Humans tend to focus on the things they can see while overlooking the beauty that lies underneath (metaphorically and literally). All around the world, there are pockets of Earth that have been chiseled out through time and erosion and left us with caves and passages so vast and stunning that most people can’t even fathom them. These caves are underwater, inside mountains, or just in holes deep within the ground. Take a look at the most unbelievable caves on our planet and learn about a whole other world beneath our feet.
We’re surprised that deer aren’t afraid to wander into Deer Cave.
Orda Cave, Russia
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Orda Cave is located near the shore of the Kungur River, outside of Orda, Perm Krai in Russia. The gypsum crystal cave lies beneath the Ural Mountains and stretches 3.2 miles. Being one of the largest underwater caves discovered, it is ranked as the biggest underwater gypsum cave in the world.
The minerals in the cave make the water ultra-clear with visibility of over 50 yards. There is a local myth about the “Lady of Orda Cave” who is said to live in the water underneath the cave, although this legend does not scare away adventurous photographers and cave explorers.
Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
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In April 2009, a British Caving team believed that they discovered the biggest cave passage in the world. It is over 650 feet tall and 500 feet wide. It stretches two and a half miles. The reason it took so long to find it is because it is hidden by the tropical rainforest inside of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
While from above, it may seem like a quiet cave, below, the Rao Thuong River courses through it, still eroding at the limestone within. Inside of the cave, several areas have collapsed, creating 100-foot natural skylights which contain their own ecosystems.
Deer Cave, Malaysia
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Deer Cave is one of the numerous caves located in Gunung Mulu National Park near Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. It earned its name from the deer that frequent the cave to lick the salt rocks and take shelter. Formerly, Deer cave was known as the biggest cave passage in the world until it was surpassed by the discovery of Hang Son Doong Cave in Vietnam.
Over 3 million bats used the cave to roost with the top of the cave being approximately 460 feet tall. The cave’s shape and features are attributed to the geology of the island of Borneo, Malaysia itself. The limestone which the island is made of has slowly been eroded from precipitation and wind with rainwater slowly chiseling away at it as well.
The crystal cave coming up looks like it was man-made.
Blue Grotta Cave, Italy
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The Blue Grotto is one of the main attractions of Capri, Italy. It is a sea cave off the coast which is famous for its fluorescent blue water. This phenomenon occurs due to the caves two entrances. The first is the main entrance where only a rowboat can fit in one at a time and the second from an even bigger hole underneath the entrance.
The light that comes through the second hole is just above the waterline which lights the water inside of the cave. Here, tourists can swim in this magical-looking water that occurs only by chance.
Krubera Cave, Abkhazia
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The Krubera Cave is located in the Arabika Mastiff of Abkhazia. The Arabika Mastiff is one of the largest high-mountain limestone karst mastiffs in the Western Caucus and houses the cave. The Kubera Cave is the deepest known cave on earth. Known also as the Voronja Cave, meaning “cave of the crows” in Russian, it became known as the deepest cave in the world in 2001 when the Ukranian Speleological Asociation got to a depth of 5,610 feet.
Then, in 2004, the expedition broke the speleology record when they reached a depth of over 6,600 feet. Exploration of the cave began back in the 1960s and has continued up until today.
Cave Of The Crystals, Mexico
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Discovered in 2000, the Cave of the Crystals in Chihuahua, Mexico are located directly below the Cave of Swords which were found in 1910. However, in the Cave of the Crystals, the crystals are the largest natural selenite crystals ever discovered with some of the biggest being 40 feet tall and 13 feet wide! Temperatures in the cave remain between 120 and 136 degrees Fahrenheit with 90 to 99 percent humidity.
Today, the cave remains relatively unexplored with researcher’s equipment only allowing for around 40-minute explorations at a time. The cave was only able to be explored because the Naica Mine unintentionally emptied it. However, in 2017, it was re-flooded to allow the crystals to continue to grow.
Fingal’s Cave in Scotland looks like something out of a fantasy novel.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Philippines
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The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Parks is one of the New Seven Wonders of Natures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in a protected area of the Philipines, approximately 50 miles north of the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. In 2010, it was discovered that the subterranean river has a second floor which has led to the creation of several underground waterfalls flowing into the cave’s main entrance.
Inside of the cave, there is a 1,000-foot cave dome that is home to bats and full of natural rock formations. The underground river can be navigated by boats for only around 2.5 hours before the lack of oxygen becomes too dangerous.
Dachstein Ice Cave, Austria
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The Dachstein Ice Caves are located near Obertraun, Austria on the banks of Lake Hallstatt. These underground caves were formed over centuries with the oldest layers of ice being over 1,000 years old. The caves attract over 200,000 tourists a year who come to see the incredible ice formations that have formed within the depths of the caves. The structures were created by thawing snow that drained into the cave only to be frozen again once inside.
Even during the summer, these ice formations remain frozen, making it a tourist attraction all year round with new formations beginning to form each spring as water drips into the cave and then freezes.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
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Located in Kentucky, United States, the Mammoth Cave National Park is the most extensive cave system in the world. It is more than 400 miles long, doubling the length of Mexico’s Sac Actun, the world’s second longest cave system. On October 27, 1981, the park became a World National Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1990.
The cave system is regarded as very stable because the cave developed in thick Mississippian-aged limestone that is covered in a layer of sandstone. The National Park Service offers various cave tours that range from one to six hours in length for those who want to explore.
Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
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Fingal’s Cave is located on the uninhabited island of Staffa, Scotland. It is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and was named after the hero of a poem written by 18th-century Scottish poet, Jame Macpherson.
The cave is made up of hexagonally-jointed basalt columns which create astounding natural acoustics from when the arch-shaped roof meets with the crashing waves. Volcanic activity created the island with Fingal’s Cave being the best example of the incredible rock formations on the island. There are even tourism opportunities with some ships allowing passengers to explore the entrance.
Glowworm cave is sure to astound even the hardest to impress people.
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
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Located in the Guadalupe Mountains in New Mexico, United States, the Carlsbad Cavern is located inside of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The caverns have become the main attraction of the park and feature a large chamber known as the “Big Room” which is 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high.
In regards to cave chamber, this is the fifth largest in North America and the 28th-largest in the entire world. Today, the caverns are accessible to the public where visitors can hike on their own on the established routes, or take guided tours for further information.
Prometheus Cave, Georgia
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Prometheus, otherwise known as Kumistavi Cave, is located in proximity to the Georgian town of Tskhaltubo in the West of the country. The cave was discovered in 1984, and it was decided almost immediately that it was going to be developed into a tourist attraction. It is the largest cave in Georgia with only one-tenth of the total cavern available for tourists to explore.
However, even that one-tenth of the cave can take an hour to complete the designated route. Inside of the cave, there are stalagmites, stalactites, waterfalls, subterranean rivers, and lakes — all with a fair amount of bats although they keep to themselves.
Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
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The Glowworm Caves are situated at Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand. Although the underground river and caves themselves are a sight to behold, the main attraction is the Arachnocampa Luminosa or “glowworm” species that inhabit the cave. These glowworms are found exclusively in New Zealand, so this is something you cannot see anywhere else.
The glowworms are no bigger than a mosquito, and millions of them cover the cave walls, lightly illuminating the entire cave. Guided tours go through three levels and end with a boat ride in which the way is lit only by the glowworms.
If you have the rare opportunity to visit the Marble Cathedral, do it.
Reed Flute Cave, China
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The Reed Flute Cave gets its name for the type of reed that grows outside, which is used to be made into flutes. Also known as “The Palace of Natural Arts,” it is a top-rated tourist attraction in Guilin, Guangxi, China. It is a natural limestone cave that has been formed over 18 million years. The cave is no recent discovery though, as there are more than 70 ink inscriptions on the walls that date bate to the Tang Dynasty in 792 AD.
It’s location, however, was lost until refugees rediscovered it in the 1940s. Today, the cave’s abundant amount of stone formations are lit by artificial light that makes the stones seem multicolored.
Breiðamerkurjökull Glacial Cave, Iceland
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Breiðamerkurjökull is an outlet glacier that is part of the Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland. The opening of the glacier is a major attraction to tourists where there is also access to the Breiðamerkurjökull glacial caves. With a guided tour, visitors can see inside of the cave. The most striking feature is the ice, which is an intense blue that can almost be disorienting to look at. This is because it is hidden from the sun.
The entrance to these caves is not far from the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon although they are strictly prohibited from solo exploration as glaciers are incredibly unstable and dangerous.
Melissani Cave, Greece
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On the island of Kefalonia, Greece lies the Melissani Cave and the Melissani Lake inside. The cave itself is surrounded by dense forest. There is walking access to the inside where the walls are honey-brown, and the turquoise water changes color with the time of the day.
During the cave’s excavation in 1962, ancient oil lamps and plates were discovered depicting the Greek myth of the god Pan and several nymphs. The cave was believed to have been the place where the nymph Melissanthi drowned after being rejected by Pan.
The Marble Cathedral Cave, Chile
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The Marble Cathedral has been sculpted out of the turquoise water from South America’s second largest freshwater lake, General Carrera in Patagonia, Chile. It is a small glacial slit which gives the lake’s water its color and ability to erode the marble into such smooth formations. Unfortunately, the cave is difficult to get to. Visitors must go to Santiago, Chile, fly another 800 miles to Coyhaique, and then drive 200 miles to the lake.
Depending on the weather and time of the year, the water can change colors from light turquoise to dark blue which then affects the appearance inside of the Marble Cathedral. The water levels also affect the accessibility to parts of the cave and the light that reaches inside.
Dos Ojos Cenote, Mexico
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Dos Ojos or “Two Eyes” is part of an underwater cave system in Tulum, located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Exploration of the cave system began in 1987 and continues today. In 2018, a connection between Dos Ojos and Sac Actun was found, making Dos Ojos part of Sac Actun.
This connection between the two then made Sac Actun the most extensive underwater cave system in the world. The cave system got its name from two adjacent cenotes that look like a pair of eyes and share a cavern. The water in the caves is also particularly clear because rainwater is filtered through the limestone and there is very little soil to be found.
Niah Cave, Malaysia
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Located on the island of Borneo, Malaysia, Niah Cave is currently the site of a significant archeological expedition since clues were found about man’s prehistoric existence. Not only is the cave magnificent to look at, but it also shows signs of early Pleistocene habitats such as flakes from basic chopping tools and the remains of an adolescent male from around 38,000 BC.
Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the cave in 1984, its significance was soon recognized. The cave is gigantic with five openings, including a mouth that is 300 feet high and 600 feet wide. Parts of the cave are wet and damp while others are bright and dry, making them sensible places for early humans to live.
Jenolan Cave, Australia
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The Jenolan Caves are some of the largest and most famous caves in Australia. They are west of the Blue Mountains in the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. In addition to their beauty, they are also considered to be some of the most ancient open caves ever discovered.
Inside of the caves, there are Silurian marine fossils and some calcite formations that are completely white. Altogether, there are more than 25 miles of multi-level passages with over 300 entrances. The caves are also on the list of protected areas within the World Heritage Site.