State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic Slovak Caves Administration
Štátna ochrana prírody
SlovenskyEnglishDeutschMagyarulPolski

World Natural Heritage

The glamour and mystery of our World Natural Heritage can be admired only by visitors of show caves. From among the fifteen classically or touristically opened caves in Slovakia (except for the Bojnická Castle Cave which is a part of the castle tour) six caves are included in the World Natural Heritage (Dobšinská Ice Cave, Domica Cave, Gombasecká Cave, Jasovská Cave, Krásnohorská Cave and Ochtinská Aragonite Cave).

Other caves and abysses of the world heritage are not open to the public. Many of them are hardly accessible. Only experienced cavers and speleoalpinists with the help of roping technique or by demanding climbing or crawling can enter them. Some parts of cave with water siphons or flooded parts are accessible only by speleodivers.

Brief characteristics of show caves in the world heritage is a kind of an invitation to visit them. Following is the basic characteristic of other national nature monuments – wild caves and abysses of the World Natural Heritage.

Caves of the Slovak and Aggtelek Karst – World Natural Heritage

The caves of the Slovak and Aggtelek Karst were inscribed on the World Natural and Cultural Heritage list of the UNESCO on the basis of a bilateral nomination Slovak-Hungarian project in 1995, which was approved by the World Heritage Committee in Berlin on December 4 – 9, 1995. This project was extended by the Dobšinská Ice Cave in 2000 and approved on the Committee session in Cairns during November 27- December 2, 2000.

The caves of the Slovak Karst now represent the only natural phenomenon inscribed on this list.

They present an exceptional example of ongoing geological processes and significant geomorphic features. The representativeness and exceptionality of underground karst forms of the Slovak and Aggtelek Karst resides in the following facts.

Genetic and morphological diversity of caves

The area has many kinds of genetic and morphological types of caves in a relative closeness. The most frequent are the river (so called fluviokarst) caves, flown through by water courses at present or in the past, having usually the signs of river modelling and corrosion (e.g. ceiling channels and scallops in Domica and Gombasecká Cave) as well as corrosive spaces formed by chemical solution of limestone by percolation or stagnant karst waters (e.g. abysses Zvonivá jama, Malá and Veľká žomboj, Malá and Veľká bikfa, Brázda, Obrovská priepasť), caves with vertical corrosion walls and planated ceilings, corrosion cupolas, inclined side walls (Ochtinská Aragonite Cave). Distinct fault passages (Krásnohorská Cave) or crevasse spaces (Čertova diera, Snežná diera) are not so frequent.

Variability of flowstone fill in caves

There are not many karst areas with so many representative types of dripstone decoration as the Slovak Karst. Soda straws in the Gombasecká Cave reaching as much as 3 m are unique. World known are flowstone shields and drums in the Domica Cave as well as the aragonite crystals in the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave. Except for them, there are many shapes of stalactites (including rarer spheric ones in Domica), stalagmites (pagoda type in Domica, mighty pagodas in Zvonivá jama, stick stalagmites in the Ardovská Cave, palm one in Domica), columns (32 m high dripstone in the Krásnohorská Cave), flowstone curtains (Milada, Domica), coatings, pea forms (Brázda Abyss), flowstone cascades (Rhoman Spa in Domica), lacustrine forms (Diviačia priepasť), moonmilk (Gombasecká Cave, Šingliarka Abyss) and eccentric shapes (Hrušovská Cave). Two caves with permanent ice fill are integrated: Dobšinská Ice Cave, with 110,132 m3 of ice and Silická ľadnica, with elevation of 503 m as the lowest one in the temperate climatic zone. Ice fill occurs also in the Snežná jama.

Exceptional density of representative types of caves in the temperate climatic zone

The karst phenomena are connected with more than 1,000 caves concentrated within the area of about 400 square km. Another 200 square km are on the Hungarian side. Such a density connected with high representativeness does not occur on other part of the temperate climatic zone.

Occurrence of rare underground animals and archaeological findings

The numerous karst cavities together with favourable climatic conditions determined also the variety of underground animals, especially invertebrates. Since the environment of troglobitic (or cavernicolous) animals is limited by space, many endemic species known only from this place evolved here. Such is the tiny crustacean (Niphargus aggtelekiensis), pseudoscorpion Neobisium (Blothrus) slovacum or small beetles Duvalius szilicensis and Duvalius bokori. Ardovská and Domica Cave have invertebras like palpigrade Eukoenenia spelea or multipede Typhloiulus sp.

A valuable group of cave animals are bats. Important wintering places include the caves Domica (mainly Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Rh. hipposideros, Rh. euryale and Myotis emarginatus), Jasovská Cave, Drieňovská Cave, Čertova diera, Dobšinská Ice Cave (mainly rare Myotis mystacinus/brandtii) and others. The caves offer habitats for more than 500 species of genuine cave animals (troglobites).

Caves representing the development of several cultures are known from the territory of the Slovak and Aggtelek Karst. Especially valuable are the traces of human activities of the Bukk-Mountain Culture in Domica (with preserved potter workshop, traces after mining the clay, imprint of fabric, findings of pottery, bone needle and many other artefacts and cave drawings), in the Ardovská Cave and in the Silická ľadnica Cave. Especially worthful are preserved cult masks made of human skull of the Kyjatice Culture found in the Majda-Hraškova Cave and Babská diera Cave. Many objects were found in other caves coming from the Iron Age, Halstadt Age or from the Middle Ages. Very valuable is also the historical Hussite inscription on the wall in the Jasovská Cave.

How is the care and protection of the site secured?

The legislature of the Slovak Republic has several measures concerning the caves on the world heritage list:

  • Every cave is a natural monument with a special level of protection corresponding the the strongest levels of surface habitats in terms of the act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic no. 543/2002 of the Legal Codes On Nature and Landscape Protection. The most important caves were declared by the Regulation of the Ministry of the Environment of SR no. 293/1996 the national nature monuments: Ardovská Cave, Brázda Abyss, Diviačia Abyss, Domica Cave, Drienovská Cave, Gombasecká Cave, Hrušovská Cave, Jasovská Cave, Krásnohorská Cave, Kunia Abyss, Milada Cave, Obrovská Abyss, Ochtinská Aragonite Cave, Silická ľadnica Cave, Skalistý potok Cave, Snežná diera Abyss, Zvonivá jama Abyss and Dobšinská Ice Cave. This means the highest level of protection within the legislation of the Slovak Republic.
  • Every impact to cave is conditioned by approvement of the nature protection authority, which will require the opinion of the vocational organization of nature protection.
  • The government of the Slovak Republic adopted a resolution no. 509/1996 in July 1996 concerning the Programme of support and conception for development of localities inscribed on the World Natural and Cultural Heritage List of the UNESCO. Then the Ministry of the Environment worked out an aggregate program of measures for protection of the Slovak part of the world heritage – The Caves of the Slovak and Aggtelek Karst.
  • The amendment of the constitution of the Slovak Republic no. 90/2001, included all the caves under the ownership of state. This meant an important progressive step in cave protection.
  • The previous protected landscape area of the Slovak Karst was designate a national park by the Decree of the Slovak government no. 101/2002. The level of protection rose from 2 to 3.
  • The change of statute of the Slovak Caves Administration no. 46/2001-5 transferred all the competence for wild caves to this organization seated in Liptovský Mikuláš. The care for all the caves in the Slovak part of WH is secured by one organization belonging under the ministry of the environment.
  • On February 2, 2001 - the Domica Cave was included into the Ramsar list as internationally important wetland of underground karst waters.

Planned and other legislative measures for protection of the caves in the World Natural Heritage:

  • preparation and declaring of cave protection zones for the Domica Cave, Ochtinská Aragonite Cave, Gombasecká Cave (including the Silická ľadnica Cave) Milada Cave, Ardovská Cave, Krásnohorská Cave

Management of the world heritage site

Human and material resources are provided by the state through the vocational organization – the Slovak Caves Administration and before also the State Nature Conservation. The most important management activities with highest financial contributions were aimed at:

  • closing cave entrances of important and endangered caves or replacement of old gates and closures – Ardovská Cave, Čertova diera Cave, Domica Cave, Hrušovská Cave, Jasovská Cave, Kamenná pivnica Cave, Milada Cave, Matilda Cave, Nová brzotínska Cave, Skalistý potok Cave, Silická ľadnica Cave, Šingliarova Abyss, fencing of the Zvonivá jamy Abyss
  • marking the most important caves: 14 caves with the sign of the world heritage and other 40 with state sign (during 1997–1999)
  • measures for protection and operation of the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave: remote camera system in cave for visitors’ movement observation, building adaptations, replacement of old protection wire nets in the cave, new electrical installation with lower power output to reduce lamp flora (during 1997–2002)
  • reconstruction of electrical installation and building adaptations in the Jasovská Cave (in 1998)
  • waste removal from the Krulova baňa Cave, Snežná Abyss, Dvojitá Abyss, Zvonivá jama Abyss, Šingliarova Abyss

Research and protection projects:

  • Rescue Programme for the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave.
  • Geophysical research of the Domica Cave.
  • Geomorphological research of the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave, Domica Cave and Jasovská Cave (in cooperation with the Geological Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw and Geological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague, 1997–1999).
  • Research of ice movement in the Dobšinská Ice Cave.
  • Geological and mineralogical research of the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave and Domica Cave.
  • Research of cave fauna – invertebrates in the Domica Cave, Ardovská Cave, Diviačia Abyss and Gombasecká Cave (Zoological Institute of SAS in Košice, Faculty of Natural Sciences of the UPJŠ in Košice).
  • Research of ice fill in the Dobšinská Ice Cave (cooperation with the University in Copenhagen, company Selor from the Netherlands, University in Bern and Geological Institute in Budapest).
  • Gamaspectrometric research in the Gombasecká Cave, Ochtinská Aragonite Cave, Dobšinská Ice Cave, Jasovská Cave and Domica Cave (Faculty of Natural Sciences of Palacký University in Olomouc and Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Masaryk University in Brno).

Working with public:

  • Exhibitions in cave entrance buildings in Domica Cave (1996), Ochtinská Aragonite Cave (1996, renewed in 2004), Jasovská Cave (1997) and Dobšinská Ice Cave (2000). Information board on the world heritage is at the access path to the Gombasecká Cave.
  • the text on the world heritage included in the commentary for visitors of the Domica Cave, Gombasecká Cave, Jasovská Cave, Ochtinská Aragonite Cave, Krásnohorská Cave and Dobšinská Ice Cave.
  • a poster on the Slovak caves in the world heritage in 1996
  • a joint poster of underground localities in the world heritage in cooperation with the Škocjanske Caves in Slovenia was issued in 2001
  • postcards, brochures, folders
  • in cooperation with the Hungarian side a folder and set of postcards was printed in 2002
  • a colour publication was issued at the occasion of the 10th anniversary of inscription on the World Heritage List
  • Krásnohorská Cave was opened to the public in a tourist way in 2000–2001 and again in 2004
  • a new environmental exposition was installed in the entrance building in the Domica Cave including promotion of the world heritage

Monitoring

The monitoring of influences on cave spaces and ecosystems is realized by the Slovak Caves Administration especially in the most valuable and vulnerable caves. The following activities were realized:

  • Continuous climatic monitoring in the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave since 1996, extended by chemism of percolating waters and temperature of rock in 2000.
  • Continuous monitoring of thermodynamic regime of the Dobšinská Ice Cave (in cooperation with the Wroclaw University in Poland and Ruhr University Bochum in Germany).
  • Hydrological and hydrochemical monitoring of underground waters in Domica Cave since 1997.
  • Hydrological monitoring in the Jasovská Cave since 2000.
  • Hydrological and climatic monitoring in the Gombasecká Cave since 2002.
  • Monitoring of bats in the Jasovská Cave, Dobšinská Ice Cave and Domica Cave, regular counting of bats in other world heritage caves (Drienovská, Ardovská, Hrušovská, Moldavská, Majkova and Hačavská, Milada, Erňa, Brázda, Čertova diera in cooperation with the Group for Bat Protection).
  • Periodical observation of radon concentration in the Ochtinská Aragonite Cave.
  • Periodical observation of microclimatic conditions and ice fill in the Silická ľadnica.

What is threatening the world heritage?

The main risk factors potentially threatening the unity of caves and their ecosystems are:

  • agricultural activities especially in drainage areas of active caves (Domica, Milada, Ardovská Cave)
  • forest management activities – mainly clearcutting
  • excavation of ore materials – two large limestone quarries are operating in the area of the Slovak Karst (Gombasek and Včeláre). Other small quarries were gradually closed
  • industry exhalation and product lines – oil and gas lines
  • tourism – illegal breaking of dripstone, collecting of rare cultural and natural objects
  • The reducing of risk factors can be assigned to improvement of care for the world heritage caves.
News

Demänovská jaskyňa slobody - veľký okruh mimo prevádzky / long tour closed

Vážení návštevníci, 

prevádzkovanie veľkého okruhu v Demänovskej jaskyni slobody je dočasne pozastavené kvôli prebiehajúcim rekonštrukčným prácam na priľahlých úsekoch jaskyne. Predpokladané znovuotvorenie je v druhej polovici roka 2024. Ospravedlňujeme sa za prípadné nepríjemnosti.

Dear visitors,

operation of the long tour in the Demänovska Cave of Liberty is temporarily suspended due to ongoing reconstruction work in adjacent cave parts. We assume reopening in the second half of the year 2024. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Underground boat trip in Domica Cave not available.

Due to low yield of underground water the boat trip in Domica Cave is not available. The short tour is available. Thank you for understanding

Cave visit with small children

Dear visitors, due to increased visitation of parents with very small children (circa up to 3 - 4 years of age), we would like to kindly ask you to have a rucksack baby carrier with you for visiting the more demanding caves in given time. This recommendation concerns all caves but the most concerned are the following ones: Demänovská Cave of Liberty, Belianska Cave, Dobšinská Ice Cave, Demänovská Ice Cave, Harmanecká Cave. We also ask you to consider visiting the cave with your crying child, which could disturb the other visitors. Thank you for understanding and we wish you a nice experience.

Cave tour guides for download

Dear visitors, cave tour guides are available for download

Partner

Správa jeskyní České republikyInternational Year of Caves and KarstHabakukyZajo