The underground caves of Kiev are an exciting part of the cultural and tourism circuit. As a historical landmark, they attract large numbers of tourists as well as religious pilgrims throughout the seasons.
I have occasionally heard some people refer to them as the Orthodox Disneyland. Others consider these caves as the seventh wonder of Ukraine.
Generally, the exploration of these sites requires the services of a professional tour guide. They can provide invaluable information based on both history and architecture. A typical tour to the caves takes about an hour.
Then again, the caves, such as those of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, are tourist-friendly. They come with signs and clear pathways to make the exploration easier for visitors.
Brief Facts About the Underground Caves
There is a rich history behind the caves. This is how it goes. The architectural masterpieces consist of a monastery with underground churches that have been in existence since the 11th century.
The caves are of two distinct types. The Near caves are at the famous site of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, also known as the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and, associated with St. Antony. The Far Caves, on the other hand, are associated with St. Theodosius.
The earliest of these caves and catacombs were for two primary purposes; as a monastery, and burial places for the monks. Later on, partitions were created to make room for domestic household and religious items.
More passages came into being during the soviet era, and the reason for this was to create a secure way to access certain parts of the city without being noticed.
Some of the grand monuments accompanying these architectural ensembles include the Dormition Cathedral and the Trinity Gate church. Other surface churches are the St. Anthony of the Near Caves and St. Theodosius of the Far Caves.
How to Explore the Underground Caves?
Now, it isn’t very easy to explore these caves on your own, especially if you are a first-time visitor. Therefore, you need a professional tour guide to take you along the underground routes and bring you back to the surface safely.
The good news though, is that since I have been doing this for years, you are definitely in safe hands. I also guide on the type of useful tools to carry along. These include a flashlight and spare clothes to change.
Also, ensure that the clothes are practical enough to allow you to navigate the tunnels. I always recommend comfortable, warm, and even waterproof clothing for this purpose. You might quickly find how cold and wet it can sometimes get, so it’s good to come fully prepared. I would take it applies mostly to the Far caves.
The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, on the other hand, is more visitor-friendly, and you can explore any time of day and irrespective of change in weather. This is because, over the years, there have been infrastructural adjustments to allow for better maneuvering.
What Are the Dos and Don’ts?
The exploration comes with specific dos and don’ts. So here are some of the tips I can provide:
- This is a religious site, so you need to observe the dress code, especially if you are female.
- You can wear long skirts, and the best way is to wear them over your regular clothes. The best thing is you can secure one at the entrance if you did not carry yours. You might, of course, be asking why the restriction. Well, it’s mostly as a sign of respect for the holy place.
- Another vital gear is the headscarf, and you can purchase it from the babushkas hawking them right outside the church. You may need to buy a candle too if yours is a religious tour.
- But I must also warn you that cameras are not allowed into the place, so in actual sense, you won’t be taking any pictures.
- The best part of this excursion is that entrance is free.
What to Experience in The Underground Caves?
As already stated, the most famous site is the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. It’s one of the most revered places, seasoned with annual pilgrimages. I would say it remains an active monastery to date, welcoming all kinds of visitors, including non-Christians. The site offers both underground and surface explorations, leaving you with unforgettable experiences.
So what do you expect to see here? Some of the first things you notice are mummified bodies in glass caskets. Creepy, is it? Well, not so much as to say that there is absolute normality. There is a complete air of calm as well.
The biggest surprise, though, is that they are so well-preserved you would think they are of recent times. One of the reasons is that the type of climate and fresh air within the location helps to prevent decomposition.
Then, of course, there are places of worship and living quarters of the monks. You also see numerous relics of religious symbolism.
But the tour is not limited to the underground sanctuaries alone. Above the ground, you can explore such sites as the ruins and remnants of the Dormition Cathedral and the Holy Trinity church.
Other monuments around this spot include the Great Bell Tower and the All Saints church. Again, on the side, is the famous micro museum, which has a collection of awe-inspiring miniatures. You can only see these tiny collections using a microscope.
The underground caves are a distinct and unique landmark drawing thousands of visitors each year. These sacred sites appeal to visitors across the board, offering different perspectives. For example, Kiev-Pechersk Lavra allows you not just the view of the underground, but right above it, you can visit and view various monuments, as well as the magnificent Dnieper river.
The good news is that I can provide you with all the necessary guidelines, show you all the deeper parts of these sites, and so much more. Generally, both the underground and the upper surface of these sites is an experience you would never want to miss in your lifetime.
See you in Kiev 🙂