Show caves

Show caves — also called tourist caves, public caves, and in the United States, commercial caves — are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting, and regular opening hours.

"Show cave" has inconsistent usage between nations, with many countries tending to call all caves which are open to the public show caves. However there are many caves which are not developed (no trails, no light, no tours) but are visited by very many people. This kind of cave is often called a semi-wild cave. Access may involve anything between an easy stroll and dangerous climbing. Most cave accidents happen in this kind of cave, as visitors often underestimate the difficulties and dangers.


The oldest show cave in the world is Postojna Cave in Slovenia, with the first record of a cave tour in 1213. Other early show caves are Jasovská jaskyňa in Slovakia with inscriptions from 1452 and the Sontheimer Höhle in Germany which was reportedly visited by Herzog Ulrich von Württemberg on 20 May 1516. In 1668 the first authorized cave guide of the world started guiding Baumannshöhle in the Harz in Germany.

The development of electric light enabled the illumination of show caves. Early experiments with electric light in caves were carried out by Lieutenant Edward Cracknel in 1880 at Chifley Cave, Jenolan Caves, Australia. In 1881 Sloupsko-Šošůvské Jeskyně, Czech Republic, became the first cave in the world with electric arc light. This light did not use light bulbs, but electric arc lamps with carbon electrodes, which burned down and had to be replaced after some time. The first cave in the world with electric light bulbs as we know them today was the Kraushöhle in Austria in 1883. But the light was abandoned after only seven years and the cave is today visited with carbide lamps. In 1884 two more caves were equipped with electric light, Postojna Cave, Slovenia, and Olgahöhle, Germany.

Notable show caves

External links

  • National Caves Association (US)
  • world show caves directory
  • Show Caves of Greece directory
  • DMOZ
  • United States show caves directory, with state maps
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