Natura 2000 Award for CaveLife App

The Natura 2000 Awards 2022 of the EU Commission have been announced.
The German  Speleological Federation VdHK won in the category
"Transboundary Cooperation". The CaveLife-App is an easy tool to
evaluate caves in a standardisized way according to the Natura 2000
guidelines. Natura 2000 is the largest transboundary network of
protected areas in the world. Since 2014, the award is now announced for
the 6th time.

On the occasion of the award ceremony, the VdHK together with the
European Cave Protection Commission ECPC handed over an open letter to
the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries to ensure the
protection of geological assets.

Natura 2000 Award
Natura 2000-Award Award ceremony 18.05.
Pressemitteilung des VdHK  vom 19.05.2022 (pdf)
Fotos zur Pressemitteilung (zip)

Press releases from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Rhön and the German EU Commission


From time immemorial, caves have attracted and fascinated humans. Caves protect from the rigors of weather, war and persecution. They are visited for cultic or religious reasons, and they serve as storage and cooling rooms. Since the 18th century, the perception of using caves has been replaced by an increasing interest in caves from a natural history perspective. Bone deposits in caves testify early human settlement or the presence of prehistoric animals. The Swabian Cave Society was founded in 1889 with the aim of examining cave sediments for such prehistoric evidence. It was one of the first caving associations worldwide. In addition to these scientific motives, there was also an increasing interest to bring the natural beauty of caves closer to the average population. As early as 1668, guided tours took place in the Baumann Cave in the Harz Mountains. Since the turn of the 20th century, new show caves were opened in all German caving regions.


More than just dark

For many people, the term cave is synonymous with "cavity under the ground." But unlike mines, tunnels or cellars, caves are natural, created without human intervention. To be defined as a cave a cavity must be at least large enough for a person to enter it. This does not mean that a cave must always be comfortable to walk in. Often enough, crawling is the only possible way to proceed. Caves can be formed in all kind of solid rocks and in ice. If they are formed together with the surrounding rock, they are called primary caves. These include caves in volcanic rocks, such as lava tunnels or gas bubbles.

However, most caves are formed after the formation of ist host rock as secondary caves by weathering processes such as erosion or dissolution, or by tectonic processes such as slope movements or block collapses. Dissolution caves represent the most important cave type worldwide. These caves develop in limestone, dolomite, gypsum and salt rocks. Along joints in the rock, the groundwater initially forms small tubes by dissolution, which then gradually widens into caves. Caves formed by dissolution are called karst caves, and the "classic" landscape of the karst mountains in the border area between Italy and Slovenia was name-giving. In such karst areas, besides caves, there are often impressive surface forms. Dolines (funnel-like depressions in the ground), sinkholes, large springs, sharp-edged rock surfaces, so-called karren fields, etc. form a characteristic and easy to recognize landscape.

Most caves are located in karst areas. The name of the German Speleological Federation reflects this fact.


Cave Protection

When you visit a cave, take nothing with you, leave nothing behind, destroy nothing, and don’t kill anything but time.
Help to keep the world without light intact. We are only guests in it.


Caves are diverse and extremely sensitive natural sites worth preserving and to strictly protect them as scientific archives, as habitats, and also for aesthetic reasons.

Since 2018, caves are specially protected biotopes according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act § 30.
During the bat hibernation period from 01 October to 31 March caving activities in bat roosts are generally prohibited according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act §39 paragraph 6.

Hazards to caves include

  • Total or partial destruction by mining of limestone and gypsum, or by construction projects

  • Input of pollutants, through dumps and drip-water, which can contaminate groundwater drinking water resources very quickly and almost unfiltered. Consequently, the application of fertilizers or pesticides on agricultural land in karst areas is also very problematic.

  • Vandalism and overfrequency by visitors

  • Illegal excavations for archaeological, paleontological or mineralogical findings

The VdHK has adopted ethical guidelines and a list of requirements for commercial cave trekking for the protection of caves and other karst features.

Karst areas in Germany

Caves are common where water-soluble rocks have dominate the stratigraphic sequence. In Germany, such karst areas are mostly found in the lower mountain ranges and the Alps and occupy about 12% of the land surface. In total, about 11,000 caves have been recorded in the cave registries so far. The following important karst areas are distinguished in Germany according to their geological age:

  • Small-scale Devonian-Carboniferous limestone deposits of the Rhenish Slate Mountains (Sauerland, Eifel, Westerwald) and the Harz Mountains;
  • Zechstein rim of the low mountain ranges, e.g. in the south of the Harz or in the Thuringian Basin;
  • Muschelkalk areas, mainly in the Swabian-Franconian Gäuland;
  • Jurassic limestone of the Swabian and Franconian Alb;
  • Cretaceous and Jurassic areas along northern edge of the low mountain ranges (e.g. the Münsterland Cretaceous Basin);
  • Triassic and Cretaceous carbonates of the Bavarian Alps.

In addition, there are a few more isolated karst and cave areas such as in Bad Segeberg, in the Vogtland near Syrau and a limestone deposit in Rüdersdorf near Berlin.

The most important karst areas in Germany are shown on the overview map.


Show caves

53 caves can be visited by anyone in Germany. These show caves are listed below. For the opening hours and ticket prices, please consult the linked websites. Show caves that are members of the VdHK are marked with *.


Further information is also available at


Major German caves

The longest caves

1  Riesending (BY)25.200m
2  Blauhöhlensystem (BW)17.673m
3  Fuchslabyrinth (BW)14.321m
4  Herbstlabyrinth-Adventhöhle-System (HE)13.128m
5  Hölloch (BY)12.205m
6  Mühlbachquellhöhle (BY)10.420m
7  Salzgrabenhöhle (BY)9.012m
8  Windloch im Mühlenberg (NW)8.453m
9  Hessenhauhöhle (BW)8.365m
10 Eisrohrhöhle-Bammelschacht System (BY)7.861m
11 Schneebläser (BY)7.260m
12 Attahöhle (NW)6.670m
13 Wulfbachquellhöhle (BW)6.583m
14 Wildpalfen/Canyon 84 – System (BY)6.000m
15 Kluterthöhle (NW)5.845m

The deepest caves

1  Riesending (BY)-1.149m
2  Fledermauscanyon (BY)-891m
3  Geburtstagsschacht (BY)-698m
4  Aufreißer (BY)-650m
5  Latschencanyon (BY)-630m
6  Zirbeneckschlinger (BY)-585m
7  Hacklschacht (BY)-581m
8  Eisrohrhöhle-Bammelschacht System (BY)-496m
9  Hölloch (BY)-452m
10 Kargrabenhöhle (BY)-446m
11 Salzgrabenhöhle (BY)-399m
12 Wildpalfen/Canyon 84 – System (BY)-395m
13 Kippdübelschacht (BY)-386m
14 Eisbläser (BY)-381m
15 Schneeschächte in der Mittagsscharte (BY)-357m