Oct 18 2013

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Glaciers, glow worms and Buddhas gone underground

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Lake McLaren, Tarunga, New Zealand. Glow worm caves. Courtesy of Waimarino Ltd.

Caves have long been a favored location for the secret headquarters of superheroes and Bond villains. Maybe that’s because caves are underground and cool, both literally and figuratively. If you’d like to try your luck at spelunking, or just scouting locations for your own hidden lair, these caverns are great places to start.

The Crystal Cave of Svínafellsjökull in Iceland sounds and looks like something from a fantasy novel. The roof of the cave is made of translucent blue ice that formed when the glacier that sits on top of the cave met the Atlantic Ocean. The weight of the glacier has forced out any bubbles in the ice over time, allowing light to stream into the cave and giving the ice roof its otherworldly appearance.

In New Zealand, the Waitomo Glow Worm Cave is an underground cavern where millions of phosphorescent insects make their home. The cave is managed by descendants of the Maori chief who first discovered it, and they take their stewardship of the cave’s environs and its glowing inhabitants very seriously. A limited number of people are allowed to visit each day, but those who do get to explore the cave’s three levels and take a boat ride through the glowworm grotto. Illuminated only by the lights of the tiny glowworm, floating through the grotto feels like being under a starry sky.

The Khao Luang Cave Temple in Thailand is a place for meditation and calm. During the mid-19th century, it was a favorite picnic and relaxation spot of King Rama IV, one of Thailand’s most beloved kings. He was responsible for adding many of the 180 statues of Buddha that are scattered throughout the cave’s chambers, including the spectacular 12-foot tall golden image of Buddha. Khao Luang is about 90 feet below ground, but numerous openings in the ceiling allow natural light to come in. Plenty of seating is provided for those who want to sit quietly and reflect or rest after the walk to the cave.

More About: Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith is a writer, traveler and lover of cities currently living in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @shameonseamus.
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Posted on: October 18, 2013 | Tags: , , | Category: International Vacations

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