Pazinska jama

Abyss of Pazin - Cave of Pazin

Useful Information

Location: Pazin, at the castle
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours: L=1,300m
Bibliography: Jules Verne (1885): Mathias Sandorf, downloadf
Address: Pazinska jama, Muzej Grada Pazina, Trg Istarskog razvoda 1, Pazin, Tel: +385-52625040, Fax: +385-52625040, E-mail: contact E-mail: contact
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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1770 first mentioned by Alberto Fortis.
1893 first explored by PeopleE. A. Martel and Wilhelm Putick from Ljubljana.
1920s marked eels experiment by Italian geologist Carlo D'Ambrosi.
1967 map by Mirko Malez and others.
1975 siphon crossed by Mitar Marinovic.


Pazinska jama (Cave of Pazin) is located at the bottom of the Abyss of Pazin. The small village Pazin has a castle from the 11th century, which is built on a rock with steep walls. On one side the Pazinčica river, the biggest river of Istria, flows into a cave. It then flows underground to the Raša valley.

The spectacular place has ever been faszinating to visitors for centuries. The place was first mentioned in 1770 by Alberto Fortis, a naturalist from Padua, in his work on the karst of Istria. Famous writers inspired by the place are Nazor, Dante, and Charles Yriarte. Jules Verne (*1828-✝1905) never visited this place, but the descriptions by his friend Charles Yriarte inspired him to a strange escape from jail though a cave story in his book Mathias Sandorf (1885). His description of the Cave of Pazin encouraged the famous French speleologist ExplainE. A. Martel. to come to Pazin, one of so many caves in Europe which was first explored by him. He made the first detailed map of the cave together with Wilhelm Putick, a famous Austrian caver living in Ljubljana. They reached the end of the cave at a huge underground lake, which was later named Lake Martel. Martel guessed, that the water of the lake was flowing through a sump at the bottom, but at this time there was no way to explore this.

Scientific exploration continued with the Italian geologist Carlo D'Ambrosi in the 1920s. He proofed the hydrologic connection to the Raša River in an experiment with marked eels. A new survey and map were made in 1967 by a group of scientists, geologists from Zagreb and the paleontologist Mirko Malez. The siphon was finally crossed by Mitar Marinovic in 1975. He found the continuation of the cave. While Jules Verne postulated a connection to the Lim Canal, dye tracing experiments proved this wrong. The water reappears in the east and south of Istria along the Raša valley.

The situation of Pazin is typical for contact karst. The river flows above ground on the impermeable and not karstified flysch rocks. When it reaches the soluble limestone, karstification starts immediately and the water goes underground. The water normally flows rather calm into a short gorge, a huge cave entrance hall until it reaches the lake. After heavy rains the rivers on the flysh grow and the capacity of the ponor is exceeded. The cave and the abyss fill with water. The largest known flood in the cave occurred in 1896 and was noted by E. A. Martel. The water was rising to a level only 30 m below the walls of the castle. Later floods in 1964 and 1993 were smaller.

The Pazin cave is not developed in the common sense. There is a new educational walking path which is about 1,300 m long. The trail starts at the Vršic Bridge close to the castle and leads down through the canyon to the banks of Pazincica and the cave entrance. The winding trail up on the other side of the river first goes to the Piramida (Pyramid) lookout and out of the gorge at the terrace of the Hotel Lovac.