We see beautiful places everywhere we go; huge mountains, ridiculous plains, scary jungles and nice forests are all great places to experience nature, but how often do we venture into the world beneath us? Unless you’re an avid spelunker, or a troglodyte, the answer is probably not too often. Here we take a look at ten gorgeous examples of the world’s secret rooms underneath us.
We all remember the explanations; stalactites need to hold on “tight,” and if stalagmites try hard enough they just “might” reach the ceiling some day. At least, that’s one version out of countless rhymes and lessons children learn when studying caves. However they’re learned, they’re never fully understood until seen, and once seen they are never forgotten. Strange and wonderful at the same time, these formations and others like them that take thousands of years to grow, only take seconds to change a life forever when seen in their full splendor. To add to that appeal, every cave is different. Above we see two in stark contrast: First, the Onondoga Cave in Missouri, with strange rock “lilly pads” and “colons” as the photographer jokingly described them. Beneath that, the famed Reed Flute Cave in South China, creatively lit and spanning over 240 meters of acoustic cavern.
Fire and Ice
(images via Cap’n Surly, little frank, aaberg)
A number of things came together in an eons-long ballet of creation to make the caves that we find today. Most that we’d find throughout the world would fall into one of two major categories; either ice/water carved them out, or lava flows birthed them. These origins leave us with geologic oddities that are more like alien landscapes than anything we’ve ever experienced first-hand. We see the results above, with caves in Vietnam, Scotland, and Norway. The sea cave in Scotland is especially interesting to note; known as Fingal’s Cave. Though it is a sea cave now, its history is volcanic in nature, and left it with an unusually man-made appearance.
Cavernous: The REAL Meaning of the Word
(images via Hamed Saber, Bliss Tree, Alan Cressler, Trent Strohm)
It’s difficult to grasp the sheer size of some of these caves. The Ali Sadr water cave of Iran is so sprawling that over 11 kilometers deep have been discovered to date. It goes further! Next, in Borneo, the Deer Cave is known as the largest cave passage in the world. To get a sense of scale, the path seen in the photograph is actually the size of a country road. A more local example, the Hugden Grotto Cave in Tennessee is a beautifully carved chamber complete with accenting waterfalls. The Skocjan Caves of Slovenia are both beautiful and frightening, with a drop of over 150 meters into the frigid river flowing at its bottom. Already over 150 meters below the surface, this huge natural structure is a sight to behold, but by eyes only. The photograph taken had to be taken quickly (and without flash), as there is no photography allowed in the cave. Luckily for those of us unable to make a quick trip to Slovenia, there are plenty of rule-breakers out there with a good aesthetic eye.
(image via Will Burrard-Lucas)
If you hadn’t noticed, the ray of sunlight shining down into this monstrous cavern is landing on two tiny people. This Moroccan cave is one of the largest in North Africa, and part of an equally enormous network. With extraordinary underground chambers such as this scattered about throughout the region, it’s really no wonder why people have chosen to live in them for centuries. The greatest part about these caves, is that they can be visited with nothing more than travel money and free time. Anyone who has visited even one of these examples should consider themselves lucky to have experienced such natural beauty.