As a very mountainous country, Bulgaria cannot complain from a lack of interesting caves. Formed by nature and usually shaped by thousands of years of human and animal habitation, Bulgaria’s caves will take you on a journey into a fantastic underworld that is quite unlike life on the surface.
From a cave that looks just like a female vulva to an underground wine tasting chamber, kashkaval tourist presents 7 mysterious caves in Bulgaria!
1. Minecraft in the real world: Devetashka Cave
With its massive halls and unreal gaps in the ceiling, the Devetashka Cave (Деветашка пещера) looks like a landscape straight out of a sandbox video game like Minecraft! The cave was discovered in 1921 near the village of Devetaki not far from Lovech in north central Bulgaria.
Due to its enormous size, it had been used by the Bulgarian state for storing foods and petrol before becoming a secretive military site. And in 2011, the Devetashka Cave was the setting for a few scenes from the star-studded Hollywood blockbuster The Expendables 2, making it famous worldwide.
2. Shaped like a vulva: Womb Cave
Yes, you read that right, the Womb Cave (Утроба, Utroba) in the Rhodope Mountains bears an uncanny resemblance to the female genitalia! This is not exactly a coincidence though… there’s evidence that the cave’s opening was shaped by the ancient Thracians around 1000 BC. The cave hosted a Thracian sanctuary to female fertility at the time.
Incredibly, the Womb Cave is designed in such a way that a ray of sunlight enters the cave at such an angle that it goes into the rock womb and hits the middle of the altar directly, symbolically inseminating it. Feel like exploring this vulva-shaped cave? Then head for southeastern Bulgaria or specifically the isolated village of Nenkovo near Kardzhali.
3. The eyes of God: Prohodna Cave
Unlike the Utroba Cave, which was partially shaped by human activity, the highlight feature of the Prohodna Cave (Проходна) is entirely the work of nature. The two huge elongated holes in its ceiling look just like a pair of human eyes! And this impressive formation is rightfully named The Eyes of God.
What’s more, with a ceiling some 56 metres tall, the entrance of the Prohodna Cave has turned into an attractive destination for bungee jumping! If you fancy a jump or just want to see those mesmerizing eyes, you’ll find the cave near Karlukovo in north central Bulgaria.
4. Bats, wine and cave paintings: Magura Cave
Located near Belogradchik in the Bulgarian Northwest, the Magura Cave (Магура) is famous for its colony of bats, for the quality Bulgarian wine aging in its chilly chambers and for its prehistoric cave paintings. It’s easy to spot the bats hanging from the ceiling or the casks of Magura wine, which you can also get to taste inside the cave!
But the parts of the cave decorated with cave paintings are closed for visitors, unfortunately. And what a shame, because the cave hosts 750 Bronze Age paintings depicting hunting as well as religious topics, all of which were created using bat guano.
5. Orpheus descends into the underworld: Devil’s Throat Cave
The Devil’s Throat Cave (Дяволското гърло, Dyavolskoto garlo) captures the attention not only with its poetic name, but also with what is claimed to be the highest underground waterfall in the Balkans! The cave is situated in the majestic Trigrad Gorge of the Rhodopes Mountains.
According to a popular legend based on Greek mythology, the Devil’s Throat Cave was the route which the famous bard Orpheus took as he descended into the Underworld in search of Eurydice, his wife and a daughter of Apollo.
6. Fantastic karst formations: Ledenika Cave
With its 10 underground halls, the Ledenika Cave (Леденика) is practically a small subterranean world populated by bizarre stalactites and other incredible cave formations. Because of their resemblance to animals or fictional characters, some of those have been given names like The Crocodile, The Giant’s Head, The Falcon or Santa Claus.
The Ledenika Cave lies among the vertical cliffs of the heart-stopping Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park in the vicinity of Vratsa. The cave has given its name to the nationally popular brand of beer Ledenika, produced in nearby Mezdra.
7. Ancient human habitat: Bacho Kiro Cave
Located just next to the picturesque Dryanovo Monastery in central Bulgaria, the Bacho Kiro Cave (Бачо Киро) is the place where the earliest human remains in Bulgaria have been found. With the Aurignacian burials that have been discovered there, it ranks among Europe’s most important Paleolithic sites.
Human remains are not the only curious thing that has been discovered in the Bacho Kiro Cave. Researchers have also excavated the bones of a gigantic three-metre cave bear! The cave also hosts four bat species and some impressive karst formations.