What are the Largest Caves in the World?

Mary Elizabeth

The winners for the largest caves in the world can be based on several different conceptions. If the largest caves are those with the largest chambers, then there is a clear winner. The cave with the largest chamber is the Son Doong cave in on the Laotian-Vietnamese border. The largest chamer in the Son Doong cave system is about 3.1 miles (about 5 km) long, about 492 feet (150 m) wide, and about 656 feet (200 m) tall. The runner-up for the cave with the largest chamber is Malaysian cave Gua Nasib Bagus, located in Gunung Mulu National Park, with the chamber in question being named Sarawak Chamber. Sarawak Chamber is 2,300 feet (about 700 m) long, 1,300 feet (about 396 m) wide, and around 230 feet (about 70 m) high. After Gua Nasib Bagus, the next largest chamber is in the Carlsbad Caverns, located at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, in which the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber, is almost 4,000 feet (about 1,219 m) long, 625 feet (190.5 m) wide, and 350 feet (about 107 m) high at the highest point.

Some of the world's largest caves are found in the U.S. state of Kentucky, the Laotian-Vietnamese border and Malaysia.
Some of the world's largest caves are found in the U.S. state of Kentucky, the Laotian-Vietnamese border and Malaysia.

There are other caves, however, that would take the prize for the largest caves if we considered length or depth. If the largest caves are the longest caves, then we also have a standout candidate. The longest cave is the Mammoth Cave System in Kentucky, with a length of at least 365 miles (about 587 km). It is nearly twice the length of the runner-up, Jewel Cave in South Dakota, with a length of 140 miles (about 225 km). Of the top ten caves for length, five are in the United States, with two in Kentucky (Fisher Ridge and Mammoth Cave Systems), two in South Dakota (Jewel and Wind Caves), and one in New Mexico (Lechuguilla Cave). There are also two in Mexico (Sistema Ox Bel Ha and Sistema Sac Actun, which are both under water), two in Switzerland (Hoelloch and Siebenhengste-hohgant Hoehlensystem), and one in the Ukraine (Optymistychna).

Many large caves have stalagmites.
Many large caves have stalagmites.

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It could be, however, that the largest caves are the ones with the greatest depth. In this case, the winner is not so far and above the others, nevertheless, Krubera-Voronja Cave in the country of Georgia is the deepest cave at 7,185 feet (2,190 m). The runner-up for depth is Illyuzia-Mezhonnogo-Snezhnaya, also in Georgia, with a depth of 5,751 feet (1,753 m). It is interesting that the runner-up in depth is almost twice as long as the winner, in this case: 14.96 miles (24.1 km) compared to 8.22 miles (13.23 km). Of the top ten deepest caves, four are in Georgia (Illuzia-Snezhnaja-Mezhonnogo, Krubera-Voronja, Sarma and Shakta Vjacheslav Pantjukhina Caves), two in Spain (Torca del Cerro del Cuevon-La Torca de las Saxifragas and Sima de la Cornisa-Torca Magali Caves), two in France (Gouffre Mirolda and Jean Bernard Caves), one in Austria (the Vogelshacht and Lamprechtsofen Caves which are connected), and one in Slovenia (Ceki 2 Cave).

Switzerland is home to two of the longest caves in the world.
Switzerland is home to two of the longest caves in the world.

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Discussion Comments


Jewel Cave in South Dakota is listed as the second longest in the world, but they have only explored a small percentage of it. If only 2 percent has been explored (the 151+ miles mapped so far), it will turn out to be far longer than Mammoth Caves.


I just read an interesting article about the two divers who discovered the junction between two large underground caves that make up Sac Actun. Sac Actun is the second largest solution cave system in the world.

Some of the discoveries that have been made in these underwater caves are amazing. Divers have discovered mastodons, 12,000 year-old human skeletons, giant tapirs, and miniature horses. All these animals died after falling into the various cenotes (sinkholes) that act as entrances into these underwater worlds. The article stated that early explorers of the cave system even discovered ancient artifacts and treasures that the Mayans had hidden in the sinkholes; forgotten for millennia.


I went to college in North Florida and I was a short drive away from one of the longest solution cave systems in the world. At the time Wakulla Springs was maybe the second or third longest underwater cave system, but the discovery of two connections linking other cave systems in Cancun a few years ago made Wakulla fall down the list.

When I was a Student at Florida A&M my friends, roommates, and I used to go camping and swimming at Wakulla Springs. It is an awesome state park with something for everyone. There is a lot of wildlife, and crystal clear spring water to swim in. I never did any diving or snorkeling there, but I heard there were sinkholes and springs nearby to enter the cave system.

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