Špilja Vindija

Useful Information

Location: Rijeka Voćanska, 42245, Rijeka Voćanska.
9 km northwest of Ivanec, 20 km west of Varaždin. From Varaždin follow 35 to Greda, at the roundabout turn right towards Vinica 4.1 km to Gornje Ladanje, turn left 8 km to Rijeka Voćanska.
(46.3017576, 16.0798704)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Tortonium limestone
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=275 m asl, L=50 m, W=28 m, H=20 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: James C. M. Aherna, Sang-Hee Leeb, John D. Hawks (2002): The late Neandertal supraorbital fossils from Vindija Cave, Croatia: a biased sample?, Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 43, Issue 3, September 2002, Pages 419-432. DOI pdf
Ivor Jankovi, Ivor Karavani, James C. M. Ahern, Dejana Brajkovi, Jadranka Mauch Lenardi, Fred H. Smith (2006): Vindija Cave and The Modern Human Peopling of Europe, Coll. Antropol. 30 (2006) 3: 457-466 researchgate
Kay Prüfer et al. (2017): A high-coverage Neandertal genome from Vindija Cave in Croatia, SCIENCE, 5 Oct 2017, Vol 358, Issue 6363, pp. 655-658. online DOI
Address: Špilja Vindija, Rijeka Voćanska, 42245, Rijeka Voćanska.
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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1878 first mentioned as an archaeological site.
1928 first excavation.
1974-1986 intensive excavations by Mirko Malez of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
2008 a complete mtDNA sequence retrieved from a thigh-bone of one of the Neanderthals recovered from Vindija Cave.


Špilja Vindija (Vindija Cave) is a small cave in northern Croatia which has become famous for the discovery of Neanderthal remains, which were used as the primary source of DNA for the Neanderthal genome project. The cave is a single huge chamber with a huge portal, which was used as a shelter by Stone Age man and Neanderthals. Other remains found in the cave include the bones of woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica), horses (Equus germanicus), reindeer and cave bear (Ursus spelaeus).

The excavation of Vindija cave was the central work in the life of the archaeologist Stjepan Vukovic (*1905-✝1975). He started as a teacher, later founded the archaeological department of the museum of Varaždin. Today the museum has a wide range of exhibits, many of them from his excavations.

Another spectacular event in the history of the cave was the retrieval of a complete mtDNA sequence from a thigh-bone of one of the Neanderthals recovered from Vindija Cave. As a result of the massive effort, the article in Science magazine had more than 20 authors. And it was a quite spectacular event for the general research on Neanderthals, as it answered numerous questions, and as always, created new questions. The Neanderthal genome project was completed in 2010.

The cave is an important archaeological site, and is freely accessible. Due to the huge portal, a torch is actually not necessary, nevertheless, we recommend bringing one. At the road near the hamlet Rijeka Voćanska, there is a huge parking lot, from here a 230-m long single-lane road leads to the cave. After a level hike, the trail turns 180 degrees and bends steeply, up to the cave. The road is a result of the excavations, it was built for the scientists. The cave is also signposted.

In newer pictures, the cave is gated with a fence, however, only the excavations are fenced off, it is still not possible to enter the cave. It's possible to see the whole excavation from the fence, and an educational sign explaining the archaeological importance of the cave was also installed. Also, the trail to the cave is now well maintained and signposted. The cave is listed among the most famous caves of Croatia.