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Astonishing sea and continental caves of Croatia

Baraćeve špilje
Baraćeve špilje, Image by Baraćeve špilje

If you are looking for a challenging adventure, a bit different and wilder than a beach, you cannot go wrong with a visit to one of Croatia’s caves.

Not only does Croatia have a number of dazzling caves both at the coast and inland, but most of them are also protected.

In this article, we present the most glorious and shining caves of Croatia, together with their peculiarities and locations. Open your eyes wide, and let’s go!

Jump to a cave:

The facts are these…

The most stunning continental and sea caves in Croatia

#1 Baraćeve špilje, Rakovica

The area of Baraćeve špilje was declared a protected area called značajni krajobraz (significant landscape) in 1892. The total protected area covers 5.19 square kilometers, and Baraćeve špilje is the most significant part of it.

The caves are decorated with underground speleological objects like speleothems, karst reliefs, Pleistocene fossil remains, and endemic cave fauna. It is also an archeological site.

If you plan to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park, Baraćeve špilje is an ideal stop because these caves are only 20 kilometers away.

[Read: Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvička jezera)]

Names: Baraćeve špilje, Barać caves
Location: Rakovica – view map

Web site | Facebook | Instagram

#2 Betina, Dubrovnik

Betina is an isolated beach in Dubrovnik named after the cave that surrounds it. What makes this location different are the crystal-clear sea, pebbles, and the cave’s high walls that will elevate your swimming experience to a higher level.

Betina can be accessed only by swimming or boat. Since it is quite inaccessible, it should not be crowded. This means you may even be alone there after the summer season.

Names: Betina, Betina cave
Location: Dubrovnik – view map

#3 Cerovačke špilje, Velebit

Cerovačke špilje is situated in the south part of Velebit, near the city of Gračac, only 4 kilometers away. In 1961, Cerovačke špilje was protected as a geomorphological monument of nature. The total length of explored cave channels is 8.093 meters.

Two caves within the complex are open for visitors – Donja and Gornja Cerovačka špilja. Both are 700 meters long. Cerovačke špilje is the largest and most popular Croatian cave complex. If you want to visit both caves, it will take you 3 hours. Apart from cave decorations, you will see the remains of a cave bear that once lived there.

[Read: Visiting Northern Velebit National Park]

Names: Cerovačke špilje, Cerovačke pećine, Cerovac caves
Location: Grab, Velebit nature park – view map

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#4 Golubinka, Dugi otok

Golubinka cave is situated in the southwest part of the island of Dugi otok, near the cove Brbinjšćica. It can be accessed only from the sea if you swim or go by kayak. The entrance to the cave is narrow and long.

The interior of the cave is decorated by the play of sunlight, so you can please your eyes with a rich spectrum of different colors. More than 50 species of sea sponges, 3.000 red bats, and large horseshoe bats live in the cave.

Names: Golubinka, Golubinka cave
Location: Brbinj, the island of Dugi otok – view map

#5 Lokvarka, Lokve

With 1.200 meters in length and 140 meters in height, Lokvarka is the biggest cave in Gorski kotar. It was discovered by accident in 1911, during stone extraction in the nearest quarry. The cave has been arranged for tourist visits in a year. The latest renovation was done in 2012.

Lokvarka has an underground lake and four galleries with numerous cave decorations like speleothems. The temperature in the cave is about 8 degrees. Significant cave animals that live there are an underground spider Parastalita stygia, a millipede Bracydesmus inferus inferus, underground beetles Thyphlotrechus bilimeki and Parapropus sericeus stilleri, and underground leeches.

Names: Lokvarka, Lokvarka cave
Location: Lokve – view map

Web site

#6 Manita peć, NP Paklenica

Manita peć is situated within Paklenica national park in the southern part of Velebit mountain. The cave is very spacious and decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, cascades, and speleothems. Various bat species and 52 species of invertebrates live there.

The ascent from the parking lot in Velika Paklenica to the cave takes about an hour and a half. The visit to the cave lasts about 30 minutes.

[Read: Visiting Paklenica National Park]

Names: Manita peć, Manita peć cave
Location: Starigrad, Paklenica national park – view map

Web site

#7 Modra špilja (Blue Cave), Biševo

Modra špilja on the island of Biševo
Modra špilja (Blue Cave), Image by Rent a boat Komiža

Modra špilja is a phenomenon of nature known as the most stunning Croatia’s sea cave and a unique miracle of nature. What makes the cave special is the sunlight that enters the cave through the underwater opening of the cave and reflects off the white bottom. The light makes the seawater look crystal sapphire blue.

To visit Modra špilja, take a boat trip from the nearest island – Vis. The best time for a visit is between 11 and 14 since the sunlight creates the most spectacular color then.

Trips are usually canceled during bad weather, so do not plan your visit last minute and follow the weather forecast. I missed my opportunity for the trip during the summer holidays on Vis because we did not plan in advance.

Names: Modra špilja, Blue Grotto, Blue cave
Location: The island of Biševo – view map

#8 Modrič, Jasenice

Modrič cave is 800 meters long. What makes it special is the untouched nature – there are no concrete paths or reflectors in the cave. Its channels are high and wide, so it is easily passable. However, you cannot explore it without adequate equipment and an expert guide.

Modrič cave was declared a Geomorphological monument of nature in 1986. It was discovered by accident.

Names: Modrič, Modrič cave
Location: Jasenice – view map

Web site

#9 Odisejeva špilja, Mljet

Odisejeva špilja is situated in the southern part of the island of Mljet, which is a wild wonder of nature. During the summer, when the sunlight is strong, the color of the sea inside the cave varies within the most astonishing color palette. The cave is accessible by boat, swimming, or walking. Mljet national park is only 14 kilometers away from the cave.

According to the legend, a Greek nymph Kalipso lived in Odisejeva špilja. A big love story between her and Odysseus happened on Mljet. You can read about this love legend in this post.

[Read: Visiting Mljet National Park]

Names: Odisejeva špilja, Jama, Odysseus cave
Location: Babino polje, the island of Mljet – view map

#10 Plava Grota, Cres

Plava Grota is only one nautical mile away from the city of Lubenice on the island of Cres. The cave is situated at the marvelous beach called Žanja. It is 20 meters long and can be accessed only from the sea.

Due to the number of fish, crabs, lobsters, and oysters, Plava Grota is a paradise for sailors. Inside the cave, there is a small pebble beach. The colors of the sunlight reflecting on the cave’s walls make it one of the most remarkable sea attractions in Croatia.

[Read: Best places to go fishing in Croatia (and the rules you must abide by)]

Names: Plava Grota, Blue cave
Location: Lubenice, the island of Cres – view map

#11 Veternica, Medvednica

Veternica cave on Medvednica mountain
Veternica cave; Image by Nature park Medvednica

Veternica cave is an ideal place to go if you are visiting Zagreb. It is situated on the mountain of Medvednica, right next to Zagreb. The cave is 7.000 meters long. However, only the first 380 meters are accessible to visitors.

In Veternica, you can see fossils, remains of a cave bear, sand dunes, and various erosion forms. In addition to bears, a cave lion, leopard, cave hyena, rhinoceros, proboscis and giant deer also lived in this cave. Nowadays, 18 bat species live there.

[Read: Endangered animals you might see in Croatia]

Names: Veternica, Veternica cave
Location: The mountain of Medvednica – view map

Web site

#12 Vindija, Rijeka Voćanska

Vindija cave is one of the most important paleontological and archaeological sites in Croatia. It was protected as a monument of culture and nature in 1964. The cave is situated only 20 kilometers away from the city of Varaždin.

[Read: UNESCO monuments of culture and nature in Croatia]

Vindija was formed by different geological processes in rocks deposited in Panonsko more (Pannonian Sea) about 15 million years ago. The anthropological material findings in the cave date from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. Skeletal remains make it possible to trace the evolution from Neanderthals to modern man.

[Read: Weird and unique museums in Croatia including Krapina Neandhertal Museum]

Names: Vindija, Vindija cave
Location: Rijeka Voćanska – view map

Web site

#13 Vranjača, Dugopolje

The karst cave Vranjača is situated near Dugopolje, at the central part of the mountain range Mosor, 26 kilometers from Split. The cave is spacious, relatively dry, well-protected from cold storms and winds, and close to forests and mountains. Because of these features, it was the perfect home for cave bears and post-diluvial animals. The constant temperature in the cave is 16 degrees.

The first cultural layers of Vranjača date from the early Neolithic era. Rich speleothems make it the prettiest cave in Dalmatia, and tourists adore it. Vranjača has been a Croatian geomorphological natural monument since 1963.

Names: Vranjača, Vranjača cave
Location: Dugopolje – view map

Web site | Facebook

#14 Vrelo, Fužine

The cave Vrelo is 3.5-4 million years old and 300 meters long. The most stunning parts of the cave are a mountain spring, a lake, and an abyss situated on the 50th meter. During extremely rainy weather, the stream floods the cave.

Vrelo is pretty cold throughout the year – the temperature is about -8 degrees Celsius. However, due to mild terrain without single stairs, Vrelo is the only cave in Europe that can be visited by everyone, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

[Read: Interview with Slaven Škrobot, Croatian travel blogger for people with disabilities]

Names: Vrelo, Vrelo cave
Location: Fužine – view map

Web site

#15 Zelena špilja (Green Cave), Ravnik on island Vis

Zelena špilja on the island of Ravnik in the archipelago of Vis has been a geomorphological monument of nature since 1967. The cave has two big entrances. Sunlight enters the cave at the center of the high dome and reflects its light through the darkness of the cave. The darkness intensifies the intensity of light that illuminates the seabed.

Do not miss Zelena špilja if you ever visit the island of Vis. You can swim inside the cave but is in not allowed to stay inside for more than 10 minutes. Organized diving tours are also available, so if you crave exploring the underwater universe, this cave is the ultimate planet to start with.

Names: Zelena špilja, Green cave
Location: The island of Ravnik in the Vis archipelago – view map

Web site

View our other nature posts


Sources:
5 morskih špilja u Hrvatskoj by Croatia Yachting
8 najljepših špilja u Hrvatskoj by LiveCamCroatia
Špilja Lokvarka by Gorski kotar bike
Špilja Vrelo by Gorski kotar bike
Špilja u Dubrovniku koja skriva prekrasnu plažu by Dunja Rudman

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. It is important to understand that Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change and each personal case is individual and different rules may apply. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.

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