CRIMEA, Day 15: Caves, Bones & The Sorting

Emine-Bayir-Hasar - The Great Hall 1Breathtaking.

That is the only word to describe the Eminé-Bayir-Hasar caves located at the bottom of Chatyr-Dag (“Tent Mountain”) plateau that is part of Crimea’s main mountain range. The name itself is a preview of things to come – translated from Turkic it means “a vortex on the side of a mountain near an oak tree.”

A vortex indeed – 125 meters deep and stretching for two kilometers of surreal, majestic chambers unlike anything I had seen before. Multi-storey halls, narrow and steep passages, steaming lakes, remains of prehistoric animals (that give Eminé-Bayir-Hasar its second, tourist-adopted name – The Mammoth Cave), crystals and shimmering columns that measure their age in tens of millions years…

Those CGI scenes set in Lord of the Rings’ underground kingdom of Moria? Totally could have been filmed here. The place is made for legends and magic – or maybe it is made of them. All you can do is gasp in awe.

Emine-Bayir-Hasar - The Great Hall 2

Emine-Bayir-Hasar and remains of a Wooly Mammoth remains

Emine-Bayir-Hasar and remains of a wooly mammoth remains (bottom left)

Emine-Bayir-Hasar 2

Vortex on the side of the mountain near an oak tree.

Vortex on the side of the mountain near an oak tree.

The Kizil-Koba (“Red Caves”) of the Subatqan-Yayla range are impressive in a whole different way. Estimated to be upwards of 26 kilometers in length, Kizil-Koba is the largest cave in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. The cave has 7 distinct floors and Mother Nature is working on creating the 8th – do be completed in a couple of million years.

The red caves are full of magical creatures and objects like dancing gnomes, baby pterodactyl, and the intimidating Guardian, who has the power to save the visitors’ lives in case of a sudden flood – or trap them inside the mountain forever. Assisting the Guardian in these life-or-death decisions is the Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat. Considering that the hat only works one day a year at its main job, I guess it needed something else to do for the rest of the time.

Crystal-clear underground river Subatqan (literally “Submerged/Falled Waters”) also passes through Kizil-Koba. The especially brave souls can take a 6-hour special tour into the heart of the mountain in full-on diving gear. I’m saving this experience for my next Crimea trip.

The Guardian

The Guardian of Kizil Koba

Kizil Koba 1

Stalagmites in Kizil Koba caves

Subatqan River in Kizil Koba

Underground Subatqan River in Crimea's Kizil Koba

Underground Subatqan River in Crimea’s Kizil Koba


27 thoughts on “CRIMEA, Day 15: Caves, Bones & The Sorting

        • Are you tired of it already? I have 3 more “Day” posts (hopefully wrapped up by the end of next week), I am postponing the political post (I want a little peace in my life), and then there will be 4 overview posts (one of which will be food)

          THEN I will be playing catch-up with my post-Crimea travels, stories and guest posts.

    • The first one I ever visited was in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia (hi Polly!), but I dont remember it making an impression. I do remember insane crowds tho, and all the visitors being pushed through like cattle. Apparently that’s also what Crimea is like in peak season/without geopolitical calamities around it, so a small part of me is grateful for going off-season, in a crazy year, and often in bad weather. And yes, the link works and the cave is goooooorgeous. I want a waterproof camera and to do that REAL underground cave trip next time.

  1. I think my favorite picture is the perfectly carved steps just below the Guardian photo. Mother Nature is indeed quite the architect.

    That place is amazing. I don’t think I would ever want to leave.

    Awesome photography as well. The photos are excellent.

    • Hehe
      This is apparently pretty new – the caves were adapted for tourism purposes in the last 30 years or so.

      Speaking of not leaving – apparently the Soviet Army and KGB did a bunch of psychological experiments in these caves. Like, how long people can stay there w/o losing their mind, what kind of paranoias they would develop, or at what rate did they lose the sense of time.

      I wish the photos werent so grainy… very basic camera and a bit on the iphone…

    • Aww, poor thing.
      Nobody on my trip had any issues and the excursion wasnt very long, but for the 6-hr underground river scuba trip they do thorough interviews and prep to avoid any potential accidents of this sort.

  2. Pingback: WHAT I ATE IN CRIMEA: Restaurants | Home & Away

  3. It was so cool to see your photos from the Eminé-Bayir-Hasar caves! My bf is from Simferopol and he took me there back in 2007. We took a lot of pictures of each other in the caves and in every single one we looked like freaky space aliens. Did you get the same effect? We ended up hiding all the pictures away in a private album to laugh at, they were so hilariously horrendous!

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