These amazing caves could be part of some fairy-tale or horror movie and they can be found in Asia, North America and Europe.
Some of these caves form when water seeps down through cracks in limestone rock. The limestone rock dissolves into the water bit by bit, forming cracks. Over millions of years, these cracks can form the majestic caves you see here. Other caves were formed over millions of years by being gradually worn away by lake or sea water.
The beauty of Nature isn’t always visible. Sometimes it takes million of years to reveal it proudly and, when it does, there’s nothing we can do than to admire its power and its wisdom. So, here are some of the most beautiful caves on Earth:
Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China
Also known as “The Palace of Natural Arts“, this cave is a landmark and tourist attraction in Guilin, China. It’s a natural limestone cave with multicolored lighting and has been one of Guilin’s most interesting attractions for over 1200 years. This cave is about 180 million years old.
The cave got its name from the type of reed growing outside, which can be made into flutes. Reed Flute Cave is filled with a large number of stalactites, stalagmites and other rock formations. 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 1940s by a group of refugees fleeing the Japanese troops.
Nowadays, multicolored lighting artificially illuminates the cave.
Cave of Crystals in Naica, Mexico
This cave connected to the Naica Mine at a depth of 300m. The main chamber contains giant Selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found. The cave’s largest crystal found to date is 12m in length, 4m in diameter and 55tons in weight. It’s extremely hot, with air temperatures reaching up to 58 °C. So, the cave is relatively unexplored due to these factors. Without proper protection, people can only endure approximately ten minutes of exposure at a time.
It was discovered by Eloy and Javier Delgado and a group of scientists, known as “The Naica Project“, have been heavily involved in researching these caverns.
The Cave of Crystals is a horseshoe-shaped cavity in limestone. Its floor is covered with perfectly faceted crystalline blocks. Huge crystal beams jut out from both the blocks and the floor. The caves are accessible today because the mining company’s pumping operations keep them clear of water. If the pumping were stopped, the caves would again be submerged in water. The crystals deteriorate in air, so “The Naica Project” is attempting to visually document the crystals before they deteriorate further.
Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy
Sunlight, passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, creates a blue reflection that illuminates the cavern. The cave extends some 50m into the cliff at the surface, and is about 150m deep, with a sandy bottom.
The entrance into the grotto can only be achieved when tides are low and the sea is calm. Without calm seas and low tides, the grotto becomes inaccessible. To enter the grotto, visitors must lie flat on the bottom of a small four-person rowboat. The oarsman then uses a metal chain attached to the cave walls to guide the boat inside the grotto. Swimming in the grotto is forbidden, both for safety reasons and to preserve water clarity.
Blue Grotto is one of several sea caves, worldwide, that is flooded with a brilliant blue or emerald light. The quality and nature of the color in each cave is determined by the particular lighting conditions in that particular cave. The light comes from two sources. One is a small hole in the cave wall, precisely at the waterline, that is a meter and half in diameter. The second source of light is a second hole, with a surface area about ten times as large as the first, which lies directly below the entrance-way, separated from it by a bar of rock between one and two meters thick.
Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan, Philippines
It’s a protected area of the Philippines located about 80 km north of the city center of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The river is also called Puerto Princesa Underground River. The entrance to the subterranean river is a short hike or boat ride from the town Sabang.
In 2010, a group of environmentalists and geologists discovered that the underground river has a second floor, which means that there are small waterfalls inside the cave. They also found a cave dome measuring 300m above the underground river, rock formations, stalactites, large bats, a deep water hole in the river, more river channels, and another deep cave, as well as marine creatures and more. Deeper areas of the underground river are almost impossible to explore due to oxygen deprivation.
Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave in Werfen, Austria
Eisriesenwelt is a natural limestone and ice cave that located inside the Hochkogel Mountain of the Alps. It’s the largest ice cave in the world, extending more than 42 km and visited by about 200,000 tourists every year.
It was formed by the Salzach river, which eroded passageways into the mountain. The ice formations in the cave were formed by thawing snow which drained into the cave and froze during winter. Since the entrance to the caves is open year-round, chilly winter winds blow into the cave and freeze the snow inside.
Its first official discovery was in 1879, by Anton Posselt, a natural scientist from Salzburg, who explored the first 200m of the cave. Before his discovery, the cave was known only to locals, who, believing that it was an entrance to Hell, refused to explore it. In 1880, Posselt published his findings in a mountaineering magazine, but the report was quickly forgotten. In 1912, Alexander von Mörk, a speleologist from Salzburg, was one of the few people who remembered Posselt’s discovery.
The cave is open from May 1 to October 26 every year. Temperatures inside the cave are usually below freezing and warm clothing is recommended. The tour includes “Posselt Hall“, a large room with a stalagmite called “Posselt Tower” in the center, an ashen cross on the wall of the cave (marking the farthest point of exploration of Anton Posselt), where visitors can see the “Great Ice Embankment“, a massive formation that rises to a height of 25m and represents the area of greatest ice growth. And next is “Hymir’s Castle“, named after a giant in Norse mythology, where stalactites create a formation called “Frigga’s Veil” or the “Ice Organ“.
Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave in Vietnam
Hang Sơn Đoòng was found by a local man named Hồ Khanh in 1991. The whistling sound of wind and roar of a rushing stream in the cave heard through the entrance as well as the steep descent prevented the local people from entering the cave. Only in 2009 did the cave become internationally known after a group of cavers from the British Cave Research Association conducted a survey in Phong Nha-Ke Bang. Their progress was stopped by a large, 60m high calcite wall, which was named the “Great Wall of Vietnam“. It was traversed in 2010 when the group reached the end of the cave passage.
According to the Limberts, the main Sơn Đoòng Cave passage is the largest known cave passage in the world. It’s more than 5 km long, 200m high and 150m wide. Its cross-section is believed to be twice that of the next largest passage in Deer Cave, Malaysia. The cave runs for approximately 9 km and is punctuated by 2 large dolines, which are areas where the ceiling of the cave has collapsed. The dolines allow sunlight to enter sections of the cave which has resulted in the growth of trees as well as other vegetation.
The cave contains some of the tallest known stalagmites in the world, which are up to 70m tall. Behind the “Great Wall of Vietnam” were found cave pearls the size of baseballs, an abnormally large size.
Fingal’s Cave in Staffa, Scotland
Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa, known for its natural acoustics. It became known as Fingal’s Cave after the eponymous hero of an epic poem by 18th Century Scots poet-historian James Macpherson.
It is formed entirely from hexagonally jointed basalt columns within a Paleocene lava flow, which means that cooling on the upper and lower surfaces of the solidified lava resulted in contraction and fracturing, starting in a blocky tetragonal pattern. As cooling continued these cracks gradually extended toward the center of the flow, forming the long hexagonal columns we see in the wave-eroded cross-section today.
The cave has a large arched entrance and is filled by the sea. Several sightseeing cruises organized from April to September by local companies pass the entrance to the cave. In calm conditions, one can land at the island’s landing place and walk the short distance to the cave, where a row of fractured columns forms a walkway just above high-water level permitting exploration on foot. From the inside, the entrance seems to frame the island of Iona across the water.
Batu Caves in Gombak, Malaysia
Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu (Stone River), which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of a nearby village. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India and it’s the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. Batu Caves in short also referred as 10th Caves or Hill for Lord Muruga as there are six important holy shrines in India and four more in Malaysia.
The limestone, forming Batu Caves, is around 400 million years old. Some of the cave entrances were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people (a tribe of Orang Asli). However, they became famous only after the limestone hills were recorded by colonial authorities including Daly and Syers as well as American Naturalist, William Hornaday in 1878.
Batu Caves was promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader. He was inspired by the “vel”-shaped entrance of the main cave and was inspired to dedicate a temple to Lord Murugan within the caves. Wooden steps up to the Temple Cave were built in 1920 and have since been replaced by 272 concrete steps.
There are various undeveloped caves which contain a diverse range of cave fauna, including some unique species, such as Liphistiidae Spiders and fruit bats. Below the Temple Cave is the Dark Cave, with rock formations and a number of animals found nowhere else. It is a 2 km network of relatively untouched caverns. Stalactites jutting from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor form intricate formations such as cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops which took thousands of years to form.
Tham Lod Cave in Soppong, Thailand
Tham Lod Cave is located 8 km outside of Pang Mapha, a small town along 1095 between Pai and Mae Hong Son. Also known as “The Spirit Caves“, Lod can be explored by boat and guide.
It’s a cave system with a length of 1,666m where Nam Lang River flows through the cave which is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. The river is filled with hundreds of fish and the water is only a few inches deep. It is made up of three connected caves. The first one being a grotto, the second one containing pre-historic paintings of deer, and the third one containing pre-historic canoe shaped coffins, that which are thought to have been carved by the Lawa Tribes-People thousands of years ago.
Considerably smaller than some other caves in the area, but the main chamber give you an spectacular view, running to a height of 50m, from floor to ceiling.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves in Waitomo, New Zealand
It is known for its population of Arachnocampa Luminosa, a glowworm species found exclusively in New Zealand. This cave is part of the Waitomo Caves system that includes the Ruakuri Cave and the Aranui Cave.
The local Māori people had known about the caves for quite some time before the local Māori Chief Tane Tinorau in 1887. Their exploration was conducted with candlelight on a raft going into the cave where the stream goes underground. As they began their journey, they came across the Glowworm Grotto and were amazed by the twinkling glow coming from the ceiling. As they traveled further into the cave, they were also astounded by the limestone formations. These formations surrounded them in all shapes and sizes.
The stalactites, stalagmites and other cave formations grew from water dripping from the ceiling or flowing over the walls and leaving behind limestone deposits. When these formations connect they are called pillars or columns and these cave decorations take millions of years to form given that the average stalactite grows one cubic centimeter every 100 years.
The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago and it’s composed of fossilized corals, seashells, fish skeletons, and many small marine organisms on the sea beds.
The most common animals in the caves are insects. This includes albino cave ants and giant crickets but the most renowned is the glowworm Arachnocampa Luminosa. However, there are several small underground lakes that were created by freshwater creeks or brooks which are home to New Zealand long fin eels. The walls of the caves are covered with a variety of fungi including the cave flower that is actually a mushroom-like fungus.