Of Slovenia’s many show caves, none has quite the pulling power of Postojna, located in the heart of the country’s beguiling Karst region. And, at more than 20km long, it is Europe’s most expansive cave system.

Writing about Postojna in the seventeenth century, the great Slovene polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor remarked: “in some places you see terrifying heights, elsewhere everything is in columns so strangely shaped as to seem like some creepy-crawly, snake or other animal in front of one”, an apt description for this immense grotto – a jungle of impossibly shaped stalactites and stalagmites, gothic columns and translucent stone draperies, all the result of millions of years of erosion of the permeable limestone surface by rainwater.

Although Postojna has been Slovenia’s most emblematic tourist draw since Emperor Franz Josef I set foot here in 1819, the smudged signatures etched into the craggy walls suggest an earlier human presence in the caves, possibly as far back as the thirteenth century.

Visiting the cave first entails a 2km-long ride through narrow tunnels on the open-topped cave train – a somewhat more sophisticated version of the hand-pushed wagons used in the nineteenth century – before you emerge into vast chambers of formations and colours.

Among them are the Beautiful Cave, which takes its name from the many lustrous features on display; the Spaghetti Hall, so-called because of its thousands of dripping, needle-like formations; and the Winter Chamber, which is home to a beast of a stalagmite called “Brilliant”, on account of its dazzling snow-white colour.

As these pictures show, there are few other caves that can match Postojna's scale and wonder.

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Jonathan Smith (c) Dorling Kindersley

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Jonathan Smith (c) Dorling Kindersley

Postojna cave, Slovenia

photo credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Souvenir shop inside the cave via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: 2011_07_07_Postojna-Cave_044 via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Postojna Cave Park via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Postojnska Jama 2 via photopin (license)

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: The Concert Hall via photopin (license)

pphoto credit: Linda Whitwam (c) Dorling Kindersley

Postojna cave, Sloveniaphoto credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

Discover more unforgettable experiences around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

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