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Vrtiglavica cave

Cross section of Vrtiglavica cave, Slovenia
Cross section of Vrtiglavica cave with waterfall. Note that the scale is distorted - lower part is "squeezed" / Gatis Pāvils, basing on measurements of JDD Koper and other speleologists, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 46.3546 N 13.4557 E (mistake up to 2,000 m)
No:393        (list of all attractions)
Category:Caves, Waterfalls, Geographical extremes
Values:Geology, Visual
Address:Europe, Slovenia, Slovenian Littoral, Canin mountain
Name in Slovenian:Vrtiglavica jama, Vrtiglavica
Alternate names:Vrtoglavica, Vertigo
Length:not measured
Depth of cave:643 m
Height of waterfall:400 - 440 m

In Slovenia is located cave with deepest vertical underground pitch in the world - Vrtiglavica (Vrtoglavica). Total depth of cave is 643 m, but uninterrupted free fall here would be 603 m high.

Canin mountain

The enormous Canin massif in Alps, on the border of Slovenia and Italia is formed from very thick (almost 1 km) Dachstein (Triassic) limestone layer.

This mass of carbonate rock is perfect example of karst processes. Speleologists have explored hundreds of kilometres of cave passages here, there are known more than 800 caves. Many caves here are very deep and long, the deepest cave here is the 1,533 m deep Čehi 2 cave, several more caves are more than 1 km deep.

Especially famous are the vadose pit caves of Canin massif, which basically are extremely deep wells, formed by a vertical flow of rainwater and meltwater through the limestone.

"Cave of vertigo"

Cave with the world's deepest underground pitch - Vrtiglavica ("cave of vertigo, cave of dizzyness" in Slovenian) - was discovered in summer 1996 by Italian speleologists.

Some months later there was organized a joint Slovenian - Italian expedition, which reached the bottom of this fantastic cave in October 12, 1996. Descent was done by Slovenians Rok Stopar, Matjaz Zetko, Miran Zobec and Italians Massimiliano Palmieri, Louis Torelli, Roberto Spina, Matteo Rivarossi and Luca Tanfoglio.

Description of cave

Entrance of Vrtiglavica is located at the height of 1,900 m. Upper part of the cave is adorned with icicles and other ice formations - this is a danger to cavers far below.

Upper 50 m of the cave are like a smooth, cylindrical wall, but further down it becomes narrow. At the depth of some 150 m cave becomes wide again - here starts large, half a kilometre deep well.

At the depth of some 200 - 240 m from a side passage comes waterfall, which is one of the deepest underwater falls in the world - approximately 400 - 440 m high.

At some 450 m depth starts tilted descent until the full depth of 643 m.

Bottom of the cave is covered with rubble, the stream disappears among the stones.

As the entrance in the cave is narrow - not wider than the main body of cave, it is assumed that Vrtiglavica formed before the ice period and upper layer of rock was then removed by ice.

Vertical pitch

603 m long rope can freely hang inside this cave - thus Vrtoglavica has the deepest vertical underground pitch in the world.

Nevertheless this is not the deepest abyss in the world - two sinkholes in China are deeper. Xiaozhai tiankeng is 662 m deep but Dashiwei tiankeng - 613 m deep.


See Vrtiglavica cave on the map of Slovenia!


  1. VRTIGLAVICA (N.6926 SLO) - Meno seicentoquarantatre metri.. Accessed on March 5, 2013.

Landmarks of Slovenia

Piran, Slovenia
Piran, Slovenia / nagerw, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

This small Alpine country is very rich with natural and man made landmarks. Highlights of Slovenia are:

  • Caves - Slovenia has some of most magnificent caves in the world, such as Škocjan Cave with 146 m deep undergriound canyon and prehistoric monuments, Postojna - Planina caves with the highest cave biodiversity in the world or Vrtiglavica with the deepest vertical drop in the world.
  • Historical cities - Slovenia is at the crossroads of different cultures and it shows in the diverse architecture of historical towns and cities. The towns at the Adriatic are rich with Italian Gothic and Renaissance architecture (Piran, Koper), but further inland - with Baroque and Neo-Classicism architecture (Ptuj, Škofja Loka).
  • Castles - The outstanding Predjama castle alone is a reason to mention castles among the highlights of Slovenia. Country has huge number of large, well preserved castles, mostly in Renaissance style.


Caver walking inside the Majlis al Jinn cave
Caver walking inside the Majlis al Jinn cave, Oman / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Every year there are reported exciting discoveries of new caves and discoveries of new qualities such as cave paintings in the ones known before. But there still is a feeling that our knowledge covers just a small part of all these monuments of nature.

Your thoughts?