The Pekel Cave is more than 3 million years old. Findings of human and animal bones from the Palaeolithic proved that the cave had sheltered our early ancestors. It is the only cave in Slovenia in which human bones were found. Elsewhere only tools, weapons, fireplaces and other traces of human existence were found.
The locals were aware of the cave many centuries ago. However, they were certain that the black hole was an entrance to hell where the devil dwelt. People were afraid of the cave and gave it the name Pekel (eng. Hell).
The first one to promote the cave and to arrange it for public view was Dr. Tavber from Žalec, who had wooden footbridges set up in 1860, thus making the cave suitable for visitors. The cave became very popular after professor Reibenschuh from Graz had published his expert findings in various publications in 1866. Another period of cave’s popularity was between 1890 and 1905 when a secretary from Žalec Mr. Ivan Kač was managing the cave. Signatures in the cave dating from 1880 and later prove that it was a popular destination already in the 19th century, with even a number of parties organized inside.
Arranging the cave for visitors
The cave slipped out of public attention for some time until the Tourist Association Šempeter v Savinjski dolini arranged it for visitors once again in 1972 after the cavers from Prebold and Ljubljana had explored it in 1969. One caver, the young Anton Suwa, lost his life during the exploration. In memory of this event, a memorial tablet was set up and a gallery was named after him.
When the cave had been thoroughly explored, the members of the Tourist Association began installing electricity and arranging footpaths. Since then, 1159 metres of secure paths have been arranged and illuminated. In 1997 a part of the cave was opened to the public only accessible to cavers prior to that. A beautiful 4-metre waterfall can be seen there, the highest underground waterfall in Slovenia that can be seen from the immediate vicinity.