You have not truly experienced Slovenia until you visit its subterranean splendour. Stunning underground caves, including the world-renowned Postojna Cave, will charm you with images that you have never witnessed before. This is the home of the unique olm or human fish.
Go underground by bike and kayak
Koroška, a unique region in northern Slovenia, really is a treasury of surprises. One of them is hidden underground, at Mount Peca in Mežica. Did you know that you can take a bike ride through the tunnels of the disused mine or even row through them in a kayak? Experience a unique adventure.
The Koroška landscape is a genuine paradise for hikers and mountain bikers, and Mount Peca, the source of numerous legends, is also part of this paradise. A legened famous among Slovenians tells of King Matjaž, a mythological figure who was a great benefactor, but is now sleeping under the mountain while his beard grows around a table. However, this king is not the only mystery of Mount Peca: its underground also has almost mythological dimensions.
Between Mount Peca and Mount Uršlja Gora, people have known about the ore deposits for a long time. In over three centuries of mining, 19 million tonnes of lead and zinc ore were extracted, and over 800 kilometres of tunnels were built. This mine, which closed down just over 20 years ago, continues to operate in its own way today. Since 1997, a section of the mine complex has been open to tourists. You can reach this section by train or, if you are more adventurous, head underground by bike or kayak.
Although mountain bikes are designed to be enjoyed outdoors, you can also bike through a mountain in the Koroška region. Literally. Wear warm clothing and biking gloves, a helmet and headlamp, and together with your guide cycle more than five kilometres underground, from one valley to another. Can you already sense the adventure? The route takes you through safe tunnels and the elevation difference is only 15 metres, but the holes and bumps of former railway sleepers do not make for completely comfortable biking. The entire adventure takes about two and a half hours
Rowing 700 metres underground
After the Mežica mine was closed, water was no longer pumped from the mine, so its lower sections flooded. Water also flooded major excavation sites created by the miners. These sites now look like magical underground lakes. Do you dare explore them? Then head underground to do some rowing. In front of the Mining Museum at Glančnik in Mežica, you board a real mine train that takes you 3.5 kilometres into the tunnel. Then head down to the water level by foot, where kayaks await you, which you then row down a small underground river to small lakes nearly 700 metres below the surface. It is time to explore the underground maze, flooded tunnels and ditches.
Because you need energy for such an task, a traditional miners’ meal will be served to you in the Mount Peca underground, a meal just like the one enjoyed by the miners before they went to work. Enjoy some buckwheat žganci with crackling, bacon, rye bread, and café latte.
The world-renowned beauty of Postojna Cave is one of Slovenia’s pearls. A special train will take you deep into this magnificent underground world. Here you will see unusual sculptural rock formations, magical stalactites and stalagmites, underground halls and strange animals, the most famous and unique one being the human fish (Proteus anguinus). Not far from the queen of caves, in a rocky wall above an underground cave stand the king of all castles – Predjama Castle, the largest cave castle in the world.
Take a train to the magical underground world
Postojna Cave is the only karst cave with a railway, which was built more than 140 years ago. The unique tourist train will take you to the underground network of karst corridors, galleries and halls. During an hour-and-a-half-long guided tour, you will learn about all of the most important karst features: the largest, 16-metre-high stalagmite known as the Skyscraper, the crystal white symbol of Postojna Cave – the Brilliant, the oldest underground post office in the world and the most famous underground animal – the olm or the human fish.
Olm or human fish
The human fish (Proteus anguinus) lives up to 100 years, and it can last without food for up to ten years. It is fully adjusted to living in darkness, and is the largest cave animal in the world.
On 30 May 2016 at 10:48, Postojna Cave, one of the most stunning karst caves in the world, was the location of the hatching of the first baby human fish since this rare aquatic salamander began laying eggs in January. It was a historic event which could be observed for the first time in the 200-year public history of the cave. The miraculous birth, which was closely followed by the public all over the world, could inspire you to visit the karst underground and learn about its most famous dwellers – the human fish, also known as “baby dragons”.Go underground by bike and kayakOn 30 May 2016 at 10:48, Postojna Cave, one of the most stunning karst caves in the world, was the location of the hatching of the first baby human fish since this rare aquatic salamander began laying eggs in January. It was a historic event which could be observed for the first time in the 200-year public history of the cave. The miraculous birth, which was closely followed by the public all over the world, could inspire you to visit the karst underground and learn about its most famous dwellers – the human fish, also known as “baby dragons”.
The first dragon
Every new life is a miracle. It is that much more special if the life in question is of a “little dragon.” The baby olm came into the world exactly four months after the parent laid its first egg in the aquarium. It evidently could not wait to come out, as it literally “shot out” in a single try. In order to become familiar with its home, it first swam around the aquarium before calming down at the bottom of the tank. Its arrival into the world was filmed by infra-red cameras, and the first footage of the hatching of an olm egg holds a priceless value for biologists. You will be able to see this when you visit the Postojna Cave.
Enter into one of the hidden gems of our planet and see one of the world’s unique natural phenomena. Gaze into the deepest and largest underground canyon in the world. A maze of underground galleries and a view of halls with wonderful stalactites and stalagmites will reveal to you a whole new dimension of your planet.
Richness of nature
The mysterious karst world has no shortage of natural wonders. One of its most mighty creations is the Škocjan Caves which with the largest underground canyon in Europe were the first in Slovenia to be entered on the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage List. Two natural reserves, i.e. the Krokar and Snežnik-Ždrolce primeval forests, which are part of UNESCO heritage of ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe, are located not far away in the forests of Notranjska and Kočevsko.
This karst cave has the largest subterranean canyon in Europe that is 146 m high and it also has many kilometres of trails for visitors with no less than 500 steps. The trail leads you across incredible bridges allowing you to see underground waterfalls (there are no less than 26 in this cave system), grand halls, giant stalactites and stalagmites that have grown to 15 metres in height, and other underground creations made by the karst river. The area surrounding Škocjan Caves is a regional park – an area of protected natural and cultural heritage. Educational and biking trails take visitors around the park.
At the foot of the Gorjanci Hills, near Kostanjevica, a small karst beauty is hidden, fascinating and rich in stalactites and stalagmites of various shapes. Here, rain water, underground watercourses, and tectonic shifts have created wonderful calcareous sinter creations with fairy-tale shapes for thousands of years. You can see three hundred metres of the most attractive parts of the cave.
Kostanjevica Cave lies at the foot of the Gorjanci hills, a diverse karst terrain with cretaceous limestone. Rain water, subterranean watercourses and tectonic movements spent millennia creating dreamlike cave formations with fairytale motives.
In 1937 a rapid increase of the subterranean water fractured the rock and opened a natural entrance for the people of surrounding villages. In 1971 lightning installation was made and 300m of main attractions were offered to tourists. The length of the cave is a bit more than 2 kilometres but cavers are still exploring the entire cave system.
The footpaths in the cave are suitable for children as well as older visitors. A guided tour with explanation lasts 40 minutes. The constant temperature in the cave is 12 degrees Celsius.
You have not truly experienced Slovenia until you visit its subterranean splendour. Stunning underground caves, including the world-renowned Postojna Cave, will charm you with images that you have never witnessed before.