The mystery and wonder of Earth’s caves are rivaled only by their opportunity for adventure.
Few sights are more majestic than a deep, dark, cave network threaded with ancient, craggy limestone structures. Since the dawn of civilization, man has been beguiled by the magic of caves.
They form a world of dazzling beauty and mystery carved over thousands of years by the passage of water over rock. Some of them have some of the last unexplored regions of Earth. From the Cheddar Gorge to the Jewel Cave, these caves definitely rank as magnificent.
Here are the 5 most spectacular caves in the world.
Cheddar Gorge – Cheddar, Somerset
Cheddar Gorge lies in Cheddar, Somerset, in the western part of England. Britain’s biggest gorge, Cheddar Gorge features dramatic cliffs rising 450 feet to remarkable stalactite caverns. The famous site is officially ranked an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by the NAAONB.
The area is one of the most top spots for caving and rock climbing in the world. Inside the sprawling caverns, artifacts dating back to the Stone Age have been found. The highlight of the limestone maze is Gough’s Cave, where Cheddar Man once lived.
Cheddar Gorge also includes a gigantic chamber, dubbed St Paul’s Cathedral, and a cave full of towering spires, named Solomon’s Temple. The lighting bolsters the natural beauty, fueling illusions of other worlds and glacial landscapes. Audio guides bring the cave to life, telling the story of its Ice Age creation, Stone Age occupation and Victorian exploration.
Jewel Cave – Custer, South Dakota
The Jewel Cave limestone complex lies 15 miles west of Custer, South Dakota. The landmark consists of a string of chambers linked by cramped passages. The chambers are known for their jewel-like calcite crystals, including nailhead and dogtooth spar, which occur throughout the cave.
When lit up, the encrustations glitter like gems. Stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, frostwork, flowstone and other limestone formations can also be found inside. The Jewel Cave network hosts nine species of bats, five of which are permanent residents.
Elk, white-tailed deer, coyotes and birds occupy the ponderosa pine forest that spans the surface. Jewel Cave was first reconnoitered in 1900 by three prospectors, Frank and Albert Michaud and Charles Bush.
Methodical exploration of the passageways kicked off in the late 50s and continues now. Jewel Cave is the third longest cave system in the world, with more than 125 miles of explored passages.
Hang Dau Go Cave – Halong Bay, Vietnam
Hang Dau Go Cave (translated to Wooden Stakes Cave), a majestic cluster of crags oftend ranked as a wonder of Asia, is located atop Halong Bay in Vietnam. French tourists visited the cave in the late 19th century, referring to it as Grotte des Merveilles (the Cave of Marvels).
Hang Dau Go Cave’s expansive network contains many giant stalactites, stalagmites and intriguing 19th-century French graffiti. Seen from afar, the entrance to the cave gives off a faint blue glow.
The spectacular cave was originally named after a military strategist who thwarted two Mongol invasions, becoming a cultural hero among modern Vietnamese. The cave is also said to have been used during the 13th century to store the sharp bamboo stakes that Hang Dau used against invading Mongolian ships.
Mulu Caves – Sarawak, Borneo
Mulu Caves is located on the majestic Malaysian island of Borneo. The caves can be found within Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the state of Sarawak. Many trumpet these caves the most spectacular on Earth.
The caves were carved over millennia by the water draining from the slopes of the park. Since 1978, the caves have served as a magnet for expeditions. The cave complex features the world’s largest cave chamber, the largest cave in the world by volume and one of the world’s largest cave passages.
According to the Royal Geographical Society, the Sarawak Chamber within Mulu Caves is the largest underground cavern in the world, and could encompass over 40 Boeing 747 aircraft without their wings overlapping.
Fantastic Caverns – Branson, Missouri
Fantastic Caverns is billed as “America’s Only Ride Thru Cave.” The landmark lies in the Branson, Missouri, a serene part of the United States consisting of rolling hills and sparkling streams that complement the magnificent limestone caverns lying under the surface.
Fantastic Caverns was discovered in 1862 by an Ozarks farmer – or rather his dog, which crept through an entrance. Five years later, the first exploration unfolded after 12 Springfield women answered a newspaper ad seeking explorers. Because the beauty of Fantastic Caverns is fragile, you tour the place in jeep-drawn trams.
Visited any of these spectacular caves? Let us know about your journeys in the comments below