Going Underground – Caving in Slovenia
24.2.2016 | Fiona Thompson
Everybody knows about Postojna Caves. This huge limestone cave complex is one of Slovenia’s most visited tourist destinations, attracting thousands of visitors every year. As well as seeing the spectacular limestone formations, a big part of the fun comes from travelling through the 20km of caves on a miniature train. But what if you like your underground adventures a little more daring?
Slovenia is a paradise for speleologists – or cavers as they’re usually known. The terrain of Slovenia is primarily limestone and that means caves and plenty of them – more than 10,000 in fact! They range from the show-cave complexes like Postojna and Škocjan to small caves and tunnels that are only for the most experienced cavers and potholers. More than six thousand of them are registered.
The caves and tunnels are created as a result of centuries of water passing through the limestone – or Karst as it is referred to. The Pivka river, an off-shoot of the Ljubljanica that runs through the capital, actually runs through the Postojna caves. The less well-known Križna Cave has fifty vivid green lakes from which stalactites appear to be climbing; in fact, at 10 km it’s the world’s longest cave with lakes. It’s also important because of its eco-system which, despite its lack of light is home to at least 44 different species of animals, mostly tiny insects and crustaceans; this is particularly remarkable because most such caves contain only 3 or 4 species.
In central Slovenia, Pekel Jama (Hell Cave) near Zalog pri Šempetru is more than one kilometre long and has two levels. This cave is more than 3 million years old and bones of Neanderthal people were found in it during explorations. This cave is easy to explore using the well-maintained path which goes through it.
Slovenia’s longest cave system is Migovec which is in Mount Tolmin Migovec in the Triglav National Park (20.5 km); the majority of the system has been explored by the Tolmin Mountaineering Society. Exploration of the deepest parts of the Migovec system has only been possible by research teams spending several days at a time underground.
Speleologists can find out more about caving in Slovenia through Jamarska zveza Slovenije – the Slovenian Speleological Society – which links fifty local groups and manages safety standards, the protection of karst and the organisation and promotion of caving activities. The Society also issues the certificates which are required for people who wish to explore independently or to visit caves that are explored using ropes.