kastria1 image

The Cave of the Lakes

The famous "Cave of the Lakes" lies in the Kastria settlement of Achaia, 17 km from Kalavryta in the Chelmos Mountains.

As well as wonderful galleries and amazing stalactite formations it has something unique that does not exist in other well known caves for inside there is a string of cascading lakes forming three different levels.

The cave is an old underground river whose explored length is 1980 meters. In winter when the snow melts, the cave is transformed into a subterranean river with natural waterfalls.

Inside the cave there are 13 successive terraced lakes, which are formed at three different levels, a phenomenon that makes the cave unique of its kind in the world.

In summer part of the cave dries up revealing a network of stone basins and dams of up to 4 metres in height. The rest of the cave retains water permanently throughout the year in 13 beautiful lakes.

There are three cave levels but only level 2 is accessible to the public through an artificial tunnel that leads directly into the cave.

The path from lake to lake is by walkway and man made bridges, accompanied by a guide. The developed part is currently 500m long.

kastria3 image

At the lower lever, human and animal fossils were found, among them one of a hippopotamus. From the findings it has been proved that the cave was occupied 450 thousand years ago.

This part of the cave is intended to become a biological cave laboratory of international standing.

The exploration of the cave began in 1964 by the Greek Mountaineering Association headed by Professor J. Melentis and the assistance of the residents of Kastria.

The mapping of the system was done by the Greek Speleological Society and the Speleologist Anna Petrohilou.

kastria4 image

In 1964, the residents of the village of Kastria reached, for the first time, the second level of the caves using wooden ladders from a ramp.

The findings in the cave show that man has used it since the Neolithic period and throughout the First and Middle Helladic to Late Helladic period, inhabited by people who were young, children, pre-teens and young adults with a biological affinity.

There is an ancient myth about the caves, that the daughters of King Proitos bragged that their beauty surpassed the Goddess Hera. Because of their vanity Hera cursed their sanity, and they thought themselves heifers chasing across the Peloponnese, infecting the women of Argolis with infanticide mania. Eventually Melambodas found them in these caves and cured them.

kastria6 image

The first findings in the cave that came to light were dated to the Late Neolithic, the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Ages.

Later, until the Late Bronze Age (c. 1100 B.C.) there was a multiple use of the area, particularly near the natural entrance and the first hall of the cave, which had always been more accessible and where there is more light.

In some layers excavated were found settlement floors, with hearths, ash and carbon, small constructions made of dry stone walls, parts of a pottery kiln, fragments of vases, stone and bone tools, clay spools, a stone ornament, loom weights, animal bones and an important anthropological find of primary or secondary burials of 13 people.

kastria7 image

It is not easy to determine from the finds whether the cave had been used for habitation rather than storage. The greatest percentage of large closed vases come from the interior of the cave and the small utilitarian open ones come from the outer sections. In the light of this, it is quite plausible that the storage should have taken place inside and the preparation of the food outside the cave.

The clay vases were for everyday use and present a great variety of shapes, as many as 30 different types of vases, both small and large, were identified for the preparation of food and the storage of products.

We may conclude that the cave had been the nucleus of a small Neolithic community, with a farming and animal-breeding settlement that had been installed around its entrance, and at times in its interior, taking advantage of what a cavity could offer: mainly protection from the weather conditions.

kastria9 image

The inhabitants of the cave must have been breeders of goats, pigs and a few bovines. Their diet would have been supplemented with the hunt, since we know that deer and hare were common in the mountains.

The members of this remote community were undoubtedly engaged in the usual domestic occupations, such as the grinding of seeds, the treatment of skin, wood, stone and wool; for these they used grinding tools, handaxes and obsidian or flint flakes.

Precious jewels, decorated vases or important objects were not found in situ, and this may indicate that this community was rather poor.

kastria10 image

Exploration is ongoing in the cave system and it is hoped that with an improvement in the economic climate that funds will become available to open up more of Kastria Caves to the public.

Today the municipality of Kalavryta is responsible for the operation of the cave.

Opening times: Winter daily from 9:30 to 16:30. Summer daily from 9:30 to 18.00 and there is a very nice cafe at the site.

Tickets for the guided tour are: Adults 9 euros. Reduced 4.50 euros