Not all of the greatest tourist destinations have to be indoors or outdoors. In fact, there are some incredible sights to be seen underground. From dormant mines to beautiful natural sites, underground caves can have a lot to offer. Here are some of the most spectacular options.
Umoona Opal Mine – Coober Pedy, Australia
There are a few things that keep people visiting. The first is opal mining, with the town responsible for 70 percent of the world’s opal production. This has earned it the reputation for being the “Opal Capital of the World.”
The desert conditions also create an ideal setting for films. Movies, such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1986); The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994); and Mortal Kombat (2021), have been filmed there.
Edinburgh Vaults – Edinburgh, Scotland
In 1788, the South Bridge was built in Edinburgh, Scotland. The 19 arches below the bridge, known as “vaults,” were turned into a number of small businesses, such as cobbler workshops, taverns and storage space for merchants. As the structure deteriorated, the vaults began to attract the homeless and criminals, who partook in gambling and the production of illegal alcohol.
In 1985, the Edinburgh Vaults were rediscovered. Today, they’ve become a popular tourist destination. This is especially true for those interested in ghost hunting, as they are said to be haunted by the spirits of those who formerly worked there.
Eisriesenwelt – Werfen, Austria
The Eisriesenwelt in Werfen, Austria is the largest ice cave of its kind in the world, featuring stunning visuals like an ice castle room, frozen waterfalls and ice columns. Located in the Tennengebirge section of the Alps, the year-round cold weather keeps the ice formations within from melting.
Forty kilometers from Salzburg, the Eisriesenwelt draws more than 200,000 visitors each year. The grounds are open for tours from May 1 through to October 26, and tourists should note that photography is not permitted once they’re inside the cave.
Batu Caves – Gomback, Malaysia
The Batu Caves in Malaysia, located only a few kilometers from Kuala Lumpur, contain a series of shrines devoted to the Hindu god of war, Murugan. Each temple contains a gold statue of the deity at their entrance.
Also referred to as the Hill for Lord Murugan and the 10th Caves, the Batu Caves play host to a number of festivals and have become a pilgrimage site for Hindus worldwide. Over time, the area around the caves has been built up and now contains retail stores and residential housing.
Wieliczka Salt Mine – Wieliczka, Poland
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was first excavated in the 13th century and remained active until 2007. Its abundance of brine made it perfect for the production of table salt (sodium cholride). It’s now home to the Crakow Saltworks Museum, and has been designated both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Polish Historic Monument.
Tourists delight in seeing the carvings made by the miners. There are also a number of things to do within the mine’s hundreds of miles of corridors. Among the amenities and activities are restaurants, a health spa, various tours and even the odd concert!
Catacombs of Paris – Paris France
Of all the underground tourist attractions in the world, the Catacombs of Paris are likely the most ghoulish. The underground graveyard was first used in the 18th century and was seen as a solution to Paris‘ overflowing cemeteries. The situation had grown so severe that it was declared a public health issue, with residents complaining about the stench of decomposing bodies.
It’s estimated the Catacombs contain the bones of over six million Parisians. While you would assume this would make it an anti-tourist attraction, it’s actually one of the most popular places in Paris, attracting 500,000 visitors each year.
Louisville Mega Cavern – Louisville, Kentucky
The Louisville Mega Cavern in Kentucky spans an almost unfathomable four million square feet. It started out as a limestone quarry known as Louisville Crushed Stone, and in 1989 was acquired by private investors who transformed it into a large-scale commercial storage facility.
The Louisville Mega Cavern also features a number of fun activities for the whole family. These include zipline tours, an amusement park, tram-guided tours, a mountain bike park, a ropes course and even an annual holiday lights display!
Ruby Falls – Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
In 1928, a cave enthusiast named Leo Lambert bought a stretch of land on Lookout Mountain. When he did a deep dive into his new property, he discovered a spectacular waterfall, which he named Ruby Falls, after his wife.
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Lambert was a keen businessman and turned Ruby Falls and the caves of Lookout Mountain into a tourist attraction. They eventually became a huge moneymaker, largely for their natural beauty, which also inspired the Johnny Cash song, “See Ruby Fall.”