I was always taught that heaven is in heaven, in the case of the Skocjan Caves in Slovenia we can make an exception. Paradise exists, and in this case it is even on the opposite side of what it should be, we find it underground.
And when one thinks of a cave, usually cramped spaces come to mind, devoid of air, where one may have to bend over to keep from hitting one’s head. Well, the Skocjan Caves, on the other hand, reach 150 meters high in some places.
You might ask: 150 meters underground? That’s right!
Let’s find out about the Skocjan Caves, here is the table of contents of this article.
Skocjan Caves in Slovenia
Skocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, are one of more than ten thousand caves that can be found in Slovenia. They are among the most atmospheric and, often, are more appreciated than the Postojna Caves because they are less touristy.
As far as I am concerned, I have only seen the Skocjan ones and I can only highly recommend visiting them.
Hints about karst and the area between Friuli and Slovenia
The Skocjan Caves are the result (constantly changing) of the natural phenomenon taking place in the Karst, i.e., the area between Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Slovenia. The main “actor” or rather “actress” of this phenomenon is water. In the case of the karst, theerosive and corrosive action of water is combined with the particular type of rocks present called carbonate rocks, rocks that by their composition are very porous and permeable.
Water acts in two ways:
- Erosion: as it passes it gradually erodes the rocks and continues its course.
- Corrosion: the water in its movement combines with carbon dioxide in the air and soil and becomes slightly acidic. Carbonate rocks are particularly affected by this acidity.
The dual action contributes to the formation of caves. Such is the case with the Skocjan Caves.
Where they are and how to get to the Skocjan Caves
The Skocjan Caves are extremely close to the Italian border and also not far from the capital Ljubljana (read: Best Things to do In Ljubljana). They can be reached without using the Slovenian highway network and therefore without having to pay the slovenian vignette. It is not the case to pay 15 euros if yours is a fleeting visit to the caves starting from Italian territory.
I actually made a “touch and go” visit during my stay in the vicinity of Trieste. You can reach them by two routes. I point them out to you starting from Basovizza, which is but the normal continuation of the road to Slovenia.
On the way out I took the one highlighted in blue, on the way back the one that is in gray on the map. As you can see the Skocjan Caves are only a good 20 minutes’ drive from Trieste.
There is ample free parking near the visitor center.
How to visit the Skocjan Caves
First of all, it is necessary to specify that there are several routes to explore the caves; there are 3 routes, 2 of which are underground and 1 on the surface.
The two underground ones are a continuation of the other, in practice you have the option of taking the full route or stopping at the first “section.”
As can be seen on the official website of the caves and as you can also see from the picture:
- RED represents the classic circuit where you get to see the most beautiful and exciting caves.
- YELLOW is the continuation of the RED route and allows you to see a piece of the caves where the Reka River is even more present and protagonist.
- GREEN is the one on the surface and is a circular route that allows you to see the conformation of the area from above, I would say it is the most suitable if there is someone who suffers from being underground.
I followed the RED route and I must say that it is more than enough to be amazed at this natural paradise.
Visits to the Skocjan Caves can only be made in groups accompanied by park guides according to the schedules you can find on the official website.
Once you have purchased the ticket you wait for the guides near the ticket office. Here, at the start time of the visit you are called back and, regardless of your nationality and the type of route chosen (1 or 2) you proceed to the entrance to the caves which is not near the visitor center but you have to walk about 500 meters.
Upon arriving at the entrance, the guides create the various groups according to nationalities so that the guide can speak a language that applies to everyone.
The tour is also done in Italian so you are able to understand the whole history of the formation of Skocjan Caves.
After a rather narrow access tunnel, the first cave opens up and as you go deeper into the bowels of the earth, the caves get bigger and better.
The caves are divided between the first part which is a cave complex called“Caves of Silence” and a second part called“Caves of Noise” precisely because you can see the Reka River and hear its roar against the rocks. First cave complex was discovered in 1904, the second (the cave of noise) many years earlier, in 1851.
The Skocjan Caves complex is about 7 km long, but by taking the RED route, only 2.5 km are completed along which there are about 500 steps.
Inside the Caves of Silence you can admire the classic stalactites and stalagmites that form precisely because, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the rocks are porous and water seeps from the surface and reaches the cave.
Drop by drop , the process of creating limestone columns that hang from the ceiling(stalactites) and columns that grow from the ground(stalagmites) takes place. The process is so slow and imperceptible that it takes about a century to grow 1 cm.
What is very important is absolutely not to touch any stalactite or stalagmite as it would break that delicate balance situation by interrupting the natural phenomenon.
The most impressive point of all the Skocjan Caves is the huge cave almost 150 meters high where you can feel the full force of nature with the rushing river many meters below. In fact, the tour route continues much higher than the river and you pass over a suspension bridge (Cerkvenikov most) 46 meters above the waters of the Reka.
This section of the trail inside the Noise Cave is strikingly beautiful and fascinating. Those who love nature will have to agree with me.
It is also interesting because in the Noise Cave you can make out what used to be the passages of the cavers, you can still notice the old structures and the old route; I must say they had a lot of courage to spare.
The RED route inside the Skocjan Caves ends near another sinkhole from which one can ascend to the surface in two ways:
- Using a funicular railway included in the ticket price.
- By walking again along a path that leads to the visitor center in about 30 minutes.
Obviously I chose the trail, nothing unmissable but the right conclusion for 2 nice hours in contact with nature.
Miscellaneous accouterments, schedules and costs
The Skocjan Caves are an ecosystem that needs to be preserved, so taking the right steps is prohibited:
- Touching the limestone formations as this would stop the natural process.
- Taking photographs or videos. It is not allowed, not even in passing, also because there are cameras.
Another caution is for clothing. The interior of the caves is wet and cool, I recommend that you use appropriate shoes (hiking boots) and perhaps bring something to cover yourself in case you get cold.
Skocjan Caves Caves Hours
As for the hours, the Skocjan Caves are always open, every day of the year but depending on the various months they have different starting times for visits.
I recommend that you take note of the schedules here -> official website schedules