Jaskinia Raj

If there is any site that deserves to be called the biggest tourist attraction in the Świętokrzyskie region it most definitely is Jaskinia Raj (Paradise Cave). It is located on the northern slope of Malik mountain, which is part of the Bolechowski Ridge. To get there, one must take the Kielce-Chęciny road and turn right (west) just after passing the village of Zgórsko. The road ends with a car park located where the trail that leads to the site begins.

The cave was formed in thick-banked limestone from the middle Devonian period (390 Ma). The total length of the corridors is 240 metres, 180 of which are open to tourists. A huge contribution to the preservation and then the opening of the cave to tourism was made by Tymoteusz Wróblewski and Zbigniew Rubinowski, geologists at the Świętokrzyskie Branch of the Polish Geological Institute. Even before the cave was opened, the silt sediments had been examined. The results indicated that this place was inhabited by humans even 50 thousand years ago, that is – during the last ice age. Tools and other man-made flint items have been found at this site, which supports this theory. Climate change that has taken place since then has also been investigated. Moreover, bone remains of many species of mammals, such as the cave bear, mammoth, cave hyena and the woolly rhinoceros, have been found in the silt. The cave isn't very extensive, but the unique speleothem formations make this cave worthy of its name – Paradise. Among these formations – which were formed due to the destructive and, subsequently, the building activity of water – one can admire: stalactites – hanging from the ceiling, stalagmites – rising from the cave floor, all types of flowstones, cave pearls, columns formed when stalagmite and stalactite meet, thin, sometimes even see-through harps, and pagodas formed from squat stalagmites. The variety and beauty of local cave formations have given this place a unique value that sets the Paradise Cave apart from other similar sites in Poland. The cave was formed as a result of karst phenomena. Karst is a type of chemical weathering of carbonate rock, such as limestone or dolomite.

Rainwater and groundwater enters the rock through cracks, dissolving it. As a result, various karst dolines may be formed (chimneys, caves, wells) that sometimes reach really large sizes. On their surface, speleothem formations are formed from karst waters rich in calcium carbonate. Besides the Paradise Cave, a fragment of the nearby pine forest with vegetation typical for limestone hills is also protected under law.