Feeling adventurous again? Are you sure? Because today’s ride isn’t going to sugar-coat its nature by saying that it will adhere to your comfort zone. We are going to explore the longest caves in the world and even though you will be awestruck by the sheer length of some of them, know that they are still being charted. This means that they might get longer by the years and your adventure might lengthen itself too (wink). Pack yourself some hefty clothes and prepare for the deepest recesses of the Earth’s crust!
6. Wind Cave:
The first contestant to kick off the competition is the South Dakota-based Wind Cave of the renowned Wind Cave National Park. Located near the Hot Springs of South Dakota (USA), Wind Cave has a total length of 229.7 kilometres. But wait, for around 6 more kilometres of passageways are discovered each year. This means that it may well outrun some of the next contestants eventually – we may never know. Discovered in the year 1881, the cave system contains 95% of the world’s boxwork formations (calcite formations). Additionally, the park that harbours it is also worth spending some time at for it contains the largest natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States of America.
5. Optymistychna Cave:
Ukraine breaches the bounds of this competition with its magnificent Optymistychna Cave near the village of Korolivka, Borshchiv Raion, Ternopil Oblast. Discovered in the year 1966, it consists primarily of gypsum. With a total discovered length of 236 kilometres, it is the largest cave system of Eurasia. What’s interesting about it is that it lies under 2-kilometre square area bound by a layer of Neogene gypsum that is less than 20 metres thick. Note that the passageways are usually mud-flooded and the system itself is multi-levelled and intricate. Know also that it is located close to the world-famous Ozernaya cave system (the 11th longest one in the world).
4. Sistema Ox Bel Ha:
And now we have a special guest for you – an underwater cave system located in Quintana Roo (Mexico). The Sistema Ox Bel Ha system has a charted length of 269 kilometres and it is affiliated with the southern parts of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Discovered in February 1996, the system has 142 discovered cenote entrances. Ranked as an advanced cave diving environment, the Sistema Ox Bel Ha has a depth of 34.7 metres. Do pack those SCUBA gears, dear travellers (wink)!
3. Jewel Cave:
It didn’t take us long to get back to South Dakota for its Jewel Cave is the holder of the third place on our list. With a charted system length of 292 kilometres, it is located 21 kilometres from the town of Custer (Black Hills). Discovered by the local prospectors Frank and Albert Michaud in 1900, the cave system pertains to the Jewel Cave National Monument spreading across an area of 515 hectares. Be one of the 77,000 visitors who bask in its brilliance annually!
2. Sistema Sac Actun:
Mexico’s Sistema Sac Actun is the second underwater cave system that we are going to include today. In fact, it is one of the longest ones of its kind in the world (in a constant race with the aforementioned Sistema Ox Bel Ha). With a depth of 101.2 metres, the cave system has a total charted length of 319 kilometres. Discovered on November 26, 1987, Sistema Sac Actun has 170 cenote entrances. What’s interesting about it is that its name comes from the Mayans and it means “White Cave System”. Oh, and you might want to know that its Caribbean location is excellent for paradisiacal vacations (wink).
1. Mammoth Cave:
Now this is a competition that cannot be called a balanced one. What do we mean by this? Well, let’s just say that Kentucky’s (USA) Mammoth Cave has a total discovered system length of 651.8 kilometres. This means that it reaches into three counties (Edmonson, Hart, and Barren) and that it is almost boundless. Just kidding! Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, the cave system has over 500.000 visitors each year. Discovered in 1 July, 1941 and declared international Biosphere Reserve on September 26, 1990, Mammoth Cave is the uncontested winner of this competition. With more than twice the size of the previous contestant, it is most likely the largest cave system in the world (taking into account even the undiscovered parts of all the previous contestants).
Did you enjoy our list?
How many of the aforementioned cave systems have you visited personally and how many of them gave you chills? Hit the comment section below and tell us all about your travel experiences!