On our way to Poland this summer, we decided to stop at the Punkva Caves and Macocha Abyss, lured by the beautiful pictures and tempting descriptions found on websites such as this and especially this. Turned out visiting the caves has been a great idea. In my life I’ve visited many caves all around the world: from Barbados to Slovenia, from Gibraltar to Greece. No cave in my mind compares to Punkva in terms of both extent and scenery. Pictures don’t do justice.
Organizing this trip hasn’t been exactly easy, though, as tourism in the Czech Republic is mostly geared towards Czech tourists. This not only means that the cave tour is in Czech only, but also that organizing our day required some extra effort. And some basic Czech knowledge. I’ve therefore set up this page to help English speaking fellow travellers organizing their day at the caves.
Before you get there
Before reaching the area, make sure you equip yourself with:
- some Czech Korunas (cards aren’t accepted everywhere – more on this below)
- some warm clothes (it gets down to 8°or 46.5 F inside the caves)
- some good shoes, with good grip (as certain areas within the caves are slippery)
- be prepared that the tour will most likely be in Czech only; and that not everyone will be able to speak in English to you. Hence, learning a few words in Czech, like ticket (lístek), reservation (rezervace – reads reservache), train (vlak), cable car (lanovka); and the time of your tour is a good idea. Just in case.
Making a reservation
Besides the above, be sure you make a reservation, as entry to the cave is only allowed with a reservation in advance. I recommend making your reservation at least 2 to 4 weeks in advance, especially during peak season. Although I’ve found out late about the caves and still have been able to secure myself a reservation for the following week, it makes no sense to bet. You can make your reservation writing at email@example.com (English is understood and spoken – other contacts here), specifying the number of people involved and preferred day/time of the day (write these things upfront, so that you don’t risk to waste time exchanging e-mails, while someone else secures your spot on the tour).
If cave tours are all booked, don’t despair. I provide an alternative option below, to still make a good day out in the area.
We’ve reached the caves by car. I suggest that you park the car at Skalni Mlyn (49°21’48.0″N 16°42’26.3″E). There’s a small parking fee. Visitor centre is within walking distance.
One word of caution: if you use a navigation system, make sure you enter the coordinates above. And don’t be put off when you reach the intersection depicted below, where it seems you’re entering a dead end. To us, following the main road to the right, instead of entering what’s marked as a narrow dead-end meant some extra 10 km and 15 minutes of useless wandering.
I hope instructions above allow you to reach the caves, easily and safely. If you intend to reach the caves by public transportation, I suggest that you check out one of the aforementioned websites.
What to do
I’ll use the map below to describe our experience, highlighting most relevant parts. Finding such a map on the Internet has been impossible for me, and the one below is something I’ve drawn myself as we got back, taking one of the Macocha Abyss maps in the area as a reference. Green darkness and altitude are correlated (albeit not precisely): at any case, darker green means higher terrain. I hope this map of Punkva caves is helpful for you.
- as you get to Skalni Mlyn, you can park your car. Right next to the parking lot, you have a chance to get some food here (something we didn’t)
- before you get to the cave entrance, you need to reach the visitor center, stop at one of the booths, collect your cave tour ticket and pay for it (credit card accepted). After you’re done with the ticket for the caves, you have the chance to purchase tickets for the little road sightseeing train taking you to the caves (orange path in the map above), and/or for the cable car, taking you from the cave entrance to the upper information centre (blue in the map above). You have a chance to get one-way tickets or return tickets for both options. We opted for the so called “combination”, aka a one-way ticket for both, at 180 CZK for adults (about 7.35€/7.80$) and 140 CZK for kids under 15 (as of September 2023). Rides for kids under 3 are free. Pay attention here, as cash only is accepted to purchase these tickets. The booth selling them is the rightmost one.
- The train ride lasts about 10 minutes. And allows you to skip a 30/45 minutes walk on a (boring) paved road
- Once the train stops, seek for the information centre (you can’t miss it as it’s the only building there). That’s where the cave tour will start (rather than what looks like the cave entrance several meters below). Once you’re there, my suggestion is to announce yourself. You will be – hopefully – given some instructions on how to enter the caves in English – later explanation to the group will be most likely in Czech only. Right next to the cave entrance there are also a souvenir shop and restrooms. You’re now about to enter the caves. It might make now sense to wear your jacket/sweater. It’ll get chilly soon. Below you find can a map (with some annotations) of where you’ll be going.
The visit to the caves lasts about one hour: first part is an interesting walk surrounded by stalactites and interesting rock formations, followed by an even more interesting boat ride within the river caves. In the middle you find yourself within the abyss.
- after the visit to the cave, I suggest that you either take the cable car (in blue, in the map above), or walk (for about 45 to 60 minutes) to get up to Chata Macocha (just in case you were starting to wonder… chata in Czech means Hut). Right in front of the visitor centre you can find a kiosk selling some food and beverages.
- No matter whether you had a stop at the facilities (besides the kiosk at the bottom, there’s also some stores and bars above) or not, you might now want to take a look down the bridges overlooking the abyss. One is right next to the facilities. The other (with better views) is a few minutes walk away.
- You have now several options to get back to Skalni Mlyn (which means to your car). You can get the cable car back (and then walk or ride the sightseeing train again), or follow one of the trails leaving from the information center at the top of the hill. We decided to get the trail marked in yellow, starting just before the parking lot, on the right – while moving away from Chata Macocha.
- In about an hour we got back to Skalni Mlyn, through a pleasant stroll in the woods.
- It was late already. And kids started to be tired afer a busy day. Otherwise we would have probably also visited Catherine caves (more on them here). We decided to keep them in mind for next time. You can consider them especially if Punkva cave tours are all sold out and you’d still like to check out the Macocha gorge (from the top bridges) and its surroundings.
Remember to take Czech cash (Korunas) with you. Some warm clothes. And to make a reservation in advance. Once there, you have a few options on what to do. We really enjoyed what we did, so I definitely suggest you to buy a one way train + cable car ticket. To save yourself the hassle of walking up a boring paved road, while enjoying an amazing tour cave and beautiful surroundings on your way back to the car.
Did this post help you? Do you have any other questions?
Feel free to write a comment. I’d really love to hear from you and read about your experience!