Scarisoara Cave (Pestera Scarisoara)

Scarisoara Cave is located in the western Romanian Carpathian Mountains, more precisely in the Apuseni Mountains. What makes this cave so unique is the fact that is the largest glaciar cave found on the Romanian territory. In fact, these is only one other glacier in the whole world which surpasses the one found inside Scarisoara Cave in terms of size and this one is located in Slovakia.

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The exact year when the cave was discovered remains unknown, but the first documentary evidence of Scarisoara dates from 1863 when the geographer Adolt Schmididi, of Austrian descent, explored the cave and mapped the site so as to help further discoveries.

 

Structure

Scarisoara Cave is found at a 1150 m altitude and measures 750 m in length and 110 m in depth. But not all the surface of the cave is available for visitation (only 250 m is accessible for tourists). The cave is so renowned due to the glacier it holds within its walls which dates from 3.000 years ago and which occupies a space of 5.500 sq. meters, with an ice layer ranging from 26 to 37m in width.

The entrance resembles a tube-like orifice which measures 50 m in diameter and tourists can reach this entrance “door” by descending on a steel ladder.

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Scarisoara Cave is divided into several regions, each bearing a specific name. Upon entering the cave, you will find the Big Hall, which is followed by the Church. This section is actually the most representative one as tourists mainly come to Scarisoara Cave to gaze on the impressive natural décor of this room which consists of more than 100 ice stalagmites.

Moving forward, you will come across a gallery which stretches over 70 m and which leads toward two sections: the Great Reservation and the Small Reservation.  But unfortunately, this area is not opened for touristic purposes. Access within these sectors is permissible only to knowledgeable people who investigate the area in order to reach a scientific discovery and only if the “Emil Racovita” Institute of Speleology permits it.

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The cave also consists of sectors which have no trace of ice within them such as the Cathedral and the Sanziana Palace. Scarisoara cave goes as deep as 105 m and it is at this depth that the Maxim Pop Gallery is located.

Formation

The cave dates from the Ice Age, which took place approximately 20,000 years ago, when a thick layer of ice covered the North American and Eurasia continents. Many are impressed by the fact that the ice has maintained itself within the cave throughout this time, but the explanation is quite simple.

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The ice which covered the earth at the time, took hold of the cave as well and this managed to remained as such due to the fact that the cave consists of a singular opening which is “conveniently” located in the upper part of the cave. This opening favors the formation of air currents which directly impact the atmosphere within the cave, thus maintaining the ice in its solid state.

A change occurs in the summer time, as the temperature goes up, reaching 1 degree Celsius. This determines the ice encountered in the Big Hall to melt down but this does not mean that it disappears completely. Only a few centimeters are lost from the thick layer of ice.

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Myth

According to legend, the cave was the home of an ancient dragon, named Solomat, which had the habit of kidnapping a beautiful girl from nearby community and lock her in an ice palace, deep within its cave. The kidnapping is said to have occurred in the New Year’s Eve or during the annual festival, the Girls’ Fare that was organized in the city of Gaina.

Visitation hours

Scarisoara Cave can be visited only if accompanied by a guide who will show the tourists their way through the cave and there is a toll which needs to be covered upon entering the cave.

The tours consists of organized groups of 20, up to 50 individuals, which can get access to Scarisoara according to the following program: 9:00 a.m.; 10:20 a.m.; 11:40 a.m.; 1:00 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.; 3:40 p.m.; 5:00 p.m.