Going Underground – The Skocjan Caves

Arriving in Piran, one of the must-see attractions atop our list was a visit to Slovenia’s famous caves. I’m not sure if there is any other experience that compares to caving, there is something unique about discovering another world underground,  and since Calli had been in only one other cave prior to our visit (Actun Tunichil Muknal in Belize), I figured this was a wonderful opportunity to do something different and take a break from walking through old towns and visiting museums.

Slovenia is known for having some of the most impressive cave systems in the world, due to the large Karst region that exists near its coastline. In particular, two stand out above all – the Postojna Caves and the Škocjan Caves. This Karst topography, comprised of limestone, causes the Reka River to disappear underground and emerge seven separate times. After doing some research, we decided that the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were more to our liking as they seemed less touristy and less visited due to their distance from Ljubljana. As well, the many billboard signs we saw advertising the Postojna Caves featured a miniature train ride through the cave which seemed kind of Disneyland-esque.

The view of the collapsed doline..the height is just smaller than the largest room in the caves

The view of the collapsed doline..the height is just smaller than the largest room in the caves

The Reka River as it emerges from the caves

The Reka River as it emerges from the caves

Upon arriving at Skocjan, we were met by one of the problems of traveling in the off-season – the public transport and tour times didn’t line up, meaning we were going to have to wait an hour for our tour of the caves. To kill some time, we made a short walk to one of the lookout points on the education trail that circles the park (a recommendation from the attendant at the ticket booth). It was breathtaking, and just a preview of what was to come.



When it came time for our tour, two guides led our very large group towards the cave entrance, a 10 minute decent from the main information centre. After breaking us into two smaller groups, one for German speaking visitors and a second for English and Italian guests, we were given a short prologue of what to expect in the cave, its history, and reminders to stay safe.

Entering the cave is a unique experience in itself, as you walk down an artificial shaft-like tunnel. Upon entering the cave, we were greeted by an absolutely amazing underground environment. Jaw-dropping stalagmites and stalactites covered the floors and ceilings, making the narrow walking path twist and turn. Our guide explained that the first section of the cave managed to avoid flooding hundreds of years ago and as a result, features enormous stalagmites that date back to the last ice age and in some cases even earlier.



As we wove our way through the cave system, we made our way towards the Reka River and upon entering this second section of the cave it was nearly impossible to hold a conversation above the noise of the rushing water. It is here where visitors take in one of the most famous views of the Skocjan Caves, the Cerkvenik Bridge, suspended nearly fifty meters above the riverbed below

The Cerkvenik Bridge

The Cerkvenik Bridge (via)

The Skocjan Caves are a geological marvel, at approximately 3.5 kilometers long, 10 to 60 meters wide, and over 140 meters high, the sheer size of the chambers is jaw dropping. The largest of these chambers has a volume of 2.2 million cubic meters, making it the largest underground chamber discovered in Slovenia and one of the largest in the world, however from the surface there is little sign of what lurks below. In addition to the complexity of mother nature’s power in creating this cave system, Calli and I were also blown away by the man made components of the cave as well. Clinging to the side of steep rock faces are the remains of crude walking paths used by the first people to explore the caves at the end of the 19th century. As well, without lights to guide the way, these early explorers cut chunks of stone from the ground and, after filling the holes with water, used carbide to create a reaction with this water and create pockets of light throughout the cave.



The Skocjan Caves are as interesting as they are beautiful, a definite must see while in Slovenia. We only wish we had been able to join a second tour of a second section of the system that has been discovered and explored more recently – unfortunately the times didn’t line up with our transportation back to Piran.

Logistics: The Škocjan Caves are located near the town of Divaca, just over an hour from Piran and two hours from Ljubljana by public transport. From Divaca, a short shuttle bus ride or a 30-40 minute walk takes you to the Park entrance. Tickets are 15 Euro for the standard cave tour and 20 if coupled with the new section. There are washrooms and a cafe at the caves (cafe is around 7 Euro for a burger and fries), but you can also bring your own lunch (as we did). The website for the caves can be found here.

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  1. I am not a huge cave goer, but we have certainly spent some time in them since leaving on our own trip. Probably one of our coolest experiences was when we visited Mulu in Borneo, where we got to experience the largest cave system in the world!

    I do like that these caves seem to be nicely (and well) lit—you definitely do not always get that perk in Asia, though I suppose there is a certain charm to being led around through dark caverns by a little lady toting an olde tyme gas lantern. 😉
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Under the Spell of the S.E.A.My Profile

    • As I am a biology geek, Borneo is definitely near the top of my list for places I want (scratch that, NEED) to go, and the Mulu caves would be a definite must-see while we are there! The Skocjan Caves were well-lit and absolutely huge – the biggest room is 140 meters tall I think, probably even OK for the clausterphobics out there. I agree that there is a certain charm to being a little more “adventurous”, the one we went to in Belize had you submerged in water chest-height for most of the 2 hours with just your headlight. Coupled with the fact that there were human skeletons from ritual sacrifice by the Mayans and it made for quite the adventure (and one we will have to post about someday, I guess)!

    • They were amazing. Travis has been to a few caves in the states and Canada, but he said these ones are different just for the sheer size. Ye we very much like getting off “the beaten path”. Although we realize that there is a beaten path for a reason (the Louvre, the Colosseum, etc.), we have learned that if you want a true taste of a country you need to get away from the tourists…and getting a real taste of a place is what we all really want while traveling, isn’t it? Thanks for visiting the blog, we like yours very much and are glad to have discovered it!

    • Thanks for the kind words! Slovenia was definitely one of our biggest and most pleasant surprises. It is such a charming and tranquil place. Sadly we only got to Skocjan – we though initially that Postonja looked a little touristy – but now so many people have told us it was amazing that we may have misjudged it! We will definitely be heading back to Slovenia soon. Thanks for visiting our blog – glad to have found yours now as well – safe travels!

      • If you ever go back to Slovenia, I’d be interested to know how the two caves compare! 🙂 Postonja was touristy but it was really beautiful inside… It is sad, however, that they allow so much foot traffic in it since it’s damaging the cave but the guide’s only response to that was, “well it’s a show cave”. I hope they find a way to share it with others but still preserve it!
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        • Skocjan felt like the opposite of that – you weren’t allowed to go anywhere by yourself, couldn’t take any photos, and they have a special path (raised in some sections) that seems to keeps the damage to a minimum. The only problem came from the fact that it was less touristed, and thus more difficult to get to (especially in the off-season). We would love to get back and explore Postonja as we’ve heard only positive things. Glad you enjoyed Slovenia so much! Safe travels.

    • Thanks so much Brittany! I wish I could take credit for that picture but sadly we weren’t able to take photos inside the cave so I’ve had to borrow it. Fortunately the cave is as stunning in person as in the photo 🙂

  2. We have a lot of caves near us too – the salt mine caves in Austria are probably the most fun, you get from level to level by these huge slides, I could spend the whole day there! 😀 They are not as beautiful as these caves though, what a gorgeous place! 🙂

  3. Oh! We went here and they were spectacular! I’d recommend a visit to Slovenia (and specifically, these caves) to anyone. Can’t believe we only decided to “drop in” because it was “on the way” to somewhere else!
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  4. That looks amazing! I would love to visit, but I can’t imagine being one of the first explorers to go through – I think I definitely need a tour guide and modern lighting.
    Jess recently posted…Ice Alaska, NightMy Profile

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Jess! Thinking of people crawling through the caves with a torch or clinging to the cave’s steep sides on rickety wooden bridge is not my idea of a good time 🙂

  5. I went the the Postojna caves while I was in Slovenia and I didn’t feel that it was overly touristy or Disney-esque. The train is only there to take you from the cave entrance inside to the main part of the cave. You do most of the tour on foot. I really enjoyed my time there so I’ll have to go back and check out this other one.
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    • Thanks so much Frank! What did you think of the Postojna caves – we opted to go to Skocjan instead but I’d love to hear some opinions about Postojna, or even find someone who has done both and could give us a full review