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Hölloch Caverns, Switzerland

 

ABOVE: Without a lantern, exploring the Hoelloch's vast network of underground caverns can be an intimidating experience.

You want an adventure vacation in Switzerland, and your companion prefers the indoors. How do you reach a compromise? For starters, try the Hölloch in Canton Schwyz. The Hölloch is the biggest cave system in Europe and the third-largest in the world, with 180 km (110 miles) of known corridors, galleries, and underground lakes. Although the Hölloch was discovered around 1875 and has been explored intermittently over the past 125 years, portions of the caverns have never been mapped and only a tiny section (about 1 km) has been wired for electricity and opened to casual visitors.

Fortunately for cavers and intrepid tourists, guided tours are available. Itineraries range from a 1¼-hour visit to the electrified portions of the caves to a two-day "bivouac expedition."

 Most tours are scheduled for June through September. Special winter expeditions take place from November through March, and other tours can be arranged throughout the year.

For more information, see the links below. (Advance reservations are strongly recommended, and you should phone ahead before your visit in case tours are cancelled due to high water levels.)

How to reach Hölloch

From Schwyz, drive southeast on the road to Muotatal. Watch for a sign reading "Stalden-Hölloch" and follow the road to the the Gasthaus Höllgrotte.

A Postal Bus reportedly stops near the Hölloch; check with the Tourist Office in Schwyz for current schedules.

Related Web Sites

Show Caves of Switzerland: Höllach
This page is geared to cave enthusiasts, with detailed information on the cave's history as a tourist attraction.

AGH (Hölloch Cave Research Association)
The association doesn't organize tours, but its Web site does have news and other information about its research projects (mostly in German, but with some English).