Fri, April 27th, 2012 - By

Going Underground: Cave Tours

I know what you’re probably thinking…. a cave tour?  Blech!

I was thinking a lot about caves and cave tours on my recent trip to Kentucky, home of America’s bourbon country and the world’s horse capital. It also boast the world’s largest cave – a cave larger than both the 2nd and 3rd largest caves combined. Mammoth Cave is, quite certainly, mammoth.

Not All Caves are the Same

Mammoth really got me thinking about some of my previous cave tours. Why? Because this cave is no different. See that massive tunnel there? They call it Broadway, and it’s bigger than any man-made tunnel I’ve been in. It goes on for miles, and miles, and miles, and miles. We walked a couple of hours of it and it just continues like that – the cave is limestone, hence rivers created the tunnel, but a layer of sandstone sites over the top of the cave, protecting it from the elements and preserving it. So well that the old mining equipment we saw from over 100 years ago looks like someone just left it a couple of hours ago. The air was relatively fresh, clean, and not damp. It was an experience I had never had – so surreal to be in a silent, clean, clear environment, but underground!

Mammoth is unique, but caves around the world are all very unique. For example, I’ve been to one of the largest caves in Europe, in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. We rode on a boat, in a river, underground, for a good 20 minutes. It was crazy – but did I mention I missed the English tour and had to take the German one?

New Zealand also has some great caves; there, they are a bit more adventurous, but I did enjoy floating underground in a rubber tube with strands of glow worms lighting the ceiling. Drinking hot chocolate.  (You didn’t see that one coming, did you?)

And They’re Inexpensive

Two reasons why I love a good cave tour:

  • Educational: If you’re travelling with the wee ones, caves provide a superb learning environment on geology, history – Mammoth is even an insightful discussion on the early days of American entrepreneurship! No touching the stalactites please.
  • Inexpensive: There are few caves you can go in without a guide, for the obvious safety reasons. Many of them  are run by National Park programs, so these two things usually mean the tours are very reasonably priced – no reason to break your budget.  If you’re travelling as a family, ask about discounted pricing for all of you.

Caves are also a great opportunity to reflect, to slow down after the hustle-bustle of sightseeing overwhelms the senses. And also? They almost always run, regardless of how bad the weather outside is.

Do you do cave tours?  Why or why not?

Image credit to Michael Goodine

Photo Copyright National Parks Service, used with permission.

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Friday, April 27th, 2012 at 10:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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