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Skocjan Caves

The Škocjan Caves are one of the most unique limestone cave sytems in the world. This karst landscape is shaped by the Reka river, which has sought its way underground. Specific features include dripstone as well as underground gorges, lakes and waterfalls. In several places the cave ceiling has collapsed, which has resulted in four deep fissures on the surface. The total length of the underground passages is 5 kilometers, and they go up to 230 meters deep.

Škocjan also is an important scientific site for the study of the karstic phenomena since the 19th Century. The geological terms "karst" and "dolina" originated there.

Škocjan has been preferred to the nearby caves of Postojna for World Heritage status.The latter are better known and larger, but also much more affected by tourism and pollution.

Map

Visit May 2014

Slovenia’s Top 3-tourist sights probably are the Lake of Bled, the Postojna Caves and the horses at Lipica. The Skocjan Caves are much less known, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be the only one visiting. Some 80 people showed up this Thursday for the 10 a.m. guided tour. Fortunately we were divided into 3 groups later on when entering the cave system, but a “mass tourism alert” certainly is appropriate here. Skocjan lies just next to the main highway going southwards from Austria/Ljubljana to Croatia. The road is full of caravans and motorhomes heading south.

I’m no big fan of caves. The other reviewers did get me interested however, as they all got praise for these at Skocjan. So I set out expecting quite something. The route underground is rather long, so it’s a serious hike to reach the end. Some of the older / less fit people in the group were struggling at the end, and breathed a sigh of relief at the funicular taking us back the last stretch. I was tagging along at the back of the group, thinking all the time “when will the interesting part start?”

The dripstone formations are there of course, but I found them not really spectacular and I’ve seen better ones at several other WHS. The trail starts at the Silent Cave, which mostly is one big and empty hall. You can admire the size of it. After the silence, the noise of the flowing river announces the second big cave. The river nowadays flows at the bottom of the caves, and you’re far away from it. There’s a sign indicating that the caves were flooded in 1965, when the water came all the way up to the upper caves.

After 1 hour and 45 minutes we were back at the entrance. The 16 EUR ticket was a steep price to pay, as the guide only made 3 small talks en route. Before and after the tour I walked around a bit to see the cave system from above. The natural surroundings are pretty, covered by thick forest. From a viewing point you can see the river on the surface, the same one that ducks underground.

Community Reviews


Tom Livesey - July 2015

I went on a Sunday in July 2015 and found the visitor centre thronged with people – mostly Slovenian tourists it seemed. The temperature was in the high 30s, making the caves an attractive refuge. At €16 it isn't cheap, but is worth it. Note that the €35 permit required to drive in Slovenia only seems to apply if you go on the motorway system. If you are coming in from Trieste then that is not necessary (although it we did use it to go to Idrija the next day).

We were led down to the cave’s entrance in a huge group of at least 70 people, so it was a relief when the guides announced we were going to be split into three groups, by language.

Inside the cave one sees a remarkable chamber of stalactites and stalagmites, followed by a descent reminiscent of journeying into the bowels of Mount Doom. The cave opens up into a much larger cavern as the tour proceeds to link up with the underground Reka river (one of the many tautological river names in the world).

After crossing a stunning bridge, the path winds its way out of the caves and into the semi-daylight, where bats swoop from the ceiling, despite being nocturnal. The walk back up to the visitor centre was rewarding, affording us views of the Reka rushing through gulleys and funnels.


Clyde - May 2014

I visited this WHS in May 2014. I wasn’t expecting much, especially because I knew that the best way the experience the underground canyon in the Skocjan Caves was to go for the 2hr guided tour with another 20 people and that no photography was allowed, not even without flash. The 2 hour guided tour takes place at 10am, 11:30am, 1pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm. A huge group gathers in front of the ticket office and 3-4 guides lead the way to the entrance to Skocjan Caves. The walk and brief introduction takes around 15-20mins downhill and then each guide accompanies a group of around 20 people. The guide of my group was quite knowledgeable and made the visit quite interesting without giving too much detail. Photography is not allowed expressly to make sure that no flash photography takes place since it may damage the cave and to discourage people from loitering behind the rest of the group. I must admit I was naughty and I was the one to enter the caves last on purpose to take a couple of photos when I wasn’t under the guide’s strict supervision. I’m extremely happy with the few photos I took and the video with the deafening sound of the underground rapids. I didn’t keep the group waiting and I didn’t do any harm to the cave. After the 2 hour guided tour inside the caves, I did the 1.5hr self-guided tour which was included in my combined ticket. This trail gives you the opportunity to take photos and to admire the Skocjan Natural Park’s exterior beauty with waterfalls, limestone gorges and a great panoramic view opposite the church. Still it’s no substitute to the underground canyon experience!


john booth - December 2012

Besides the guided tour of the caves described by several people here, there is now a second route with an unguided tour which I followed. This can be done at any speed, and photography is allowed. Guides are located at strategic points along the route armed with radios to ensure that no one gets lost.

The caves on this route are much as described with sink holes, rushing streams, waterfalls and vertiginous bridges.

I reached the caves by shuttle bus from Divaca station. Trains from here go to Koper (for buses to Trieste and Porec), Sezana and Ljubljana.

There is a new inexpensive Italian style restaurant in Divaca where I had pasta while waiting for my train.


Ian Cade - July 2012

I was rather impressed with this magnificent cave complex and the wonderful surrounding countryside. Whilst I don’t have a huge amount of knowledge to judge the quality of these caves compared to other examples on the World Heritage list, I can certainly say they were a spectacular site.

The first part of the guided tour takes you through a complex with various impressive examples of stalagmites/tites and other forms of dripstone. The guide did a pretty good job of explaining how, why and for how long they have formed; we were then led into another rather massive chamber.

After that came Europe’s largest underground canyon. I wasn’t really expecting it to be so remarkable, from the moment we entered it you could hear the water thundering below. After plucking up the courage I peered down to see it bubbling and gushing deep below me. The recently added bridge is rather magnificent and gives a wonderful sense of scale as you stare down at the huge drop below.

One thing I hadn’t appreciated beforehand was how pretty the area outside the caves is. The exit from the underground section brings you to a very lovely gorge which looked at its very best in the bright early summer sunshine. The high temperature and mildly tight time frame meant I decided to ride the funicular railway back to the top; however on another day I think I would have enjoyed the 50 minute walk through the gorge, to see the rock arches and waterfalls up close. At the top there was another fine view point of the surrounding area.

The caves are located a short way from the tiny town of Divača, which had a free shuttle bus that coincided with the arrival and departure of trains to/from Ljubljana. If like me you are using public transport to get to the caves it is worth taking note that despite them being only 10 miles from central Trieste there are essentially no transport connections between them. So heading from Ljubljana is perhaps the easiest way, unless like me you want to sample the Tito-era frontier town delights of Nova Gorica. Apart from the free shuttle bus and a friendly if slightly down at heel bar, there isn’t a huge amount to do in Divača, so I would recommend sourcing your food and drink at the slightly pricey but very tasty restaurant at the caves.

All in all I was really impressed with Škocjan, the underground trail was very impressive and above ground was a delightful surprise.

[Site 7: Experience 6]


Kathie Smith - May 2010

i have recently visited the caves. I was lucky that it was raining and the river was powerful with rapids. I was amazed at the size of the cave. I have never experienced anything so magestic. the guides where great and informative.


Klaus Freisinger - May 2008

Less famous than the renowned Postojna caves, the caves at Skocjan in southwestern Slovenia near the coast are certainly no less impressive and more important from a scientific point of view. They are the classic karst caves and are much less polluted than others, forming their own ecosystem and hosting several endemic species. Besides, they are extremely impressive, with huge stalactites and stalagmites, a river running through it and a mighty canyon with a footbridge 40 metres above the water that makes your knees shudder... The guided tour takes about an hour and a half and is pretty strenuous, since from about the halfway point it is mostly uphill over slippery steps. Despite this, a visit there is just fascinating and highly recommended.


Joyce - July 2006

The caves can only be visited on a guided 2-hour tour where you will visit 3 kilometers of the total of 6 kilometers of tunnels and rooms filled with stalagmites and stalactites. The biggest chamber you'll visit (the largest one in the cave system is too dangerous to visit) is impressive. After the big chamber you will follow a path along the underground river, which is quite amazing, and a little scary too if you are afraid of heights. Finally you will end up in a little valley with its own ecosystem.

The view from the viewpoint is spectacular with high cliffs and at the bottom a waterfall coming out of the caves and a small cliff-side village with a church.


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Site Info

Full name: Skocjan Caves

Site History

Locations

The site has 1 locations.

  • Skocjan Caves

Connections

The site has 21 connections.

Architecture

  • Cave Temples/Churches A valuable archaeological find in Fly Cave (Slovene: Mušja jama) indicates the influence of Greek civilization, where a cave temple was located after the end of the Bronze Age and in the Iron Age (wiki)

Constructions

  • Funiculars Gets you up from the exit of the caves to the visitor center

Ecology

Geography

  • Canyons Contains one of the largest underground canyons in the world (AB ev)

Individual People

  • Named after Adolf Hitler The Anophthalmus hitleri (which is a beetle named after him) is found there
  • Posidonius Observed that the river Timavus flows underground before emptying into the Adriatic Sea.

Timeline

  • Middle Pleistocene Vor einigen 100.000 Jahren stürzten Höhlendecken über dem Fluss ein. Dadurch entstanden die Einsturzdolinen Grosses Tal (Velika dolina, 165 m tief) und Kleines Tal (Mala dolina, 120 m tief). In der Sohle des Grossen Tals versickert die Reka endgültig. (wiki)

Trivia

WHS Hotspots

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process