Der Höhlensee in der Dechenhöhle, © Dechenhöhle und Deutsches Höhlenmuseum Iserlohn

At­ta Cave and Dechen Cave

Dis­cov­er a ma­gic­al and mys­ter­i­ous un­der­world

Im­merse your­self in a mys­ter­i­ous sub­ter­ranean world with stalac­tites and cave bears on tours of At­ta Cave and Dechen Cave in Sauer­land.

In the sum­mer of 1907, the sight that greeted the quar­ry­men in Sauer­land once the dust from the rock blast­ing had cleared took their breath away: a labyrinth of stalag­mites and stalac­tites glisten­ing in the dark­ness like cur­tains of stone, as artist­ic­ally formed as the work of any sculptor. Quite by chance, the quar­ri­ers had un­covered the en­trance to the in­cred­ible At­ta Cave, formed sev­er­al mil­lions of years ago but nev­er be­fore seen by hu­man eyes. This palace of stone was later named after Prin­cess At­ta, who also gave her name to the nearby Hanseat­ic town of At­ten­dorn. 

Vis­it­ors can fol­low a 1.8-kilo­metre-long path to mar­vel at this mys­ter­i­ous un­der­world, where the tem­per­at­ure re­mains at a con­stant 9 C. Isol­ated from wind and rain, sub­ter­ranean vis­it­ors can pause and listen to the end­less drip­ping of wa­ter, which causes the form­a­tions to grow by as little as one mil­li­metre every ten years. It is ad­mit­tedly hard to get a quiet mo­ment in At­ta Cave nowadays, giv­en that it at­tracts between 150,000 and 200,000 vis­it­ors an­nu­ally. All come to ex­per­i­ence what is right­fully be­lieved to be Ger­many?s largest and most beau­ti­ful show cave. 

Away from the large crowds, a spe­cial area has been cre­ated so that vis­it­ors can ex­per­i­ence the true tran­quil­lity of the cave. Guests of the ?health grotto? can re­lax on loun­gers, en­joy the at­mo­spher­ic light­ing and breathe in the pure air of the cave, which is tain­ted neither by dust, germs, pol­len or ozone. The con­stant tem­per­at­ure of 9 C and con­stant hu­mid­ity of 95 per­cent aid in­vig­or­at­ing and deep breath­ing. Fur­ther­more, the nat­ur­al stone fil­ter of At­ta Cave en­sures that the air is purer than coastal or moun­tain cli­mates. People suf­fer­ing from bron­chi­al dis­orders, al­ler­gies or stress can find the air of the grotto be­ne­fi­cial and even heal­ing. The spe­cial cli­mate of the cave is also said to im­prove the fla­vour of cheese. The At­ta cheese ripens for around three months in the cave air, which sup­posedly gives it its pi­quant taste. Vis­it­ors can of course sample the cheese at the shop on site.

Vis­it­ing the cave bears at Dechen Cave

Dechen Cave in Iser­lohn was open to vis­it­ors long be­fore At­ta Cave. Dis­covered in 1868 dur­ing rock sta­bil­isa­tion work for a new rail­way line, it star­ted to at­tract ad­ven­tur­ous day-trip­pers more or less straight away. The high­light of this cave in the north of Sauer­land was and still is the ?hall of the em­per­or?, which vis­it­ors reach after passing the ?or­gan grotto?, the ?frozen wa­ter­fall?, the ma­gic­al green-shim­mer­ing ?pool of the mer­maids? and the ?palm tree?. The majest­ic stone wa­ter­fall, which ap­pears to have been pet­ri­fied in full flow ? is a sight which seems to trans­fix some vis­it­ors, awe­struck by the power of nature. 

Dechen Cave of­fers so much more than the chance to mar­vel at the fant­ast­ic stone form­a­tions, how­ever. It is also known for its an­im­al bone dis­cov­er­ies. At the Deutsches Höh­len­mu­seum (Ger­man Cave Mu­seum), vis­it­ors can see life­like mod­els of a cave li­on, a cave bear and a cave bear cub, the skel­et­on of which was found in the cave it­self. Oth­er ex­hib­its at the mu­seum in­clude tools from the Neander­th­al era, and vis­it­ors can also learn about how caves are formed and about the geo­lo­gic­al his­tory of the earth. The creatures found in Dechen Cave in the present day are an­oth­er draw for vis­it­ors, for ex­ample the blind cave fish which can be viewed in the aquar­i­um.

Even today, al­most 150 years after the dis­cov­ery of Dechen Cave, the dark labyrinth­ine world has lost none of its mys­tery. Every year, cavers dis­cov­er new and pre­vi­ously un­known pas­sages. Or­din­ary vis­it­ors can ex­per­i­ence the cave on a 40-minute guided tour of the ac­cess­ible and lit pas­sage­ways. Spe­cial ar­range­ments for chil­dren?s birth­days, con­certs or candle-lit tours provide dif­fer­ent, ma­gic­al ways to ex­per­i­ence the dark un­der­ground realm. And like At­ta Cave, Dechen Cave has its own culin­ary spe­ci­al­ity. The Dechen­höh­len­stollen, a ?Dresden-style? Christ­mas stollen, is ma­tured in the cave for four weeks, which is said to give the cake its dis­tinct­ive fla­vour.


At­ta Cave:
Sum­mer: 10:00 ? 16:30
Winter: 11:00 ? 15:30

Dechen Cave:
Sum­mer: 10:00 ? 17:00
Winter: 10:00 ? 16:00

Images and videos

Be inspired: images of your NRW

Besuch in der Dechenhöhle, © Dechenhöhle und Deutsches Höhlenmuseum Iserlohn
Atta Höhle Attendorn im Sauerland, © Atta-Höhle
Führung in der Dechenhöhle, © Dechenhöhle und Deutsches Höhlenmuseum Iserlohn
Der Höhlensee in der Dechenhöhle, © Dechenhöhle und Deutsches Höhlenmuseum Iserlohn
Die Stalaktiten in den Sauerland Höhlen, © Dechenhöhle und Deutsches Höhlenmuseum Iserlohn

Won­ders of nature at a glance

Wisent Welt Bad Berleburg , © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Wild NRW - our "Big Five"

Externsteine seitliche Ansicht , © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Ex­tern­steine Horn-Bad Mein­berg

Werksgelände von Rheinkalk am Steinbruch Prangenhaus, © Kreis Mettmann

The Neander Val­ley

Wisent Welt Bad Berleburg , © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Wis­ent-Wild­ness Wit­tgen­stein

Der Rursee im Nationalpark Eifel, © Nationalpark Eifel - Nationalparkverwaltung

Eifel Na­tion­al Park