I love caves. My fear of choice is definitely heights and not even a tiny bit claustropobia, so when I found out that Slovenia boasts not one but TWO world famous caverns, I got really excited.
(A brief aside: these caves ARE world famous, even if most Americans don’t even know that Slovenia is a country. Although we haven’t seen any tourist hoards like those in major European cities, from what I can tell, Slovenia is a popular outdoor destination for other Europeans.)
On Tuesday, we drove an hour and a half from Bohinj to Postojna. The caves here are the most Disney-ified caverns I’ve ever been to. No, there weren’t princesses or cartoons. But the ticket-buying process was streamlined, and a long avenue of restaurants and souvenir shops led you to the cave entrance. This consumer-heavy concession is actually helpful, since we had to wait 1 1/2 hours for our tour. Postojna is the world’s most visited caves, after all! The Disney-ification continued as we got on an underground train that took us through 4 km of cave tunnels. We were then taken on a walk through some of the more beautiful caverns (the Spaghetti Cave was my favorite) and a quick viewing of an aquarium of olms (little dragon-like lizards) before again boarding the train to return to the entrance.
Postojna is beautiful, and there are a lot of fancy stalagmites and stalactites to see…but I wasn’t hugely impressed. Luckily, just 9 km away we saw Predjama Castle, a massive fortress built into the side of a mountain with secret escape caves leading out the back (the Slovenian Robin Hood-esque hero Erasmus used them to survive a seige…at least until he was killed by a cannonball while he was using the bathroom).
Predjama was AMAZING, and wonderfully easy to tour with the help of a really great audio guide. After Vintgar Gorge, I think this was my favorite destination in Slovenia.
Back in Bohinj, we woke on Wednesday to steady rain. Unable to resist a perfect slow morning, we didn’t leave the hotel until 11:00. Along with everyone else whose guidebook told them “when it rains, you might as well go to a cave,” we made our way to the Skocjan Caves.
Unlike Postojna, we hiked about one kilometer to get to the entrance of Skocjan after buying our tickets. So many people were there that they had to divide the 1:00 tour into six groups. I was happy to be in the last English-speaking group because of our top-knot wearing guide with killer cheekbones. But even his beauty fell away when we got underground and HOLY COW. These caves are the most amazing I’ve ever seen.
For one (and for, like, all points) it is HUGE. One of the first caverns you enter is big, and you think, “Oh, cool. It’s mostly a big slanty hole without many cave ornaments, but it’s nice.” And then you walk through an entrance, and AHHHHH! It is exactly like the Mines of Moria (Lord of the Rings reference, for any non-nerdy readers). It is simply MASSIVE. I cannot describe it. It’s simply lit without being ostentatious (cough Postojna cough) and the effect is astounding. You even cross a bridge that is dizzying may high above the underground river that created the caves. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but here are some from Google that only partially captures the grandeur of it all.
If you like caves, Slovenia is the tourist destination for you. And while I recommend visiting all three of these sites, Predjama Castle and the Skocjan Caves are definitely superior!