On July 13, 2015, Lipa Cave (Lipska pećina) near Cetinje was finally opened to the public. Guided by website www.lipa-cave.me, we decided to visit this speleological pearl as soon as possible (photo 1). We had already tried to enter the cave several times in the past few years, but in vain. Many things changed since then. It was a surprise to find new buildings, a ticket office, a souvenir shop, a pub with open terrace, a huge parking lot and, above all, a small tourist train for the visitors.
By the way, we have visited caves all over the Balkans: from Postojna in Slovenia to the Magura Cave in Bulgaria, from Vjetrenica in Bosnia & Herzegovina to the Stopića Cave in Serbia. They were all impressive, and each cave offered something special. What would be our impression of the Lipa Cave?
Let me tell you something about the cave’s history: First of all, Lipa Cave is one of the largest caves in Montenegro, with 2.5 km of passages and halls. It starts in the village of Lipa and ends in the mountains directly over the Adriatic Sea. The cave was mentioned for the first time by the Englishman Lejard in 1839. Even prince-bishop and poet Petar II Petrović Njegoš mentioned the Lipa Cave in his famous work “Mountain Wreath”. Can you imagine that the Austrians valorized the cave in 1918 and opened it for tourists? As it was opened for the second time after World War II, this is the third opening of the cave, which was enabled by a public-private partnership with the Slovenian company “Lipska pećina”.
Strange enough, the cave was “discovered” by a dog that fell through a large opening in the karst rocks (photo 2). The dog succeeded in getting out through a small gap in the rocks and that was the sign for local inhabitants to explore the beautiful underground world.
There are three possibilities to experience Lipa Cave: the family tour (7 €), adventure tour (20 €) and “treasure hunt” adventure tour (50 €). Our choice was the “Adventure Tour”, which is about 1.5 hour long and covers around one kilometer of cave halls and galleries.
We were transported by train to the entrance and the friendly English-speaking guide gave us rubber boots, a helmet and a head lamp. A coat was also available, as the temperature in the cave is between 8 and 12°C (but of course, you can also take your own jacket)!
Through an icy and windy corridor, we walked 400 m along a comfortable trail to Njegoš Hall with its impressive stalactites and stalagmites. At the backside of the hall was another gate – the entrance for real cave adventurers! Exploring this authentic part of the cave is a fantastic experience that is not offered by any cave we have visited so far.
And why is it so impressive? Walking through mud and water, climbing the slippery underground “hills” and passing through low and narrow corridors, you get the feeling as if you are a real speleologist (photo 3). There is no lighting, there are no trails. We admired the so-called Gusle (a typical Montenegrin instrument, with a spring where we could refresh ourselves and drink the pure water. Stalagmites and stalactites in different sizes and forms threw huge shadows on the walls (photo 4). The guide was equipped with strong lamps and showed us many strange formations: at the end, we even saw the black heart of the cave. From there, a narrow trail led farther into the deep underground. This was the place where the “Treasure Hunt Adventure Tour” will be organized in the future – an ultimate cave adventure for “professional” speleologists and explorers, combining adventure and fun.
Apart from stalagmites and stalactites in all forms and colors, we passed through water currents, galleries and huge chambers, we saw lakes and springs, we walked through wide passages and narrow dark corridors (photo 5). Some old graffiti dating from 1905 showed that an early cave explorer in the Austro-Hungarian army already achieved a depth of 850 m from the entrance.
Visiting Lipa Cave “as an adventurer” was very special, in particular as in this stage you still have the possibility to see an authentic cave, without illumination, without hand rails and concrete trails. The Adventure Tour is organized for small groups (up to 10 persons), which is a good precondition for such a unique experience.
No wonder I wanted to show my grandchildren (age 6, 8 and 10) this beautiful attraction! And so we booked a family tour last Saturday. And we were not the only ones! Many locals, but also foreign tourists were waiting for the next tour. The children were excited to take the tourist train to the entrance of the cave. What a pity we had to wait at the entrance for almost 20 minutes until the second part of the group appeared, as the train has a very limited capacity. Of course, this made the visit shorter (around 30 minutes instead of 45). Fortunately, the children really enjoyed the cave (photo 6) and the guide was very helpful and friendly.
As the cave has become a top attraction within a very short time, I think that the organization scheme should undergo some changes. More guides? A longer train? Two trains? Another time schedule? I am sure the manager will find a satisfactory solution, as Lipa Cave will certainly become one of the top attractions of Montenegro in the future. Don’t forget: it is situated at 35 km from Podgorica and 33 km from the sea coast. A good chance for many tourists to make a day trip to this extraordinary karst cave (photo 7)!