Škocjan Caves

Škocjan Caves

about it poured a drink-offering to all the dead,
first with mead and thereafter with sweet wine,
and for the third time with water, and I sprinkled white meal thereon (…),
I took the sheep and cut their throats over the trench,
and the dark blood flowed forth, and lo,
the spirits of the dead that be departed gathered them from out of Erebus (…),
then did I speak to my company and command them
to flay the sheep which even now lie slain by the pitiless sword,
and to consume them with fire, and to make prayer to the gods,
to mighty Hades and to dread Persephone.

(The Odyssey, Book XI)


Location: Karst Plateau Map

Average Temperature: 12 °C

Open: throughout a year

Contact Information:

Tel. +386 (0)5 70 82 100

Fax: +386 (0)5 70 82 105

Email: psj.info@psj.gov.si


Description of Skocjan Caves

Škocjan Caves is a massive underground system in Karst Plateau of South- West Slovenia. In 1986 it was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. First reference to these magnificent underground canyon of the Reka River date back to the 2nd century BC when it was described by Posidonius of Apamea (135 BC). Skocjan was inhabited for the past 10,000 years (Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age) and the tradition of veneration continued to the Roman times. Ancient people believed that this is the entrance to the kingdom of Aides or Hades, Kingdom of the Dead. Sounds of flowing water inside these natural passages convinced that this was a legendary river that all dead had to cross. Many ancient pilgrims flocked here in hopes to met their dead relatives. Those who were foolish enough to venture inside these labyrinths often had their wishes granted. Ancient maps portrayed this destination as an entrance to underworld. Later they were seen on Lazius-Ortelius map (1561) and Mercator's Novus Atlas (1637).
Today the caves are open to the public throughout a year. They were first visited by tourists in 1819 and that tradition continues to this day. Parking area around these underground system is available and it is free of charge. All tour visits are guided and last about 1 hour and 30 minutes with a total length of 3 kilometers. Take comfortable shoes and something warm. The inside temperature in the cave is at average of 12 °C throughout a year. There is also underwater exploration of the cave, but this must be arranged with the Škocjan Caves Park Public Service Agency that manages the caves and give permits.


The river flows into the Škocjan Caves in the Great Valley and flows 34 km underground to the Adriatic Sea , where it flows as a source of the Timava River . In rainy weather, the view of the vast river that disappears underground at the bottom of the Great Valley, 160 m below the surface, is magnificent and terrifying. The area of ​​the Škocjan Caves Regional Park is archaeologically extremely rich and indicates a continuous settlement here since ten thousand years ago. The valuable and rich archeological finds in the Musja Cave , where the cave sanctuary was at the end of the Bronze Age and in the Iron Age , indicate the influence of Greek civilization. This area was certainly one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the three thousand years agoEurope, and especially in the Mediterranean , where it had an important cultic significance in connection with the afterlife and communication with the ancestral spirits.

The first document recorded is from 1819, an official report to the District Office in Sežana , in which an unknown writer describes the Škocjan Caves. 20 years later, Jakob Svetina , a plumbing master from Trieste , climbed 120 m farther down the river with a raft to find out how to get water for the Trieste water supply system. At that time (in 1851) the miners from Idrija went down the deepest - 450 m.

Voice of the beauty of the Škocjan Caves spread throughout Europe in the 19th century. The cave attracted speleologists dr. Adolf Schmidl and the Miller Brothers from Vienna, from the Czech Republic Anton Hanke and William Putick and from Trieste Joseph Marinic , and later many Italians . The first breaking paths were led by men from nearby villages who were also excellent guides.

The part of the caves where the tourist tour begins today - this is the Silent Cave - was discovered by native guides in 1904. The first explorers were not interested in the cave because it is a blind sleeve without running water. In 1938, a shorter tunnel was cut from the Globočak valley for more convenient access for visitors. In 1958 electric lighting was installed in the caves.