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Going Underground: Five Great Subterranean Attractions

by andrew January 2011 - last edited November by Community Manager

From ancient caves to cold war bunkers, old mines to underwater accommodation, there’s plenty going on underground. We scrape beneath the surface and excavate a few of the world’s best subterranean attractions…

Australia

Coober Pedy by Rob & Jules on Flickr

Coober Pedy by Rob & Jules on Flickr

Coober Pedy in South Australia is famed as the Opal Capital of the World, but its mines aren’t the only thing underground. Due to the stifling summer heat, most of the town’s population reside in subterranean, cave-like homes. The best place to see how the locals live is at Umoona Opal Mine, which alongside an opal shop and Aboriginal arts centre has an excellent, authentic show home. If you fancy a piece of the action after your tour, stay over in one of the town’s several accommodations with below-the-surface rooms.

China

Reed Flute Cave by cheesy42 on Flickr

Reed Flute Cave by cheesy42 on Flickr

While the world isn’t short of accessible limestone caves, few are as magical as the Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, Guangxi, China. Enhanced by incredible multi-coloured lighting, the stalactites, stalagmites and other formations inside take on the appearance of an alien landscape straight out of a sci-fi blockbuster. Tour guides meanwhile, will explain the ancient poetic naming of each structure, but whether you choose to believe your eyes or your ears, the atmosphere is definitely otherworldly.

London

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker by minkymonkeymoo on Flickr

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker by minkymonkeymoo on Flickr

Underneath an ordinary looking bungalow just outside London in Brentwood, Essex, lies a fascinating museum and remnant of a not-too-distant past. Beneath the unassuming entrance, the Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker is a huge labyrinth of underground rooms encased within ten feet of reinforced concrete. On standby all through the cold war and up until its decommissioning in 1992, the bunker was equipped to become the centre of government operations should a nuclear strike occur.

Japan

Entrance to Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine by Yama 1009 - Wikimedia Commons

Entrance to Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine by Yama 1009 - Wikimedia Commons

A visit to the tunnels of Iwami Ginzen in Japan’s Shimane prefecture is more than a look underground, it’s a glimpse into another, far off time. The mine, which began its development in the 1500s and once produced nearly a third of the world’s silver, has remained much the same since it closed in the 19th century. Surrounded by similarly unspoiled forest, the mine's two narrow tunnels are incredibly well preserved, making the atmosphere extra spooky. The nearby caves containing 500 rankan (18th Century statues commemorating those who died in the mines) and the old unchanged town of Omori add to the old world eeriness of the site.

Florida

© Jules Underseas Lodge

© Jules Underseas Lodge

Going underground is one thing but staying underwater, that's a whole different ocean of fish. Jules’ Underwater Lodge in Key Largo, Florida is America's only sub-aquatic hotel, where guests are required to scuba dive to their rooms. Named after 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea author Jules Verne, the space also serves as a functioning research lab. The structure works like an artificial reef attracting plenty of marine life, making it the perfect place to cosy up and watch a very different world go by.

Log on to virginatlantic.com for our very best fares to all these destinations.

Thanks to Flickr photographers Rob & Jules, cheesy42, minkymonkeymoo for the images. Header photo of the Reed Flute Cave by clip works.

Been to any of these or any other great underground attractions? What's your favourite subterranean site? Share your experiences in the comments below.


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Tweetsthatmen17 February 2011
This post was mentioned on Twitter by Keith Jenkins, Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic said: Want to venture underground somewhere more unusual than the tube?Check out VTrav's 5 Great Subterranean Attractions http://bit.ly/fXnZK1
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About the author: andrew

Andrew Bowman

Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.