The World’s Best Underground Attractions
Most cautious travellers adhere to the old horror movie adage ‘Don’t go into the cellar’ when it comes to heading underground. Only bad things can happen when you’re beneath ground level, right?
Not so. For the more adventurous, heading deep into the earth when on your travels can bring big rewards (or at least something so strange that you’ll have a great travel story for when you return). From enjoying a meal on someone’s grave, visiting a cave full of skulls or partying where The Beatles were discovered, there are tons of subterranean delights if you venture under the surface.
This underground club in the heart of Liverpool is the venue that launched the greatest band in the world,The Beatles. John, Paul, George and the guy who voiced Thomas the Tank Engine played at The Cavern Club nearly 300 times and it was here legendary producer Brian Epstein first heard them play in November 1961. The club now does a thriving business from those who want to experience the Swingin’ Sixties, with ‘The Cavern Club Beatles’ playing every Saturday night.
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
Situated on New Zealand’s North Island, the Waitomo Caves is famous for something called the ‘arachnocampa luminosa’. More commonly known as the glowworm, the cave’s ceilings and walls are covering in the little luminous creatures and they light up the vast caves like a star-filled night sky for passing tourists. The best thing about a tour is the choice of speed you can take it – there’s a relaxing boat cruise for those who like to take their time, or a blackwater rafting experience which includes a bit of abseiling and floating down the underground river in a large inner tube. Just watch out for the eels nipping on the nether regions of your wetsuit…
Cave Bar, Jordan
Having a drink where someone was buried might not sound too appealing at first, but when you consider Jordan’s Cave Bar is part of an tomb carved by the Nabataeans, you might change your mind. The ancient city of Petra is known for its caves – the most famous being ‘Al Khazneh’ which is carved into the side of a valley – but there’s only one you can enjoy a meal and a drink in. Although the Cave Bar has only been open since 1960, the tomb is more than 2000 years old and, if you’re lucky, you can even choose to sit on one of the tombs while you eat. Be warned: the picturesque bar is very popular, so get there early doors if sitting on the grave of an ancient dead person is your idea of fun.
The catacombs underneath the French capital were initially created by miners extracting stone to create the city’s buildings but in the 17th century, after sanitary conditions in Paris’s cemeteries became unbearable, they were used to house the dead. Officially known as l’Ossuaire Municipal and home to the remains of more than six million Parisians, you can take a tour around the underground tunnel system and view long walls packed from floor to ceiling with bones and skulls. You’ll be in good company too – diminutive French leader Napoleon once took his son on a day out here in the pre-EuroDisney days.
Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
Much of Vietnam is crisscrossed with a underground network of tunnels which were utilised by the Viet Kong as part the fight against the US army during the war in the 1960s. The Vietnamese fighters endured terrible conditions while living in the tunnels – lack of oxygen and food, poisonous centipedes and parasites – but the guerilla tactics were instrumental in keeping the far superior US forces at bay. These days, it’s possible to take a tour around the tunnels (widened to allow tourists), the most famous being the Cu Chi system that stretches 250km from Saigon to the Cambodian border. If you want a little more excitement, you can even try out some of the Vietnam war-era guns at the shooting range too.
Located in the beachside suburb of Playa del Carmen, not far from Cancun, the Alux Restaurant is named after Mayan elves who taunt humans by hiding their belongings and make their homes in caves. While visitors to the restaurant/bar aren’t guaranteed to see one of the mythical creatures, what they will experience is a venue like no other: situated in a 100,000 year-old limestone cave, there are stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and draperies all around the venue. With food, alcohol, live music and a venue for Mayan weddings ceremonies, it’s the perfect place to eat, drink and be married. (Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the shrimp salad…)