We'll start off with Kartchner Caverns which I think is the best we have seen so far. When we did our tour of the caves there it was in January 2005. The caves were still relatively new. The Rotunda/Throne rooms were open in 1999 and the Big Room in 2003. They believe that no human had been in these caves prior to the 1970's when two young men discovered them. The caves have been kept in pristine condition and there are certain guidelines to follow when doing the tours, the Big Room tour does not allow childeren under 6 in, and nothing can be taken in with you, ie purses, cameras, etc. This is in a state park and there is camping here and nature trails. When Kevin and I went in 2005 it was too cold for camping that night (we were tenting at the time) so we stayed in a cheap hotel in Tucson and then stopped here on our way to Tombstone. We did the tour of the Rotunda/Throne room, I think? It was spectacular and a definite must see if you are in the area. We don't have pictures of the caves as you can't take any pictures but we did walk one of the many trails. Please keep in mind that reservations are now highly recommended and the Big Room is only open certain times of the year. The prices are fairly high but as I said before, we highly recommend seeing this if you are in the area.
Ruth on the trail at Kartchner Caverns
I think the second best cave was the Grutas de Garcia just outside of Monterrey, Mexico just because of the location and the size of the caverns. They are located high on the mountain. You can take a steep climb up the path or take the gondola up to the top and back down or walk back down along the pathway as we did. These caves are huge and difinitely a bargin. I think it cost us under $6CAN altogether, about $2CAN for the gondola and $4CAN for the caves, plus a tip for the guide at the end of the tour. The tour was totally in Spanish, so we really missed alot of the history of the caves but we were able to pick up on some of it. Again the caves themselves were very impressive.
The gondola takes you up to the cave entrance in the mountain
Inside the Garcia Caverns
We have also seen the Loltun caves near Campeche in the Yucatan in Mexico. The caves were OK, but nothing special. We did have an english speaking guide and a small group so that made it quite nice. Also in Mexico you have Cenotes which are underground rivers or caves with springs in them which are really nice. We went snorkelling in one in 2003 and also stayed at one with Sherman that we could go swimming in.
Loltun Caves, Mexico
You can swim in Suytun Cenotes, near Valladolid, Mexico
When we were travelling through Florida, we stopped in at the Florida Caverns State Park. Again we thought the caves here were OK, but not anything really special.
One of the hallways in the Florida Caverns State Park
In Texas we stopped at Longhorn Cavern State Park. The caves were interesting but so were the buildings and entrance into the caves.
Stairs coming down to the cave entrance at Longhorn Caverns State Park
One of the neat formations in Longhorn Caverns State Park
In Tennessee we went to the Forbidden Caverns. This trip was a number of years ago, so I don't remember as much about the cave as some of the more recent ones, but I do remember it being quite good. We consider being quite good as to having lots of interesting growths such as stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, streams or rivers, large chambers or lots of climbing, and crawling. I believe this cave had most of that.
Forbidden Caverns near Sevierville, Tennessee
The other cave that we saw last year was at the Mammoth Caves National Park. We choose to do the New Entrance Tour. This is not a good tour if you aren't happy in tight spots or able to do alot of steps. On this tour you go down 280 steps and through some very narrow areas. We were very impressed and wished we had more time to spend in the park. This is definitely a place we will come back to again. They have many tours you can choose from in cave tours as the cave system is so huge and outside there are so many trails and places to explore.
Down 280 steps, Mammoth Caves National Park
Very narrow spaces Mammoth Caves National Park
In Canada, we really haven't seen much in the way of caves. In the Ottawa area there are 2 that are fairly close and both are small. One is the Bonnechere Caves outside of Eganville, Ontario. These are small caves but you must be guided throught, even though they are small they were quite interesting and there is plenty of area to walk around outside and see the river that carved throught the caves. The other cave that we have been to in the Ottawa area is the Lusk Caves. This cave is in Gatineau Park, Quebec. To get to the caves you have to hike along a hiking trail and you need to know where you are going because it isn't the easiest to find. It is a 10km (6mi) round trip hike and this cave is undeveloped so you need to bring flashlights and an extra pair of shoes as there is water in part of the cave. Again this is a small cave but lots for fun to explore, if the weather is hot and there is some water near the end of the cave you can swim through the hole at the end of the cave to exit, the water can be cold!
Lindsey, Ruth, and Alex in the Lusk Cave
In England we have seen two caves both in Somerset. One is a very well known one called Cheddar Caves and is very popular and very touristy and that was years ago. The other one which I preferred is called Wookey Hole. I am sure it is pretty touristy now as well, but it was always overshadowed by Cheddar which is fairly close by. Wookey was a little more rustic and fun, requiring you to squeeze through narrow areas and ducking your head. I unfortunately don't have pictures of either of these caves as I haven't scanned my photos back that far yet.