It’s always fun to explore what nature has to offer. It’s intriguing and has a beauty that’s jaw-dropping.
One of the favorite wonders of nature that often intrigues us the most are caves and caverns. Aside from their beauty, each cave can offer different experiences and stories. If you love recreational outdoor like caving, we listed some of the fantastic caverns and caves. But first, let’s try to delve deeper into the terminologies and see the difference between caves and caverns.
- 1 Caves vs. Caverns
- 2 Fantastic Caverns and Caves in the World
- 2.1 Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
- 2.2 Mutnovsky Volcano Ice Cave, Russia
- 2.3 Vatnajokull Glacier Cave, Iceland
- 2.4 Mendenhall Glacier Cave, USA
- 2.5 Batu Caves, Malaysia
- 2.6 Benagil Cave, Portugal
- 2.7 Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
- 2.8 Tham Lod Cave, Thailand
- 2.9 Phraya Nakhon Cave, Thailand
- 2.10 Kyaut Sae Cave, Myanmar
- 2.11 Marble Caves, Chile
- 2.12 Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines
- 2.13 Mammoth Cave National Park, USA
- 2.14 Carlsbad Caverns National Park, USA
- 2.15 Škocjan Cave, Slovenia
Caves vs. Caverns
Many people often consider the words “cave” and “cavern” synonyms. However, while these two look kind of similar, they actually are a bit different from each other.
Dictionaries define caves as cavities in the rock. They usually have an opening on the side of a mountain or a hill and can be vertical or horizontal. They are mostly natural but some caves are a result of human work too.
On the other hand, caverns are actually a category of caves. Caverns are very large and to reach them, you’ll need to take a corridor underground. They are also often numerous and are linked together by corridors underground.
In summary, all caverns are caves. However, not all caves are caverns.
But whether it’s a cave or a cavern, both are beautiful and worth exploring. In case you’re planning to see some of the fantastic caverns and caves in the world, here’s a list of some of them that are worth seeing.
Fantastic Caverns and Caves in the World
1Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
Opened to the public in 2013, this three-million-year-old cave is loved by both locals and tourists because of its unique beauty and size. It is known as the largest cave in the world. It’s so huge that it has its own jungle, ecosystem, river, and weather system. Aside from that, Hang Son Doong also houses the largest stalagmite ever found as it stands 262 feet tall. Stretching up to five kilometers, you’d spend days before you can fully explore this huge cave.
And if you plan to see this cave in person, note that expeditions are only allowed through one company called Oxalis, who has a legal permit to run tours. Also, you’ll need to plan your visit well as tours are only available between January and August every year. Apart from these months, Oxalis doesn’t offer any other tour as Phong Nha, the town where the cave is located, might experience extreme weather conditions because of the rainy season.
2Mutnovsky Volcano Ice Cave, Russia
Mutnovsky Volcano is also popular for its “cave.” However, it is not the kind of cave that you might be thinking of that is made of ice-covered rock. Instead, this cave is made up of ice. Apparently, this half-mile-long cave was formed because of a stream that flows through glacial fields at the bottom of the Mutnovsky Volcano. This cave is also a result of light snowfall and an unusually hot summer. And usually, the cave’s passage is too small. But once you see it on the inside, you’ll be amazed at its nearly transparent roof that looks like a stained glass from a cathedral. You’ll be surprised by the beauty of the sunlight penetrating through the ice cave’s dome. What makes it thrilling to visit too is that you’ll be surrounded by a few volcanoes too. It’s surely a sight to see.
3Vatnajokull Glacier Cave, Iceland
Speaking of ice caves, Iceland also has a cave that a lot of people is buzzing about – the Vatnajökull glacier cave. Sure, you can also visit the ice cave that Mutnovsky Volcano has in Russia. But what makes this cave unique is its size. It’s so huge that it is named as one of the biggest glaciers in Europe. Like Mutnovsky Volcano’s ice cave Vatnajökull glacier cave also looks magical when you see it on the inside and there are tours that you can join to see its beauty with your own eyes. However, note that glaciers are constantly breaking and changing. Hence, it is still dangerous.
4Mendenhall Glacier Cave, USA
The United States also has its own ice cave, the Mendenhall Glacier Cave. Thanks to the unique climate and the geography of the region where it stands, this ice cave survive longer. And like the Mutnovsky and Vatnajökull glacier caves, Mendenhall is also frequented by many. In fact, families even bring their kids here to see its unique beauty. However, like the first two ice caves we mentioned, everyone needs to be more cautious in visiting this place as there are still risks involved when getting up close and personal with a glacier, especially because Mendenhall Glacier Cave has already started melting. As a matter of fact, in 2019, the ice cave experienced a high level melt that caused it to thin. So be sure to visit it before it completely melts.
5Batu Caves, Malaysia
Also one of the fantastic caverns that you shouldn’t miss is the Batu Caves. Unlike the aforementioned caves and caverns, this one doubles as a temple too. For starters, Batu Caves is home to three main caverns: the Temple Cave, Dark Cave, and the Art Gallery Cave.
The largest cavern known the Temple Cave is the most popular one among the locals and tourists. Inside this lit cave, you can get to find various Hindu shrines and ornate depictions that bring legends to life.
Below the Temple Cave is the Dark Cave, the “wildest” of the three caves. Here, you can find stunning limestone formations. It is also home to many species of cave animals, including the Trapdoor Spider. However, unlike the Temple Cave, the Dark Cave can only be explored by booking a spelunking tour in advance. Also, this 6,500-foot stretch requires a fair level of physical fitness. It also has a passage where you will need to crawl. Thus, it is advisable that you bring extra clothes.
Meanwhile, the Art Gallery Cave houses “art.” But it’s not the kind of art that you would see in art museums. Rather, this cave contains Hindu carvings and wall paintings depicting tales of Lord Murugan, as well as other Hindu legends.
A lot of tourists come to visit these caves. But aside from that, you can also get to enjoy rock climbing as the surrounding area of limestone hills and crags offer some of the best rock climbing experience in Southeast Asia. So whether you want to get a glimpse of their beliefs or you’re looking for some outdoor adventure, this place is a must visit.
6Benagil Cave, Portugal
Does this cave looks familiar to you? Well, you’re not mistaken. Apparently, Windows used a photo of this cave to create a screensaver for Windows 10 because of its beauty.
Much of Portugal’s coastline is made up of limestone, particularly in Algarve. But among the many caves and rock formations lining the region, the Benagil Cave is probably the most popular one because of its unique beauty – Its ceiling makes it look like it has its own natural spotlight when the sun shines through it; aside from that, it has its own tiny beach inside where you can enjoy the gentle ocean waves lapping through the cave’s entrance. In fact, the Michelin Guide names in as the 15th most beautiful cave in the world. It is one of the most beautiful caves that you need to see too.
7Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
Waitomo Glowworm Caves is not your ordinary cave as it isn’t just beautiful, it is also a home to species of insects that lives only in New Zealand. Inside, one might think the cave has its own cluster of stars but the glowing lights and the hanging beaded-like threads you’ll see are actually the works of Arachnocampa Luminosa, a species of glowworm that only lives in New Zealand.
These glowworms glow when they are hungry to attract their prey – the hungrier they are, the brighter they shine. Basically, they’re much like a flashlight or a porch light that can attract bugs in the woods. And the hanging glowing threads serve as their trap. They also only live in caves or deep rainforests because the wind could easily tangle or damage their snares.
Apart from the glowworms, the cave also features beautiful limestone formations that will impress you, as well as other cave critters.
8Tham Lod Cave, Thailand
Tham Lod Cave is yet another one of the fantastic caverns that you don’t want to miss. Located in Thailand, this cave consists of three connecting caves: the Column Cave, Doll Cave, and the Coffin Cave.
For the Column Cave, you can get to see huge stalagmites, stalactites, and pillars left and right. And when you look up, you’ll also see petrified waterfalls dangling.
As for the Doll Cave, contrary to its name, this cave isn’t filled with dolls. Instead, it houses different rock formations. However, the rock formations that it has can trick your imagination as some, if not all, are shaped like animals and other familiar objects which can be amusing.
The last part of the cave is probably the most remarkable. Here, aside from the amazing view of the caves exit, this cave also has a dark corridor with wooden coffins that are more than 1,000 years old.
9Phraya Nakhon Cave, Thailand
And if you’re already in Thailand because of Tham Lod Cave, don’t forget to visit the Phraya Nakhon cave too. Apparently, it is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and most photographed caves and it would be a waste to miss it. Here, you have two chambers to explore.
The first chamber contains the information board with a map that shows the layout of the chambers, as well as the attractions contained in them. Aside from that, a dry waterfall, as well as beautiful stalagmites and stalactites will greet you.
Meanwhile, its second chamber is best known for the Kuha Karuhas pavilion. Built at the end of the 19th century for King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V)’s visit, this place is frequented by both tourists and locals to see the king’s signature on the wall, as well as King Prajadhipok (Rama VII)’s who also visited the cave. Apart from that, it is also famous for its beautiful view, especially when the rays of the some penetrates the cave through an opening on its ceiling, giving it a mystical appearance.
However, be sure to visit this place early in the morning. This is because in the late afternoon, it gets dark quickly in the cave and you should make it back in time across the hill so you can catch the boat back.
10Kyaut Sae Cave, Myanmar
Very little is known about the Kyaut Sae Cave. This is probably because of its small size that makes it not that interesting for researchers. But this cave piques the interest of many travelers. Aside from being a unique temple inside a cave, this place also draws many visitors because of its unique beauty mainly because of the small openings in its ceiling that are penetrated by the daylight, making it flooded with an orange and blue glow. And even when you look at its floor, you’ll also be impressed as it is designed with chic marble. You can also get to see a golden Buddha and other beautiful statues related to traditional Buddhist culture. While it is small, Kyaut Sae Cave serves as an important religious, cultural, and historical monument in Myanmar that you need to see too.
11Marble Caves, Chile
An all-marble bathroom in a luxurious Italian hotel can already give most of us goose bumps what more if you see Chile’s famous Marble Caves? Perfectly chiseled for thousands of years, this place is more mesmerizing in person and the only way to explore it is by boat. Inside, you can explore three caves namely, the Cavern, the Chapel, and the Cathedral.
The Cavern and the Chapel is where the first part of the tour begins. They do feature marble veins. However, if you’ve seen the photos of the Marble Caves on the internet, you might find these caves a little underwhelming as they’re not as that beautiful in person. But don’t be discouraged right away as the star attraction lies in the third cave, the Cathedral.
Named for its beautiful and arching forms, the Cathedral is more mesmerizing than the photos you’d see on the internet with its twisting multi-colored ceilings that are made even more stunning by the combination of good lighting conditions and reflections from the icy glacial water beneath it. It’s the most Instagram worthy cave among the three so make sure that you explore the Marble Caves until you reach the Cathedral.
12Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines
Okay, you might wonder what’s a national park doing on this list but hear us out first. Apparently, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park encompasses one of the most impressive cave systems in the world. Here, you can marvel at the spectacular limestone karst landscape that it has and its underground river, which emerges directly into the sea. And in 2010, experts discovered that the underground river has a “second floor,” that’s subject to tidal influences, creating numerous waterfalls inside the cave. In addition to that, several large chambers were also found, including the 360-meter Italian Chamber, one of the most massive cave rooms in the world. However, in case you plan to visit it, note that the river in the cave is only navigable by boat up to four kilometers as it is impossible to explore any further because of the critical lack of oxygen. Even so, we’re sure that that four-kilometer boat ride alone will make your jaw drop already.
13Mammoth Cave National Park, USA
This place, on the other hand, is home to the longest cave system in the world. In case you’re wondering, this cave system spans 52,830 hectares, making it twice as long as the second longest cave system in Mexico.
Here, you can sign up for tours where you can discover numerous notable features that of the cave, such as the Frozen Niagara, Grand Avenue, and the well-known Fat Man’s Misery. And if such activity isn’t enough, don’t worry, there are also tours available for those who have adventurous souls where you can venture away from the cave’s developed parts and explore the cave’s muddy crawlspaces and dusty tunnels.
However, be sure to allot more time on your schedule if you’re planning to explore this cave. This is because the viewing of its attractions alone would last up to six hours.
14Carlsbad Caverns National Park, USA
When you’re in the United States visiting the Mammoth Cave National Park, don’t forget to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park too. For starters, this place consists of network of caves and is more visitor-friendly as you have the option to either hike or use the elevator all the way to the entrance of the cave.
Inside it, you have a number of caves to explore, including The Big Room. For starters, it’s a massive chamber made of natural limestone. With more than 4,000 feet length, 625 feet width, and 255 feet height, this chamber is considered as the largest chamber in North America and the world’s seventh largest.
Aside from that, experts recently discovered the bottomless pit. It’s don’t be fooled by its name. Apparently, it was first thought to have no bottom because when experts threw stones into the pit, it made no sound. It turns out that it is only 14 feet deep and it only has a thick layer of soft dirt that’s why the stones didn’t make a sound when they landed. Still, its depth is impressive for you not to explore.
15Škocjan Cave, Slovenia
Compared to the other caves and caverns we mentioned, Škocjan Cave has more reasons as to why it is a must-visit. This is because it is home to some of the most significant phenomena both in the Karst region and Slovenia. First off, it has a stunning natural beauty with a huge aesthetic value. It is also one of the largest underground canyons known in the world.
Škocjan Cave also serves as a home to a diverse ecosystem. Hence, experts say that it is one of the most important natural treasures on our planet.
And on top of it all, it plays a huge role in the country’s history and culture. This is because experts discovered that this cave also served as a home to their ancestors during prehistoric times.
And because of that, touring this cave isn’t just a feast to the eyes. It will also give you a lot of knowledge and a better understanding of the region and the country’s history and culture.
No matter where you are in the world, nature will always have something to offer that will make your jaw drop and surprise you. These caves and caverns are just the tip of the iceberg, though. There’s still plenty of things to explore out there aside from caves and caverns so why not start planning your vacation today? You’ll never know what kind of experience and sight awaits you on the other side of the world.