Historic Show Caves

Show Cave History

A visit to Mammoth Cave, USA.

Caves have been known to man for tens of thousands of years. The history of the first cave visits is written on the walls of prehistoric painted caves. But later in history people became superstitious and fearful about caves. They were thought to be the entrance to hades, the hell, the home of trolls or other fabulous fairy tale creatures. In these times many caves were dubbed Devils Hole, Unicorn Cave or something similar. And mostly people were too afraid to visit them.

But there are some extraordinary exceptions, which we tried to collect. This is a list of early developments in cave tourism, what later became show caves or commercial caves. It is far from being complete, but we hope we added the most important milestones.

Date Cave Location Explanation
792 ShowcaveLudi Yan - Reed Flute Cave China, Guangxi there are inscriptions written in ink from the time of the T'ang Dynasty, its unclear if this included guided tours.
1213 ShowcavePostojnska Jame Slovenia The world's oldest show cave with the first known of visit.
1452 ShowcaveJasovská Jaskyna Slovak Republic The oldest inscription in a cave in Europe. Visits maybe even earlier.
1504 ShowcaveGrotte d'Osselle Jura, France First cave visits, as far as we know only a local legend.
20-MAY-1516 ShowcaveSontheimer Höhle Germany Germany's oldest show cave, with the first official guided tour during a visit of Herzog Ulrich von Württemberg.
1633 ShowcaveJama Vilenica Slovenia probably first guided cave tour ever by Count Petazzi, the landowner.
APR-1668 ShowcaveBaumannshöhle Germany Hans Jürgen Becker becomes the first authorized cave guide of the world. It is called the oldest show cave in Germany with organized tours of the cave taking place since 1646.
25-DEC-1673 ShowcaveAntiparos, Antiparos Greece Christmas mass held in the cave, for Charles François Ollier, marquis de Nointel, French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and numerous companions. Actually not a show cave tour.
1794 CaveRosenmüllerhöhle Germany The cave was made accessible with a wooden ladder and closed with a door, financed by the Prussian king.
1806 ShowcaveGrand Caverns U.S.A. The first show cave in the U.S.A., was known under the name Weyer's Cave when it was opened to the public.
1812 ShowcaveGreat Rutland Cavern Great Britain England's oldest show cave opened to the public.
1816 ShowcaveMammoth Cave NP U.S.A. The second show cave in the U.S.A., this was the year formal guided tours started.
1832 ShowcaveGrotta Parolini Italy Italy's oldest show cave opened to the public.
1846 ShowcaveJasovská Jaskyna Slovakia Slovakia's first show cave, opened to the public by Alojz Richter, an abbot of Jasov Monastery.
1857 ShowcaveGrottes de Han-sur-Lesse Belgium the first show cave of Belgium.
1861 ShowcaveGrottes de Saulges France Grotte à Margot opened to the public, probably first show cave in France.