The mere mention of a cave conjures up images of a gloomy dark place filled with bats and rodents, so most people never try to explore a cave any further. However, these caves are very different from popular perception. Formed by the action of water on rocks and limestone boulders, these caves are some of the most beautiful in the world.
SON DONG CAVE, VIETNAM
This is one of the largest caves in the world and is very remarkable for the way it was formed. The name Son Dong Cave literally translates to River Mountain Cave, an allusion to the fact that the cave was formed when a river eroded to the bottom of the limestone mountain that formed the cave system below. Today the cave has more than 150 different networks through which underground rivers flow and dense forests also thrive within the cave. These remote cave tours have been privatized and run by a company called Oxalis who charge $3000 to explore the caves.
NAICA MINE CAVE, MEXICO
This cave also known as crystal mining cave is one of the most stunning crystal caverns in the world as it has some of the largest natural crystals found to date. This cave was discovered in 2000 under a limestone quarry and is open only to researchers, not tourists. This is mainly because the crystals are very fragile and the caves are very hot from the heat of the Earth’s core. The crystals are made of gypsum and are believed to have formed when very hot water from deep within the earth cooled very quickly, thus forming crystals around the gypsum. The largest crystal in this cave is 500,000 years old.
VATNAJOKULL GLETTER CAVE, ICELAND
This glacial cave is one of the most beautiful caves in the world and is famous for the spectacular ice formations and blue color visible inside the cave. It is formed by the simultaneous melting and compression of glacial water which gives the ice its unique texture and the trapped air bubbles make the ice transparent and reflect light at different angles. Visiting the cave in summer is dangerous due to melting ice and falling ice, but visiting in winter is a truly unforgettable experience.
GLOWWORMS CAVE, NEW ZEALAND
As the name suggests, this cave is home to thousands of glowworms and has the highest population of glowworms in the country. The worms find a dark and humid environment suitable for their growth and visitors can get a stunning view of the swarms of flying glowing worms shining in the cave. Bioluminescence, a feature found in very few insects makes glowing worms one of the most beautiful insects to observe. Today, the cave is a major tourist attraction and is visited by hundreds of visitors every year.
Batu Caves, MALAYSIA
This limestone cave in the Gombak district of Malaysia was formed from the erosion of the Batu River that divides the mountain. There are many caves in this area and most of them are interconnected because of the river water that flows through them. The caves were used as shelters by the ancient tribes who lived in this area and today many of them are Hindu temples. The most famous one is located in the main cave which is also one of the largest and tourists have to climb 272 steps to reach the temple. It is the holiest and most popular Hindu temple in Malaysia.
CAVES IN ALGARVE, PORTUGAL
The sparkling electric blue waters of Portugal are enough to captivate any visitor, but for those who need even more incentive to visit the country, the Algarve’s coastline offers some of the world’s unique geological formations and caves. These caves located on the coast of the Algarve were formed due to the erosion of rock by the constant action of waves. These caves can only be reached by boat and have three openings. The large hole at the top serves as a skylight and lets the sunlight fall on visitors admiring the cave and the water below.
MARBLE CAVE, PANTAGONIA
This cave network is located along the Chile-Argentina border in the most remote part of South America. As the name suggests, these caves have formed in Lake General Carrera due to the continuous erosion of marble over thousands of years. The region currently has some of the largest marble deposits in the world. This cave is included in the list of the most extraordinary caves in the world because of the stunning visual effects that visitors can witness when they visit the cave. The sun’s rays fall on the white marble and bounce off the turquoise blue waters creating a shimmering effect. The water level varies according to the season and time of year so you are guaranteed to get a different view every time you visit.