Near Didyma on the Argolis peninsula.
From Nafplio main road to Epidauros. 1km before ancient Epidauros turn right to the south. Good road to Didyma. At the town turn right at signs.
From the south (Pórto Chéli) 24km north on the national road, turn left at Didyma. The big doline is eas to see from the south.
500m paved road to the parking.
Small Doline: D=80m, VR=30m.
Big Doline: D=200m, VR=90m.
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|15th century||frescoes painted.|
The two dolines near Didyma are really exceptional, for both the size and the interesting geologic situation. They are called caves, but there are no caves, at least not accessible.
The Small Doline, called Μικρη Σπηλια (Mikri Spilia=Small Cave) is reached from the Didyma bypass road on 500 meters of paved road. A small parking area is sufficient for the few tourists who get to this point. The first surprise is a group of some pines with a whole in the ground. Getting nearer, a steep stair is leading down into the rock. The adit is rather narrow and a little low, only suitable for one adult at once. The walls are painted white, an electric torch is not necessary. The stair goes down, turns twice and soon reaches the inside wall of the doline. From a terrace another stair goes down onto a wide path which goes half around the doline, along the wall. To the right is small church, and on the opposite side of the doline too.
This two little churches were built under the overhanging cliff of the doline walls. The churches are of byzantine origin and dedicated to Saint George. They are called Σπηλαιδεις Ναοι Αγ. Γεωργιου - Μεταμορφωσεως (Spillaidei Naoi Ag. Georgiou=Cavernous Churches of Ayios Georgios - Metamorphosis).
The churches may be the explanation for the "wrong" name, as they are called cave churches, being built under the overhanging cliff.
The southern church has no back wall and only part of the roof. It contains frescoes from the 15th century.
The northern church is a real cave church, as it has only a front wall, the rest is inside the cliff. It is not clear, if this small cave is of natural origin. Probably there was a small cavern, which was widened manually. This is pretty easy, as the walls of the doline do not consist of limestone. They consist of gravel, limestone debris with some red clay. It is not even breccia, as it is not lithified.
The geologic situation of this doline is a bit tricky. It is rather unlikely, that a huge cavern formed in the debris. The formation of a cavern would be pretty easy, as the rock does not resist the erosion very much. But the debris is rather weak and would cave in pretty soon. The huge size of the doline, about 80m in diameter and up to 30m deep, requires a pretty big hall, which caved in to form this doline.
A hint for the explanation is the geography. The big doline, lies in the slope of 778m asl high Mount Didimo, which contains of karstified limestone. At the foot of this mountain a rather flat valley ground starts, obviously filled with the limestone debris of Mount Didimo, the reddish gravel forming the walls of the small doline. Most likely a big cave system in the limestone caved in twice, onece below the flank of the hill and once below the valley ground. In the first case
The Big Doline, called Μεγαλη Σπηλια (Megali Spilia=Big Cave) is 500m up the road. As the paved road ends at the small doline, and the road becomes unsuitable to normal cars, a short walk is much recommended. If you do this in summer take enough water with you and wear a hat.
The path ascends a little bit, meandering trouh olive trees, until the foot of Mount Didimo is reached. Now huge boulders of limestone form a sort of dam. Many small paths, the result of goats or sheep climbing through this rough terrain, allow a rather comfortable ascend onto this dam, where the whole doline is very good visible.
The collapse at this steep slope produced two different sides. This southern side is rather low and the same paths continue down into the doline. The opposite wall is a pretty high and overhanging limestone cliff, about 90m high at the highest point in the middle.
The ground of the doline is full of debris and some shrubs grow between the rocks. The ground is obviously used to graze goats, the sheds were built at the foot of the slightly overhanging wall.