Row 16 meters deep under the surface in Tapolca

Vivi Bencze | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The Pond Cave of Tapolca was discovered in 1903, and it soon became clear that a whole cave system was stretching beneath the town of Tapolca. Ten years later, not only scientists and cavers but anyone could admire the underground karst formations. It was the first cave in Hungary to be equipped with electric lighting and was also used for touristic purposes. Please let me show you the world’s most extensive cave system, that can be found under a populous settlement, and where you can even row around in a boat – 16 meters deep under the surface.

Tapolca, by the way, is one of the most charming towns in the region of Balaton Uplands. Among others, the Dino Park of Rezi is only a 30-min trip from here, but we can find several further tourist spots nearby. During the recent years, the Pond Cave received a new reception building, in which we have a chance to visit an exhibition called "The wonderful karst”. It represents the unique geological values of Hungary and the whole world in a complex way, that is very interesting even for children.

3D cinema for the world of karst

The most exciting part of the exhibition will be at the end of your visit. In a 3D cinema, to which we are naturally provided with the necessary spectacles, we can perfectly empathize with the movie, that shows us the water’s eternal cycle, as well as the world of karst. It sends us above the Earth and oceans or drives us into the narrow paths of the caves. Moreover, we also have a chance to glimpse those areas closed to visitors, that have been discovered only recently.

After the reception and exhibition hall, the next step is your main task: descend into the cave system by the stairs that have been carved into the ground. When arrived down, we can observe that particular well – on your right, behind bars - that was being drilled when the cave system’s discovery happened. Even though it was found more than 100 years ago, the licensed speleologists are still exploring new areas in the cave system.

© Picture credits to Csaba Egri /

Boating is the most exciting part

Passing through the Lóczy Hall, you will meet the most exciting part of the adventure: the boating. Boarding the little metal boats is assisted by a friendly staff, wearing the uniforms of Balaton Uplands National Park. These staff members are always happy to share their information with the visitors.

The Pond Cave of Tapolca can be rowed around currently on 180 meters in total, and we are coming back to where we started from. Boat trips run through the natural routes shaped by the water, which are well-lit all along and at some points include even emergency equipment. You don't have to worry though, they didn't have to be used often.

© Picture credits to Gergő Rácz /

Glimpse the fish, make a wish!

The turquoise water  is 18-20 degrees Celsius, and at the most parts, it reaches the waist only, but there is also a section where only a few tens of cents cover the pond bed. In the water - flowing into the city’s Mill Lake - the lucky ones are even able to glimpse the only living creature in the caves: the little but lively minnow. This is a tiny species of fish called „csetri” by the locals, and if you are lucky enough to see it, you are supposed to make a wish according to local customs.

Beyond the mesmerizing spectacle of the Pond Cave of Tapolca, it is the boating itself I liked the most. Especially the fact that you are let to row the boat yourself 16 meters deep under the surface. Occasionally, you even have to duck your head and use your hands, as well as the walls of the cave in order to get ahead. The experience simply could not be more proximal. However, I don’t recommend it to those who are extremely claustrophobic.

Want to explore other caves too? Check out my co-editor's article on Northern Velebit National Park, which can be found in Croatia, the southern neighbour of Hungary.

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