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Nizhny Novgorod Oblast , Ichalki

Caves of the Ichalkovksy Nature Reserve

Пещеры Ичалковского заказника
Нижегородский туристско-информационный центр

The Ichalkovksy Natural Reserve, a conservation area, is famous for its karst caves. Here you can encounter tourists, mountain climbers and speleologists from all over Russia.

In one of the bends of the Pyana River, in the middle of the steppe, mountains rise with a relict Ichalkovsky pine forest on their flanks. Sinkholes, grottoes, and craters, hidden by thicket, resemble the ruins of some ancient castle. However, the walls of these «buildings» are much older than the most ancient citadels on Earth — on their surfaces you can see fossils and the remains of organisms that inhabited our planet at the dawn of life.

Every cave has its own microclimate. In the Ledyanaya (Ice) Cave, for instance, even on the hottest days the temperature does not rise above -3°C. On the other hand, in the Tyoplaya (Warm) Cave it's never below +3°C even on the frostiest day. A small lake in the cave has healing properties: because of its high concentration of silver, its water helps heal wounds and can be stored for a considerable time.

In one of the grottoes of the Startseva (Old men's) Hole, according to legend, some hermits used to find shelter — there are still soot marks on the walls. Nearby is the Bezymyannaya (Nameless) cave, considered to be one of the most beautiful sinkholes. There is also the Studencheskaya (Student's) Cave. Because of its very narrow entrance it's sometimes called «Bottleneck» Cave. Vast numbers of bats live here. And there is a ledge in the cave's depth where visitors usually leave notes with their wishes.

The biggest sinkhole, that resembles the famous Grand Canyon, is called Kuleva yama («hole») and is 25 meters deep. It is large enough to fit a 10-storey building inside. One local legend tells of an old lady who was kicked down the hole by her husband, who was fed up with endless quarrels. However, he soon came to miss soon so he came back and threw a rope down to pull his beloved wife out. But instead of her he lifted to the surface a bunch of scared snakes, terrified by the old lady's awful character.

In total the Ichalkovsky pine forest contains approximately 10 caves and about a thousand karst sinkholes. In the depths of the pine forest the sinkholes are becoming more and more frequent, turning into cliffs. Sometimes they connect with each other, forming ravines up to 1.5 kilometers long. Cool air is conserved in low places so it is fresh and wet in the forest in the summer and the temperature in the winter is higher than average for the area.

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Address: Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Perevozsky District, Ichalky

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