’s Cave, Barbados
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    Harrison’s Cave is a tourist attraction in the country of Barbados, first mentioned in 1795. Tourists can access the subterranean environment on a tramway.
    Links: Top Ten Barbadian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison%27s_Cave,
  12. Ali Sadr Cave, Hamadan Iran
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    The Ali Sadr Cave originally called Ali Saadr or Ali Saard (meaning cold) is the world’s largest water cave which attracts millions of visitors every year. It is located Ali Sadr Kabudarahang County about 100 km north of Hamedan, western Iran. Since the cave is situated between the large cities Hamadan, Tehran, and Qom it is a popular destination for Iranians. Tours of the cave are available by pedal boats.
    Links: Top Ten Iranian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Sadr_Cave,
  13. Carlsbad Cavern, USA
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           Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a US National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park is the show cave, Carlsbad Cavern. Visitors to the cave can hike in on their own via the natural entrance or take an elevator from the visitor center. The park entrance is located on US Highway 62/180 approximately 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat. Carlsbad Cavern includes a large cave chamber, the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at the highest point. It is the 3rd largest chamber in North America and the 7th largest in the world. The largest chamber in the world is the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia.
    Links: Top Ten US Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlsbad_Caverns_National_Park,
  14. Huanglong “Yellow Dragon” Cave, China
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    Huanglong Cave, “yellow dragon cave,” is a karst cave located near the Wulingyuan district of Zhangjiajie City, Hunan, People’s Republic of China and a national 4A rated scenic area.
    Links: Top Ten Chinese Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huanglong_Cave,
  15. Velebit Caves, Croatia
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    The Velebit mountains of Croatia have several deep caves with some of the world’s largest subterranean vertical drops. The “Lukina jama” cave is 1,421 m deep (2010), the deepest cave in Croatia and the deepest in southeast Europe. At its foot, there are ponds and streams including one of the largest known colonies of subterranean leeches, which has been ascertained to represent a new species, genus and also family. Other notable caves include the “Slovacka jama” (Slovak pit), (1,320 m deep), “Velebita” (1,026 m deep with underground free fall vertical drop of 513 m) and “Meduza” (679 m deep). The vertical shaft “Patkov Gušt,” named after a deceased Croatian speleologist is 553 meters deep and the 2nd deepest pitch in the world as of 2007.
    Links: Top Ten Croatian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velebit_caves,
  16. Kugitang Caves, Turkmenistan
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           Köýtendag Nature Reserve, formerly Kugitang Nature Reserve, is a nature reserve in the extreme east of Turkmenistan. Established in 1986, it is located in the Köýtendag Range of Lebap Province and covers an area of 271.4 square km. The reserve is home for the rare Heptner’s markhor. It also incorporates four sanctuaries: Garlyk Sanctuary (established in 1986), Hojapil Sanctuary (established in 1986), Hojaburjybelent Sanctuary (established in 1986) and Hojagarawul Sanctuary (established in 1999).
    Links: Top Ten Turkmenistani Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinosaurs_and_Caves_of_Koytendag,
  17. Vrelo Cave, Macedonia
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           Located on the right bank of the Treska River, Vrelo Cave was listed as one of the top 77 natural sites in the world in the New7Wonders of Nature project. Vrelo Cave has many stalactites including a large one in the middle of the cave is known as the “Pine Cone” due to its shape. There are two lakes at the end of the cave, with one larger than the other. The smaller lake is 8 m (26.2 feet) at its longest length and 15 m (49.2 feet) in depth at its deepest point. The larger lake is 35 m (114.8 feet) at its longest length, and 18 m (59 feet) at its deepest point. Though the exact depth of the cave is unknown, some speculate that it could be the deepest underwater cave in the world.
    Links: Top Ten Macedonian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matka_Canyon#Vrelo_Cave,
  18. Altamira Cave, Spain (16,500–12,000 BC)

           Considered by many as the “Sistine Chapel” of Cave Art, Altamira (Spanish for ‘high view’) is a cave in Spain famous for its Upper Paleolithic drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands. Its special relevance comes from the fact it was the first cave in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered, leading to a controversy during the late 19th century because many people did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. It is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, 30 km west of the city of Santander.
    Links: Top Ten Spanish Attractions, Cave Paintings, Top Ten Cave Paintings, Top Ten European Cave/Rock Paintings, Top 100 Spanish Paintings,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_Altamira,
  19. Lascaux Caves, France

           Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne département. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,000 years old. They primarily consist of realistic images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time.
    Links: Top Ten French Attractions, Cave Paintings, Top Ten Cave Paintings, Top Ten European Cave Paintings,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux,
  20. Cuevas del Drach (Dragon Caves), Majorca, Spain
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           The Caves of Drach, literally “Dragon caves,” are four great caves that are located in the island of Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. They are in the municipality of Manacor, near the locality of Porto Cristo. They were first mentioned in a letter 1338. The caves extend to a depth of 25 m, reaching 2.4 km in length. The four caves, called Black Cave, White Cave, Cave of Luis Salvador, and Cave of the French, are connected to each other. The caves have formed by water being forced through the entrance from the Mediterranean Sea, and some researchers think the formation may date back to Miocene. There is an underground lake situated in the caves called Martel Lake, which is about 115 m in length and 30 m in width. It’s named after the French explorer and scientist Edouard A Martel, who is considered the founding father of speleology (the study of caves). He was invited to explore the cave 1896. A German cave explorer, M.F. Will, had mapped the White and Black cave in 1880. Martel found two more caves, as well as the underground lake. The caves are open to the public and one of the main attractions on Mallorca. The visit ends with a short classical concert performed by four musicians on a boat.
    Links: Top Ten Spanish Attractions,
  21. Voronya Cave, Georgia
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           Voronya Cave is the deepest known cave in the world (measured from its highest entrance to its lowest point) is Voronya Cave, which is also known as Krubera Cave. Krubera is located in the Republic of Georgia, and is an abyss that plunges to a stupefying depth of 2,191 m, making it the first known cave in the world to exceed a depth of two kilometres. In recent years, Voronya Cave has also often traded the world’s deepest cave title with its nearby Abkhazian sibling, the Illyuzia-Mezhonnogo-Snezhnaya Cave, which measures in at 1,753 metres, and with the Lamprechtsofen Vogelschacht Weg Schacht in Austria, which reaches a depth of 1,632 metres. Gagra District, Abkhazia, Georgia.
    Links: Top Ten Georgian Attractions, http://v2.garudamagazine.com/whatson.php?cat=travel&id=423,
  22. Caves of Han-sur-Lesse, Belgium
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           The Caves of Han-sur-Lesse are a major Belgian tourist attraction (around half a million visitors per year) located on the outskirts of the village of Han-sur-Lesse. The caves are the result of the underground erosion of a limestone hill by the river Lesse. The river forces its way under the hill over a distance of over one kilometer as the crow flies. The caves have a constant temperature of 13°C (55°F) and a high level of humidity. Access is only possible via a vintage streetcar, a remnant of the country’s once extensive vicinal tramway system, which departs from the center of Han-sur-Lesse. The entry to the caves is about 2 km from the village. The guided tour takes about an hour to an hour and a half and includes a sound and light show in one of the largest chambers of the cave and an ending with a cannon shot to demonstrate the cave’s acoustic properties.
    Links: Top Ten Belgian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caves_of_Han-sur-Lesse,
  23. The Observatory Cave, Monaco
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    Links: Top Ten Monacan Attractions,
  24. Sterkfontein Caves “Cradle of Humankind,” South Africa

           The Cradle of Humankind is a World Heritage Site first named by UNESCO in 1999, about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa in the Gauteng province. This site currently occupies 47,000 hectares (180 sq mi); it contains a complex of limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where the 2.3-million year-old fossil Australopithecus africanus (nicknamed “Mrs. Ples”) was found in 1947 by Dr. Robert Broom and John T. Robinson. The find helped corroborate the 1924 discovery of the juvenile Australopithecus africanus skull, “Taung Child,” by Raymond Dart, at Taung in the North West Province of South Africa, where excavations still continue. The name Cradle of Humankind reflects the fact that the site has produced a large number, as well as some of the oldest, hominid fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago. Sterkfontein alone has produced more than a third of early hominid fossils ever found.
    Links: Top Ten Scientific Discoveries, Top Ten Scientists, Top Ten South African Attractions, Top Ten Human Skeletons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_of_Humankind,
  25. Pacaritambo
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           In Inca mythology, of the main Inca creation myths was that of the Ayar Brothers, who emerged from a cave called Pacaritambo (“Hostel of Production,” “Hostel of Dawn” or “Hideout House”). This house was located on Tambotoco Hill. It had three windows. According to the myth, the group of Maras Sutic emerged from one of the windows, called Maras Toco (“without parents”) by spontaneous generation. Another theory held by more obscure groups, tending to dwell on the mysticism of South American Indians is that Pacaritambo is a quasi-mythical place believed by these historians to have been flooded by Lake Titicaca. There are no proofs, archaeological or otherwise for this and the theories base themselves mainly on tales of the Chasa, another race or tribe thought by most to be as mythical. They proclaim the name to actually come from the chasa word Pàchacambo (meaning birthing place of the gods Chaca, who they believed themselves to be.)
    Links: Top 100 Gold Artifacts, Top Ten Mystical Places,
  26. Jeju Island Lava Tubes, South Korea
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    The Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is a volcanic island, 130 km from the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula. The largest island and smallest province in South Korea, the island has a surface area of 1,846 square km. It is listed at number 23 on CNN Go’s 50 natural wonders: The ultimate list of scenic splendor.
    Links: Top Ten South Korean Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeju_Volcanic_Island_and_Lava_Tubes,
  27. Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst, Hungary and Slovakia
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    The Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst site consists of 712 caves spread out over a total area of 55,800 ha (138,000 acres) along the border of Hungary and Slovakia.
    Links: Top Ten Hungarian Attractions, Top Ten Slovakian Attractions,   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caves_of_Aggtelek_Karst_and_Slovak_Karst,
  28. Natural Bridge Caverns, Texas, USA
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    The Natural Bridge Caverns are the largest known commercial caverns in the state of Texas. The name was derived from the 20 m (65 foot) natural limestone slab bridge that spans the amphitheater setting of the cavern’s entrance. The span was left suspended when a sinkhole collapsed below it. The caverns are located near the city of New Braunfels, Texas in the Texas Hill Country next to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, a drive-through wildlife safari park. The caverns feature several unique speleothems and other geological formations. The temperature inside the cave is 21 degrees Celsius (70°F) year-round and the deepest part of the public tour is 64.3 m (211 feet) below the surface. The caverns are still very active and growing. Water flows and drips constantly throughout, causing the formations to retain a waxy luster that can be seen in few caverns.
    Links: Top Ten US Attractionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_Bridge_Caverns,
  29. Blue Lake Cave, Brazil
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    Links: Top Ten Brazilian Attractions,
  30. Links: Top Ten Natural Wonders of the World,