It is located in the south-western part of Slovenia and covers an area of 401 hectares. With its buffer zone it covers 45.000 hectares.
Due to their outstanding natural features and strategic location at the crossroads of various trade routs, the Škocjan Caves and their surroundings have been placed on the world maps since ancient times. Despite general awareness of this unique cave system with its diverse fauna and flora and a rich cultural heritage, the area was protected at the national level as late as in 1996 when the Škocjan Caves Regional Park was established. All valuable natural features in the Park are of national importance. The whole protected area is also covered by Natura 2000 and it represents an ecologically important area.
The Škocjan Caves were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1986. In 1999 the Škocjan Caves were inscribed in the List of Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. In 2004 the Park was included in the MAB World Network of Biosphere Reserves under the name of the Karst Biosphere Reserve.
The Škocjan Caves Park is located in the south-western part of Slovenia, where flysch and limestone meet and the landscape gradually becomes more typically karst-like, both in nature and in culture. This unique karst landscape is characterized by a level rocky surface with dramatic sinkholes as well as the gorge through which the Reka River flows. The unique nature, the matchless karst landscape bringing together a large number of different karst phenomena, the unique distribution of flora and fauna, numerous archaeological sites and pioneering hydrological research have contributed to the fact that the preserved and protected natural and cultural heritage of the Škocjan Caves and its surroundings is today included on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites.
The Škocjan Caves with their numerous tunnels, vast underground halls and the underground canyon of the Reka River hold a special place in Slovenia’s some 12,000 caves. They are considered the most important underground phenomenon in both the Karst and Slovenia and rank among the most renowned caves in the world. The entire system is about 6 kilometres long and the lowest point is 209 metres deep.
What makes this cave system exceptional is the great halls in dry tunnels, such as the Podorna dvorana (Depression Hall) and Velíka dvorana (Great Hall), but above all the imposing underground canyon and numerous deep sinkholes nearby. It is the exceptional volume of the underground canyon that distinguishes the Škocjan Caves from the other caves and places them alongside of some of the best-known underground features in the world.
This part bears the name Šumeča jama (Murmuring Cave) due to the sounds of the river that just before the Cerkvenik Bridge turns north-west and continues its course along the Hánkejev kanal (Hánke’s channel). This underground channel, which was explored as early as the end of the 19th century, is approximately 3.5 kilometres long, 10 to 60 metres wide and over 140 metres high. At some points it expands into huge underground chambers. The largest of these is the Martélova dvorana (Martel’s Chamber), with its 2.2 million cubic metres of volume, is considered to be the largest discovered underground chamber in Slovenia and even one of the largest in the world.
The Reka River, considered to be the largest Slovenian disappearing river, flows through the karst underground towards some springs 35 kilometres away near Duino in Italy where it again resurfaces slightly above the sea level as the Timava River.
The Park is renowned not only for its rich natural features but it is also characterized by an interesting combination of unique cultural heritage features which are well-worth visiting in the villages of Škocjan, Betanja in Matavun. Very interesting from a historical point of view is the entire village of Škocjan, which together with the Church of Sv. Kancijan represents a settlement site.
In the Škocjan Caves Park you are kindly invited to:
• visit the famous Škocjan Caves accompanied by experienced guides (duration: about an hour and a half);
• visit the Marinič and Mahorčič caves and Mala dolina (duration: about 1 hour);
• visit the ethnological collection in the J’kopinov skedenj barn, biological, geological and archaeological collections in the natural learning centre – the Delezova homestead and see the collection; the History of research of the Škocjan Caves at the information point. A visit to the museum collections is included in the offer of the Škocjan Caves Park during the season (from June to September) and lasts for about an hour;
• take a walk along the marked educational trail, which is particularly suitable for groups of school children. For organized and announced groups, guidance along the educational trail is also possible, which is similar to a “field class with worksheets” (duration: about two hours). The visit includes all the museum collections. Combinations with other services are also possible (e.g. Škocjan Caves + educational trail);
• visit Velika dolina, which is possible for organized and prearranged groups (duration: about 45 min);
• overnight in the Škocjan Cave Park locals’ private rooms or apartments.