Although it’s easy to focus on Germany’s larger cities and medieval villages when planning a trip, the country’s beautiful landscapes are equally fascinating. There are many complex cave systems all across Germany, and a lot of them have been opened to the public. Here are the most magical.
Atta Cave is often listed among Germany’s most beautiful limestone caves and draws no less than 40 million people underground each year. Approximately 90 kilometres (56 miles) from both Cologne and Dortmund, the queen of all dripstone caves encompassed an area of more 6 kilometres (3.7 miles), though only a third is accessible to visitors. Tours explore the dazzling labyrinth of stalagmites and stalactites almost daily.
Finnentroper Straße 39, Attendorn, Germany, +49 9 2722 9375 0
Kalkberg Cave Bad Segeberg
Bad Segeberg is small town all the way in northern Germany, 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Hamburg. The cave was discovered in 1913 and has since fascinated visitors from across the world. But tourists are not the only ones who feel drawn to the underground world – more than 25,000 bats use the sheltered system to hibernate each winter. To protect the animals, tours only run in the summer months.
Oberbergstraße 27, Bad Segeberg, Germany, +49 4551 8082 0
The Teufelshöhle, or Devil’s Cave, is found in Pottenstein, a good one-hour drive north of Nuremberg. Over a period of nearly three million years, faults and rainwater have created a 3 kilometre (1.9 mile)-long maze of delicate and vast dripstone caves. Today, the underground attraction draws tourists to the site but the unearthed skeletons of the now-extinct cave bears proves that the large mammals inhabited the caved some 25,000 years ago.
Teufelshöhle, B470, Pottenstein, Germany, +49 9243 208
Underground lakes, bizarre rock formations and a maze of 380 tunnels traverse the Kluterhöhle cave system. Fossilised remains of shells, corals and sponges plaster the rocky walls and bear witness to the time when a reef covered the region near Dortmund. Themed tours highlight various aspects of the cave. Adventurers should look into the ‘XX-Treme tour’ which guides guests through narrow passageways and pitch-black caverns.
Gasstraße 10, Ennepetal, Germany, +49 2333 9880 11
Schellenberg Ice Cave
At the southwestern tip of Germany, near the Austrian border, the Schellenberg ice cave grants views into the permanently frozen underground of the Berchtesgaden Alps. The fascinating cave is open to the public though visiting is reserved for those who undertake several hours of hiking up to an altitude of 1,000 metres (3,281 feet). In winter the entrance is snowed under, but with the warming temperatures in spring, the meltwater runs off and congeals to bizarre ice formations. The cave can only be explored as part of a guided tour between May and October.
Marktschellenberg, Germany, +49 8650 270
Kubach Crystal Cave
This cave is the only one of its kind in Germany and wows walls adorned with glistening crystals that shine in myriad colours. Tours take visitors underground and into the 30 metre (98 feet)-high cave that has been carved into the 350 million-year-old limestone by natural processes.
Auf dem Kalk 1, Weilburg/Kubach, Germany, +49 6471 9400 0
Syrau Dragon’s Cave
Drachenhöhle translates to ‘dragon’s cave’ – this cave is made up of mystical rock formations and crystal-clear underground lakes that gleam in a green colour. Construction workers discovered the cave by chance in 1928, and it was made accessible to the public a few months later. Today, several events draw people to the cave, including laser shows which illuminate the spectacular ‘Walhalla’ cavern in the summer months.
Höhlenberg 10, Paul-Seifert-Straße, Syrau, Germany, +49 37431 3735
In the midst of the Harz mountains, Baumann’s Cave was opened as Germany’s first show cave in 1646 and has since welcomed millions of visitprs. Fascinating forms of stalactites and stalagmites decorate the many caverns, and the largest hall has been named after the cave’s most famous visitor, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Today, the room sees occasional concerts and plays and a stage and seating have been installed for that purpose.
Blankenburger Straße 36, Oberharz am Brocken / Rübeland, Germany, +49 3945 449132
Visitors have to climb several flights of stairs to descend 55 metres (180 feet) deep into the ground to explore the world of the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle. It’s Germany’s only pit cave open to visitors, and is made of a complex system of tunnels, shafts and halls. Between March and November, tours take visitors on a discovery of fossilised reefs and bizarre limestone deposits along the way.
Höhleweg, Laichingen, Germany, +49 0733 3558 6
Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, an alum mine drilled into the rock in Saalfeld. The mine was eventually abandoned and forgot about until the chambers were rediscovered in 1910. These days, the Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes are known as some of the world’s most colourful caverns and grottos. The mineral components of the rock have resulted in formations in all shades of beige, brown, red and grey that are reflected by the underground pools of water.
Feengrottenweg 2, Saalfeld/Saale, Germany, +49 3671 5504 0
For centuries people flocked to the large cave on the western end of the Harz region, spurred on by the hope of finding unicorn bones, which were a popular remedy in the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, it became clear that the ‘unicorn’ bones stemmed from the ancient cave bear rather than unicorns, and the hype subsided. Today, guided tours take visitors into the 600 metre (1,969 feet)-deep cave system.
Im Rott, Herzberg am Harz, Germany, +49 5521 9975 59
Do you need more travel inspiration for an enchanting holiday in Germany? Then take a look at our list of 17 magical places.