Caves have played a significant role in human history. In fact, archaeologists have unearthed cave art dating back to tens of thousands of years ago. So, it’s no surprise that tourists embark on long treks to bucket-list destinations beneath Earth’s surface every year.
Whether you want to try underground thrill-seeking or just experience some natural wonders firsthand, these subterranean spots provide plenty for vacationers to enjoy.
Click through to discover breathtaking sights around the world you can see for free.
1. Reed Flute Cave, China
- Airfare: $918 to Guilin, China
- Entry fee: $17.43
For a unique blend of natural beauty and modern light design, visit China’s Reed Flute Cave. A 790-foot limestone cavern, the site features water-carved stalactite and stalagmite structures, which are highlighted by a colorful light show.
Located around 3 miles from downtown Guilin, Reed Flute Cave was named for the forest of reeds that grows at its entrance, which kept it hidden for over a thousand years. In the 1940s, the marvel was rediscovered by refugees fleeing Japanese forces during World War II.
2. Poco Encantado, Brazil
- Airfare: $985 to Salvador, Brazil
- Entry fee: $7.72
Located in Brazil’s Bahia state, Poco Encantado — aka “the enchanted well” — is a beautiful vacation destination that got its name from the mesmerizing blue light that reflects off the surface of the water. Measuring over 120 feet deep, the pool is so transparent that the rocks and old tree trunks at the bottom are just as visible as if they were on the surface. Be sure to visit between April and mid-September to see the water at its most majestic.
3. Gran Cenote, Mexico
- Airfare: $324 to Cancun, Mexico
- Entry fee: $25
If swimming is your thing, don’t miss out on a trip to the Gran Cenote in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Meaning “sacred well,” a cenote is a naturally forming, water-filled sinkhole created by a collapsed cave ceiling. Opt to spend hours lounging in blissful relaxation or embark on an underwater exploration through snorkeling.
4. Salina Turda, Romania
- Airfare: $811 to Cluj-Napoca, Romania
- Entry fee: $7.31
The underground theme park in the ancient Salina Turda is an impressive and unexpected delight. The salt mine boasts an amphitheater, bowling alley, mini-golf course, Ferris wheel and underground lake with boats.
Visitors can tour the salt mine for its historical value or enjoy unique adventures for the whole family.
5. Coober Pedy, Australia
- Airfare: $1,703 to Adelaide, Australia
- Entry fee: None
Coober Pedy, with a population of 3,500, is known as the “opal capital of the world” because of the opal industry that dominates its economic life.
The town was founded in 1915, and about half of its residents live underground to escape the heat. The underground houses, known as “dugouts,” are some of the small town’s most popular visitor attractions. Don’t miss the underground art gallery or the opal mine and museum.
6. Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
- Airfare: $755 to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Entry fee: $3.20
With its main entrance located about 30 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels run underground for over 155 miles in the city area alone. Dug by the Viet Cong to house troops and transport supplies, the Cu Chi Tunnels played a vital role during the Vietnam War.
Today, the Cu Chi Tunnels have been preserved by the Vietnamese government as a war memorial park. Visitors can crawl around the tunnels, explore underground command rooms and more.
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7. Derinkuyu, Turkey
- Airfare: $793 to Kayseri, Turkey
- Entry fee: $3.14
For a historical vacation destination, book your flight to the underground city of Derinkuyu in Cappadocia, Turkey. Constructed as early as the eighth century B.C., Derinkuyu was in use until the 1920s. Forgotten for years, it was accidentally rediscovered when a local man found a hidden room in his home, which led to the 18-story subterranean city.
There are more than 600 known entrances to the ancient city in various private homes and courtyards. Visitors can check out a range of features in the old city, including water wells, ventilation shafts, living areas and stables .
8. Batu Caves, Malaysia
- Airfare: $808 to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Entry fee: None
Batu Caves is one of Malaysia’s most iconic tourist destinations as well as one of the most popular Hindu sites outside of India, and for good reason. The complex’s limestone caves contain a plethora of Hindu statues and paintings.
Visitors will find themselves sharing cave space with Hindu worshippers, frolicking monkeys and rock-climbing humans, making for a unique mix of experiences.
9. Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
- Airfare: $1,718 to Auckland, New Zealand
- Entry fee: $33.52
The Glowworm Caves are just one of three underground spaces that make up Waitomo’s caves. While the other caves are worth visiting, this one is especially noteworthy, thanks to the thousands of glowworms that illuminate its beautiful stone.
The glowworm that gives this underground wonder its name — and its light — is called the Arachnocampa luminosa and is found throughout New Zealand. Take a boat ride down the cave’s underground river to see this natural wonder for yourself.
10. New Athos Cave, Abkhazia
- Airfare: $742 to Tbilisi, Georgia
- Entry fee: $7.54
The New Athos Cave is one of the largest caves in the world. In fact, it’s so large that previous generations referred to the site as the “bottomless pit.” The cave is known for its subterranean train line, built especially for visitors.
11. Catacombs of Paris, France
- Airfare: $355 to Paris
- Entry fee: $14.75
If you have a hankering for some Gothic haunts, don’t miss out on a trip to the Catacombs of Paris.
As former limestone quarries built below the city, the Catacombs were used to store exhumed bodies from the city’s overcrowded cemeteries starting in the late 1700s. The bodies were stacked on top of one another to make the most of the space. It’s estimated that between 6 million and 7 million bodies were laid to rest in the Catacombs during that time.
12. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
- Airfare: $767 to Krakow, Poland
- Entry fee: $23.49
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is not only a must-see underground wonder for nature buffs, but it’s also a fascinating historical destination. Visitors can embark on numerous tours, including those focused on miner experiences. One highlight is St. Kinga’s Chapel, located 330 feet underground, featuring crystal chandeliers and altars. The chapel is even available for events and weddings.
13. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Philippines
- Airfare: $1,012 to Puerto Princesa, Philippines
- Entry fee: $9.35
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a kayaking tour through its 5-mile underground river, which cuts through a protected cave featuring a complex ecosystem.
14. Thrihnukagigur Volcano, Iceland
- Airfare: $230 to Reykjavik, Iceland
- Entry fee: $383.63
On the outskirts of the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik lies the dormant Thrihnukagigur Volcano, one of the only places in the world where you can experience a volcano’s magma chamber. Take a scenic 45- to 50-minute hike to the volcano’s crater. From there, it’s a short ride in an open cable lift down to the magma chamber, where you have time to take plenty of pictures. The area was formed by the volcano’s last eruption 4,000 years ago.
15. Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I, Egypt
- Airfare: $1,889 to Luxor, Egypt
- Entry fee: $55.87
If you’re fascinated by the world’s ancient wonders, don’t miss out on a trip to the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. It’s one of the most elaborate tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings with 10 painted chambers containing thousands of hieroglyphs. Seti’s tomb had been sealed off to visitors for years due to the fragile wall decorations inside, but it opened to limited audiences in 2016.
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Grace Lin contributed to the reporting for this article.
Rates are accurate as of Aug. 14, 2018. Fares sourced through Skyscanner for round-trip flights departing from Newark Liberty International Airport for travel on Oct. 20-22.