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Adventures in the depths of the earth

Pál-völgyi CaveBudapestGreater Budapest

It’s not only above the ground that Hungary is rife with treasures. Of the nearly 4,000 caves hidden deep in the earth, 40 are not only open to researchers and cave climbers, but are also to the general public. And you can even choose your preferred level of difficulty.

Walking among the stalactites of the caves is like being transported into a fairy-tale world. You can venture into the Hungarian cave systems even if you would only like to take an easy stroll in this fabulous realm, but you will not be disappointed either if you want to discover the hidden cave treasures as a real climber, in waterproof clothing, with a helmet and a headlamp. Which will you choose?

The most famous: Aggtelek Karst Caves

The huge cave system, officially known as the Gömör-Torna karst, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. There are a total of 712 caves in an area of more than 20,000 hectares that also extends over to Slovakia, of which 273 are found on the Hungarian side. The largest and most famous cave is the Baradla-Domica cave system. The Hungarian part, Baradla is 25, while the Slovak Domica is 5.6 km long. It is also the most visited cave in this area, where you can choose from plenty of organised cave tours according to your interests and stamina. One, two or even seven-hour cave tours depart from the entrance of Aggtelek and Jósvafő. The shorter ones lead along the paved, illuminated routes, through exciting halls full of stalactite formations, such as the Giants’ Hall or the Concert Hall, where musical concerts are held regularly. Longer tours, however, allow you to explore the less developed parts of the cave, guided by an expert, of course. 

The most centrally located: Pál-völgyi Cave

This cave system, which is unique in Hungary and currently known to be 31 km long, lies just a few kilometres from the centre of Budapest, although only a 500-metre, designated section is currently open to the public. This section can be walked in an hour, but you must be prepared to climb some stairs, as there are a total of 400 on the paved section – the most challenging of which is the eight-storey, continuous staircase with 30-centimetre steps, sometimes supplemented by a 7-metre “hen ladder.” To visit the closed sections, you need the permission of the directorate of the Danube-Ipoly National Park, and the undeveloped, romantic area of the Mátyás-hegy cave can be visited only with prior registration, as part of guided cave tours. 

The most exciting: the Cave of Lime-Burning Springs

If you are looking for adrenaline, the cave system considered to be the third largest cave in the Mecsek is the best destination. In the cave system, which is accessible from Orfű, you can try your hand at professional caving, as instead of paved and illuminated corridors, you can discover the wonders in the depths of the earth in a caving suit with a helmet and headlamp, sometimes crawling and climbing. The passages are on average 1 metre wide, and somewhere between 1.5 and 3 metres high. The organised, guided cave tours are usually 2.3 hours long. 

The most healing: The caves of Lillafüred

The most popular of the many caves in the Bükk National Park is the István Cave, 170 of whose 1,043 metres of passages can be visited and walked in street clothes – this means a round trip of about 340 metres. In addition to the fantastic stalactite formations, the micro climate of the cave is also special and has a highly beneficial effect on symptoms of respiratory diseases. There are also unique animals living in this climate; bats, for example, are frequent guests. The nearby Anna Cave is also a great experience, and occasionally, some of the halls also host events and even weddings. Those looking for more adventurous hikes should head to the stalactites of the Lilla Cave, not far from Lake Hámori, where you can take part in an hour-long organised tour. Although no special clothing is required, pack a change of trousers!

The wettest experiences: the Tapolca Lake Cave and the Molnár János Cave in Budapest

Would you think that 16 metres below the surface of the earth you can even sit in a boat in a beautifully lit cave system? You don't need caving equipment to visit the Tapolca Lake Cave; with a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius, you can also visit this pleasant cave in street clothes, as part of the 1.5 hour adventure tour – with 15 minutes of cave boating also included.

However, the Molnár János Cave, located at the foot of Rózsadomb in Budapest, can only be discovered by experienced divers. The passages of Hungary's largest underwater cave are filled with karst thermal water. In the crystal clear water, illuminated by the diving lights, the cave sections offer an incredible view, in which even hidden fossils are visible at some points. The cave can only be visited by trained divers holding a permit.