Nature’s wonders are always a sight to behold, whether you’re a nature lover or a city dweller. The more common wonders of nature that people frequent are mountains or the ocean or rivers. In recent years, travelers have begun to take an interest in caves.
Visiting caves is not for everyone. Claustrophobes would hate the confined space. Those afraid of the dark would fear the lack of natural light. And those who don’t take a fancy to certain unusual creatures would freak out at the presence of bats, rats, and other creepy specimens reminiscent of Halloween.
What many people don’t know is that caves are not all dank and dark and frightening. Many caves that have been discovered lately, whether in popular tourist destinations or far-flung locations have proven to be absolutely riveting in their natural wonder. Many were formed thousands, even millions of years ago, but were only discovered recently. It’s the years and years of formation that have perfected these caves aesthetically and made them worth visiting. For some caves, getting there entails going through rough terrains, choppy waters or braving the cold winter weather to see the caves in their best natural glory. However many feel the time, effort, energy and yes, the cash shelled out for the trip is worth it.
15. Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
The biggest known cave in the world sits right in the heart of Southeast Asia, at the Quang Binh Province of Vietnam to be exact. Son Doong Cave is filled with countless natural wonders, including individual ecosystems and amazing geological formations, due mainly to its limestone formation and also in part to the fast-flowing river that runs through its recesses. It’s a fairly recent discovery, having been discovered only in 1991 and an even more recent tourist attraction. The first tourist group explored the cave through a guided tour at a cost of $3,000 each—quite hefty a price to pay for a cave tour! But given its significance, undoubtedly it was well worth the price.
14. Ice Cave Near The Mutnovsky Volcano, Russia
A cave made of ice at the base of a volcano sounds like one giant paradox. But that’s what makes the Ice Cave Near the Mutnovsky Volcano in Russia such a natural wonder. Measuring a half mile, the cave was formed by a stream flowing through glaciers at the bottom of the volcano. Extreme weather conditions, meaning snowfall and the sweltering summer heat, helped form the caverns with a roof that looks like the stained class of a magnificent Cathedral. It rightly deserves its title as one of the most amazing caves in the world.
13. Vatnajokull Glacier Cave, Iceland
Being one of the loveliest countries in the world with air as fresh as a baby’s breath, it’s no surprise that Iceland has some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the form of Vatnajokull Glacier Cave. It holds the distinction of being the largest glacier in all of Europe. The glacier cave was formed due to the melting of ice water and though breathtaking, it can also be quite dangerous given the erratic way that glaciers change and melt. But for those who like courting risk would be pleased to know that glacier hiking tours are offered, but for the cautious, simple walking tours are available, too.
12. Batu Caves, Malaysia
Far from being unspoilt by commercialization, the series of Batu Caves in Malaysia is still a destination worth seeing if only to see how it’s been developed not just to tourists, but also to the Hindus paying homage to their deity. The caves themselves are ancient, seeming to be about 400 million years old. The grounds were considered sacred and in 1890, a consecrated statue of Sri Murugan Swami, a Hindu god, was erected in what is known today as the Temple Cave. Aside from being one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, other portions of the site also cater to rock climbing enthusiasts, with over 160 climbing routes.
11. Mendenhall Glacier Cave, Alaska, USA
Alaska offers much more than greenery and clean waters and snow-capped mountains. In this little state is also found the Mendenhall Glacier Cave, carved out of the glacier by melting ice water. But those who want to see this natural wonder should make haste in visiting it because it’s been slowly deteriorating, no thanks to climate change. But the upside to the swift melting is the formation of a beautiful lake surrounding the glacier cave, called the Mendenhall Lake. So visitors have the opportunity not to see just a glacier cave, but the lovely lake as well.
10. Cave in Algarve, Portugal
Because the Algarve region in southern Portugal is a coastal area, it boasts a myriad of seaside formations because of the rocks’ extreme solubility in water. One such formation is cave near Lagos, which is only really accessible by water. But it’s certainly worth the boat ride because the cave is absolutely majestic and looks like it came straight out of a movie set. It’s no wonder that the region sees 10 million visitors a year and no doubt the cave is one of the main attractions.
9. Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
Glowworms may sound cringe-worthy, but they live up to their name by emitting a unique light that when seen at night and clustered all together makes for a truly beautiful sight. These insects are what makes the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo, New Zealand, truly a place worth visiting. These glowworms are closely guarded by a Scientific Advisory Group for preservation and maintenance and thanks to the great care given to them, the group of caves has become a popular tourist destination. The guided tour concludes with a serene boat ride through the Glowworm Grotto and underground river, where the only light comes from the tiny glowworms on the walls and ceiling.
8. Tham Lod Cave, Thailand
Located in the northern region of Thailand is the magnificent Tham Lod Cave, in which the crystal-clear waters of the Nam Lang River runs through. For those who like a little bit of fear factor, the cave is also home to bats and swifts and recently, some teakwood coffins were also found on the walls of the cave, most likely containing the remains of the Lawa tribespeople from thousands of years ago. But creepiness aside, the still and clear waters of the cave also make for a great boat ride where you can see the cave floor with a light.
7. Kyaut Sae Cave, Myanmar
It’s way below the radar compared to the other caves on this list, but it’s undoubtedly equal in splendor. Kyaut Sae Cave in the enchanting Asian kingdom of Myanmar was, according to legend, used as a hiding place of the locals from the Mongols in the 13th century. Today, a Buddhist temple stands at the entrance to the cave and it’s a place of meditation for the monks. It’s probably the reason why many tourists choose not to venture into the temple, though they are very welcome to do so. Perhaps the solemnity of the temple and the presence of the monks make people respectfully keep their distance.
6. Reed Flute Cave, China
China’s vast landscape offers many sights to behold, though not all are open or accessible to tourists outside big cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. But one attraction outside a big city that does cater to visitors is the Reed Flute Cave in Guilin. A natural limestone cave with a rainbow of lights, it’s been a must-see for the past 1,200 years, being over 180 million years old. The cave derived its name from the reeds growing outside it, reeds that can be made into flutes giving off lovely melodies. To enhance the experience, multicolored lighting has now been installed inside the cave.
5. Deer Cave, Borneo, Malaysia
Borneo is one of the most unique islands in the world, mainly because it’s divided among three countries in Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. In the Malaysian portion is Deer Cave, an attraction located in Gunung Mulu National Park. The name is supposedly derived from the deer that enter the cave to find shelter and to lick the area’s salt-bearing rocks. The cave can be accessed by tourists by way of the national park. The beauty of the cave can be better appreciated with the use of a flashlight so that one can see the unique rock formations around it.
4. Marble Cave, Rio Tranquilo, Brazil
In the mouth of Brazil’s Rio Tranquilo, which in English, means “tranquil river,” is found a cave that befits the name of the body of water it surrounds. The Marble Cave’s azure color gives off a tranquil ambience that soothes immensely. The marble walls were formed by waves washing against the Andes mountain walls, which happen to be made out of calcium carbonate. This natural process spanned a whopping 6,000 years. Guests can take a 30-minute boat ride into the cluster of caves that are naturally carved into the blue marble.
3. Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
At first glance, it eerily looks like catacombs housing the creepiest of relics, but Fingal’s Cave is actually one natural wonder worth beholding. A sea cave located in the uninhabited island of Staffa in Scotland, it’s formed from joint basalt columns with lava flow, resulting in its blocky patterns. Not only does it look creepy, the acoustics inside the cave are quite eerie, too, caused by the echo of the waves lapping outside the cave. It can be a challenge for tourists to visit the island during the cold months, so the best time to see it is between the months of April and September.
2. Skocjan Caves, Slovenia
In the eastern European country of Slovenia is found a natural marvel that is said to rival the like of Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Barrier Reef. The Skocjan Caves were formed from different kinds of limestone, thereby emitting a green outerspace-like color. It’s said to be most beautiful in the winter, when the air in the cave is cleaner and fresher. The water in the river that runs through the lake is slightly higher during the cold months, giving off a mighty roar from the canyon close by. The breathtaking caves have deservedly been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
1. Cave of Swallows, Aquismon, Mexico
What makes the Cave of Swallows in Mexico unique is that it’s an open air pit cave with a 1,092 foot freefall drop. It’s the largest cave shaft and the eleventh deepest natural cave in the world. Descending the cave gives one the feeling of being like Alice (from Alice in Wonderland) as she fell through the rabbit hole, but with a view that’s a thousand times better due to the limestone on the walls that emits a beautiful color when the sun hits it. Exploring the cave is a unique experience because not only can you wall climb to get down; you can also rappel and do BASE jumping.