A hidden world beneath our feet
There is an invisible force that supposedly “killed the cat”, which drives humans forward, impelling them to push boundaries in a seemingly impossible direction – curiosity. This force is to blame for humans’ constant urge for exploration and getting into tight spaces in search for areas unknown to man that they can visit and experience. No one is immune to it, not even the modern-day curious tourist, who is always on the lookout for new challenges, searching for the unknown.
The surface of our planet is magical, full of beauty and endless possibilities for adventure, and only seemingly compact and stable. Inside the Earth’s solid crust lies a whole universe in its own right, inviting you to direct your gaze towards its depths. There you will find a network of structures, caves and pits resembling lacework of unknown sizes, depths and shapes. Humans have always avoided the dark subterranean spaces as they evoked fear and gave rise to myths of monsters, hell and falling into its depths with no chance of return. However, curiosity got the best of them and encouraged the bravest among them to descend into the fearsome depths and discover some of the most wondrous sights and natural beauties in the eternal darkness.
What lies beneath its lands?
Croatia, nicknamed “Our Beautiful Homeland” by its people, literally sits on holes and rocks, and is one of a few countries with such a large karst-covered area. Over fifty percent of Croatia’s land area – seventy if you count the sea – is made of limestone that is “easily” dissolved in water. Millennia of water acting on the limestone have created a uniquely beautiful and specific relief known as the Dinaric karst that covers the Croatian regions of Istria, the Croatian Littoral, Gorski Kotar, Kordun, Lika and Dalmatia with its islands, all the way to the Croatian border with Montenegro. If we add Adriatic islands to the equation, a group of over a thousand limestone islands which together form one of the largest island groups in the world, we can proudly say that Croatia has a veritable underground El Dorado.
The karst landscape in Croatia is known around the world for its deep pits, with the largest number of deep speleological structures located on the Velebit Mountain.
Here is some trivia based on the findings on over nine thousand speleological sites that have been explored so far:
- The deepest three pits (deeper than 1,000 m) in Croatia are the Lukina jama-Trojama cave system, Slovačka jama pit and the Velebit Mountain cave system;
- The longest speleological structure in Croatia is the Kita Gaćešina–Draženova puhaljka cave system (over 37 km long);
- The Đulin ponor-Medvedica cave system, located beneath the town of Ogulin spreads over 16.4 km horizontally;
- The biggest underground caves in terms of area are: Munižaba with a volume of 1.9 million m3, Burinka with 1.1 million m3 , and Kita Gaćešina with 1.4 million m3.
Explore the Underground Wonders of Croatia
Both known and unknown speleological sites hold special and rare riches – the decorative formations in caves, endemic animal species (such as the olm), valuable palaeontological and archaeological finds, etc. It comes as no surprise then that they have long been recognised as sites of special interest to Croatia and that they are specially protected – researching speleological sites that aren’t open to the public requires a special authorisation from the competent ministry.
However, those curious about underground exploration need not worry, as there are many beautiful caves and pits in Croatia that can be visited by tourists. Let the experienced organisers and guides lead you into a world completely different than our own. We invite you to peer into the darkness of the karst underground, into an obscure world of caves, pits and chasms that cut into the insides of hills, mountains and islands. You will be able to see first-hand what water can do to the karst landscape and become familiar with nature’s decorations – stalagmites, stalactites and stalagnates, underground water flows and lakes, and tiny endemic animals that have found their unique habitats in the eternal darkness. Please keep in mind that all of the animals inhabiting the karst underground areas are strictly protected; it is prohibited to disturb them, catch them or remove them from their natural habitat. This is an extremely vulnerable world thriving in secrecy, in the darkest corners of the karst underground, far from sight.