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 close by. The local Postojna cave (10 mins) is the most visited tourist cave in the world, opened in the early 1800's and just 8km from Lipizzaner Lodge, so you could also bike or hike from here! Kids can also discover the amazing baby dragons that inhabit these caves, (otherwise known by adults as "human fish"). There is also a Tree Rope park next to these caves where kids and big kids can monkey around in the forest.
But we are also really close to the stunning, massive, Unesco protected Skocjan caves (20 mins), with unique underground river and cliff vistas. The deepest cavern is so huge and will remind you of the Lord of the Rings films. You get to walk over a bridge high up inside the cavern, but deep underground, (it also feels a bit like Indiana Jones), with the mighty river thundering far below you.
There are also lots of different walks you can do in and around the Skocjan caves and people often make the mistake of just doing the main tour and leaving. We absolutely recommend you also visit the local micro museums in the nearby Skocjan village and hike up to the Skocjan church where the views across the valley are stunning.
You could then walk down to the next village to see one of the most stunning views in all Slovenia.. back to the church on top of the cliff, above the cave mouth with the river gushing out below.. wow! It is also possible to see this view if you follow the marked nature path around the rim of Europe's second deepest hole and in just 5 mins from the visitor centre, you will get to see the "Empresses Vista".
The last of the "big three" caves is the Križna cave (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 this amazing 4 hour tour and it is absolutely amazing.. it is like going to a different world and the time just flies by as you paddle around an underground island, see one of only 6 massive stone cave mushrooms (a unique stalegtite formation) and a pirate ship in what can only be described as an underground silent paradise.
The Križna cave is one of the only caves in the world where a new calcium river is being forged by the water. You have to follow in the guide's footsteps and travel mainly by rubber boat as the caves are strictly protected, with only 1,000 x 4 hour visits allowed per year. At the end of this tour there are some amazing cascades where you can walk a bit more. Our strong advice is to book ahead! (We can do that for you). But 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, then we can quickly recommend the best one for you & your family or friends and also suggest some other fantastic, but 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 during winter, it has the largest number of different bat species in the world.. oh yesadoodledo! But don't worry, in the summer only one tiny, non scary species remains and this is the only time of year when tours here are permitted.
You change into caving overalls and during an hour or so of mild climbing, scrabbling and exploring.. you will be amazed as you suddenly pop up, 123 metres up and above the stunning castle.. kapow! Many of our guests have said how much they enjoyed the Batcave as it gives you a more physical real cave experience, so please try to factor this in to your Predjama castle visit.. Kids as young as 7 can do it by the way, so it is not so tough.
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 really nice museum and plenty of free parking and you can do a cave visit Italian style!
There are lots other local 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 up out from the cave all day during winter.. This cave is known by cavers as the most complete cave in the world.. it has almost everything.
There is a fantastic 40 metre high spiral stone staircase down into the mouth of the Dimnice cave. The first Italian explorer shouted instructions up to the villagers as he was first lowered down here by rope, but they ran away in fear the more he was lowered, 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. You will need to book a tour with the friendly local expert, so please ask us for details.
Not so far from the Dimnice cave you drive to the coast and go up to the top of a sea 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 also Sveta Jama, Saints Cave, (30 mins) with Slovenia's only underground church and wine cellar to delight visitors!
We were thrilled 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 one day and saw some new signs in Slovenian for a "Neanderthal Cave", (10mins), so we checked it out and found a new tourist path with more signs in English giving good info about this hidden cave that we had walked, cycled and driven past so many times before, but just 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 fires inside the entrance to the cave.
And if you don't fancy the crowds at Postojna cave then why not jump on one of our bikes and cycle for about an hour along a secret forest track to the wonderful Black cave, (Pivka cave) (10 mins). This is actually at the 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 blackened 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 some other of Slovenia's massive underground paradises.
You might have seen the Sony Experia camera phone TV advert where the guy is playing the piano in a cave.. well this is the very cave!
Another cave mainly open in summer is the amazing Planina Baby Dragon cave, (15 mins). This is a really personal tour in a stunningly green location in a cave where 2 underground rivers crash together to form just one part of Slovenia's River of 7 Names.
This cave and some other lesser known caves also feature in more detail in separate articles in our SECRET PLACES TO VISIT section, so please take a closer look or just ask us if you want to know more.. With just a little more planning and effort you can see an amazing cave that pretty much 99% of other visitors to Green Slovenia will not see or even know that it exists!