The Škocjan Caves are the only natural location in Slovenia and the Classical Karst region on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Caves are also on the Ramsar Convention list (1999) as the first underground wetland and in Unesco’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) (2004) research programm.
Due to their exceptional significance, the Škocjan Caves were entered on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites in 1986. International scientific circles have thus acknowledged the importance of the Caves as one of the natural treasures of planet Earth.
Ranking among the most important caves in the world, the Škocjan Caves represent the most significant underground phenomena in both the Karst region and Slovenia.
Škocjan Caves Regional Park is situated in the heart of Classical Karst where explorers for the first time ever started to discover and explore the karst phenomena.
The Škocjan Caves remain the only monument in Slovenia and the Classical Karst region on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites. Thus, they hold a significant position among the world’s natural monuments. In addition to our caves, only those in the border area between Hungary and Slovakia (Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst), Mammoth Caves and Carlsbad Caverns in the USA have received the same honour. Other caves have been entered as cultural monuments (for example Altamira in Spain and the prehistoric sites and cave paintings of the Vézere Valley in France).
The entry itself is important from different perspectives: most significantly, that the Škocjan Caves have gained worldwide recognition and that the state has committed itself to doing everything in its power to conserve and protect this outstanding natural site.
The most beautiful part of the Park is undoubtedly a set of eleven caves, colapsed dolines, ponors and natural bridges known as the Škocjan Caves. They are the most important underground phenomena of the Karst and on the opinion of international experts one of the most beautiful pearls on Earth.
The Škocjan Caves are a unique natural phenomenon created by the Reka River.
The river flows from springs below Mount Snežnik along a 55-kilometre long course as a surface stream. After reaching the Karst, at the contact with limestone, the Reka flows on the surface through a 4 kilometre long gorge that ends with a mighty wall under which the Reka disappears.
At the bottom of the Big Collapse Doline, the Reka finally disappears underground and re-emerges on the surface 34 kilometres away in the Timavo springs. This part of the Škocjan Caves, the Murmuring Cave (Šumeča jama), is in fact an underground gorge 3.5 kilometres long, 10−60 meters wide and more than 100 meters high. The length of the system is approximately 6 kilometres, with 213 meters of vertical difference between the highest entrance (Okroglica) and the siphon – the lowest point in the cave.
In some places, the gorge stretches into extensive underground chambers, the largest of which is the Martel Hall, 308 meters long, 123 meters wide (89 m on average), 106 meters high on average, with the highest point of the ceiling at 146 meters above the Reka bed; its greatest cross-section measures 12,000 m2, giving a volume of about 2.1 million m3.
In the Park you can visit famous Škocjan Caves, Mahorčič and Marinič cave with Mala dolina, museum collections (Karst collection, biological, geological, archeological and ethnological collections) or follow the marked Educational trail.
The Educational Trail Škocjan begins and ends in front of the Information Centre in Matavun (where tickets for Škocjan Caves tours are purchased). Here you can obtain all additional information and buy a guidebook to the Škocjan Education Trail. The guidebook will provide you with all additional information and will accompany you in the discovery of the basic features of the Park and the Karst region.
About two kilometres long, the trail takes less than one hour to walk. It leads visitors around the Velika dolina and Mala dolina where they can enjoy wonderful views of the deep collapse dolines, steep walls, the disappearing Reka River and the surrounding hills
- The exhibition devoted to the history of exploring the Škocjan Caves (includes two cross-section models of the underground canyon of the Škocjan Caves and a model of the central area of the Park)
- Ethnology exhibition in the J’kopin barn
- Museum collections in the Delez Homestead, a geological collection of rocks, a biological collection and an archaeological collection. These received the Valvasor Museology Award in 2006.
TEXT – Source: archive PŠJ; Author: Park Škocjanske jame.
PHOTOS – Source: archive PŠJ; Author: Borut Lozej