For tens of thousands of years, caves have captured and fostered the human imagination. They’re the closest thing to an alien world most of us will ever experience, and much like the bottom of the ocean, they continue to demonstrate how little we know about our own planet.
Caves have been portals into the past, painted with the ochre-dyed hands of our ancestors. In Indonesia, one such cave is thought to contain the oldest known figurative painting.
And it seems like every month, a new cave system is being mapped out by intrepid divers or explorers. Just in 2018, what’s believed to be the largest underwater cave in the world was explored beneath the Yucatan peninsula.
And cave-diving—donning a wetsuit and scuba pack and squeezing through tight, rocky crevasses—continues to be one of the most dangerous sports, full stop. But the thrill of discovery and of pushing oneself to the max keeps sending divers down into pitch-black cave systems time and again.
Luckily, these 12 caves aren’t ones you’re likely to get lost in. Not if you’re careful and stick with a guide. Some of these caves are walkable. Some even have lit walkways and guardrails; some are accessible by kayak or canoe; and some are strictly for divers only. But there’s no question that these are the most outstanding caves in the world and well worth a stop if you’re into some serious adventure getaways.
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