Deep caverns in the rock, illuminated by the sun or artificial lamp, provide shelter, home, and repository for art and cultures. They are places of mystery, history, and intrigue.
The Lion-Elephant Rock, Alisadr Cave, Iran
Alisadr cave, the biggest navigable water cave in the world is said to be this one, in Hamedan, Iran. Shown here is an amazing photograph of the “Lion-Elephant Rock.” It does look like both a lion and an elephant. The diffuse light dancing off the waters really gives this place a surreal feeling. The colored lights in this cave add to the brilliance and majesty of this amazing cave.
Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China
From what planet is this? -It doesn’t even seem possible! It looks rather like a set from a Star Trek episode. This cave in the northwest of Guilin, China, is a favorite with tourists visiting China. The name “Reed Flute” comes from the wild reeds that grow outside and around the cave, reeds which resemble the musical instrument flutes.
The inside of the cave is lit with colored lights along its 240 meter length. Touring this cave on the walking tour, visitors witness columns and pillars of immense size. The stalagmites were formed by carbonate deposition, so this cave was once entirely under water during its formation. When the water retreated some, access to the cave becomes known. Many such caves probably exist underwater, completely hidden. Changes in water-levels and the action of rivers flowing through the cave widen and deepen them.
I almost expect to see an aquatic or fully marine dinosaur like a prehistoric plesiosaur rise up out of the water and thrash around like some Loch Ness monster might!
Painted Cave (Santa Cruz Is.) California
This is said to be the world’s longest sea cave. It has an opening big enough for passage of a 70-foot long boat to pass through, and smaller paddle-boats can go into the cave some 1200 feet. Colorful rocks abound and algae and lichens cover the rocks. This cave has no regular tours but one can be contracted from the docks to take you there. The cave belongs to the Channel Islands National Park which does permit visitation, although some recommend that plans to visit the park be first discussed with rangers of the park for your safety. Kayaking out to the caves on your own is possible but the waves and currents of the local waters make that risky.
Ghar Saholan (also spelled Sahoolan / Sahulan / Sahoulan) Cave, Iran
Named for the village near it, this second largest cave in Iran is called by the word in Kurdish meaning “freezing” for the cool climate conditions of summer and very cold winters. Locally, this cave is called “Dove Nest” because of the doves that dwell around the cave and its entrance, roosting upon low ledge inside of the cave and within reach of visitors to this cave.
At the end of the boat ride, visitors to the cave walk up through a main chamber on marble steps to an unusual amenity; a cellular phone mast. From here, tourists can use their mobile to contact friends and family on the outside world to brag about their current location! The exit of the cave shows a history of human habitation in the past; black soot smoke on the walls and ceiling indicating long-term use of campfires.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
This monument of caves is location of some of the most ancient Anasazi peoples dwellings found. Direct descendants of the Pueblo people, the Anasazi settled the sheer cliff walls and adapted to living in these remotes caves. The insides of some of the caves still show petroglyphs on the walls.
Brochures and advice on the web indicate that parking can be a bit of a nuisance; one can wait an hour or more to a space to become available during peak season. The rangers are quite strict and enforce the rules vigorously, so you must comply with all directives concerning where to park and what you do while visiting this National Park. Brochures recommend visiting in early spring or fall when crowds are fewer and the weather not so hot, making for a more enjoyable caving and hiking experience.
Crystal Ice Cave, Lava Beds National Monument, California
Lava tube caverns, this one has an ice waterfall. The sensitive nature of this ice cave make it necessary to limit tours to ranger-guided only, and in small groups not to exceed six people. The three+ hour tours are offered every Saturday beginning in December throughout the winter months.
-What do you see here? To me, these look like giant ectoplasm ghosts climbing the wall of the cave…
Longmen, Luoyang, China
The Longmen Grottos, near Luoyant City in China are regarded in China as treasure houses for the having the most stone inscriptions. The grottos were created in between 386-534 in the Northern Wei Dynasty. Buddhism was spreading into China, where it was adopted by the imperial court and venerated. The hewing of rock temples dedicated to images of the Buddha were also adopted and incredible works of art and culture were made. In November of 2000 the Longmen Grottos were approved and given World Cultural Heritage status. The World Cultural Heritage organization catalogues sites of outstanding natural or cultural importance, dedicated to humanity. If some conditions are met, a listed site may obtain funding from the Heritage for conserving and preserving the site and making it accessible to all.
Ellora Cave Sculpture, Maharashtra, India
The author of this image describes this cave as one of 34 caves near Maharashtra, India. Carved nearly 100 years ago over a period of perhaps 500 years, the artisans using simple tools carved elaborate images and sculptures, Wikipedia goes on to tell that that these caves were built as Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain temples and monasteries..
The Buddhist caves are the oldest, dug out between the 5th-7th centuries. These are mostly of large multi-storied rooms such as living and sleeping quarters, kitchens and of course, monasteries. Any visit to India would be incomplete if at least some of these caves are not explored.
More Ellora Caves
More images from the Ellora Caves. I like the elephant sculptures and marvel at the artistry that was performed here. Some of the caves are the world’s largest rock-hewn cave is the world. Tourists are encouraged to visit these caves during the monsoon season when it is the most wet as every stream is flowing with water, making the entire area green and lush.
More Crystal Ice Cave, Lava Beds National Monument
Ice stalagmites form what looks like translucent dinosaur eggs, or some delicious frozen confection. Blue lemonade ice-pops, perhaps? I can’t help but wonder if these have flavor to them. Surely the water that has dripped in here and frozen has picked-up trace elements from the rocks. Yeah, they probably taste like the dirt that filtered the water through the ceiling of the cavern. Not to mention any bats or insect excreta or detritus that may be involved. This frozen confection maybe not be such a yummy a treat after all. A word of advice; don’t eat or drink anything you find in a cave and its probably best to not touch too many things in there either.
Royston Cave. Hertfordshire, England
After the dissolution of the Knights Templar they continued to meet secretly in caves such as this one at Royston Cave. The carvings look strikingly similar to post-modern graffiti. Bearing in mind that even the scrawling upon the walls of caves of the troglodytes was in fact, graffiti but with significant meaning. It was important and conveyed some information, as the graffiti of today means something to the artist or author.