Mammoth Cave National Park
While this gem of a site may receive quite a few uninteresting reviews from average tourists, for the science enthusiast and hardcore geologists, this cave system presents a plethora of opportunities to dive deep into the dark and virgin territories under the Earth’s surface, literally. With close to 400 miles of underground cave system, this is the world’s longest caves, and hides a ton of history, even before 1700’s when the caves were discovered by Europeans.
Located between Nashville and Louisville right on interstate 65, it is hard to get to unless you have your own transportation. Suggested time to be spent here is about 4-5 hours. Obviously you cannot navigate through the entire cave system (mind you it has 400 miles of caves), out of which more than 75% is still not ventured out to. You can get a glimpse of the caves without a guide, but for everything else, you’d need a ranger/guide rightfully so.
There are tours offered (Frozen Niagara Tour, Historic Tour) and both take a group of visitors in a line through narrow passages requiring hiking, ducking, swaying. The Frozen Niagara tour takes you through the well lit areas, but in the large dome, they offer to turn off all lights (incl. cellphones) to experience ‘actual’ darkness. This was my favorite part of any cave tour, where you can be sitting in pitch black darkness with zero trace of light emanating from any source. It is simply impossible to recreate that zero-lightness above the surface.
Although it is probably never going to attract a lot of tourists, simply because it tries to keep the ecological balance inside the cave by not modernizing it, thereby making it a sort of ‘dull’. But for someone with some background knowledge about formation of caves and the dynamic eco-system inside them will find the mammoth cave system fascinating. Encourage all the readers to make at least one quick trip if you are passing through or visiting Nashville/Louisville.