Our planet is filled with breathtaking places and landscapes, but let’s leave the surface, go underground, and visit the world’s most amazing caves known to man. As we’re still discovering these incredible places right beneath our feet, these are the best caves in the world. So far.
- Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
- Vatnajokull Glacier Caves, Iceland
- Reed Flute Cave, China
- Phraya Nakhon Cave, Thailand
- Antelope Canyon, USA
- Kyaut Sae Cave, Myanmar
- Tham Lod Cave, Thailand
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
- Benagil Sea Cave, Portugal
- Batu Caves, Malaysia
- Giant Crystal Cave, Naica Mine, Mexico
- The Ice Caves Of Kamchatka, Mutnovsky Volcano, Russia
- Mendenhall Glacier Cave, USA
- Fingal Cave, Scotland
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Son Dong is the largest cave in the world. In fact it is so big, it has its own river and weather system. It was discovered 8 years ago and opened to public for only 4 years now. But visiting it takes more than just buying tickets and getting in.
A short, but entertaining history
In 1990, Ho Khanh, a local villager was out hunting. Getting lost, he stumbled across an opening in a cliff, in the jungles of UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. Driven by curiosity, Ho further investigated what seemed to be a huge cave system.
As he stepped inside, he noticed clouds forming and could hear what seemed to be sound of an inner river (hence the name Hang Son Doong – Mountain River Cave). As Ho felt a strong wind coming from within the cave, he decided to return and find his way back home. Which he did, a few days later.
Throughout the years he wanted to return but couldn’t find its way back to the cave again.
In the following years, two scientists from the British Cave Research Association heard about this mysterious cave from Ho Khanh. They spent the next 18 years trying to find it, with no luck.
But one day, in 2008, Ho found the same opening he stumbled across years back, while on another hunting trip. He carefully took note of the path to it and one year later he was able to come back to Hang Son Doong Cave with the two British scientists.
Son Doong was discovered by Howard and Deb Limbert guided by local villager Ho Khanh in 2009.
How big this cave actually is
During their first expedition within the cave, Howard and Deb encountered a huge 80 meters high calcite barrier. They were forced to postpone further venturing inside. It was only in 2010 that they finally managed to pass that natural barrier and discovered what was named the world largest cave.
The cave measures 5km (3.1 miles) long, 200 meters (655 feet) tall and 150 meters (492 feet) wide. In fact this cave is so big it could easily fit in an entire New York City block, skyscrapers included.
The Mountain River Cave also holds the world’s largest stalagmites, measuring 80 meters high (262 feet).
With an age of 3 million years, Son Doong is considered to be one of the world’s youngest caves.
Getting there and when to visit Son Doong Cave
First of all travel to Vietnam, which is an amazing country. Once you get there you’ll have to search for ways to get to Ban Doong, an ethnic minority village.
This village is the only one within the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It is inhabited by less than 40 friendly people that still live like ages ago. This means the adventure starts even before getting inside this huge cave.
The price tag is around $3.000 per person, for a 5 days package.
In fact this entire journey is a hell of an adventure. You’ll get to hike for over 10 km through a luxurious jungle on your way to this natural wonder.
To make it happen, you’ll surely need some guidance, and Oxalis Adventure Vietnam can plan your entire trip to the cave and inside it for you and will take you there in great conditions.
The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has a tropical monsoon weather which means very high temperatures during summer (up to 40°C / 105.8° Fahreheit) and pretty high humidity. During winter the temperature cand drop as low as 6°C / 42.8° Fahrenheit.
It is not advisable to plan your tour of Son Doong Cave from October to December, during the typhoon season. The best time to visit the world’s largest cave is from February to August.
National Geographic created an incredible web-based tour of Hang Son Doong Cave, and you must experience it, trust me! Start your 360 degrees virtual journey.
Vatnajokull Glacier Caves, Iceland
Iceland is famous for its natural wonders and it’s only natural we find such amazing caves on these lands. The glacier is also home to hot springs and that is the root of the rich cavern system below it.
Iceland’s giant Vatnajokull is the largest glacier on the European continent and it is filled with ice caves. These ice caves change their size and form and can disappear from one year to another, or as well, new ones might form.
Each year, Icelanders hunt for new ice caves and decide which ones are safe to visit and which are not.
One thing’s for sure though, if you visit the Vatnajokull National Park during winter (it’s the only season you can get into these amazing caves) you will find, or actually be guided to a cave.
These majestic caves offer the perfect set for photographers thanks to the ice that is forming them. The colored ceilings offer shades of blue you won’t see anywhere else on earth.
Ice Cave Tour of the Vatnajokull Glacier starts at $190
The Vatnajokull Glacier Caves are formed by the melting glacial icewater during spring and summer – the time nature is carving new shapes in these incredible caves.
If you want to visit the Vatnajokull Glacier Caves head over to Guide to Iceland and book your tour. Read through the reviews and you’ll see how awe everybody’s feeling about their experience visiting these natural wonders.
The tours start at $190 – that’s an incredible price for a once in a lifetime experience. Remember, the shape and size of the caves won’t be the same the next year.
Reed Flute Cave, China
Named The Palace of Natural Arts thanks to its great number of rock formations of different size and color, the Reed Flute Cave is a 240m (787ft) long cave in Guangxi province, China.
A bit of history & some cool facts
Even though evidence of its popularity in ancient times was found, the cave was rediscovered in 1940 by a group of refugees fleeing the Japanese troops. 20 years later, Reed Flute Cave was once again opened to the public.
Legend has it Reed Flute Cave got its name from the reed growing just outside of it, thought to be made into flutes.
The rock formations inside were given poetic names such as the Crystal Palace, the Virgin Forest, Red Curtain, Mushroom Hill, Dragon Pagoda and Flower Mountain.
Some evidence of ancient visitors come from the 70 inscriptions emblazoned on the inner rocks. These were written by intellectuals who passed through the cave in times of the Tang Dynasty, dating back to 792AD.
There are many other legends surrounding Reed Flute and its inhabitants, but these are best uncovered once you get there in visit it. Which leads us to:
Visiting Reed Flute Cave
The cave is situated in the proximity of Guilin, a town just 5km (3.1 miles) away. Therefore, you won’t have a hard time finding a place to stay or things to do before or after you visit Reed Flute.
Phraya Nakhon Cave, Thailand
When you’ve had enough of Thailand’s perfect beaches and turquoise waters (if one can ever have enough of those), Phraya Nakhon Cave awaits, and get ready to be astonished.
Visiting Phraya Nakhon Cave requires a bit of legwork to reach it, as you’ll have to walk for about 30 minutes. Be prepared as the weather can be humid. A bottle of water will save the day, trust me, so take one with you.
The pavilion you see in the photos was constructed to commemorate the royal visit of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to the site in 1890.
Sitting in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, this amazing cave is made of three caverns. The natural erosion of the limestone provides a dramatic result as light streams down through the large openings in the cavern roof. The light and precipitation allowed in by the hole in the roof encourage plant life within the cave, which makes it even more fantastic.
Once you get in you’ll notice how Phraya Nakhon cave is like no other in the world. With its pavilion set in the middle, bathed in natural light, trees guarding it and a sea of stalactites and stalagmites surrounding them. It is a truly spectacular site!
If you’re looking for the perfect photo opportunity, go early! It is said the perfect sunlight stream going down on the pavilion happens from 10 to 12 AM.
Antelope Canyon, USA
If you ever wandered what being a narrow stream of water feels like (odd curiosity, eh?), you’ve got to visit the Antelope Canyon!
This is not the only slot canyon in the United states, but it is the most famous and simply put, the best one for visiting.
Best time to visit is between 10am – 12pm
The antelope Canyon is comprised of two parts, the Lower and the Upper Antelope. The Lower Antelope is less touristy as the canyon is much tighter. It is also cheaper to visit.
The Upper Antelope’s higher price does have its peaks. The most important of them? The light beam that made this world famous and got it featured in almost all top places to visit in the world.
On the other hand, the Lower Antelope can be explored more freely. You can actually take your time to capture the perfect photo as it is less visited.
Getting back to the light beam, again, that’s much better in the Upper Antelope, the best time to visit is between 10am-12pm.
Even though this is not actually a cave, it is one of the most amazing places on this planet. And hey, it’s surrounded by rock, so..
This place needs some planning before visiting, and I found the perfect source that lists everything you need and everything you need to know.
Kyaut Sae Cave, Myanmar
Probably the most mysterious one from out list of the best caves in the world you can visit today. Kyaut Sae Cave is in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Myanmar is nowadays a democratic country and has some of the world’s most pristine lands.
This is also the case for Kyaut Sae Cave, a quiet cave in this lesser known country. Kyaut Sae is home to a Buddhist temple.
It is said the cave had been used as a hiding spot by the locals from the Mongols during the 13th century.
Unfortunately there’s very little information about the cave. All we know is that it can be visited. But maybe it’s better this way as the monks use this sanctuary as a place for meditation.
So there you have it, if you really want to feel like an explorer, this is the best cave you can visit from this top best caves in the world.
Tham Lod Cave, Thailand
Off to Thailand, but just a few kilometres from the border with Myanmar, we find the Tham Lod Cave, near Soppong in Mae Hong Son Province.
With history dating back to 40,000 BC
Tham Lod Cave and the surroundings are what has been called the cradle of civilisation in Thailand. Excavation and research found that the cave was home for homo sapiens from 40,000 to 10,000 BC.
There has been found proof that the Tham Lod Cave was home to an extensive tool workshop during its prehistoric human occupation.
The wide variety of tools excavated and discovered at the site suggests that this cave had been a center of trading with other societies in the area.
People were using the cave as their home, where they came back from hunting and where they prepared the food, where they were making their tools and buried their dead.
Moreover, the mammal teeth discovered in the region not long ago indicate people were living amongst a species of Rhinoceros.
What to expect when visiting Tham Lod Cave
The 1666 meters (5465 feet) long cave can be visited on a bamboo raft that floats down the river that flows through the cave.
The best time to visit Tham Lod is definitely just before sunset, to witness an amazing spectacle:
You can watch 300,000 swift birds return to their nest, in the cave, each evening.
A guided tour of the cave costs around $12. If you want a guide that speaks English, you’ll have to do some research, as most of them don’t. But let’s not let a language barrier get between you and the miracles of nature, such as this cave.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
Watching a starry night sky in a cave? For sure, just that the sparkle won’t come from actual stars but Glowworms, an insect species capable of glowing in the dark.
There are over 300 known caves in the Waitomo region in New Zealand.
There’s no other place in the world you can see this amazing show. These tiny creatures, thousands of them, radiate their unique luminescent light from the ceiling of the Waitomo Glowworm Cave.
An interesting fact about the glowworms is that the hungrier they are, the brighter they shine. They use this light to attract prey.
There are organised tours that include a boat ride under these miraculous little creatures that brighten the ceiling.
Benagil Sea Cave, Portugal
Benagil Sea Cave in Algarve, Portugal is another unique cave thanks to its natural occurring oculus towering over a secluded beach. You read that right, you can sunbathe on soft sand, in a cave.
Rent a kayak to visit the cave at your own pace
We’ll skip straight to how to get there, as upon seeing photos of this incredible natural grotto, you’ll just want to teleport yourself inside.
The most comfortable way to visit the Benagil Sea Cave in Algarve is by boat. However, I recommend renting a kayak, as you won’t be allowed to jump from the boat and take a swim to the cave’s beach.
Once inside, the you’ll feel almost like in a cathedral. The walls are painted by nature in different colors like gold, grey, green and purple.
Batu Caves, Malaysia
Sitting just outside of Kuala Lumpur, the Batu Caves are a must visit if you’re in the area. Cathedral Cave is the largest and most popular and it houses several Hindu shrines under its 100 meters high ceiling.
Batu Caves consist of 4 different caves – Cathedral Cave (or Temple Cave), Cave Villa, Dark Cave and Ramayana Cave.
The main cave is the Temple Cave, accessible by a steep flight of 272 steps. As you’ll notice from the base of the stairs, by the golden statue guarding it, the Cathedral Cave is a Hindu Temple. In late January or early February this is the place where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims converge for the three-day Thaipusam Festival. There is no entry fee for this cave.
Half way up the stairs to the natural temple, you’ll find the entrance to Dark Cave. This is the most adventurous cave from the four. You can even take a 3 to 4 hours tour that involves getting wet, scaling rocks and squeezing through narrow spaces – not for the claustrophobic type!
These are the two best caves in Malaysia and I’ll let you discover the other two on this site.
Giant Crystal Cave, Naica Mine, Mexico
Unfortunately, you’ll have to settle only for these spectacular photos of the Giant Crystal Cave as it cannot be visited. Sources say, not unless you know an official from Chiuhuahua, Mexico.
The constant temperature inside is 58°C (136.4° Fahrenheit)
The cave was discovered by two miners of Naica Mine looking for lead. It is situated 300 meters (1000 feet) below the surface and contains the largest selenite crystals ever found. They measure up to 11 meters (36 feet) in length and 4 meters (13 feet) in diameter. Each weights around 55 tons.
Te reason you cannot visit this amazing cave is that the conditions inside of it are extreme. The constant temperature sits around 58 °C (136.4° Fahrenheit) which proves to be a very dangerous environment for anyone that’s exposed more than 10 minutes.
And it’s exactly that – the constant high temperature that created this natural marvel. The crystals got so big for sitting submerged in mineral-rich water in these unearthly conditions.
The Ice Caves Of Kamchatka, Mutnovsky Volcano, Russia
On Russia’s far east peninsula called Kamchatka, at the foot of Mutnovsky volcano lie some of the world’s best ice caves.
Formed by the power of fire and ice, or volcanoes and glaciers to be more accurate, the ice caves of Mutnovsky Volcano are so surreal-looking you won’t believe they actually exist on Earth.
The cave was discovered by accident back in 2012.
Streams from the hot springs in the volcano flow beneath the glacier on the flanks of Mutnovsky and carve incredible caves.
Due to global warming, the glaciers in Kamchatka are melting, which results in the roof of these caves to get so thin that the sunlight creates stunning colors on its ceilings.
The cave were discovered by accident back in 2012 when a group of photographers and a local guide decided to take another route than the one planned.
You can find more amazing photos of the cave on Denis Bud’ko’s journal. He keeps getting back to the Kamchatka area each year to photograph the ice caves.
Mendenhall Glacier Cave, USA
If you’re hooked by the incredible ice caves on this list, here’s one that might be easier to visit.
Previously known as Glacier Behind the Town or Glacier Behind the Little Lake, the Mendenhall Glacier is part of the Tongas National Forest.
To visit the ice caves inside the glacier, you’ll have to kayak to it and then climb it. But the reward makes this totally worth it.
You’ll get to see water in all its forms inside these brilliant blue Alaska ice caves.
The best time to visit is between mid May and mid September as the days are longer and the nature is in full bloom. There are many options of visiting the glacier once you get there, from kayaking to helicopter flights with landing on the actual glacier. Make sure to state you want to visit the caves when you talk to a guide.
For a guided adventure tour, head to Alaska Shore Excursions.
Fingal Cave, Scotland
A awe inspiring sea cave on Staffa, an uninhabited island in Scotland. The cave and the sound it echoes produced by the waves have inspired a large number of artists like Jules Verne or Pink Floyd.
The cave’s most astonishing feature is the hexagonal columns of basalt. It looks so perfect, you’ll be tempted to think this was man made, but this is in fact just another proof nature can do amazing things.
Even though the cave has played an important role in Scottish Celtic and Irish mythology, it was rediscovered by naturalist Sir Joseph Banks in 1772.
You can visit the cave by taking a cruise ship to the island of Staffa. From there I suggest hiking to the cave.