Yes, there are places to go underground right here in Prague, but to get a bit more adventure, archaeological history, and exercise in your exploration, head outside of the city and hike to Koněpruské jeskyně (cave). The caves are located in the Koněprusy region; about 10k from Beroun in Central Bohemia. They’re located in the middle of the Czech Karst nature reserve, not far from castles Křivoklát and Karlštejn. The caves were discovered in 1950 and made accessible to the public in 1959.
If you’re there to hike – and I assume you are since you’re reading this in the hiking section – you can make it a round trip starting from Beroun, to log about 20km. If that’s too much of a trek for you, there’s a bus at the caves that you can catch to get back to town. The hiking route can range from 7 – 10 km one way, depending on your chosen route and detours.
As with most treks through Central Bohemia, you’ll walk through beautiful meadows, lush forest and encounter a few hills, although this is a fairly easy route for the average fit person. For a bit more challenge and panoramic views of Koněprusy, make your way to the top of Zlatý kůň (see below). You can extend your trip in the region with a visit to the nearby castles, or the abandoned quarries such as Velká Amerika (“Big America,” affectionately known as the Czech Grand Canyon) and Malá Amerika.
About the caves
The Koněprusy Cave complex is inside Golden Horse (Zlatý kůň) Mountain and its emergence dates back to the end of the Paleozoic and the beginning of the Mesozoic era, about 400 million years ago. Namely during the Silur and Devon periods when the Devonian limestone was slowly eroded and carved out by the flowing waters of what is today the Berounka River. To date, about two thousand meters of cave corridors have been discovered.
There are three levels, descending 70 meters underground, and it is over 2km long. The accessible section is 620 meters long. There’s a 60-minute guided tour in Czech of course but English transcripts are available, just remember to ask for it when you buy your ticket.
You’ll enter on the lower levels and wind your way to the top, in all there are more than 500 stairs so unfortunately the tour is not accessible to those with disabilities. Areas of the cave are lit up for easier viewing and photographic opportunities (be sure to get a photography permit, also at the ticket office). As you wind your way through the chilly (about 10˚C), damp halls filled with stalactites and stalagmites, you’ll get a sense of not just the recent history, but that of the ancients.
The cave showcases unique opal-bearing decorations, as well as numerous paleontological excavations, documenting the history of nature over the past 1.5 million years. Those paleontological excavations on display include bone fragments of injured animals (and at least one human). You can’t help but imagine how they may have fallen or walked in, and the panic they must have felt at their inability to escape.
The tour ends on the top level where you’ll see a small recreation of a counterfeiting workshop that operated here some time in the 15th century. Once back outside, take a break with a beer and a sausage at the snack stand to rejuvenate yourself before heading back out on the trail.
When to go
Koněpruské cave is open daily April – October; weekdays only in November; closed December – March. Hours will vary on public holidays. For more info, visit www.caves.cz
The entrance fee is 130 CZK per person with special rates for seniors and students. Translated texts to follow along with the tour are available for a refundable deposit.
From Hlavni Nadraži, hop on the train to Beroun. From there, follow your hiking map to the beginning of the yellow trail. Grab a basic trail map for free at a tourist information center before you go, or invest a few crowns into buying a more detailed map. Even if you’re just visiting for a few days it’s worth the small investment. Another option is to find a local hiking group on MeetUp or similar sites and join-in, although they may be going to other destinations.
- The ticket is good for 24 hours so you’re free to take any train available.
- If there are two or more people, ask for a group rate.
- If you or someone in your group happens to have an OpenCard, you can also get a discount on the portion of travel inside of Prague.
- Feel free to take your dog along for a reasonable extra fee. Dogs are not allowed inside the cave but you can secure them near the ticket office if they’re able to wait patiently for the hour you’re in the tour.