Šipun

Sipun Cave


Useful Information

Location: Near Cavtat in Dubrovnik area.
(42.584474, 18.217544)
Open: closed.
[2021]
Fee: closed.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=120 m, A=24 m asl, T=14 °C.
Guided tours: D=30min
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Vlado Božić (2000): Antic legends of Sipun Cave near Cavtat in Croatia, ALCADI 2000, 5 th International Symposium on History of Speleology and Karstology in Alps, Carpathians and Dinarides, May 23rd-28th, 2000, Zadar, Croatia.
Vlado Božić (2006): Legende o špilji Šipun u Cavtatu, (Legends of the Sipun Cave at Cavtat) Subterranea Croatica, Vol 4 No 6 June 2006, 64 pp, many photos, 2 loose surveys. ISSN 1334-5281. pp 41-46 Hrvatski - Croatian
Published by Speleo Klub "Ursus Spelaeus", Kurelceva 3, 4700 Karlovac, 47000 Croatia. online
Roman Ozimec (2012): Ecology, Biology and Vulnerability of Sipun Cave (Cavtat, Dubrovnik, Croatia), Nat.Croat., Vol. 21, Suppl. 1, pp 86-90, Zagreb, 30-SEP-2012. pdf
Anon (2016): Spomenik Prirode Špilja Šipun, Public Institution for the Management of Protected Areas of Nature of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. Hrvatski - Croatian pdf
Address: Sipun Cave, 20210 Cavtat
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.

History

1584 Nikola Vitov Gučetič (*1549-✝1610) mentions the cave as Scipun Cave in his book Sopra le Metheore d' Aristotile (About Aristotle's meteors).
1875 cave visited by Arthur J. Evans (*1851-✝1941) and his brother Luis Evans.
1963 declared a geomorphologic natural monument.
1978 cave developed, electric light, and opened to the public.
1991 cave closed by the war.
2012 reopened after renovation financed by the EU.
2014 cave closed to ptotect the number of endangered, endemic cave species.

Description

Špilja Šipun (Sipun Cave) is a small and easily accessible cav located near the small town Cavtate. It is easily accessible and thus it was known for millennia. During Roman times this town was called Epidaurum, it is first mentioned by the Roman writer Pliny. Numerous writers have written about Sipun Cave and its legends, including Jakov Sorkocevic, Nikola Gucetic, Trogiranin Lucius, Franjo Appendini, and the English writer Arthur Evans. Nikola Gucetic named the cave Scipun.

The best known legend is about the dragon named Voaz, who lived in the Sipun Cave. He terrorised the inhabitants of Epidaurum, until one day, 365 AD, Saint Ilar (St. Hilarion) came and killed the dragon. In one version he killed the dragon on a stake in a place named Mlini. The inhabitants of Epidaurus were so thankful, they built a chapel at this place. This legend is believed to be an allegory regarding the end of paganism and the conversion to Christianity.

Another legend tells about a treasure, which was buried in the Sipun Cave during the wars of Caesar and Anthony. Such legends are very common, and concerning Roman times they often have some truth. Treasures, which were hidden during times of war get lost if the owners died in the war. They are an important source for archaeology. However, it seems the treasure in the cave has never been found.

Nearby, on Snjeznica Hill at Konavli there is Eskulap Cave. A legend tells, a snake-dragon lived in this cave. The exiled Greek King Kadmo sought refuge in the cave and brought the religion of the god Eskulap with him. This is how the cave got its name, and probably explains the legend, as the well known symbol of Eskulap is a stick with a snake.

Sipun Cave has an anchialine pool at the end of the passage, a cave lake which is connected underground with the sea. The level of the lake is the same as the sea level outside because of the connection and the lake contains seawater. The pool is the highlight of the tour due to a rich fauna of crustaceans which live in this pool. Unfortunately they are at the same time endangered by pollution from the visitors. The cave has an extraordinary number of troglobiont species. It was explored by biologists since the 19th century and so 100 different species have been identified so far. That's actually biggest number of species of found in any Croatian cave. About 40 are troglobionts, many of them are endemic, in other words they are only found in this cave. As a result this cave is the locus typicus (type locale) for 18 taxa.

In the 1875 Arthur J. Evans (*1851-✝1941) visited the cave together with a group of inhabitants. They were equipped with torches and candles, because the cave did not have electric light. The guides told the story that several people had drowned in the lake. He also guessed that the cave was used as a source of water by the inhabitants of Epidaurus, the ancient settlement from which Cavtat developed. He recorded a legend from early Christian times according to which the inhabitants of Epidaurus used water from a cave named Scipum.

The cave was open for the public various times. In the 19th century visitors were shown the cave by locals with candles and torches. In 1978 the cave was developed as a show cave and was open until the Balkan War resulted in its closure. Around 2010 in a nature protection project funded by the Eu the cave was renovated. the trails repaired, new railings built, and new light installed. This was actually a rather bad idea, because the rich endemic fauna in the cave did not take the light and visitors very well. Fortunately the the cave was closed again after only two years. We got the impression that it was closed due to a substantial lack of visitors, but in this case we do not care. However, the fact that the cave is still promoted in guidebooks but the local tourist websites do not mention that it is closed, is quite annoying for tourists which stand in front of closed doors.