Useful Information

Location: At Ranis. A9 exit Triptis, B281 towards West, signposted Saalfeld. In Pössnek turn left to Ranis. Follow signs "Burg Ranis". After the first portal of the castle go down staircase at the right side.
(50.662517483913334, 11.564968677415653)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: none
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Werner M. Hülle (1977): Die Ilsenhöhle unter Burg Ranis/Thüringen: Eine paläolithische Jägerstation, Fischer, 203 Seiten, ISBN: 343730254X (Deutsch - German)
Address: Stadt Ranis, Pößnecker Str. 49, 07389 Ranis, Tel: +49-3647-442892, Fax: +49-3647-423945. E-mail: contact
Museum Burg Ranis, Burg Ranis. 07389 Ranis, Tel: +49-3647-505491, Cell: +49-174-2861386. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1926 preliminary archaeological examinations.
1932 beginning of excavation by Werner Hülle.
1938 end of excavations.
2016 Excavations by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Leipzig and the State Office for Monument Conservation and Archaeology Thuringia, Weimar.


The Ilsenhöhle (Ilse's Cave) is located in the rock on which Burg Ranis (Castle Ranis) is built, in the small thuringian town Ranis. It is one of the most important palaeolithic sites in central Europe, excavated during the 1930s. The results were generally published under the name Ranis, not Ilsenhöhle. Today it is possible to visit the cave freely, e.g. when visiting the castle.

This cave is a karst cave, which is rather exceptional, because of its location. The local geology of the Vogtland includes very little soluble rocks, most areas are covered by shists. This small patch of limestone was formed by a bryozoan reef of the Zechstein, which is the local name of the Permian between Guadalupian and Lopingian. At this time the area was covered by an inland sea and mostly gypsum was deposited in aride conditions. However, the gypsum was removed by erosion, only this patch of limestone still exists, sitting on top of metamorphic rocks, formed of paleozoic sediments which were later folded by an orogeny and punched by granite intrusions. The limestone plateau is almost horizontal, but the basement ascends towards south, so the overlying mesozoic limestones wedge. On the other side they form an escarpment, which is the border between limestones and crystalline rocks. It is also the prominent location of the castle.

The Ilsenhöhle is located between the village and the castle, in the cliff face below the outer bailey. It may be reached on the trail, leading from the market place of Ranis up to the castle. In the first yard of the castle is a stair to the right side of the road which leads down onto this track and to the cave. Right in front of the cave, at half height between castle and village, lies a sort of plateau, mounted by a rock wall and an iron rail. This plateau is the material removed from the cave during the archaeological excavation. The cave has a huge entrance portal, some 10 m high and 8 m wide. A wooden bench and a fireplace make clear that this place is still a popular resting place today. The excavations took place in this huge antechamber or abri, which was filled with debris caused by frost.

The cave behind this portal is much smaller. There is a passage to the left, with a dip of some 30°. It narrows fast, has a height of about two meters for some distance, then ends. To the right side a low portal is formed by a huge rock which is hanging between two ledges of the cilff face. behind lies a second antechamber and another passage into the rock, also with a dip of about 30°. But this one is much bigger, almost 10 m high and about the same length. But it is only 30 to 40 cm wide. If you intend to visit it, bring a lamp and wear appropriate clothes, as you will get dirty from the walls.

The results of the excavation are on display in the museum which is located inside the main castle building. While the cave is open and may be visited at all times, we recommend to visit during the open hours of the museum in order to see the exhibition. The museum also offers guided tours which include a visit to the cave below.

On the Clidenfelsen near Oelsen a group of robber knights lived which were called the Cliden. The last child of this family was a girl named Ilsa. The Cliden were harsh men, so Ilsa fled one day. She came to the rock near Ranis, and a cave opened up for her, with beautiful sounds coming out of the opening. In the twilight of the cave she saw a wide plain, on which small people, looking almost like children, were dancing to the music. This people were called Heimchen.

The Heimchen welcomed Ilsa and showed here immeasurable treasures, which they had taken from the giants. There were trees of silver, fruits of gold, and gemstones forming leaves and flowers. Ilsa saw a flock of golden sheep, a golden sheperds stick, and a golden sheep dog. She asked to be allowed to tend those sheep, which made the Heimchen very happy. They promised her, as long as no sheep was lost and she would not return to the surface, she would stay young and all her wishes fulfilled.

Ilsa lived very long in joy and contentment, until one day she had the desire to see the surface again. To divert her attention from this desire, the Heimchen gave her company, two beautiful mermaids from the nearby Krinnelsloch. But she continued to beg for just a view of the upper world, and so they led her to the exit, which she was not allowed to cross. A spell made sure she could not leave the cave.

One day the inhabitants of Ranis took notice of Ilsa inside the cave. They thought she was some kind of goddess. They carefully approached and started to ask her questions. She was very friendly and answered on all questions, so she was soon adored as a seer. And that's how it stayed many years.

One day a Bilbze came to Ilsa, a woman from the nearby pond called Godaminsteich, which was dedicated to bad spirits. She destroyed the spell who held Ilsa and convinced her to leave the cave with flock, stick and dog and gow down into the valley. Under the lamenting sounds of the Heimchen Ilsa left the cave. She tended her sheep for three generations in the surroundings and everyone who met her in this time was impressed by her sight.

On the rock called Rombergfelsen lived a giant, who fell in love with her. But she rejected all his requests, and so finally his love changed into hatred. He catched her and locked her in the deepest rooms of Burg Ranis, where she is imprisoned until today and tends her golden flock. The spell which holds her will be destroyed when the Heimchen return and fight again their war with the giants and win. But they were scared away by the Christian bells into the ancient burial mounds. But until this happens, Ilsa sometimes is seen by the inhabitants of Burg Ranis on important occasions. And sometimes the is a deep knocking heard, which is the golden stick, when she knocks on the floor impatiently.

Old Legend.