Aruküla Caves

Useful Information

Location: North-western part of Tartu town. At the left side of the Emajõel river valley, in the cliff face. The main entrance is developed with a cement breastwork and an iron ladder into the mine.
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine ExplainRoom and Pillar Mining
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Aruküla Caves are the type locale of the Aruküla Regional Stage. The Viljandi Beds of upper Eifelian age are generally brownish-red, but the caves are located entirely in white sandstone.

The caves form a labyrinthic system of 1 m to 1.5 m high passages, actually as thick as the white sandstone. the passages are separated by 1 m to 2 m thick pillars. This is a typical room and pillar architecture. The passages cover about 80 m by 100 m, but was once much bigger. According to legends the underground passages led to the monastery of Kärkna and the manor of Raadi.

The caves are, despite he name, of artificial origin. Probably they were created to mine the white sand. There is also a theory, favoured by the famous Estonian writer F. R. Kreutzwald, that the caves were an ancient refuge. Kreutzwald lived in the 19th century and wrote the national epic Kalevipoeg (Kalev's Son).

The caves of Aruküla are known for rich deposits of Placoderms, the fossil fishes of Devon age. They became famous during the 19th century, when S. Kutorga, C. Grewingk and H. Asmuss, professors of Tartu University, started collecing them and publishing their results. They may be seen in the University of Tartu Museum of Geology.