Many of us are unaware of the most breathtaking travel destinations beneath our feet. While some are human-made constructions, others are fascinating natural wonders. Like scuba diving and space travel, a trip to underground places is a much more adventurous experience. It also provides the chance to learn history and discover many mysterious things. Here, we discuss the top 10 amazing underground tourist spots to visit.
10Ruby Falls, United States
In 1928, Leo Lambert accidentally discovered Ruby Falls, the deepest and tallest underground waterfall in the United States open to the public. Named after Leo Lambert’s wife, ‘Ruby’, this thundering waterfall is around 30 million years old. An underground stream, fed by rainwater and natural springs, formed Ruby Falls 1120 feet below the ground. Every year, over half a million tourists visit this breathtaking waterfall.
In 1930, Ruby Falls Cave opened to tourists and was the first cave to feature electric lights for this purpose. The temperature inside the cave remains a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The water of Ruby Falls contains a large amount of magnesium, making it a natural laxative. Additionally, the cave features many popular cave formations, such as stalactites and stalagmites, columns, drapery, and flowstone.
9Luray Caverns, United States
Luray Caverns is a massive series of underground caves deep beneath Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in Eastern America. Since its discovery in 1878, it has become one of the most popular underground tourist spots in the United States, attracting millions of visitors. The caverns are home to The Great Stalacpipe Organ, recognized as the world’s largest musical instrument.
Visitors can explore enormous chambers, marvel at weird-shaped formations, and admire shimmering draperies. Some chambers have 10-story high ceilings adorned with towering stone columns, while others showcase crystal-clear subterranean pools and lakes. The cavern system is famous for speleothems such as columns, stalagmites, mudflows, stalactites, flowstone, and mirrored pools. Visitors can also enjoy the beauty of Dream Lake, a water spring with a mirror-like appearance.
8Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is in Wieliczka, southern Poland, within the Kraków metropolitan area. This UNESCO-recognized World Heritage site attracts over a million people yearly with its magnificent carvings and statues made entirely of salt. The underground mine features kilometers of walkways and ramps, breathtaking salt statues, underground lakes, chapels, and museums.
Being one of Central Europe’s most popular underground tourist destinations, Poland has designated the mine as one of their official national Historic Monuments. On a more-than-700-year-old Wieliczka Salt Mine tour, visitors can descend 140 meters below the surface and explore the mine’s cultural and natural treasures, including its underground lakes and elaborate salt carvings. The mine has played a significant role in Poland’s wealth over the centuries.
7The Paris Catacombs, France
The history of the Paris Catacombs dates back to the late eighteenth century. These are underground ossuaries from old quarry tunnels in Paris, France. During the 18th century, cemeteries ran out of space, and people couldn’t bury bodies properly, spreading diseases. To prevent a significant public health threat, officials decided to bury the city’s dead underground. Thus, they built catacombs to hold the remains of over six million people, below 20 meters, stretching around 200 miles.
Initially, people began to throw bodies into the crypt tunnels via cart when opened to the public in 1809. Later, workers started displaying the bones in decorative shapes such as hearts and circles. The barrel is one of the most well-known decorations, while mushroom cultivation is the oddest decoration in the catacombs.
6The Waitomo Caves, King Country, New Zealand
One of the most famous natural attractions in New Zealand is the Waitomo Caves. People have been visiting these caves for centuries, and they are a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Exploring these caves is an exciting underground adventure, filled with amazing rock formations and glowing New Zealand glowworms called Arachnocampa Luminosa.
Maori chief Tane Tinorau first discovered the caves in the 1800s. The caves feature sparkling formations in shades of pink, pale brown, and white, which adorn the walls and ceilings. The Waitomo region has three well-known caves: Ruakuri Cave, Lucky Strike, and Tumutumu Cave. These underground wonders are made of pure white limestone, and the glow worms illuminate the stalactites and stalagmites.
5Raufarholshellir lava tunnel, Iceland
Raufarholshellir is an amazing lava tunnel located just 30 minutes away from Reykjavík. It is one of Iceland’s longest and most popular lava tubes, easily accessible all year round. The tunnel is 4,500 feet long, with the central tunnel stretching 3,000 feet. It is up to 30 meters wide and has a headroom of up to 10 meters, making it one of the largest lava tunnels in Iceland.
The longest cave formed as a lava tube during the Leitahraun eruption is located east of Blafjoll mountains and is about 5,200 years old. The cave’s microbial mats contain various microorganisms, such as actinobacteria and acidobacteria. During winter, you can admire spectacular ice sculptures formed inside the cave entrance. Additionally, you can explore the rainbow-colored walls, holes in the ceiling, and stunning rock formations.
4Mammoth Cave National Park, United States
Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky, United States, is home to the world’s longest cave system, Mammoth Cave. The cave system, which formed over 280 million years ago, is a popular destination for explorers, with over 350 miles of mapped caves that continue to reveal new passageways. In addition to the caves, the park also boasts a diverse range of wildlife, including deer, foxes, beavers, wild turkeys, woodchucks, and muskrats.
The Green River, which runs through the park, is home to around 100 fish species. Visitors can explore the 41 miles of cave trails developed for tourists or take an underground boat tour in Lost River Cave. With over 2 million visitors yearly, Mammoth Cave National Park is one of the most fascinating underground spots to explore.
3Basilica Cistern, Turkey
The Basilica Cistern is an impressive historical building located in Istanbul. Byzantine Emperor Justinian I built it in AD 532, and it is a popular underground tourist destination. Due to the underground marble columns, it is called the “Yerebatan Cistern”. The name “Basilica Cistern” comes from the fact that it was on the site of a basilica. This underground structure has high brick walls, a brick floor, and a thick layer of brick dust mortar for water tightness.
Around 336 columns support this atmospheric reservoir to salvage it from other structures over the centuries. The cistern can hold up to 100,000 tons of water. Its main attraction is the Medusa-head column bases. Due to its cavernous depth, the best time to visit the Basilica Cistern is on a hot summer day.
The Eisriesenwelt is the largest ice cave system in the world, located in Werfen, Austria. It stretches an enormous 26 miles deep into the Hochkogel Mountain. The Salzach River created this natural limestone cave system through erosion. A scientist named Anton Posselt first discovered it in 1879. Visitors are only allowed to explore the first one-kilometer area of the cave, as the rest is covered in ice.
The Alexander von Mork Cathedral is one of the largest areas inside the cave and is the resting place of his ashes. Over 200,000 tourists visit the Eisriesenwelt every year. One of the main attractions is the Great Ice Embankment, where visitors can see the largest and tallest ice formations. The first stop for visitors is the Posselt Hall, where they can see the magnificent Posselt Tower Stalagmite. The cave temperature remains below freezing even in the summer and continues growing.
1Coober Pedy, Australia
Coober Pedy is a unique city that exists underground. Its population is around 3,500 people from over 40 different countries. This city is famous for its underground houses and as the “opal capital of the world”. Opal deposits are abundant here, and many of the jobs in Coober Pedy revolve around opal mining. Most people prefer to live in underground dugout houses to escape the high summer temperatures.
Coober Pedy has many attractions, including an opal gallery, museums, 30 shops, Umoona Opal Mine, and the Old Timers Mine. The city also has beautiful natural landscapes such as the Breakaways, the Painted Desert, and the Moon Plain. Additionally, Coober Pedy is a popular stopover point when traveling to Alice Springs. The graveyard and underground churches are the city’s most famous tourist destinations.