Natural heritage

The Škocjan Caves Regional Park is situated in the Classical Karst, which is also home of the bora wind as well as prosciutto and Teran wine.
The word Karst is capitalized here and we, the Karstians, are robust people; everyone is free to understand this in his or her own way. The Karst is the region between the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and part of the continent where pioneering scientific exploration of Karst geography started. Many internationally recognized karstological terms originate in the Škocjan area, among others the term "doline" (Velika and Mala dolina).

skocjan caves foto naravna dediscina 1

The Škocjan Caves and their surroundings were entered on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites in 1986. In 1999, the Caves were entered on the Ramsar Directory of Wetlands of International Importance and in 2004, the Škocjan Caves Park was included in the world network of biosphere reserves called MAB - "Man and the Biosphere"; all of this was under the auspices of UNESCO.

The Škocjan Caves are typical and the most characteristic Karst area of global importance and are considered to be one of the natural treasures of planet Earth. It is therefore necessary, proper and ethical to preserve them for our descendants.

The Škocjan Caves area ranks among the classic examples of contact Karst that has developed at the juncture of impermeable flysch and permeable limestone.

The Škocjan system of natural and cultural heritage

The regional park comprises a unique landscape that brings together a large number of natural valuable features or natural heritage in the form of Karst or other phenomena and interesting features. The regional park constitutes a typical “Karst architecture” with its system of caves, collapse dolines and individual natural monuments. The unique distribution of flora and fauna co-existing in an extremely small area proves that this is a highly diverse region in terms of both biotic and abiotic parameters and simultaneously a vulnerable one. With the assistance of local residents, the Park's employees pay attention mainly to the preservation of natural ecosystems and life in the genuine natural environment.

"Similarly to experiencing the Alpine idyll among peaks, the wilderness and huge vastness of collapse dolines, caves and walls never cease to overwhelm me; the gentleness, resilience and some kind of rebelliousness of maidenhair fern and Alpine auricula on one hand, and the mysteriousness, wildness and capriciousness of the Reka River and its tributaries on the other" (D. Rojšek). 

skocjan caves foto naravna dediscina 2

The power of nature that reminds man of his smallness and mortality. Here one can understand why it was believed that supernatural forces existed here.

The Škocjan Caves have a highly multi-branched system of cave passages totalling 6.2 kilometres in length, the lowest point being 223 metres deep. They represent the largest and best-known natural phenomena in the region. The Caves have 11 speleological structures that are interconnected by means of the Reka River or collapse dolines. The shifting of the sinkholes in contact with the underground caves caused the formation of numerous collapsed dolines. Velika dolina and Mala dolina fascinate every visitor with their depth of 163 meters as well as great floral and faunal diversity. The best view of both dolines, with their natural bridge and the cave that separate them, is from Miklov skedenj (Mikel barn), named after the local explorer Franc Cerkvenik – Mikl, a viewpoint 165 metres above the Reka River sinkhole. The Škocjan Caves are the beginning of the underground cave system with an enormous underground gorge, many lakes and waterfalls that are also parts of the local cultural heritage. At several points, the gorge is over 100 metres high. The Škocjan Caves hold what is probably Europe’s largest underground chamber, with the greatest cross-section of 12,000 square metres, thus giving an exceptional 2.2 million cubic metres of volume.

Another characteristic of the Škocjan Caves is the range of different stalactite formations, the best-known of which are the Rimstone Pools (the Slovenia Post featured them on stamps) and some larger stalactites in the Great Hall, the most impressive being a giant stalagmite called the Giant. The Reka River flows underground for almost 40 kilometres and resurfaces at the springs of the Timava River in the Gulf of Trieste (Italy). Much remains to be discovered and studied about the river's underground section.

Before entering the Škocjan Caves, the Reka River created a 2.5-kilometre long surface gorge carved into the limestone rock, on the banks of which there once stood the Školj Castle. Nowadays, the banks are full of interesting botanical and faunal features.

Natural heritage in the protected area is protected by law. In 1996, the following natural phenomena were declared to be natural monuments due to their outstanding natural and aesthetic value:

  • Mala dolina and Velika dolina all the way to the collapse doline edge;
  • Okroglica abyss;
  • Walls and banks of the Reka River valley in the radius of 150 metres before the entry into the Mahorčič Cave;
  • Underground caves in the area of the Park:
    • Škocjan Caves (Škocjan cave system);
    • Jama na Prevali II. (Fly Cave);
    • Mala jama na Prevali (Skeletna Cave);
    • Škrlica Cave;
  • The stalactite in the Lipje Caves near Divača.
Škocjan Caves Regional Park Act (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, No 57/96).

Prepared by: Tomaž Zorman.

Sources and literature:

Daniel Rojšek. Geografsko vrednotenje naravne dediščine na primeru Škocjanskega jamskega spleta z okolico in varstvo okolja. FF, Odd. Za geografijo. Magistrska naloga. Ljubljana 1994.
Katalin Bolner Takacs. The caves of the Aggtelek karst. Aggtelek national park. Josvafo 1998.
Maja Zagmajster et al. Poročilo o projektu Phare. Slovensko društvo za proučevanje in varstvo netopirjev. Ljubljana 2000.
Tomaž Zorman. Značilnosti Parka Škocjanske jame. Rokopis 1999.
Tomaž Zorman. Turistična karta parka Škocjanske jame. Park Škocjanske jame. Škocjan1998.