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Back to cavemen: world`s largest gypsum cave system in Ternopil, Ukraine

Ternopil is an incredibly beautiful and cozy city in Western Ukraine. However, if you visited it and the region and saw all the sights, I suggest looking at the city from the other side – from beneath the ground. Indeed, the most amazing gypsum caves in the world are located in Ternopil district.

More than 20 million years ago, all the land used to be the Sarmatian Sea`s bottom. During the tectonic plates shift and the formation of the Carpathians, due to earth’s crust fracture, waters washed out all of the soft gypsum rocks. The remaining hard rock of gypsum now form endless underground corridors.

This feature was the reason for the location of many medieval defensive architecture. More than 130 castles and fortresses. The caves were an important component of the Middle Ages` infrastructure, the enemies did not know about their existence, so soldiers and scouts moved along these corridors, civilians hid there and during the forage of fortresses weapons and foodstuffs were transferred through them.

Now local authorities have closed most of the entrances to the caves for the safety of citizens and has filled up parts of the cave halls for greater soil stability.

But you can still get into some of them, here I have collected the best ones.

The Crystal Cave  is not only the most beautiful, it is also the oldest.

The history of it`s creation does not differ much from similar caves. But in its beauty, the Crystal Cave is unique. No wonder she has such a melodic name – the walls of the underground beauty are covered with colorful or snow-white gypsum crystals. Crystal Cave is a complex system of passages, with a total length of more than 23 km. However, only 3 km are available for tourist routes(without special equipment).

So, the excursion route begins with a narrow 500-meter corridor, further down the stone steps, then along the route is a huge hall with beautiful gypsum accretions on the walls. The Zoological Hall is the most popular. Animal silhouettes are forever etched in the stone: owl, fox, eagle. Exotic lovers can walk along the “crocodile ridge” – a path very similar to the reptile spine.

Next comes the Festive Hall, which will charm with its natural design: the crystal coating has painted the walls with beautiful patterns. The most interesting attraction here is the Crystal Corridor, the sheer walls are covered with a sheet of gypsum crystals of various colors: cream, amber, pink, blue, beige.

How to get there: there is a cave in the village of Kryvche, Borschevsky district. You need to drive through the whole village and right after it a sharp turn goes to the left.

Optimistic cave

Opened by cavers of the “Cyclops” club in 1966, the cave, today is emblazoned on the pages of the Guinness Book of Records, as the longest gypsum cave on the entire globe. At that time, colleagues did not believe in the success of the cavers, who explored the cave, and called them optimists, hence the name. However, over 45 years of research, scientists have managed to open more than 230 kilometers of passages, caves and galleries.The optimistic cave consists of 10 areas, very beautiful and diverse, they differ from each other in structure and number of crystals.There are 15 base camps emerged in the system of Optimistic cave. One of the most famous – underground camp “Oasis”.

Recently,  a random tourist discovered the deepest undeground lake  in this cave by accident.

You can get to the cave on the excursion thanks to the Cyclops caving club.

Ozernaya (Lake) Cave

For the first time, the Lake Cave was mentioned in 1940. The name of the cave comes from numerous underground lakes,  there are more than 20.

It should be noted that the entrances of the Ozernaya and Optimistic caves are several kilometers apart. Since they are not yet fully explored, it is very possible that this is a one cave(which makes it even bigger and impressive).

Ozernaya Cave is conventionally divided into several areas. The Middle one is designed for excursions for tourists, the Far One is for experienced speleologists.You can get on an excursion to this cave as a member of the speleological group.

How to get there: go to village of Strelkovtsy.

Cave “Verteba” – this is a real museum under the ground. In the XIX century, more than 300 objects that belong to the Tripoli culture were found in the cave: ceramic vessels, stone and bone tools, shards.

Now this cave is a museum of Tripoli culture, sculptures and ceramics in Tripoli style are exhibited here.

Also in one of the halls they found a male grave – 25 skeletons and utensils for religious purposes. Today it is an archaeological museum. The caves are distinguished by a dense network of passages, wide galleries with narrow corridors, with a total length of more than 8 km.A visit to the cave is very informative and interesting for lovers of nature and history. Particulary intere3sting is the labyrinth Stone Straw, the ceiling in it is covered with thick tubular stalactites 10-12 cm long.

How to get there: there is a cave in the village of Bilche-Zolotoe, Borschevsky district.

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