Incredible Underground Attractions You Can Visit
The world above ground is incredible, but it’s also fascinating down below. Both humans and nature have worked hard to create some amazing structures beneath the earth.
Given their unique location, these structures make for unique tourist attractions, particularly for travelers hungry for something different.
From a city where people still live underground to a volcanic magma chamber that you can visit, here are the best underground attractions in the world.
30. Salt Cathedral
Location: Zipaquira, Colombia
Fun fact: Although it’s not an official church, the Salt Cathedral is used for masses on Sundays.
Why it’s worth going underground: This abandoned salt mine is one of Colombia’s most visited attractions and is popular with national and international tourists.
The cathedral was built by the miners who worked in the mountains next to the small town of Zipaquira.
A visit will take you through carvings that symbolize the 12 stations of the cross as well as a large chamber that serves as the main chapel.
29. Temppeliaukio Rock Church
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Fun fact: The church’s altarpiece is a crevice from the Ice Age.
Why it’s worth going underground: One of Helsinki’s main attractions, this church is mostly carved out of rock.
The natural walls have a copper dome roof. This part of the church is industrial, but it also manages to let natural light come in and illuminate the unique place of worship.
28. Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Location: Shanghai, China
Price: $11 roundtrip
Fun fact: You’ll be riding through the tunnel on a maglev (magnetic levitation) train. Only Japan, China and South Korea have these trains, and one of them is the fastest train in the world.
Why it’s worth going underground: We’re not usually fans of tourist traps, but we admit that this trippy train ride is worth it.
Though it only lasts a few minutes, the glass-paneled carts allow you a 360-degree view of the light shows Shanghai puts on in the tunnel walls.
The shows change constantly but always make you feel like you’ve definitely left the planet.
27. Mary King’s Close
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Fun fact: Mary King’s Close was the busiest street in Edinburgh until a plague outbreak in 1645.
Why it’s worth going underground: This street was first abandoned in quarantine during a plague outbreak and then closed in 1752. New streets and buildings were built on top of it while it was left sealed for around 250 years.
Finally, the government decided to open up this attraction as a mirror to life in mid-18th century Scotland.
26. Turda Salt Mines
Location: Turda, Romania
Fun fact: Humans first started mining for salt here about 2,000 years ago.
Why it’s worth going underground: Many countries have converted old mines into attractions, but few have made them into full-out recreation centers.
Lit up by lights that contrast with the vast darkness of the mine, this underground amusement park has mini-golf, basketball courts, a museum, a lake with boats, a spa and even a Ferris wheel.
25. Castle Mound Caves
Location: Nottingham, England
Fun fact: The city was used as shelter during the air raids of World War II.
Why it’s worth going underground: We say "cave people" to refer to humans who were closer in lifestyle to Neanderthals than to modern people. But up until 1845, England had a town of cave people who only left when a new law required them to do so.
There are over 800 human-made caves within the system and it is uncertain whether there are more left to be explored.
24. Churchill War Rooms
Location: London, England
Fun fact: Although the War Rooms were preserved since their abandonment in 1945, they weren’t fully open to the public until 1984.
Why it’s worth going underground: For much of World War II, Winston Churchill and other important political figures spent a lot of their time underground, planning how to win the war.
The bunkers they inhabited are now part of the Churchill War Rooms Museum, and they continue to hold original artifacts.
23. Sudwala Caves
Location: Mbombela, South Africa
Fun fact: Swazi prince Somquba used the caves as a refuge while fighting for power with his brother Mswati in the mid-1800s.
Why it’s worth going underground: As the oldest caves in the world (that we know of), the Sudwala Caves have been around since before Africa was a separate continent.
Human ancestors inhabited them 1.8 million years ago, and their rudimentary tools can be seen on a tour.
The caves are so large that concerts are sometimes held here, with musicians taking advantage of the great acoustics.
22. Pool of Arches
Location: Ramla, Israel
Fun fact: The site is nicknamed the "Pool of Goats" because this is where the animals used to be watered.
Why it’s worth going underground: Built in 789, this underground reservoir does not look a day over 1,100. Visitors get to hop on a boat and row around the dark space, which is illuminated from square hatches on the ceiling.
It is believed these hatches were used by people to draw up water. The experience is otherworldly and definitely worth it.
21. Underground Mining Town
Location: Coober Pedy, Australia
Fun fact: In the summer, the temperature here can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why it’s worth going underground: Though there are several underground cities in the world, Coober Pedy stands out for being both modern and currently inhabited.
Built in 1916, the city is deep within the Australian outback and was founded merely as a mining operation. Mineworkers and their families began building their homes underground to escape the hellish heat of the desert.
Even today, about 60 percent of the town population lives underground. You’ll find homes, a hotel, a church and bars below the surface.
20. Portuguese Cistern of El Jadida
Location: Mazagan, Morocco
Fun fact: The cistern was used during the filming of Orson Welles' version of "Othello."
Why it’s worth going underground: This cistern is one of the remains of Portuguese occupation in this area of Morocco, which lasted until the mid-18th century.
Although it hasn’t been used for centuries, it continues to be surprisingly well-preserved and is now classified as a cultural heritage monument in the country.
19. Moscow Metro
Location: Moscow, Russia
Fun fact: If you look closely, you may find socialist symbols hidden within the intricate designs of some metro stations.
Why it’s worth going underground: Metros are usually the grimmest part of cities, which is perhaps why Soviet leaders decided to make the new ones in Moscow absolutely spectacular.
Rather than dark and ugly, the metro stations in the capital of Russia showcase opulent mosaics and columns. They look more like they belong in a palace than in the public transit system — ironic considering that they were meant to promote Communism.
18. Wieliczka Salt Mine
Location: Wieliczka, Poland
Fun fact: Famous figures like Goethe, Copernicus, Chopin and Pope John Paul II have visited the mines.
Why it’s worth going underground: This mine took the concept of an underground cathedral and decided to do it Versailles style. We say this figuratively because the mine has existed since before medieval times, becoming a main commercial development during the Renaissance.
Even then, it enjoyed famed for its grandiose chambers and monuments, which put some above-ground cathedrals to shame. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
17. Thrihnukagigur Volcano
Fun fact: This is the only volcano on earth whose magma chamber can be visited.
Why it’s worth going underground: If you want a literal journey to the center of the Earth, this may be the closest you’ll get. Though going into the volcano is costly, the steep price is worth it since you can actually go into the belly of a live, dormant volcano.
You’ll hike a lava field and then be lowered into a gigantic magma chamber. If you have reservations, just remember the volcano has been dormant for 4,000 years.
16. Milestii Mici Winery
Location: Chisinau, Moldova
Price: $37 weekdays, $45 weekends
Fun fact: Red wine accounts for 70 percent of the millions of bottles stored here.
Why it’s worth going underground: As the largest wine cellar in the world, Milestii Mici can only be reached by car.
Visitors will see rows and rows of wine bottles organized in an underground system that closely resembles a normal street.
Buying wine to take home can be a difficult choice given that there are around 2 million bottles stored here.
15. Vatican Necropolis
Location: Holy See
Fun fact: The attraction only allows 250 visitors a day, divided into groups of 12.
Why it’s worth going underground: Located underneath Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Necropolis is one of Europe’s most underrated attractions.
The main attraction of the necropolis is said to be the bones of Saint Peter himself.
There is also a first-century Pagan burial, mosaics and sarcophagi.
14. Batu Caves
Location: Gombak, Malaysia
Price: Free for Temple Cave and Cathedral Cave, $4 for Dark Cave and Cae Villa
Fun fact: During Thaipusam celebrations, Tamil Hindus come to the cave and climb its 272 steps while carrying offerings.
Why it’s worth going underground: Not far from Kuala Lumpur, the Batu Caves are a series of caverns that are also used as Hindu Temples.
They are dedicated to Lord Murugan and have various colorful shrines that depict Hindu legends and where practitioners come to bring offerings.
With a natural opening that lets in light, the Temple Cave is the most astonishing part and attracts the most visitors.
13. Basilica Cistern
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Fun fact: Many of the columns as well as statues found in the water reservoir were taken from older temples around what is now Istanbul.
Why it’s worth going underground: Built in 532 A.D. during the Byzantine Empire, this cistern is the largest in Istanbul. The structure is supported by more than 300 imposing columns, making it one of the world’s most interesting water reservoirs.
Locals in the area used to fish carp from holes beneath their basement, which led to a curious Frenchman leading an effort that ultimately ended with the public rediscovery of the cistern.
12. Cu Chi Tunnels
Location: Ho Chi Mihn, Vietnam
Fun fact: In order to allow for visitors to fit inside the tunnels, some have been slightly widened. This means that the tunnels were often even smaller than how visitors experience them.
Why it’s worth going underground: Used during the First Indochina War against the French and then in the Vietnam War with the U.S. and its allies, these tunnels were part of guerilla warfare tactics.
Tiny latches that fit only one person led to tunnels that needed to be crawled through. The tunnels themselves led to underground villages from which the Viet Cong operated.
11. Paris Catacombs
Location: Paris, France
Fun fact: The catacombs serve as a final resting place for the remains of more than 6 million people.
Why it’s worth going underground: Paris has always been a city that has more people than it does space. During the 18th century, this meant that the city’s graveyards had no more space for the recently deceased.
The solution to this problem was to remove bones from literally millions of graves and place them in a quarry underneath the city.
The bones are arranged in purposeful displays that have made the catacombs a must-see Parisian attraction.
10. Rock-Hewn Churches
Location: Lalibela, Ethiopia
Fun fact: The churches continue to be used for Ethiopian Orthodox Christian services and are an important pilgrimage site.
Why it’s worth going underground: This UNESCO World Heritage Site was chiselled in the 13th century.
The purpose of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who commissioned the 11 churches that make up the site, was to recreate the holy city.
The results continue to inspire awe for everyone lucky enough to visit.
9. Gruta do Janelao
Location: Minas Gerais, Brazil
Price: Free but most pay $30 per day for a guide.
Fun fact: Besides large stalactites, the cave boasts rock art that goes back around 10,000 years.
Why it’s worth going underground: There are many amazing underground caves, but the Gruta do Janelão differentiates itself by having large patches of vegetation.
The cave has several natural openings, and sunlight comes in. Combined with the high moisture of the cave walls, this is an ideal environment for small forests to grow underground.
8. Mammoth Cave
Location: Brownsville, Kentucky
Fun fact: The cave system is the second largest in the U.S. after Niagara Falls.
Why it’s worth going underground: Mammoth Cave was not gratuitously named. This is the longest cave in the entire world.
The natural wonder is protected by a national park that bears its name and offers visitors gigantic rock formations and a chance to see rare and endangered species.
One of the most popular formations is Frozen Niagara, which looks like a wide waterfall frozen mid-fall.
7. Derinkuyu Underground City
Location: Cappadocia, Turkey
Fun fact: Built in the seventh or eighth century B.C., the city can hold up to 20,000 people.
Why it’s worth going underground: Like many other rock cities, Derinkuyu Underground City was built as a defense against invaders.
What's impressive is how large it is, with multiple levels and a labyrinth of passageways. The city is surprisingly organized and has houses, churches, schools, "streets" and tombs carved out.
Besides the hot air balloons, it is the main reason people visit Cappadocia.
6. Waitomo Glowworm Caves
Location: Waitomo, New Zealand
Fun fact: The "worms" that give the caves their name are not actually worms but gnats.
Why it’s worth going underground: At Waitomo Caves, you get to see the sky shine from the underground. Except instead of stars, it'll be glow worms that light up the cave walls above you.
This bioluminescent miracle is one of the most incredible things you can experience — above or under the ground.
5. Cave of Maltravieso
Location: Caceres, Spain
Fun fact: Because visits are so restricted, each person is only allowed one visit in their life.
Why it’s worth going underground: Discovered in 1951, this Spanish cave enjoys worldwide importance for having the oldest painting in the world.
The painting is so old it predates the arrival of humans to the region. It is therefore assumed to have been done by a Neanderthal.
4. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Location: Palawan, Philippines
Fun fact: There is a daily limit of 600 people allowed to visit the underground river so booking in advance is highly recommended.
Why it’s worth going underground: This national park in the Philippines hides a subterranean river that has chiseled a system of beautiful caverns.
It is the only underground river in the world that flows into the ocean. This fact and its incredible biodiversity have earned it UNESCO World Heritage Status.
3. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
Location: Xi’an, China
Price: $18.76, free for children under 4-foot-6, children taller than 4-foot-6 and under ag 16 are half-price
Fun fact: The figures of the Terracotta Army used to be in color, but they have faded over the past 2,200 years.
Why it’s worth going underground: When Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, died in 210 B.C., his funeral was not taken lightly. To accompany him in the afterlife, a gigantic terracotta army of 8,000 soldiers with horses and chariots was built and buried.
What makes the funeral mound even more impressive, is that no two figures are the same. The hair, clothing and facial features of each one are completely unique.
2. Tomb of Seti I
Location: Luxor, Egypt
Fun fact: The tomb features a 52-foot bas-relief of Apep, a snake figure that ancient Egyptians believed was the spirit of evilness.
Why it’s worth going underground: Another tomb that is very much worth a visit is that of Seti I. Located in the awe-inspiring Valley of the Kings, this is considered one of the most magnificent tombs in the complex.
It is also the largest of all of them. If you can see only one during your tour, make it this one.
Otherwise, we also recommend seeing the tomb of Nefertiti.
1. Ajanta Caves
Location: Maharashtra, India
Fun fact: This cave system is made up of 30 caves. In each, you'll find carved temples and shrines dedicated to the Buddha.
Why it’s worth going underground: If you passed by the Ajanta Caves and didn’t know what to look for, you’d surely miss it.
Hidden by an untouched cliff, these caves are home to magnificent stone carvings and Buddhist shrines. The shrines are encompassed by grand halls and columns that were carved from the caves themselves.
This is a place you have to see with your own eyes.