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Just outside of Brno, Czech Republic is one of the most spectacular geological formations in the world. Known as the Moravian Karst, this massive system of caves and gorges forms a landscape that makes for an excellent day trip from Brno.
What is the Moravian Karst?
A karst is a unique geologic formation that is created by water coming into extended contact with soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum over the course of millions of years. The resulting landscape is often filled with caves, sinkholes, and other interesting places to explore.
The Moravian Karst is comprised of over 1,100 caverns and gorges, covering some 92 square kilometers. Of these caves, only 5 are currently open to the public. The Moravian Karst is one of the largest karst systems in Europe.
Getting to the Moravian Karst from Brno
The Moravian Karst is located about 45-60 minutes north of Brno in South Moravia. The five public caverns (Punkva Caves, Balcarka Cave, Kateřinská Cave, Výpustek Cave, and Sloupsko-šošůvské Caves/Kůlna Cave) of the Brno caves are scattered around the area. There is little public transportation to the Moravian Karst, so it’s best to travel by car or by organized tour.
There are also several Moravian Karst tours from Brno or even Prague. These Brno cave tours range from easy walks through the caverns with a few staircases to full-on adrenaline cave tours that include climbing & crawling.
Things to see & do in the Moravian Karst
As mentioned above, five of the Moravian Karst caves are open to the public. There are also other outdoor activities in the area such as hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. Punkva Cave (official website – there are so many caves in the Czech Republic that the country has a special department for cave administration) is one of the more popular places to visit as it has an array of things to see and do.
The visit to Punkva Caves includes not just the cave tour, but also a road train, a boat ride, and a cable car. This was the tour that I was invited to join in conjunction with Traverse 22 in Brno.
The main parking area for Punkva Caves is located in a small town called Skalní Mlýn. There is also a hotel, restaurant, and information center there.
The motorized train along Pustý Žleb Canyon departs from Skalní Mlýn every 20 minutes or so. The ride takes about 10 minutes, following the Punkva River through a green forest after it reemerges above ground past the caves, where it is the longest underground river in the Czech Republic. It then arrives at another visitor center & cafe that serves as the starting point for the Punkva Caves tour.
Punkva Caves tour & Macocha Abyss
The entrance to the Punkva Cave is located inside the visitor center. There are two sections to the Punkva Caves tour: dry and wet. The whole thing takes about an hour to complete. This first dry section is only a short walk inside.
Inside, several rooms are connected by additional tunnels that have been constructed for ease of access through the Moravian Karst. The tour route heads up and down some staircases, as well as some slight gradients, but the floor is well-built.
The rooms of the Punkva Caves are filled with stalagmites and stalactites. These mineral deposits form from the water inside. There are a couple of ways to remember which is which. Stalagmites have the letter “g” and come from the ground, while stalactites have the letter “c” and come from the ceiling. Alternatively, the letter “m” points upward like a stalagmite does. This knowledge is sure to impress your friends.
This particular stalagmite & stalactite pair is called Romeo & Juliet, as they never quite come together.
Despite being called the dry section, this first portion of the Punkva Caves tour still has plenty of water inside, including this beautiful mirrored pond.
In addition to the reflective water, the caves are also perfectly lit to better show off the unique mineral formations inside.
These minerals form beautiful curtains and columns, often with spectacularly detailed layers. The Moravian Karst really is an amazing place.
Following one more tunnel, there is a special surprise. The path leads around a corner and then there is suddenly sunlight.
This is the Macocha Abyss, a 138.5 meter (454 ft) sinkhole that was formed when a cave chamber collapsed. Even on a misty day, the light pouring into the gorge from above is stunning.
After the somewhat claustrophobic feeling of being inside a cave underground, you suddenly feel microscopic again as the cliffs of the Macocha Abyss tower hundreds of feet above you.
Punkva River boat ride & Masaryk Dome
Following a short walk through another tunnel, the Punkva tour then arrives at the wet portion of the journey. Visitors board motorboats for a 20-minute journey along the underground river.
Prepare to get to know your boatmates as you wind your way through the narrow passages that have names such as the Turn of Death and the Dragon’s Corridor. With chilly water and sleeping bats in the chimneys above, the ride is a bit spooky.
Partway through the Punkva Cave boat ride, there is a stop. Passengers then exit the boat for a few minutes to visit the magnificent Masaryk Dome. The Masaryk Dome is one of the most beautiful spots in all of the karst.
The combination of the walk through the caverns followed by the boat ride along the river is a great way to easily see all of the highlights of the Moravian Karst. It’s subterranean places like this that showcase just how special our planet can be sometimes.
The boat tour ends back at the visitor center.
Macocha cable car & viewpoint
Following the tour of the Punkva Caves, it was then time to take the cable car up the mountain, which was still shrouded in mist.
Not far from the cable car summit is an overlook at the edge of the canyon, which is Machoca Gorge. After having seen it from the bottom, you can now see it from the top.
All of these sights inevitably make a person hungry. There is a snack bar & a restaurant at Macocha, both of which serve refreshing local beer.
The Moravian Karst has some of the most unique geology in the world. Thanks to being so close to the city, the Brno caves are an excellent place to take a day trip to explore the beautiful caverns & gorges.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Brno, check out these hotels.