To give you an idea of the scale of the incredible underground network of caves and rivers flowing under Green Slovenia, a local caver explained to us that you are only considered a good caver here if you have found 100 new caves!
Slovenia is blessed with almost 15,000 discovered caves and many "show caves" to visit, each one completely unique and containing different natural underground treasures.
There are 3 world famous & world class caves close to Lipizzaner Lodge and dozens more. The local Postojna cave (10 mins) are the most visited tourist caves in the world with 35 million visitors to date and just 8km from Lipizzaner Lodge, (so you could easily bike or hike from here)! Kids can also discover the amazing baby dragons that inhabit these caves, (otherwise known by adults as "human fish").
But we are also really close to the stunning, Unesco protected Skocjan caves (20 mins), with unique underground river and cliff vista. The deepest cavern is so huge and will remind you of Lord of the Rings. You get to walk over a bridge high up inside the cavern, (it feels a bit like Indiana Jones). The tiny and very pretty village of Skocjan also has lots of micro museums to visit and is often missed out by visitors who do not know about it. We totally recommend you take a walk up to the church where the views across the valley are stunning and then down to the next village to get the view back of the cave, river, cliff and church together.
The last of the "big three" is Križna caves (40 mins), where you get much more of a "caver's experience", wearing a caver's helmet, rubber boots & light and taking an underground boat ride to see the cave in it's full glory. Many guests who have come back from Krišna caves told us, if they had known how great these caves were, they would definitely have done the 4 hour visit. We have done the 4 hour visit and it is absolutely amazing..
This is the only cave in the world where a new calcium river is being forged by the water. It has one of only 6 cave "mushrooms" (a unique stalegtite formation) in the world, an amazing cascade formation and Slovenia's largest underground island! Because of this unique calcium river, these caves are strictly protected, so there are only 1,000 4 hour visits allowed per year. Our advice is to book ahead! (We can do that for you). Don't worry about booking for the standard 1 hour visit, as there are no limits for that and it is also a very special introduction to this world class cave.
If you are not sure which of the "Big Three" caves to visit first, we can quickly recommend the best one for you and also suggest some other lesser known caves that you might prefer to visit. For example, there is a guided tour through the cave under the local Predjama castle (10 mins). This cave is called the "Batcave" as in winter, it has the most varied populations of different bats in the world.. oh yesadoodledo! But don't worry, in the summer only one non scary species remains. You change into caving gear and after an hour or so of mild climbing and exploring incredibly, you pop up above the castle.. kapow!
Just across the border in Trieste, Italy, you will find the massive Grotta Gigante (30 mins), which was until recently the largest tourist cave in the world. There are 500 steps down into the gigantic cavern. There is a modern visitor centre with nice museum and plenty of free parking.
There are lots other caves that are only open to the public on a Sunday or by special appointment, so we have contacted and got to know some local guides who can take you inside. In another cave, known as Devil's Barbeque, Dimnice, (30 mins), mysterious smoke drifts out from the cave all day in winter.. This cave is known by cavers as the most complete cave in the world.. it has almost everything. There is a 40 metre high spiral stone staircase into the cave. The first Italian explorer shouted to the villagers as he was first lowered down here by rope, but they ran away in fear the lower he got, as his voice echoes became louder and they thought the devil had got him! There are also 10 kinds of bat in this 8km long cave and a river all year round. We cannot recommend this cave enough, it is beautiful.
Not so far from Dimnice cave you drive to the coast and go up to the top of a cliff for a perfect view of the Gulf of Trieste and Italy, Slovenia & Croatia.. but not many people know that just 100 metres from this castle there is Sveta Jama, Saints Cave, (30 mins) with Slovenia's only underground church and wine cellar to delight visitors!
We were delighted to discover another interesting local cave, which can be visited on some of our recommended local walks and bike rides. We were just riding past recently and saw some new signs for a "Neanderthal Cave", (10mins), so we checked it out and found a new tourist path with signs giving good info about this special cave that we had walked, cycled and driven past so many times before, but didnt know was there. It's now easy to find and worth seeing where Neanderthal man sought safety from the cold and animals by lighting a fire inside the entrance of the cave.
And if you don't fancy the crowds at Postojna cave then why not jump on one of our bikes and cycle through the forest to the wonderful Black cave, (Pivka cave). This is actually at "our" other end of the massive Postojna cave and Partisans used it to sneak up on the Nazis and destroy their munitions dump in WW2 through a secret doorway! The cave is called "black" as the smoke from thousands of years of people taking shelter at the mouth of the cave and lighting fires has blacked the walls to leave some fascinating shadows. This cave is only open in the summer, the group sizes are usually small, say 5-15 people, so you can hear and chat with the excellent guide and really get a feeling for Slovenia's massive underground paradises.