If you are a true spelunker, China is where you need to be. With its ancient, karst geology in the south and sand-blasted stone in the west, China has more caves than some countries have cities to explore. When I put together this list of China’s famous caves, I threw together a mixture that have either one or more of historical, anthropological, or geological significance. These caves can make adventurers hair raise and claustrophobics sudder. This is not a complete list, of caves that can be visited in China by far. So next time you’re in the country, find out if there’s a cave close by to explore. It definitely won’t be a let down.
1) Zhijin Caves
Found in China’s porous karst region of the southern province of Guizhou, this is China’s LARGEST cave. Measuring at 10 kilometres long and 150 metres high. LOTR fans looking to fight a Balrog should start here. This cave is big enough to get lost in. The cave is 15 km outside Zhijin city. Busses leave regularly to the cave from the city bus station.
2) Mogao Caves
Found upon China’s grand Silk Road in Gansu Province, this historically famous cave complex (492 caves!) used to be a collection of some of the best representative Buddhist art. The caves here artfully show the spread of Buddhism into the Han Empire, one of the most important events occurring in Ancient China. Not to be missed by anyone voyaging along the Silk Road.
3) Maiji Shan Grottoes
More carvings than subterranean vaults; this complex in Gansu Province houses many Buddhist statues from Ancient Chinese Dynasties. More interesting for the historian, not so much for the geologist. These caves are located close to the town of Tianshui. If you’re interested in seeing something like the Longmen Grottoes but without all the heartbreaking damage, this is more up your alley.
4) Kizil Caves
Closer to Almaty than Beijing, This Buddhist cave complex is found in the westerregion of Xinjiang. An earlier cave complex than the Mogao Caves, this could have been China’s first Buddhist cave complex. Far to get to, take a taxi from the town of Kuqa, 75 kilometres away.
Discovered in 1921, this cave was once the home or Peking Man, or one of the earliest examples of homo erectus who lived over 700,000 to 530,000 years ago. Getting here is an easy taxi ride from the capital, Beijing
6) Swallow’s Cavern
A huge gaping hole in a side of a mountain. This cave gets its name for being the home for hundreds of thousands of swallows who live here. This cave is so large that it houses Asia’s largest Karst formations and also has a river flowing through it. A strong lure for anyone wanting to see an oddity on their trip. To get here, take a taxi or bus from Jianshui in Guizhou Province.
7) Tianyuan Cave
This cave is known for housing the remains of the ancestor of modern Asians and Native Americans. Anyone who is interested in plotting the growth of mankind this is a must see. It’s close to Zhoukoudian so seeing both caves in one day is a possible trip.
8) Reed Flute Cave
An impressive light show within; Reed Flute Cave is located close to beautiful Guilin. This cave makes for a special performance of lights, shadows, stalactites and stalagmites.
9) Xianren Cave
Another prehistoric Cave where it was discovered some of the oldest pottery shards in the world. Found just south of Jiujang in Jiangxi Province
10) Taiji Cave
Famed for its Opulence, this cave has many natural features within that bear resemblance to Taoist and Buddhist passages. This cavern is navigable by boat. Seeing it this way is by far the prettiest. Taiji is found in Anhui Province, near Xuanzhou.