Caves situated in the typical temperate-zone karstic system display an extremely rare combination of tropical and glacial climatic effects making it possible to study geological history over tens of millions of years. Variety of formations and the fact that they are concentrated in a restricted area means that the 712 caves currently identified make up an outstanding example of long-lasting natural processes.
This UNESCO World Heritage site includes seven components. They are Aggtelek, Szendr?-Rudabánya Hill, and Esztramos Hill in Hungary, and Dobšinská Ice Cave, Koniar plateau, Plešivec plateau, and neighbourhood of Silica and Jasov in Slovakia. Caves included are:
- Baradla and Domica complex
- Gombasek Cave
- Silica Ice Cave
- Dobšiná Cave
- Ochtina Aragonite Cave
- Jasov Cave
Baradla-Domica Cave complex is 21 km long with approximately one fourth of that on the Slovak side and the rest in the Hungary. The first written mention of Baradla cave dates back to 1549 and from 1920 it serves as a tourist attraction. Ján Majko discovered Domica Cave (Slovak part of the complex) in 1926 and the tourist circuit opened to public in 1932 has more than 1700 metres. Cave was inhabited as far as 5000 BC and is an important archeological site of Bükk Culture. Temperature in the Slovak part varies between 10°C and 12,3°C with a humidity above 95%.
Gombasek Cave was discovered in 1951 with 530 out of its 1,525 m opened to the public from 1955. The cave is also experimentally used for “speleotherapy” as a sanatorium, focused on airway diseases thanks to constant temperature of 9°C, high humidity of 98% and favorable microclimate. Geomorphologically it is one of the youngest but nevertheless also one of the most impressive caves in Slovakia with extraordinary decoration that gave it the nickname “Fairy tale cave”.
Dobšiná Ice Cave was added to the list of components of this World Heritage Site only in the year 2000. The cave was discovered in 1870 by Eugen Ruffinyi, though the entrance was known long before. Being open to the public just one year after its discovery, in 1887 it became the first electrically lit cave in Europe. Approximately one third of its 1,483 m length is open from May to September. Thickness of the ice on the floor approaches 25 m, with a surface area of 11 200 m² and estimated volume of 145 000 m³ of ice. Average temperature is -1°C and relative humidity between 96 and 99%. This cave is among the most beautiful and the most richly decorated ice caves in the world.
Although Ochtina Aragonite Cave is just 300 m long with a tourist circuit not longer than 230 m, it is famous for its rare aragonite filling since there are only three aragonite caves discovered in the world so far. In the so-called Milky Way Hall, the main attraction of the cave, white branches and clusters of aragonite shine like stars in the Milky Way. The cave was discovered in 1954 and opened to the public in 1972. Temperature in the cave is around 7°C with relative humidity between 92 and 97 %.
Jasov Cave was partly opened for the public in 1846, making it the oldest publicly accessible cave in Slovakia. The lower parts of the cave were discovered in 1922 to 1924. More than one third of its 2148 m total length is open to the public. Paleolithic and Neolithic archeological artifacts were found in the cave together with those of Hallstatt Culture.