Caves have a great fascination with humans and are often popular attractions for tourists. A cave is a natural cavity created by geological processes in a rock formation that is large enough that people can enter it. Primary caves, such as lava caves, are created simultaneously with the surrounding rock, secondary caves are created later in the rock, among other things by erosion. So what are the 10 largest caves in the world?
Mammoths in the underwater world
The longest known cave in the world is the Mammoth Cave in the national park of the same name in Kentucky in the USA. It is an impressive 627 kilometers long and was first explored by the slave Steven Bishop in 1840 before it was professionally measured in 1908. The Mammoth Cave system is partially traversed by the Styx River, named after the river of the underworld in Greek mythology.
The longest underwater cave system is the “Sistema Sac Actun” found in Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula, which has a total length of 311 kilometers. “Sac Actun” – in the Mayan language “white cave” – carries turquoise-blue water in a limestone system with stalactites and can be explored by ambitious divers.
Optimistic plaster caves
In the Russian region of Perm near the Kungur River is the longest underwater gypsum cave in the world, the “Ordinskaya”. The mineral-rich rock filters the ice-cold water of the cave and the white plaster makes the crystal-clear water shine in an unreal beautiful blue. So far, cave divers have discovered over 4000 meters of cave system.
At 236 kilometers, the “Optymistychna Petschera” in the west of Ukraine, the “Optimist Cave”, the third longest cave on earth, the longest gypsum cave in the world and the longest cave in Europe is one of the 10 largest caves in the world. Various cavities with gypsum crystals can be found in a layer of rock from sea deposits. The cave discovered in 1965 is not yet open to tourists.
Fire and Ice
Volcanic origin is the longest and deepest lava tube in the world, the “Kazumura Cave” in Hawaii, also called “Kilauea Caverns of Fire”. At the foot of the Kilauea volcano, the cave leads 65 kilometers long and 1101 meters deep into the lava rock that was only created 300 to 500 years ago. There are more than 100 entrances and the option to book a guided tour of parts of the cave.
The largest ice cave in the world is located in Austria. The “Eisriesenwelt” in Werfen in the Salzburg region impresses with a total length of 42 kilometers and is a popular destination. Fantastic ice formations are created by freezing melt water and impress visitors.
Fascinating ups and downs
Speleologists have to abseil 2191 meters in the Voronya cave in Georgia to get to the bottom of the deepest cave in the world. The high-alpine limestone cave near the Black Sea is extremely steep in large parts and also houses special invertebrates at a depth of 2 kilometers. The deepest direct shaft of a cave on earth is the Vrtoglavica cave in Slovenia. A shaft cave leads steeply downwards 603 meters.
In a remote part of Vietnam in the middle of the jungle, the 250 meters high and 150 meters wide cave “Hang Son Doong”, which means mountain river cave, was discovered by British researchers in 2009. So far, a total length of 56 kilometers has been researched; the largest cave room would offer space for a skyscraper or a jet plane. The Sawarak chamber in the Good Luck Cave on the Malaysian island of Borneo also has enormous dimensions at around 70 meters high, 700 meters long and 400 meters wide. Both caves are clearly among the 10 largest caves in the world.