Are you planning a visit to the Postojna Caves in Slovenia with your little one? Then, no matter when and how you decide to get there, please, please, please, do not forget to take a buggy with you. Or a pushchair, or a stroller. Anyway you choose to call it, just make sure that it is a light folding one (also called telescopic or umbrella buggy). Then, as you easily stroll through the huge rooms and narrow passages of the caves, you will feel so much better prepared to appreciate their stunning beauty while your little one will be travelling in comfort.
Take it as a little tip from someone who actually did the walking part of the ninety minutes tour holding my own little toddler in my arms. It was great! Just not that comfortable for both of us.
The Postojna Caves are stunning! Just a touch over 24 km long, the underground karst system is a cathedral of nature which will challenge your deep-seated stereotypes that our surroundings should be straight-lined and boxy-shaped. Once inside, you will be forgiven thinking: ‘Ah, that’s what Gaudi tried to achieve with the Sagrada Familia!’
Everywhere you look, whimsical formations, sparkling ponds and even a powerful underground river will vie for your attention. You will want to see it all, feel it all, live it all. With every step you take the wonders of the natural world will keep revealing themselves one after another right in front of you. Plus you will get to ride a cave train, hurtling at neck-breaking speed through narrow passages and cavernous rooms, one of which is even adorned with crystal chandeliers.
It is all so exciting, so extraordinary that once your visit to the Postojna caves reaches its end and you walk out into the bright sunshine, our normal world may look rather drab and plain to you.
So, to help you out, here are a few tips to make your and your toddler’s visit to the caves a smooth and easy experience so that you can both enjoy it without a mishap.
Your visit to the Postojna Caves lasts about an hour and a half. You need to present yourself at the cave entrance at least ten minutes before your ticket’s time slot. Bear in mind that the ticket office is at some distance from the actual entrance to the caves, so don’t leave it until the last minute to walk there. Once you go through the ticket barriers and decide if you want to pay additionally to rent a warm cloak (see Warmth below), you will board a train with open-air carriages. The train journey deep into the cave system lasts about 10 minutes. At arrival the visitors are met by their guide who will take you through the caves, tell you interesting information about their history and geology and then lead you on an underground walk lasting a little over an hour. The walk follows a wide concrete path cast through the caves. It is smooth and very easy to walk on. There is one steep inclination right at the start of the walk, straight after you have gotten off the train, when the guide takes you to the highest point inside the caves which is 40 meters. I saw an old lady with a walking stick managing it (with some difficulty). Otherwise, the path is very easy to follow, but the walk in itself is long. Hence, bringing a folding buggy (pushchair, stroller) is the best thing you can do in case your toddler refuses to walk for whatever reason (tiredness or even fear of the completely unusual surroundings being just two of the possibilities here). You can do what I did, namely carry your child all the way through the caves, however, if you want to enjoy your visit as much as possible and see the extraordinary beauty of the caves with fresh eyes, then a folding buggy is your best bet. Bear in mind that the lights inside the caves are quite dim. You don’t have to watch your step, as the path is so smooth, but you need to be alert at all times, in order to see as much as possible, while following the quickly walking line of people led by the guide. Once the walking part of the tour is finished, you will pass by a large dark aquarium in which live some of the olms – the blind creatures with a long white body which are the symbol of the Postojna Caves. It is explicitly forbidden by law to take any pictures of the olms, as it can interfere with their reproductive process. So, don’t feel tempted to whip out your camera. Right behind the aquarium there is a large cave with a souvenir shop and a small tunnel leading down to the train station. The train will take you back and leave you in a large dark space filled with fine water mist and a loud roar of crashing water. Right by the train’s platform there is an observation desk and looking straight down over its railings, you will see the river Pivka running underground. It is a majestic sight. The exit is a few steps away from there.
The cave system has a constant temperature of 10 degrees Celsius. It doesn’t matter what’s the weather outside, inside the temperature remains unchanged all year round. If you don’t bring a jacket or a coat with you or if you, as it happened to us, for example, get caught in a torrential rain right before your visit to the cave, consider renting a cloak. Right after you have gone through the ticket barriers at the cave entrance, a member of staff will offer you to rent a thick cloak to wear during your visit. The cloaks come in two sizes – adults and kids. The price is 3.50 euros per cloak, independent of size. As we were quite lightly dressed, we rented two cloaks – one for me and another for our little daughter. Bear in mind that the kids’ size cloaks are a bit too long for a toddler and will drag behind them. This is not ideal, as the walking path inside the caves is covered with wet patches and every now and then water drips down on your head as you walk through. So, the hems of my daughter’s cloak got soaked on the very rare occasion that I had to put her down for a second or two so as to change arms or give myself a bit of a break. Bringing a buggy with you will help you avoid this problem. As the cloak is so thick, it can make you really warm, especially if you need to carry your little one in your arms. This is exactly what happened to me and I regretted hiring the cloak. I didn’t take it off though, as this would have meant carrying it, too. My husband was already straddled with two heavy bags and with the task of taking the photos for this blog post (thank you, darling!), as on this particular occasion I couldn’t take them myself. The cloak was indispensable though during the train rides. As the train moves so fast and as the carriages are open-air, the cloaks came in very handy indeed and my daughter and I snuggled underneath them.
Being inside the Postojna Caves felt surprisingly safe. There was no chance that you could get lost, as the path was so well marked. There are however some things to have in mind, especially if you are visiting the caves with your little one. First, the train really moves very fast. It goes through some very narrow passages with rather low ceilings. Don’t be tempted to stand up in order to take a picture or see something up close. Keep any limbs, camera straps and loose clothing tucked within the confines of the tiny train carriage. In our case, I held our daughter on my knees and hugged her tightly. My husband sat next to us and we put our two bags on the floor of the carriage making sure that they were wedged between our knees. Even so, we would instinctively duck every time the train ran through yet another narrow passage. Don’t get me wrong! Riding the cave train is a lot of fun. It is such a breathtaking journey and it reveals a wondrous world in front of you. It is just that some common sense needs to be applied. As mentioned in Warmth above, the walking path is often wet, but it is not slippery. I was wearing my sport shoes which can slip quite easily when it rains outside, but I had no problem keeping my balance on the path inside the caves. That said, please, bear in mind something else. The railings on both sides of the path have huge gaps, so if your toddler walks next to you, you need to make sure that they don’t feel tempted to climb on the railings or go beyond them under any circumstances. At one point the path will take you over a very high bridge and you may want to hold onto your child’s hand tightly. Beware of people taking photos, too. I mean, the caves are stunning and everyone will want to take countless of pictures. The group though may be comprised of people of several nationalities with different ideas as to what is acceptable personal space and what is acceptable body contact. I had a man stretching his arm and trying to push me out of his way whilst I was carrying my child as, apparently, I had walked right where he wanted to have his picture taken. Obviously his picture was more important than another person’s and their child’s safety. I have to say that in the dim light and the many people around you, it is often not easy to gauge who wants to photograph what, so I definitely didn’t mean to spoil his picture. In any case, this seemed a rather isolated incident and most people were very polite, still it is something to keep in mind.
Food, Drink, Toilet
As the tour lasts about an hour and a half and as you will find yourself in a completely different to what we accept as normal environment, try to make sure that your little one has had something to eat and drink prior to your visit to the Postojna Caves. There are many restaurants and eateries in the stretch from the ticket office to the actual entrance to the caves. They all serve traditional Slovenian dishes (which are fabulous) plus such international offerings as pizza and ice-cream. You can use the toilet there, too. In addition, there are large public toilets a few metres away from the cave entrance. It is also a good idea to bring some snacks and a bottle of water with you inside the caves in case your little one really needs something to keep him or her going. Obviously, please, don’t litter the caves.
Do’s and Dont’s
Here are some additional do’s and dont’s to help you enjoy your visit to the Postojna Caves in Slovenia:
Don’t touch the stalactites, stalagmites, stalactons and other formations inside the caves. No matter how tempting it may be to touch them, don’t do it. They are actually quite fragile and you don’t want to damage something which took nature millions of years to create.
Do consider your toddler’s feelings and emotions when you visit the caves. It is an environment which is staggering in its beauty and yet completely alien to little ones. They may not understand why it is all of a sudden quite so dark, why they can’t touch things and why they have to walk for so long. They may even feel scared. Try to reassure them and explain in simple words where you are and what you see in order to help them make sense of the experience.
Do play imagination games with your toddler as you walk through the caves. For example, ask them to which animal a particular formation looks like. In our case, we played a game called ‘Find Elsa’. As the inside of the Postojna Caves looked quite a bit like the castle in the famous film, it was actually easy to pretend that Elsa was hiding behind a certain stalactite or other such formation.
After your visit to the caves, do see the sink of the river Pivka. This is the river which you will cross on wooden bridges on your way to the Postojna Caves. From these wooden bridges you can see the opening in the rock where Pivka enters the underground world and then rushes through the huge space where the train leaves you on your way out of the caves.
Do enjoy it! Visiting the caves is a wonderful experience. Make the most of it!
Have you been to the Postojna Caves or any other cave with your toddler? How did it go for you? And what other tips you could add to the ones I have shared with you above? Let me know below.