Carlsbad Caverns

Worlds Best Subterranean Attractions

From mines to secret bunkers, these are some of the world’s best subterranean attractions, underground marvels far below the surface of the earth that are strictly not for the claustrophobic.

Cabinet War Rooms

Churchill War Rooms
(Image by siegertmarc on Flickr)

Underneath the corridors of power in London’s Whitehall district is a plainly decorated bunker that belies its incredible history. The Cabinet War Rooms, some 10 feet below ground level, is a sprawling complex of almost 30,000 square feet where historic figures such as Winston Churchill made the decisions that changed the course of history during the 2nd World War. With offices, broadcasting facilities and bedrooms, the war rooms were designed to resist bombs of up to 500 lbs, and the location was kept a secret to all but the most senior officials. Today there is less mystery about the bunker, and tourists have been able to tour the facility since it opened to the public in 1983.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels
(Image by David McKelvey on Flickr)

Also established during a time of warfare, the 75 mile long Cu Chi Tunnels in northwest Vietnam were first dug out of the earth some time in the 1960s. Built as a base for the communist Viet Cong, and as a way to move soldiers and weapons through the country surreptitiously, the tunnels were a thorn in the side of the American army until they withdraw from the conflict in 1972. Preserved by the Vietnamese government, the tunnels are now one of the most popular tourist attractions in southern Vietnam. Crawling through many of the passageways can be a tight squeeze, however, with some of the smallest being only 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide, so think about trimming down before visiting.

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army
(Image by kevinpoh on Flickr)

Though this next site also housed a large army, it has little to do with war. The Terracotta Army in Shaanxi, China is one of the world’s most spectacular underground attractions, with over 8500 distinct life-sized terracotta figurines of soldiers, chariots and horses. Discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers digging a well, the army is believed to have been constructed in the third century BC to guard the soul of emperor Qi Shi Huang in the afterlife. If you can’t visit this archaeological relic, make sure to catch members of the Army as they tour the globe, exhibiting in museums and galleries around the world.

Chauvet Caves

Chauvets Cave
(Image by The Adventurous Eye on Flickr)

Other subterranean attractions known for their ancient art are the Chauvet Caves in the Ardeche department of France, known for oldest known rock art in existence and first discovered in 1994. Dating from as far back as the Aurignacian era, the earliest paintings in this dark, cavernous have endured in the dark for almost 32,000 years. Most images on the cave walls show animals such as horses, cattle and reindeer, though rarer, more exotic creatures like panthers, hyenas and rhinos are also depicted.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine
(Image by Michael O. on Flickr)

Not so old, but just as spectacular, the Wieliczka Salt Mine some 64 metres below the surface of southern Poland is home to a stunning collection of art, and even a cavernous chapel, carved out of rock salt by generations of miners. Some of the most impressive works include St Kinga’s Shaft, a floodlit grotto; a replica of Da Vinci’s Last Supper; a salt statue of Pope John Paul II and even an elaborate chandelier.

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns
(Image by danlang on Flickr)

If you are looking for natural, rather than man-made, splendour, then head to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. One of the largest underground cave complexes in the world, this warren of underground delights offers huge chambers with some of the most unusual limestone formations to be found anywhere, including the Witches Finger, a corkscrew Stalagmite that stands more than 20 feet tall. The caverns are also home to almost 800,000 Mexican Free-tailed bats, and tourists can visit at dusk to watch them fly out of the cave entrances and into the sky. Yet with so many sharp stalagmites and stalactites sticking out from the floors and ceilings of this cave, be careful where you choose to sit!

It just goes to show that you never know what you might uncover if you scratch away at the surface of things. Whether you are wearing a hard-hat 64 metres down in a mine, or walking across the same surfaces that Winston Churchill paced over while making tough decisions, these subterranean attractions are well worth the trip.

Date posted: 13th September, 2011

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