Our planet has some pretty amazing natural wonders out in the open for you to enjoy, but it turns out that there is a whole other magical world hidden from view. Are you ready to discover some of our earth’s most incredible underground wonders?
Let’s dive right in:
What we'll cover in this article
- NATURAL UNDERGROUND WORLDS YOU CAN VISIT
NATURAL UNDERGROUND WORLDS YOU CAN VISIT
1 – Waitomo Glowworm Cave, New Zealand
About two hours South of the capital city of Auckland, you can find one of New Zealand’s most popular natural highlights: the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. These magical caves were discovered in the late 19th century and opened to the public in 1911.
Be prepared for a glow-in-the-dark spectacle, performed each day by New Zealand’s indigenous glowworms ‘arachnocampa luminosa’. They give off a subtle blue glow due to a chemical reaction occurring in their abdomen. Yes, you are basically looking at glowing shit, but once you’re there, you’ll immediately forget this small fact. You can take a subterranean boat ride through this ‘galaxy’ of living lights, or explore the network of 2 million-years old limestone caves that run for about over 250 metres (820 feet). Expert guides provide all the information you’ll need on the Caves’ historical and geological significance.
Location: Waitomo, New Zealand
2 – La Cueva de los Cristales, México
In the year 2000, two brothers working for a mining company accidentally stumbled upon a cave with some of the world’s largest natural crystals at about 300 meters (984 feet) under Naica Mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico. This ‘Cave of the Crystals’ featured crystals reaching up to 10 meters (36 feet) and weighing up to 55 tons and researchers believe that some of them have been growing for over 500.000 years.
Unfortunately, visits were nearly impossible due to the near 100-perfect humidity and temperatures as high as 58 degrees Celsius (136 Fahrenheit)… oh, and a pool of magma sitting below the cave. Anyone entering the cave had to wear a special cooling suit and limit their visit to under 45 minutes.
For these reasons, and because of the danger of damage to further mining, it’s been decided in 2017 to refill the cave with water again (which had been drained to enter it), to let the crystals continue to grow. You can see one of the crystals up close at the Astro Gallery in New York City.
Location: Naica, Chihuahua, México
3 – Reed Flute Cave, China
When you visit China, you probably want to visit amazing sights such as the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors, but there is another impressive sight – underground. The Reed Flute Cave, or otherwise known as ‘The Palace of Natural Arts’, is a million years old natural limestone cave with artificial multicolored lighting above its inner lake.
The cave is filled with stalactites, stalagmites and other rock formations, but you’ll also find over 70 inscriptions written in ink, which can be dated back as far as 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty. These are said to be travelogues and poems from a time when the cave was a popular tourist site as well, before it got re-discovered in the 1940s and opened to public in 1962.
Location: Guilin, Guangxi, China
4 – Poço Encantado, Brazil
Along the eastern border of the ‘Chapada Diamantina’ range near Andaraí in northeast Brazil lies an underground lake with a natural window out to the jungle and fantastic rock formations above. Make sure to get here between April and September, because at that time of year, the sun is in just the right spot to hit the water in an angle that turns the water in these quartzite caves into a fantastic colour of blue. You can see over 60 meters (200 feet) to the bottom!
Two Germans in search for richness discovered a vein of diamonds in rocks of this area at the beginning of the 19th century, which started a diamond boom that kept this area off-limits and secret for many years to prevent smuggling. In 1985, the region became a National Park and opened for tourism. Now you can get tours by bike, go off-roading, rent a canoe of walk around on foot or by mule and horse. A refreshing dip in one of the many water holes, or a dive if you are up for the challenge, should also not be skipped!
Location: Chapada Diamantina, Andarai, Brazil
5 – Batu Caves, Gombak, Malaysia
Just 13 kilometers (8 miles) North of Kuala Lumpur, you can find a limestone hill that has a series of 400-million years old caves and cave temples. In 1920, wooden steps up to the caves were built, which have since been replaced by 272 concrete steps. Next to it, you will find the gigantic statue of Hindu God Lord Murugan.
The underground caverns of Batu feature beautiful limestone formations and rare animal species. Since 1892, the Hindu festival Thaipusam (late January/early February) has been celebrated here.
Location: Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia
6 – Puerto Princesa Underground River, The Philippines
80 kilometers (50 miles) North of the city center of Puerto Princesa lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park’. Here, you can take a boat ride over an underground river that stretches for 8 kilometers (5 miles) beneath a limestone karst mountain.
The park surrounding the underground river protects eight different forest systems ranging from mountains to beaches. You can find over 800 plant species here!
Location: Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines
7 – Magma Chamber of Thrihnukagigur Volcano, Iceland
The Thrihnukagigur Volcano on Iceland has been dormant for over 4000 years. Instead of erupting, all of the magma drained away, leaving behind incredible mineral colorations inside the crater. You’ll have to hike across lava fields to get here, but then you can travel 213 meters (700 feet) into the volcano’s maw by cable car, which will only take you 6 minutes – so hold on!
The ground space of the volcano is the equivalent of almost three basketball courts and it’s so high, it would easily fit the entire Statue of Liberty. Getting inside is an experience you won’t easily forget!
Location: Thrihnukagigur Volcano, Iceland
Which of these underground worlds would you like to see for yourself?