Škocjan Cave, Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle Explained

by 31 Jan, 2021Slovenia

😷  COVID-19 NOTICE: You can check out the latest information about travel restrictions and bans in Slovenia due to the coronavirus HERE.

This destination is part of a 10-day itinerary in Slovenia, check it out HERE.

Hmmm a cave in summer… yes please, perfect spot to cool off! Three caves in a day? Ugh that’s maybe too excessive… That’s what I thought when I was reading everywhere that you should definitely go to the Škocjan and Postojna Cave Parks and then head to Predjama Castle where there is (surprise!) another cave. Moreover, all of these places are located very close to each other (a 25-min drive maximum), and that’s why they are perfectly doable in one day.

This extreme density of caves is due again to the Karst Plateau which covers a significant part of Slovenia as well as the region of Trieste and is characterised by the high presence of soluble rocks (namely limestone and dolomite) forming big cavities and wow-effect stalagmites, stalactites and columns.

But again, we kept asking before heading to the region, is it really worth visiting all these caves? We like caves, but we aren’t speleologeeks and unless they are very different, they all end up looking the same to us… 🙈

We definitely wanted to visit Predjama Castle because you don’t always go to a castle that is embedded and built around a cave, and that already includes a very small walk within its annexed cave. THE question was (and maybe IS for you), should I visit the cave in Škocjan or Postojna? or both?

Getting out of Skocjan Cave
Postojna Cave

⚖️ Škocjan Cave versus Postojna Cave

It wasn’t until I found this review on Tripadvisor (thank you Sharad) that I got an answer to my question and after being in both caves (we ended up going to both!), I agree with it!

Škocjan Cave and Postojna Cave are very different. The former is basically an immense canyon below the surface with an underground river and the latter stands out for its huge and beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. But besides that, there are a few other differences that you might want to know:

  • Massification: both caves are very touristic, that said, tour groups for the Škocjan Cave are a bit smaller (but Škocjan remains a touristic place);
  • Tour: the tour of the Škocjan Cave is with a guide that gives explanations in Slovenian and then a much more summarised version in English; at Postojna, tours are audio-guided for English speakers;
  • Accessibility: the Postojna Cave is accessible via train (yes, a train within a cave… 🤔) and the whole tour is also very accessible with ramps; while for the Škocjan Cave there are many steps and a few kilometres to walk, and it might not be so kid-friendly nor accessible for all;
  • Price: the visit of the Škocjan Cave can be cheaper than for the Postojna Cave (details about prices below), in addition you need to pay for parking at Postojna;
  • Photos: it’s forbidden to take photos inside Škocjan Cave.

At first, I was very reluctant to visit Postojna Cave because it sounded waaaay too touristy with literally an underground train to access the cave, but then I found out the train had some history (there was a train already in 1872! more info below…). ⬇

Exiting the Skocjan Caves
Cliff above the Skocjan Caves

1️⃣ Škocjan Cave in more detail

The Škocjan Cave (map location) hides a spectacular underground canyon shaped by the Reka River. The peculiarities of this cave system have included the Škocjan Cave within UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites. The chambers within the cave reach heights of 100-140 metres and while visiting, you will really appreciate the size of it when crossing a bridge over the canyon.

The most current information about tours and schedules at the Škocjan Cave can be found here. When we went, we only did the tour “Through the underground Canyon” as it was the only possible one during COVID-19, but there usually is the option to also do the tour “Following the Reka River underground” which goes through additional chambers. Doing the former tour only costs about 16-20€/person (depending on the season), and doing the combination of the two tours is 24€/person in total.

✅ TIP: There is a viewpoint at about 400 metres from the ticket office (it’s clearly indicated) and it’s really worth doing the detour before you leave the Škocjan Cave Park as it offers breathtaking views over the steephead valley that also characterises Škocjan. ⬇
Church and cliff above the Skocjan Cave

🥗 Where to stop in between (for food)

There are places to eat in both the Škocjan and Postojna Cave Parks but I personally don’t like attraction restaurants 😅 and there is a great local restaurant, a gostilna, with Slovenian cuisine just in between both places that is ideal for those travelling by car and with a nice terrace, so I thought worth sharing it with you in case of interest: Gostilna – Pizzeria “Hruševje” (map location).

Visit of the Postojna Cave

2️⃣ Postojna Cave in more detail

The Postojna Cave (map location), called ‘the queen of caves’, has more history than one could think initially, when you see the yellow kid-friendly train that awaits for you before entering the cave… This cave opened as a show cave already in 1819, but the main most beautiful chambers would require kilometric walks by torchlight and a railway system was built from 1872 thanks to the flatness of the cave system… I have to admit I really enjoyed the 3.7-km train ride while admiring the cave’s beautiful ceilings! 😊

When the train ride is over, you start the tour which lasts for about 1h and one of the coolest things about this cave (besides its amazing hundreds of thousands of years-old stalagmites and stalactites), is that you will see an olm.

The Postojna Cave is also at the origin of bio-speleology as it’s home to one of the strangest animals, the olm or proteus – an aquatic salamander with snake shape that only lives underground in complete darkness and therefore lacks any pigmentation, and is also known as ‘baby dragon’… Inside the cave, there is a small aquarium where you can see one but it’s strictly forbidden to take a picture of it given their sensitivity to light and they are a highly protected species. If you are curious, here is a picture of an olm from Wikimedia (not putting it on the post as I don’t want to scare you away!).

The most current information about tours and schedules at the Postojna Cave can be found here. The regular tour of the Postojna Cave costs 25.80€/person. We only did the regular tour, but you can also explore other annexed caves, such as the Pivka and Black Caves (from May to September and only by prior arrangement via email) or Otok Cave (from May to October and only by prior arrangement via email).

✅ TIP: If you plan to visit the Predjama Castle as well, you can buy a combined ticket for both the Postojna Cave and the castle at a more advantageous price: ~34€/person (visit of the castle only is 13.80€/person).

Views of the Predjama Castle
Views from Predjama Castle's cave

3️⃣ Predjama Castle and Cave

At 10 km from Postojna, you have the Predjama Castle (map location) which is embedded in the mouth of a cave in a cliff of over 120 m. Predjama literally means “in front of the cave”.

The castle was built in such a hostile but fascinating location in the 13th century in order to protect its inhabitants from invaders. Its current structure dates from the 16th century after a siege to attack one of its most controversial inhabitants in the 15th century, Erasmus of Lueg, a robber baron who was at odds with the Habsburgs and following an earthquake in 1511.

The opening hours for the Predjama Castle can be found here. Its audio-guided tour costs 13.80€/person (but remember you can buy a combined ticket together with your visit of the Postojna Cave for a more advantageous price).

The regular tour allows you to enter the mouth of the Predjama Cave but if you really wish to visit the interior of the Cave under the Predjama Castle, you can do so only by prior arrangement via email (see the link) from May to September as a colony of bats lives in the cave during winter time. There is no electric lighting inside the cave and therefore you will be provided with a lamp for the visit (I think the tour costs 10.90€/person). In our case, we had visited enough caves for a day and didn’t do it, but noting this for another occasion and in case you’re an eager potholer! 😉

Last but not least, if you feel like having a drink or food near Predjama, I highly recommend Predjamska Gostilnica (map location) as it has a very pleasant terrace with perfect views of the Castle:

Views of the Predjama Castle

More time? 😎 Visit Križna Cave, Vipava Valley or Idrija

If you have more time, the Karst Plateau in Slovenia has much more to offer before you head to Ljubljana (or wherever you are headed next!). In our case, we had to prioritise and for our next trip we have the following wish list that might be useful to you!

💎 Križna Cave, underground lakes

The Križna Cave (map location) was actually one of my top places to visit in Slovenia, however, we planned our trip last minute and the special tours were fully booked by the time we were looking at options… This cave is much less famous than the previous ones but not less impressive, especially if you do one of the longer tours that include navigating on your own in a small boat across 13 to 20 stunning underground lakes. The first long tour “Water part to Calvary” lasts for about 3.5-4h and only accepts groups of 4 people maximum per day (and 1’000 people in total per year!) and costs from 40€-80€/person depending on the season and how many people join the group (more information on prices here). The longest tour that looks AMAZING is the “Guided tour to Crystal Mountain” lasting 6.5-7h and continues the previous tour through more lakes, a tunnel full of stalactites until reaching the Crystal Mountain. This tour is only possible from January to March, with groups of 4 people maximum per day (and 100 people in total per year!) and it costs 280€/group. Doesn’t it sound amazing?!

🍇 Vipava Valley, for more osmize

The Vipava Valley (Vipavska dolina) is famous in Slovenia for its wineries and, if you missed my post about the region of Trieste and you are not planning to go there, don’t worry! Vipava Valley also has a tradition of osmize, private homes or farms where they serve in their cellars wine and other typical products from the region only a few days/weeks per year.

You can check out the osmize for Vipavska dolina and their opening days on the region’s Official Tourism page. Note that white wine is more popular in the region than red one, and has some autochthonous wine grapes in case you want to try them: Pinela, Vitovska Grganja and Zelen.

⛏ Idrija, the world’s second largest mercury mine

One last recommendation in this area would be the town of Idrija, where there is a mercury mine (the world’s second largest one after the mine in Almadén, Spain). The Idrija mine has produced 13% of the mercury output in the world. It was closed in 1995 after almost 500 years of exploitation since 1490 (no more, no less!).

The mine has been included under UNESCO’s world heritage list of protected sites and can be visited in Anthony’s Main Road (map location). Anthony’s Shaft is the oldest part of the mine, and the tour goes along for 1.2 kilometre through a truly preserved area of the mine. You can find the most current schedule for your visit here and the tour costs 13€/person.

📍Map of recommendations for the area

Did you find the above useful or have other suggestions for this region?

If you like what you read, please feel free to share this post, leave a comment and/or find out more about travelling in Slovenia or neighbouring Italy 👇👇👇👇👇

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