I like caves. They are not only natural wonders, whole different ecosystems with their ever-changing stalagmites, stalactites, spaghettis and collonades, and fairy-tale formations. Every time I visit a cave, I expect Snow-White and the 7 dwarfs to appear from nowhere. Visiting a cave also makes me think about how strong and consistent nature is. I know the scientific explanations, but I can’t stop feeling amazed. Caves with navigable streams, like Punkva Cave, are a new level. I had floated once before on a river in a cave in Viñales, at Cueva del Indio, but over there the ride was very short and it barely opened my appetite for more.
When planning our road trip, I also looked for caves with the possibility of a boat tour. Lucky us! There were two, one in Slovakia, Domica Cave, and one in the Czech Republic, Punkva Cave. Logistics didn’t help us see the one in Slovakia, as you could neither book in advance nor be sure that the boat trip would be included on a specific date. However, the one in the Czech Republic seemed a better opportunity.
How to get to Punkva cave
Punkva cave is part of the Moravian karst, the most significant karst area in Central Europe. The cave is about 30 km NE from Brno, but can also be done from Prague if you don’t mind a long day trip.
If you travel by car, like us, just follow the indications on Google Maps. You should easily get into the parking lot in front of the tourist office. It costs 100 CZK for an entire day.
One can also get to the cave using public transport. You should take the train either from Prague or Brno to Blansko. From the train station, a bus will take you to the same parking lot you’d have reached by car.
Once you’ve got to the tourist office, you can take a small bus-train or walk 15-20 minutes, about 2km, to the cave. The ticket for the bus costs 90 CZK return or 80 CZK one way and can be purchased from the tourist office.
Should you book a tour into Punkva Cave in advance?
I highly recommend you book a tour in advance. As it is a very cool cave and the most popular in the Czech Republic, it is usually sold out every day during the summer months. You might not get any tickets at all, or have to wait for a few hours.
We were able to turn up and buy tickets half an hour before the tour in mid-June on a Wednesday without booking in advance. We lucked out as at first they told us there weren’t any places left for the next 4 hours. As we were about to leave, a nice lady said we might want to wait 10 minutes more as there are some tickets booked for which nobody had shown up yet. We did it and we got those tickets, but I don’t advise you to do the same.
This taught us 2 things:
- Book tickets in advance online or by email, as the cave is very popular. You don’t even need to pay for them.
- If you book tickets, be there on time or earlier. Otherwise, someone else will get them.
Good to know
An adult entrance ticket cost 210 CZK, they do have reduced fees for students and children. You can buy tickets from the tourist information center next to Stalni Mlyn Hotel.
There are also other tickets available: for the mini-train, cable car or the other caves in the complex. Depending on your interests, the English speaking staff can help you decide what you need.
The cave is only open from 8:20 to 16:00. Get there early! By booking in advance, you should already have an exact time.
During the tour, you can store your luggage in a locker by the cave entrance for a coin of 10 CZK.
There are not many options for eating, just the restaurant in the hotel next to the tourist office and some snack. Whatever you do, don’t buy the langos with ketchup. It’s the worst langos I’ve ever eaten. You had better bring a packed lunch with you.
Punkva Cave – the tour
One can enter the cave only with a guide. The entire tour takes 60-70 minutes and consists of a dry part and a wet one. You will be walking for 810m, floating underground on a flat-bottom boat for the next 440m and make a total of 8 stops.
The path is well lit, but the temperatures are low, around 8-12 degrees Celsius. Make sure to take a hoodie and proper waterproof shoes. The water is even colder, 4 degrees Celsius.
The cave is complex and beautiful, with many formations that resemble story characters that the guide will speak about in Czech. You’ll also get a sheet in English with the stops and the speech related to each of them. You’ll miss the jokes of the guide and feel a little bit like an outsider when everybody around you will laugh, but the information is good enough.
One of the stops is at the bottom of Macocha Abyss and is probably the most impressive. We felt like in another world, deep in the jungle, in the middle of nowhere. Little did we imagine that we were watched from above. The abyss is 138.4 m deep, the deepest of all light holes in Central Europe.
There is a legend related to this place that says that a woman tried to kill her stepson by throwing him into the pit. The boy somehow succeeded to save himself, get back to the surface and tell the people in the village what had happened. His stepmother, ashamed and afraid of the villagers, jumped into the abyss and died. The name of the hole, Macocha means exactly stepmother.
Before or after seeing the cave you can take the cable car up or walk to the top and look into the abyss from above. I didn’t know this when I was there, but now you do.
Unfortunately, it also attracts people with suicidal intentions. Since 1933, more than 70 people committed suicide by throwing themselves into the abyss.
The boat ride
After getting to the bottom of the abyss, you’ll board on the boats and cruise over the Punkva river. I was a little afraid as I knew the water was very cold and up to 50 m deep, but they are pretty well organized.
The boat will go through several tunnels, some natural, some manmade. You’ll stop once more in the most beautiful cathedral in the cave, its pride and beauty, Masaryk’s Dome, named after the first Czechoslovak president that visited the area. The ride continues outside the cave and back to the real world.
The Moravian Karst
In the same complex, there are 4 more caves, similar in prices and times. Each of them has a different theme and deserves a chance to be seen, but time didn’t allow us this time. If you want to see more of them, choose a property in the area to spend a night or two.
At the tourist office, when there was no place left on the tour of Punkva caves, the lady asked us if we wanted to visit another cave instead. I replied that we have a lot of caves in Romania, but none with a river. However, after seeing the dry part of the first one, I’m sure the river is not the only element that makes these caves special. They are far bigger and have many more karst formations than the ones I have seen before.
If you ever get in the area or are interested in caves, give the Moravian karst a chance and you won’t regret it. Punkva cave was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip to the Czech Republic.
Did you visit a cave with an underground river? What was it like? Would you like to visit Punkva caves?
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