Пещера „Темната дупка“

Temnata dupka - Dark Hole

Useful Information

Location: Lakatnik, Sofia.
(43.089209, 23.384822)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=9,000m, VR=35 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: V. V. Popov (1986): Early Pleistocene Rodentia (Mammalia) from the Temnata Dupka Cave near Karlukovo (North Bulgaria) Acta Zool. Bulg. 30:3-14.
O. Drjanovska (1942): Excursion des étudiants-naturalistes de IVe cours dans la grotte "Temnata dupka" Prirodoznanie, Sofia, 3, 4: 155-157, en bulgare.
Address: Ресторант "Пещерата", Републикански път II-16, 2272 Gara Lakatnik, Tel: +359-87-812-9388.
Пещерен клуб и Спелео училище София, ул. Света Марина 46, София 1680, Tel: +359-89-6682377. E-mail:
Cave Club and Speleo School Sofia, 46 Sveta Marina Street, Sofia 1680, Tel: +359-89-6682377. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1912 first known visit of the cave by the Bulgarian zoologist and insect researcher Ivan Buresh studying bats.
1915 first map and description of about 150 m published by geographer Zheko Radev.
1921-1926 speleological exploration by Eng. P. Petrov, I. Ninchovski, M. Voinyagov, P. English, I. Parvanov.
1936 publication of complete and accurate description.
1948 resurveyed by the Cave Research Brigade "T. Pavlov”, northwestern parts discovered.
1958 explored and extended by young speleologists under the leadership of P. Tranteev.
1963 declared a natural landmark with an adjacent area of 1 ha.
1980s Polish-Bulgarian-French archaeological excavation.
1991 resurvey by Sofia speleologists from the caving club "Cherni Vrah" led by Eng. Yasen Vuchkov and Kiril Danailov, digital map.
2001 Belgian and French cave divers entered 240 m into the siphon and reached a depth of 20 m.


Пещера „Темната дупка“ (Temnata Dupka, Dark Hole) is the country's most important Palaeolithic site, with artefacts and fauna in a sequence which may start as early as 130,000 BP. It is located with many other small caves in a wall of white limestone cliffs above Iskar River. On the southern side of the river lies the city Lakatnik, the 250 m high limestone cliff on the north side is called Лакатнишки скали (Rocks of Lakatnik, Lakatnik Rocks, Elbow rocks). The limestone is karstified and there are numerous caves and springs in the cliff. At about half height a limestone ledge was used to build a path, which is popular for walking and ideal access for climbers. It also connects several cave entrances including the entrance to Temnata Dupka.

It is easy to understand why the cave was so popular during the Palaeolithic. The cave has a huge portal and a dry entrance hall with flat floor, it is located high up in the cliff which offers a good outlook for prey and enemies. On the other hand it is accessible by the ledge of the limestone and facing south, the entrance area is sunny and warm. During the 1980s a Polish-Bulgarian-French archaeological team excavated the remains of the Pleistocene fauna, including wolf, mammoth, aurochs, reindeer, and cave bear. They found Palaeolithic stone tools in a long sequence of cultural layers to the Middle Palaeolithic (180-67 thousand BP). Quite exceptional are layers of volcanic ash dated at 33,000 BP which originate from prehistoric volcanic eruptions in central Italy.

With a length of nine kilometers and some steep descents it is definitely a wild cave and not recommended for non cavers. However, it is easy to visit the entrance area when walking on the trail. It is officially listed as a show cave, probably due to its popularity. Please be careful, take a torch with you and turn around when the floor becomes steep. Actually it is not a developed show cave, but it is heavily frequented by visitors of the Rocks of Lakatnik.

At the foot of the cliff is a karst spring called Jitolyub (also Zhitolub). It is the resurgence of the cave river of Temnata Dupka. The water of the spring flows down over some waterfalls and after only a few dozen meters meets the Iskar river. Around these waterfalls lies a popular beer garden, which is reached from the village of Lakatnik by the iron footbridge over the river Iskar. This bridge is also the access to the caves.

After heavy rains or snow melt when the amount of water increases massively, the Zhitolub is not big enough. In this case the water rises inside Temnata Dupka, and finally flows through the entrance of the cave. At these times a visit to the cave is quite dangerous. Fortunately such events are quite rare.

Higher up the hill, 140 m above the river, is another cave named Ръжишка пещера (Rajishka Cave or Razhishka Cave or Ružička Cave). It has also a huge entrance with a flat floored hall behind, and offers a great view on the "elbow", the meander of the Iskar river. It is called Upper Cave or Dry Cave, but only the 24 m long entrance hall is dry. This cave is 316 m long and heavily damaged by the visitors. A visit is rather easy, but be aware that it is a wild cave with uneven ground. Warm clothes, good light, sturdy boots and if possible a helmet are much recommended. It was inhabited by humans during the Iron Age.

The caves are part of the Vratchansky Balkan National Park and the Vratza Karst nature reserve. The caves here are the educational caves of the Пещерен клуб и спелео училище „София“ (Sofia Caving Club and Speleological School), new cavers come here to learn the basic principles of caving.