The Marvelous cave of Dinant (Grotte de Dinant La Merveilleuse)
Dinant is a beautiful town in the Wallonian part of Belgium, easily reachable by train. Trains from Brussels run almost all day at intervals of about 30 – 60 minutes to and from Dinant (from anywhere in Belgium, you can book your tickets here). If you are below 26 years of age, you should get a Go pass, which should save you some money. About 500 meters away from the train station is the Grotte de Dinant La Merveilleuse, literally called the Marvelous caves in French. I have been to the caves twice and I found it quite fascinating because I have never been to a cave with limestone formations before. The tour costs around 9 euros and you can get a ticket with the citadel for a combined cheaper price. The tour lasts for about 40-50 minutes and the guide speaks in English, French and Dutch (I was probably the only English speaking person during one of my visits and it was nice of the guide to repeat everything).
A few workers who were building a road from the train station in 1904 found the cave accidently, the landlords on hearing this searched more and found most of the cave that is today. The cave was ready for public viewing in 1905.
Just as you enter the cave, you feel either cold or warm depending on what the weather is like outside, because the cave has a constant temperature of about 12-13 degree Celsius throughout the year. I was already thinking about Batman! Well it was my first proper cave visit and I am a dreamer! Ha! 😀
As you enter the cave you are explained that the cave has three layers of chambers and these chambers are connected by corridors. You get to see some really impressive Stalagmites (formation from the ground due to the ceiling drippings) and Stalactites (cave formation from the ceiling of the cave) all along the way.
The stairs take you down to a chamber with these limestone formations on either side with lights illuminating them.
As you descent into the next layer of chamber, you get to see some strongly pronounced limestone formations. Including Columns (When the stalagmites touch the stalactites and form a pillar like structure) and petrified waterfalls of these limestone formations.
This chamber was quite high, it was looking like candles were melting everywhere and they might fall right on your head, Haha!
The guide was asking us to use our imagination and spot imaginary creatures on these limestone waxed walls, this was particularly fun.
Finally, after a bit of walking and explaining, I got a glimpse of this huge chamber. As you enter, you cannot help but gasping at it’s magnificence. I heard the guide say ‘‘You can fit a chapel in here’’ and he was right!
As we walked a bit further to climb the stairs to get a gorgeous view of this chamber, we got to see this special formation of Oblique Stalactite. This is a stalactite that grew from the ceiling, but takes a slight turn from the perpendicular to not join the stalagmite below to for a column, this happens because of the wind coming into that part of the cave.
We had to take the stairs down to the lowest level of the cave where we walked by other such formations. You can see a stream of water flowing by here, which originally formed the cave and usually floods during winter. We could see a bat hibernating here! (It was winter then)
To end the trip, we had to take the 120 steps back to base where we started. It is interesting to know that during the Second World War about 300 civilians took refuge in this cave for about a week and survived with some help from the allied forces.
The place also has a large parking spot outside and the tour is considered both kids and dog friendly.
Dinant is in itself a beautiful town with a lot of offer and these caves definitely add a new dimension to what you might have expected from a Belgian town.