10 Most Stunning Hidden Caves in the World Waiting to be Explored
A cave is a natural underground space formed by numerous geological processes. But this hidden natural beauty is nothing short of spectacular. The natural rock formations, incredible colors and distinctive patterns make up a perfect setting for the explorers to immerse in an underground world. You’ll find caves all over the world, some hidden under the rocks while some under the ice and sea. Whatever the reason may have been behind the formation of these caves, they do provide a thrilling experience to the adventure seekers.
Here are 10 such stunning hidden caves of the world that are more accessible now with the advances in technology.
Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
Hang Son Doong is a recently discovered cave and is also the world’s largest. Over 5km long with sections that reach up to 200m tall and 150m wide, the cave is huge enough for a 747 plane to fly through one of its largest caverns. Made up of foreign landscapes and enormous stalactites, Hang Son Doong also has its own jungle and a localized weather system due to the misty clouds that cover it.
The surreal cave is hidden in the popular Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province of Central Vietnam. Hang Son Doong is increasingly becoming a popular tourist attraction, but getting there isn’t easy. To reach to the mouth of the cave, explorers need to cross the 10km long forest from Truong Son Highway.
Besides, the place becomes completely inaccessible in the rainy season, due to rise in water levels. These treacherous conditions, however, make Hang Son Doong a perfect thrill-seeking destination for the adventurers!
Underwater Cave, Mexico
Discovered this year only, the underwater cave on Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico is supposed to be the world’s longest continuous flooded cave system. Spread across an astounding 347 kilometers of subterranean caverns, the enormous water-laden chamber is a true wonderland in itself.
This mammoth cave is known as Sac Actun system, combining the two previous known caves Sac Actun and Dos Ojos, which were earlier thought to be distinct from each other. However, archaeologists and divers from the Great Maya Aquifer Project found a passage connecting the two caves after an intensive 10 months of exploration.
Apart from being magnificent, this sunken labyrinth also represents one of the important submerged archaeological sites in the world, consisting pieces of evidence of the first settlers of America and the Mayan culture. The exploration, however, hasn’t ended. Archaeologists believe that Sac Actun could connect to three other underwater cave systems, which could further lead to the discovery of many more Mayan artefacts and human remains.
Cave of Giant Crystals, Mexico
Buried 300 meters below the Naica Mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico, the cave of giant crystals is a remarkable display of natural mineral formations, housing some of the largest selenite crystals. The gigantic crystals have been measured at 11 meters (36 ft.) high, weighing 55 tonnes approximately.
The natural chasm sits right above a pool of magma, making it unbearably hot for humans to survive. The temperature observed in the main chamber is found to be 150°F (65.6°C) with 100% relative humidity. These towering stacks of selenite is known to have formed due to the ground water saturated with calcium sulfate, which seeped in and kept the caverns flooded for many years. The hot magma served as a cooker to heat the water steadily for more than 500,000 years, which resulted the calcium sulfate to transform into translucent selenite crystals.
Entering this cavity is almost like a space-walk. You need to wear a vest comprising of ice-packs and another vest on top of it to insulate the ice from the outside heat. But, you do need a prior approval, if you wish to visit the upper caverns. The lower ones are too dangerous to explore due to extreme temperatures and are thus restricted only to scientists.
Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico, USA
Lechuguilla cave is one of the deepest limestone caves in the United States, which is yet to be explored and mapped completely. Named after the plant species “Agave Lechuguilla” found at the opening, the cave is an extraordinary chamber of some of the rarest mineral formations. The cave formation is known to have come from the dissolution of sulfuric acid, derived from hydrogen sulphide that migrated from nearby oil deposits.
The entrance of the cave is plastered with large amounts of gypsum and sulfur along with speleothems and hydromagnesite balloons that you will find nowhere else in the world. Researchers also found multi-drug resistant bacteria inside the Lechuguilla cave along with some microbes that may have medicinal qualities for the benefit of humans.
The spotless surfaces, untouched over millions of years make this 138 miles long wilderness one of the most beautiful caves of the world. But with such rarity, it is also one of the closely guarded caves with only a handful of expert cavers and scientists allowed to explore the natural beauty.
Reed Flute Cave, China
Known as the “Palace of Natural Arts”, the Reed Flute Cave is a popular landmark for tourists and lighting fans alike. Situated 3 miles northwest of downtown Guilin, China, the cave gets its name from a peculiar reed found around the cave, which are often used to make flutes.
But it wasn’t the harvesting of the reed that led to the discovery of this cave. It was actually spotted by refugees that managed to escape from the Japanese forces during World War II.
The cave itself is however 180 million years old with ink inscriptions dated back to 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty. Today, the cave is transformed with countless number of colourful lights that illuminate the stalactites and stalagmites, creating a mesmerizing panorama for the visitors.
Eisriesenwelt Cave, Austria
Dubbed as the “World of the Ice Giants”, the Eisriesenwelt Cave is considered to be the world’s largest ice cave scattered 42km through the Tennengebirge section of the Alps. The cave offers some of the most spectacular visuals formed with ice figures and frozen waterfalls, making Eisriesenwelt one of the marvellous caves and attractive destination for cavers.
Hidden beneath the Hochkogel Mountain above the town of Werfen, Austria, the cave is known to exist from between 50 to 100 million years. However, the ice formation is a relatively new phenomenon, developing since past 1000 years. Geologists claim that the ice formation is a result of a combined effect of water erosion from the Salzach River and chemical reactions occurring over extended period of time.
Witness the Posselt hall at the center of the cave, consisting of large stalagmites and picture the most impressive ice formation “the Great Ice Embankment” rising 25m high along with other formations. The ideal time to visit this cave is between May and October, when the hot sunny day outside contrasts the freezing temperature inside the Eisriesenwelt.
Mount Erebus Ice Caves, Antarctica
Mount Erebus is the most active volcano in Antractica, featuring a pond of 1,700°F lava. But on the outside, the temperatures are intensely freezing. In this fusion of hot and cold temperatures though, there are stunning ice caves carved out around the snow-covered volcano by the escaping volcanic gases.
The cave maintains a consistent temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit with the help of hot gases, creating a spectacular visual beneath the frozen soil. These warm caves of Antarctica also hold the potential to be home to a “secret world” of unknown species.
Ellison’s Cave, Georgia, USA
The 12th known deepest cave in the United States featuring two deepest pits (Fantastic and Incredible) in the country. Located on the Pigeon Mountain in the Appalachian Plateaus of Northwest Georgia, the pit cave is over 12 miles long and extends 1063 feet vertically.
To reach at the bottom of the cave, cavers can descend from over 7 routes from the Fantastic side. The exceptional depth of the Ellison’s cave is a result of tectonic movements, leaving behind a large structural deformation along with the growth of gypsum and limestone.
While this gargantuan cave is open to explorers year-round, it is usually explored only by experienced cavers due to its dangerous nature.
Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
Fingal’s Cave is one of the most extraordinary, symmetrical masterpieces sitting on the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The cave is popular for its neatly shaped hexagonal columns made up of basalt that join together to form the walls and also its natural acoustics.
This magnificent gift by nature is known to have formed due to the contraction and fracturing of solidified lava, which led to the development of hexagonal fracture pattern. Besides, the naturally formed arched roof helps in producing hypnotic melodic keys as the ocean waves reverberate against the basalt walls.
The marvellous chamber is a must on any caver’s exploration bucket list. There are plenty of boat tours available to get you to the nearby Iona and the island itself is walkable via trails.
Kamchatka Cave, Russia
Traverse inside this kilometre long magical ice cave made up of translucent ceiling that illuminates the ice structures within. The surreal-looking cave is situated on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia and formed by a hot water spring flowing on the ice fields beneath and around the nearby Mutnovsky volcano. The cave was found by a group of photographers and a guide during late 2012. They came across this magical cave by chance while on expedition near the Mutnovsky volcano.
The explorers believe that it’s hard to find this wondrous cave again without a guide, and there’s also a possibility that the cave could have melted during the winters. But that shouldn’t stop the thrill-seekers to give it another try.
Via: Places You’ll See