The underground world of the Karst landscape is to this day for many people still something unknown, mysterious and a little bit frightening. Thanks, however, to research done by geologists, hydrologists, speleologists and biospeleologists the beauty and attraction of caves has for decades now been known to the wider public.
Croatia is known for its large number of interesting caves, located in all parts of the country. The Velebit mountain chain hides perhaps the majority of them and, tourists will once again be able to take in some of the better known of the Velebit caves – the Cerovac Caves, which have been closed to the public over the past years.
Because of the caves’ exceptional geomorphic structure, the complexity of their numerous canals and halls and the fascinating finds in the fields of archaeology, anthropology and palaeontology, the Cerovac Caves were in 1961 declared a protected geomorphic cultural monument.
Situated about four kilometres south-east of Gračac, under the craggy heights of the Velebit peak of Crnopac, the Cerovac Caves are actually three cave systems – the Upper Cave is located at a depth of 1250 metres, the Lower Cave, made up of several horizontally positioned halls and canals, is located at a depth of 2400 metres while the Central Cave is a combination of caves and sinkholes.
Visitors will be able to enter the Lower Cave. Access paths leading to the cave need to be put in order as do signposts and info-points along it, a railing securing the path through the cave, reflectors for lighting and info-points at all the fossil finds, the ten-metre stalactite curtain and other cave formations created by the seeping of surface waters into these subterranean cavities.
In the depths of the cave one can see a large stalagmite reminiscent of Santa Claus. This is, however, only a small part of the entire cave’s collection. There are many picturesque formations and no shortage of ingenious names – explorers have dubbed some of them the “Stone Wedding” or the “Fountain of Life” (reminiscent of a Meštrović sculpture of that name located in front of the National Theatre building in Zagreb). Then there is a calcite Pagoda, a multi-coloured cascade and the “Hieroglyph” to which interesting explanations have been attributed: During the peak of writer Erich von Daeniken’s popularity a story took root that the characteristic shape of this formation, created in mud and then washed out, was actually the work of aliens.
Besides natural phenomenon, the more than 40 thousand year old remains of a cave bear can be seen as can traces of the rubbing and sharpening of bear claws on the rocks, leading to one part of the cave being named Bear’s Hall.
Traces of human presence have been found, belonging likely to the Japoda culture, something archaeologists need to establish with the aid of the many remains of various ceramic vessels.
In Cerovac Caves visits are permitted to a depth of 700 metres in the Lower Cave, which will make it the longest cave outfitted for visitors in all of Croatia.
The “Nature Park Velebit” Public Enterprise
Kaniža bb 53 000 Gospić
Tel: + 385 53 560 450
+ 385 53 560 160
mob: + 385 98 9151 002
Fax: + 385 53 560 451
web site: www.pp-velebit.hr