Caves. These exciting places that are so hidden from the outside world. Like a little world of its own in the world. Often very unexplored and probably filled with lots of answers to our future medical riddles and mysteries. In Slovenia's karst landscape there are two of the world's most delicious caves - Postojna cave and Skocjan Cave. So close to each other, yet so different. I have been to both and can only say one thing – don't miss these places if you are in Slovenia!
First, I can start by apologizing for the pictures in this post. In the Postojna cave, photography is allowed, but not with either a flash or a tripod (which makes the pictures a little less sharp than usual). In Skocjangrotta, photography is not allowed at all. The pictures in this post are therefore only from Postojna. You will need some imagination to transport yourself to the mighty gorge of Skocjan Cave, but I will do my best to describe this very special place.
The Postojna Cave is one of Slovenia's most popular sights and Europe's most visited cave. Every year, almost a million (!) tourists visit the underground in Postojna on one of the organized tours. Here, the water has slowly dripped from the ceiling over millions of years and the large, white stalagmites that are now lit up are nothing short of magnificent.
But what makes this cave so special? I would say it's two things: The size of the well maintained cave and the ease of access. Anyone of normal physique of any age can visit the cave, thanks to the fact that a small train at high speed transports you 2,4 kilometers straight into the center of the cave. You will effortlessly enter the most majestic cave rooms and can even bring a pram with you.
The Postojna Cave was created about 2 million years ago by the Pivka River. When the water left the cave, not only stalagmites and stalagtites were created, but also large cave rooms in beautiful shapes. It's no wonder the cave has been attracting tourists for over 200 years. In fact, the first train for tourists was already built in 1872.
The most popular tour is a 90-minute long guided tour, where you ride the small train into the center of the cave, walk about 1,4 kilometers and then the train leaves again. A simple and well-lit hike with a guide who tells all about the history of the cave and the mythical dragon creature olm that lives here in the cave. At the end of the walk, you may even see some olms in an aquarium, although they basically live completely still in pitch darkness their entire lives.
This is 90 minutes of fabulous views and otherworldly underground limestone formations. So accessible and so unique.
World Heritage Skocjan Cave
The Postojna cave may be well visited, but there is actually a cave that is bigger. A cave that is so special that it received world heritage status. Skocjan Cave - not only a cave, but also the world's largest underground gorge.
The underground gorge was formed when the river Reka buried itself in the soft limestone. A 4 kilometer long and magnificent cave was the result, with the river constantly roaring down the gorge. Where the cave ends, the river disappears into the mountain and does not emerge until 4 miles further south in Italy.
Unlike Postonja Cave, only 90.000 visitors visit Skocjan Cave each year. The vast majority of visitors take one of the guided tours, as it is not possible to see all the parts of the cave without a guide. We took the trip”Through the Underground Canyon”, a tour of 2 hours. This guided tour is a little more demanding than Postojna, but not at all difficult. However, there are a lot of stairs and unevenness and I recommend wearing shoes with good soles, as it can be quite slippery on the rocks above the river. The difference in height is 140 meters from the highest to the lowest point on the footpath and here you definitely cannot take the pram with you.
The guided tour first takes you through a part of the cave that is very reminiscent of Postojna. Massive stalagmites and spectacular spaghetti ceilings. Sometimes it almost looks like paint running down the walls and ceiling. The largest stalagmite – the Giant – is a whopping 15 meters high. But it is not for the stalagmites that you come to Skocjan. It is (as you already guessed) for the great gorge. We walk along the rock walls, a wild river rages below us. This is the definition of great. The sound is almost deafening. Where the gorge is deepest, there are almost 150 meters between the river and the cave roof. The guide tells us that the river is sometimes stopped by floating logs and mud. Then the water level in the gorge rises quickly. The guide points to a mark in the wall where the water had passed just a few months before we visited the cave. By then the water had risen 60 meters (!) in just a few hours.
The visit to Skocjan is two hours of "wow", "omg" and "my goodness". This is the most magnificent caving experience I have been part of. Totally in class with Carlsbad caverns.
I only have time for one cave, should I choose Skocjan or Postojna?
If you have the opportunity, I still have to go against the headlines and say that you should visit both! Sure, there are two limestone caves – but the experiences are completely different. Book tickets in advance and it is even possible to visit both on the same day.
If you are a family with children? Then I would visit Postojna. The caves are easy to visit for all ages and the small train into the cave is an experience in itself.
If you have a decent physique? Then I wouldn't hesitate to visit Skocjan. There are a lot of stairs, but if you don't have problems with your knees, here you can experience a unique world heritage that you won't find anywhere else on earth.
If you want to have a less touristy experience? Undoubtedly Skocjan – although large groups are guided into the cave.
If you think caves are a little scary? Then I would choose Postojna. Large cave halls, lots of lighting and comfortable trains mean that the visit sometimes doesn't even feel like being in the underworld.
Good to think about when you visit the caves
- As in most caves, the temperature is cool and stays at 10-12 degrees all year round. I wouldn't visit the caves without long pants and a jacket.
- Book the guided tours in advance. During the high season (mainly summer), the pressure is hard on tickets.
- There is no service in the caves, so skip the last cup of coffee and go to the bathroom before the guided tour begins.
- The guided tours are available in several languages, make sure you join the right group. It can be a little difficult to understand the guided tour otherwise 🙂
How much does it cost to visit the caves?
[Prices from February 2020]
The Postojna cave with guided tour and train costs between €25,80-27,90 for an adult. Children and students are discounted. Read more about the Postojna cave on the official siten
The guided Skocjan cave costs €16 for an adult. Discounts are available for children, students and pensioners. Read more about Skocjangrottan on the official site.
How do I get to the caves?
Skocjan Cave is 7,7 miles southwest of Ljubljana and Postojna Cave is 5,3 miles southwest of Ljubljana. Both caves are right next to the main road E61, so it's easy to drive here.
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