The Alistrati Cave is one of the largest and most majestic caves in Europe located in Alistrati, Serres, a village on the borders between the prefecture of Serres and Drama. The cave is 6 kilometers southeast of Alistrati, in the “petroto” location. South of the cave is the Aggitis river. It is located 50 km SE of Serres, at a distance of 25 km. SW of Drama and 55 km. NW of Kavala.
This cave is considered one of the most beautiful and largest caves in Greece but possibly also in Europe. This is where nature wanted to show her great power of creating beautiful formations.
The cave was discovered accidentally at the beginning of the century by some local residents, and in 1975 the official discovery took place. It was known to the inhabitants of the surrounding area and especially to the hunters, because there were many wild pigeons at the entrance. It became known to the Speleological Society (ESE) on 19/5/1975, after they received a relevant document from the community of Alistrati. Then, in September 1975, the E.S.E. Board of Directors sent a group of speleologists to study. In October 1976 Austrian geologists visited the cave, in the framework of a joint research program with the University of Athens. The impressions were unexpectedly encouraging. The natural opening (entrance) of the cave is 7.5 meters high, is not visible from inside the cave and is sealed. The central entrance is artificial.
The research team of N.Simionidis identified cave dwellers in the Cave
and a total of 36 species of microorganisms including an unprecedented one they named Alistratia Beron which is an endemic, isopod, three-millimeter bug. Researchers are amazed both by this truly rare living specimen and by its unique and rich decoration. Researchers with experience in caves located in other countries, as well as researchers from the University of Crete, are dazzled by this masterpiece of nature.
The primary cause of the creation of the cave is the solubility of the limestones of the “petroto” area. The existence of branches and strata levels facilitated the creation of a cave with high corridors and wonderful design.
The vestibule of the cave is a 8m high. Various passageways with considerable height and numerous stalactites and stalagmites start from this hall. The main branches of the cave develop to the right and left of the entrance, starting from a large chamber, referred to as the reception chamber, which has dimensions of 60 m wide, 100 m long and 20-30 m high.
Starting from the reception chamber and following the right passageway, the visitor can find another passageway, 2-3 m wide, with a more breathtaking decoration. The pure white and huge stalactites and the curtain-like forms on the walls of the passageway are particularly impressive. There are several large chambers along the passageway that are greatly decorated. The height of the chambers is constant, above 8-10 m, except very few spots.
As a result of the rapid flow of water, there is an abundance of fine tubular forms of stalactites in this part of the cave. There are eccentrics in various shapes, growing in any direction (up, down, sideways), as well as double, club-shaped, flattened or branching forms called helictites. The end of this passageway is characterized by a wide corridor, while the final chamber houses a massive collection of stalagmites reaching a height of 10 meters and covering a surface area of 7 meters.
Starting from the reception chamber and going to the left, the visitor walks into a passageway, almost parallel to the previous one, larger and richer in decoration and variety. Inside this passageway are also some red stalactites, which have been colored by the materials in higher strata levels. The maximum height of the passageway is approximately 35 m.
This passageway has a majestic barrier of pillars at a specific spot. At some point the two large main corridors join and continue with ever-increasing width and height, while huge and majestic stalactites hang from the ceiling, some of them being more than 15 m long. There are areas that stalagmites meet the stalactites above them, thus forming columns, either single or arranged in rows. Walking along the long corridor, the visitor can see, in some parts of it, extraordinary huge columns forming barriers or passageways. Behind each barrier is a new passageway.
The cave contains a rich stone decoration, which stands out for its beauty and variety of cave deposits. The variety of stalagmites and stalactites in terms of forms and age is great. There are stalactites that often block the tunnels (passageways) of the cave, while being in the initial stage of formation.
The cave deposits known as “Groom” are of particular interest. “Grooms” are micro dams made of calcium carbonate on the cave floor. Their dimensions vary (height 20-30 cm and length 1.5-6.5 m) and their creation depends on the amount of rainfall in the cave area. A rare fauna grows on them, while the floors covered by them are tinted brown. There are many more forms of cave deposits that are interesting and have different shapes.
After studying the conditions, it was found that the ventilation is excellent in all parts of the cave. The temperature varies between 17-18C all year round. The temperature of the cave is stable at 18 degrees and the humidity ranges from 85%-100%. One centimeter of stalactite takes around 10 to 100 years to form. The unique cave corals were formed by the water evaporating and leaving limestone remnants behind.
105,000 people visited the cave in the first year of operation.