Slovenian Karst: Exploring Predjama Castle, Postojna and Skocjan Caves

Slovenian Karst

When I look back at our trip to Slovenia last year, the first things that always pops into my mind are Postojna and Skocjan Caves. In recent years I have become fascinated with the complicated and exciting life of this underworld phenomena (in large part due to BBC’s Planet Earth: Caves episode) and try to add a visit to a cave every chance I get. If you love caves as much as I do, then you should know that there’s no better place to explore them in Europe than in Slovenia. In fact, the mere definition of karst formations is rumored to be derived from the Slovenian limestone plateau known as “Kras”.

But what is Slovenian karst all about? Read on to find out more:

What is Karst?

The term karst refers to a unique type of landscape. It can be found in soluble limestone terrain, which, through a long period of time, is eroded and excavated by rivers and rainwater. Caves, sinkholes, cenotes, ponors and poljes all fall under this category, among others.

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

I’ll be showing you other types of karst formations in the future, but in this article I will be focusing mostly on caves. Although being located underground and much harder to reach than other karst formations, caves are probably the most scenic and spectacular of them all. The way the river twists, turns and carves its way through the limestone, it never fails to “build” exceptional formations along the way. And while accessing it might prove challenging (especially in caves which are not arranged show caves), it’s all the more deserving in the end.

But without getting into too much detail, here are three absolute must-sees you should include in your itinerary when exploring the Slovenian karst region:

Predjama Castle

Kicking off the list with a castle might seem like a contradictory move, seeing as how I said I will be discussing caves. But hear me out. This Renaissance gem located in south-central Slovenia is actually a castle built in the mouth of a cave! Mind-blown? So was I!

Slovenian Karst - Predjama Castle

Although it was raining when we got there, we still managed to explore the castle’s grounds with the help of umbrellas. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go inside, as we still needed to fit in two caves in the day’s visit. Inside you can find a permanent exhibit seasoned with fun historical facts about long-lost medieval times, an armory and a few possessions owned by rulers of the past. In the summer months, between May and September, visitors can also get a peek at the cave passage below the castle.

Being in a hurry, we had to do with merely observing the castle from the outside. Nevertheless, it was a truly unique and memorable experience, since there aren’t many sights in the world which combine the elements of nature and man-made architecture in such ways. All in all, I’d definitely recommend a stop at the lovely Predjama Castle during your exploration of the Slovenian karst, and if you can, make time to go inside as well!

Slovenian Karst - Predjama Castle

Slovenian Karst - Predjama Castle

 

Practical Info:

Opening times: Visiting times depend on the seasons – check timetable for more info!

Location: Google Maps

Entrance Fees: 13,8 € (Adults) / 11 € (Students) / 8,3 € (children < 15 yrs) / 1 € (children < 1 yr)

Further info: Official Website

Slovenian Karst - Predjama Castle

Postojna Cave

Situated 10 kilometers to the west of Predjama Castle, you’ll find Postojna Cave, the crown jewel of the Slovenian karst formations and one of the most-visited caves in the world. Although the entrance fee might seem a bit steep at first, i honestly think that you won’t regret a dime you spend on this tour. Keep in mind that this is the attraction that gets the most tourists in the entire country, so get ready for the crowds! But even the expensive ticket and the annoying hordes of people are worth the effort when you get to see a first-hand view of this:

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Once you’ve paid your ticket and faced the crowds, you’ll be instructed to head towards the small train which will take you deep underground. That’s right – you get to travel 4 kilometers by train (round-trip) into the heart of the cave!

Although I was initially reluctant about a tour involving access with a cave due to the commercialization of it all, I was actually pleasantly surprised. As it turned out, the train ride offered an incredible insight to otherwise inaccessible places with fascinating stalagmites and stalagtites above our heads. It also gave us a chance to see 5 kilometers in total of the cave’s total 24 kilometers, which was an additional bonus.

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Once we got off the train, the exploration continued on foot. The downside of group tours of such a huge size is the fact that chances are high you won’t be able to hear everything your guide says. So keep a close eye on him/her and try your best to stay close in order to hear the juicy details of this fascinating Slovenian karst formation.

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

The path is well-marked and the trail is easy to access in general to children and seniors alike. Make sure you take time to really enjoy and delve into all the amazing karst formations you’ll see and just enjoy the tour (even if the crowd bothers you). At the end of the tour you’ll get to see a few charming little cave salamanders, often referred to as “baby dragons”. Before you hop back on to the train, you can also encounter the immense force of the majestic Pivka River, which shaped the entire Postojna Cave system.

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Practical Info:

Opening times: Visiting times depend on the seasons – check timetable for more info!

Location: Google Maps

Entrance Fees: 25,8 € (Adults) / 20,6 € (Students) / 15,5 € (children 5-16 yrs) / 1 € (children < 1 yr)

Further info: Official Website

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Slovenian karst - Postojna Cave

Skocjan Cave

Located about 50 kilometers away from Predjama Castle and 40 kilometers southwest of Postojna Cave is the amazing Skocjan Cave system. Another exceptional example of the rich Slovenian karst phenomena, this cave should also be on your must-see list. If you think you’ve seen it all by visiting Postojna, then you’re very wrong. At Skocjan you will encounter a very different experience, exploring the cave on foot, experiencing first-hand the unbelievable power of nature and all the while feeling like an insignificant little dot in this massive universe. Yep, that’s the experience you’ll get at Skocjan Cave.

Slovenian karst - Skocjan Cave

The two collapse doline at Skocjan Cave

Taking photos inside the cave is forbidden, which I think is a great thing! At least you can finally enjoy some quality time inside one of the most amazing cave systems in the world without feeling the need to constantly click a button. You can pay attention to your guide (when we were inside, the group was much smaller than at Postojna), be observant and just breathe in the experience.

Compared to the robust Reka River flowing with immense power beneath you and the mighty height of the cave rooms above you, you’ll definitely feel like a little insignificant speck of dust during the tour. Skocjan Cave puts on display the massive force of nature, so many times underestimated by man, and that’s what’s so great about it. You won’t see so many stalagmites and stalagtites as in Postojna and you can’t even take a selfie inside, but you’ll finish the tour with a greater appreciation of this wonderful world we live in.

Slovenian karst - Skocjan Cave

At the end of the tour, once you see the light of day again, you can photograph the mouth of the cave at leisure. Take a few extra minutes to climb up to the viewing point, from where you can see not only the mouth of the cave from above, but the entire karst system, made up of a smaller and larger dolina, the strong Reka River and above all the excitement – a simple village with locals leading their simple lives without thinking too much about the ever-changing natural wonder on which they reside on.

Slovenian karst - Skocjan Cave

Practical Info:

Opening times: Visiting times depend on the season and the type of tour you opt for – check timetable for more info!

Location: Google Maps

Entrance Fees: You can opt for two types of tours at Skocjan Cave, differing in length and trail. Please consult the official website for further details. Entrance fees:

Through the underground canyon tour: 

Nov-Feb: 16 € (Adults) / 12 € (Students+Seniors / 7,5 € (Children)

Mar-Jun + Sept-Oct: 18 € (Adults) / 14 € (Students+Seniors) / 9 € (Children)

July, August: 20 € (Adults) / 16 € (Students+Seniors) / 10 € (Children)

Through the underground canyon tour + Following the Reka River underground tour: 

Apr-Oct: 24 € (Adults) / 18 € (Students+Seniors) / 12,5 € (Children)

Further info: Official Website

Slovenian Karst - Skocjan Cave from above

Although we’re not even halfway through our trip to Slovenia, you’ve probably already noticed how beautiful and diverse it is. If you’re more of a city sightseer, you’ll definitely appreciate the country’s beautiful capital, Ljubljana, and the second largest city, Maribor. Nature buffs will instantly fall in love with Lake Bohinj and its surroundings. And there’s plenty more to explore, just stay tuned! We’ve only just begun!

If you liked the post, feel free to Pin it and help spread the word about the magnificent Slovenian karst everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!

Slovenian Karst - Predjama Castle, Postojna and Skocjan Caves

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