For awe-inspiring adventure and thrilling discoveries, it's hard to beat journeying into one of our planet's magical and majestic caves.
From sculpted marble to sunken rivers and ice-scapes to astounding Stone Age relics, these are our travel experts' pick of the coolest caves around the world...
1) Son Doong, Vietnam
Only recently discovered in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province, Son Doong has been named the world’s largest cave. This natural wonder can be reached by trekking across the wild jungle of UNESCO World Heritage Phang Nha Ke Bang National Park and by crossing river valleys.
Here you’ll have the chance to meet the Bru VanKieu minority people, before finally witnessing the breathtaking rock formations and sheer size of the cave’s interior. The seven-day, six-night journey incorporates camping within the caves themselves.
2) Chapada Diamantina, Brazil
The lesser visited region of Brazil’s interior, Chapada Diamantina National Park, is made up of table-top mountains, vast plains, waterfalls, crystal-clear streams and an astonishing system of caves that conceal underground rivers where gold and diamonds were once mined.
Caverns of vibrant blue pools and waterfalls remain, with rivers that sank through erosion. The caves are especially noted for their rare stalagmite formations and the important discovery of extinct animals’ bones.
3) Oudomxay, Laos
In Laos’ remote forested province of Oudomxay, which is populated by over 500 tribal villages, Chom Ong cave – known to locals as bat cave – stretches across 16km, and is best known for its particularly impressive stalagmites and stalactites.
The cave runs along a mountain ridge, with an interconnecting fossil and river passage, and an upper level that leads to a number of 15km-high vantage points overlooking the river.
4) Stone Hole, South Africa
On the Atlantic Coast that stretches southwest of Cape Town, the Whale Coast is best known for its marine life and the white sand beaches that are backed by mountains, valleys and nature reserves. Between two bays, Grootbos Private Reserve covers a great expanse of 2,500 hectares. Here, archaeological excursions can be taken to the huge limestone caves that have were formed millions of years ago.
Named Klipgat Cave, meaning stone hole, due to an opening that offers panoramic views of the bay, the site is important for its wealth of pottery, stone and bone artifacts, which are remnants of the Stone Age people that lived there.
5) Pindaya, Myanmar
Just outside the peaceful lakeside town of Pindaya in Myanmar, this vast limestone ridge consists of three caves, only one of which can be explored – its entrances signified by a large bronze bell and pagoda.
The enormous cavern is a renowned pilgrimage site, containing an incredible 8,000 images and gilded statues of Buddha, with small chambers for the pilgrims to meditate in. The surrounding hills are also prime hiking country.
6) The Marble Cathedral, Chile
At the southern tip of Chile, the Patagonian region of Aisen is a vast expanse of dense evergreen forest and ice fields, immense fjords and deep blue glacial lakes. Here, at the centre of America’s second largest lake General Carrera, you’ll find Marble Chapel and Marble Cathedral.
This group of marble caverns, columns and tunnels has been carved by wave action over more than 6,000 years. Kayak through the sculpted rock formations as they reflect down on the crystal clear water of the lake.
7) Pak Ou, Laos
Laos‘ UNESCO World Heritage former capital city Luang Prabang is surrounded by mountainous landscape, with waterfalls and a cave system to be explored. Just a short distance from the city is the Pak Ou cave system, meaning mouth of the Ou River.
It consists of Tham Ting and Tham Theung caves, both of which overlook the Mekong River and contain hundreds of intriguing Buddhist figures and sculptures.
8) Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
This limestone labyrinth of underground rivers and sinkholes near Auckland can be traversed by boat or on foot, but the most adventurous can try blackwater rafting in which you crawl, swim and float through the caves on a rubber tube – you can even abseil or zip-line through the caverns if you dare.
By far their most famous feature, however, are the startlingly beautiful glow worms that fill the caves with their microscopic star-like radiance. A New Zealand must-see for adventure seekers and lovers of natural beauty alike.
9) Thrihnukagigur, Iceland
Step inside the only volcano in the world that can be explored on the inside: Thrihnukagigur, meaning “Three Peaks Crater” last erupted over 4000 years ago. Colourful magmatic stones give the volcano its other-worldly look.
For the ultimate exclusive experience, our travel experts can organise a private opera performance with canapes and champagne amidst the wonderful natural acoustics of the volcano’s magma chamber.
10) Tigray, Ethiopia
Spectacular hikes through the cliffs and hills of this ancient region lead to churches hewn into the rock, some even older than the 12th century churches of Labilela.
Take the opportunity to visit Tigray’s capital, Mek’ele, from which you can head off on an intrepid exploration of the striking Danakil Depression.
11) Škocjan Caves, Slovenia
Whilst the Postonja caves are one of Slovenia’s most popular tourist sites (and quite rightly so), the Škocjan Caves are also a must-see, and far less crowded. Carved out by the Reka River, the caves stretch for 6km before ending in a sump known as the Dead Lake.
From stunning stalactites and stalagmites to flowstones that look like snowdrifts, jungles of exotic dripstones and a dizzying 50m high bridge, these caves are full of sights to marvel at.
12) Musanze Caves, Rwanda
These stunning 2km caves are draped in lush greenery on the outside, whilst the inside makes for some great exploring and is home to a colony of wild bats.
You’ll find the caves in Rwanda’s sumptuous National Park of Volcanoes, home to five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Chain and ripe for adventure.
13) The Blue Grotto, Italy
This ethereal sea cave on the picturesque Italian island of Capri gets its name from the water inside, a crystalline azure blue which sparkles and glows in the light. Entering the cave is half the adventure, as its the low height of the entrance means you must lie flat on the bottom of a small four-person row boat to pass through.
For the same reason, entrance can only be achieved when tides are low and the sea calm. The shining blue of the cave is created by sunlight passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, which in turn creates a blue reflection that lights up the whole cavern.
14) Ali Barbour's Cave Restaurant, Kenya
For a completely different cave experience, head to Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant in Kenya’s Diani Beach. The cave is thought to be between 120,000 and 180,000 years old – though the restaurant has only been there for the last 30.
All has been left exactly as discovered in this remarkable interior, with natural holes in the roof crust creating an intimate and elegant eating-under-the-stars experience – and the food, of course, is delicious.
15) The Cenotes, Mexico
There is an estimated 7000 or more of of these beautiful natural sink holes and swimming pools around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, filled with cool, clear water that is sometimes fresh and sometimes salt.
Avoid the crowds and get a truly magical experience of the caves through a private tour to the lesser known Cenotes, including a unique opportunity for cave diving.
Our top example trips to these destinations
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