Are you thinking of visiting the Grotte di Castellana but aren’t sure if you should take time away from your other Puglia activities and destinations?
Go for it! A visit to the Grotte di Castellana complements time spent in Puglia’s whitewashed towns, relaxing at its sandy beaches with turquoise waters, and eating its delicious food like fresh mozzarella and orecchiette pasta!
A visit doesn’t take up much time, but you’ll enjoy the cool walk underground and checking out some of the region’s natural marvels. And the timed tour system means it won’t be overly packed – so you can truly enjoy your and have opportunities to ask your guide any questions you may have about the caves.
Where are the Grotte di Castellana?
The Grotte di Castellana are located in… Castellana Grotte, a small town in the Valle d’Itria (Itria Valley) in Puglia in southern. The caves are less than an hour from Bari and about an hour from Brindisi.
You can easily combine a visit with other towns (like Alberobello or Ostuni) or the beach in a day.
Map of the Grotte di Castellana
Are the Grotte di Castellana Worth a Visit?
I’ve been back multiple times with my kids, and we all think that YES, a visit to the Grotte di Castellana is worth it.
It’s a huge karst cave complex, and on your guided tour, you’ll walk through the caves and see stalactites, stalagmites, fossils, and of course, caves!
Fun Fact: Speleology is the study of caves.
How Long is a Visit to the Grotte di Castellana?
The length of your visit depends on which route you choose. The long route through the karst caves takes just under two hours, while the short route takes just under one hour.
You’ll also need to add in time to park, walk to the park, wait for the tour to begin, getting a snack after, etc.
On our recent visit, we did the short route and spent about 2 hours total at the complex.
How to Visit the Grotte di Castellana
You can experience the Castellana Caves as part of a guided tour. You can’t just walk in and start exploring on your own. There is a guide with you who will lead you through the caves on a marked path and explain some of the things you’re looking at in the caves.
Short Route (Partial Tour)
The route is about one kilometer and takes just under one hour. You’ll see many beautiful formations and get a great feel for the cave network.
Long Route (Full Tour)
The long route begins the same as the short route, but it adds an additional 2 kilometers (3 km total) and you get to see a few more things, including the spectacular Grotta Bianca (White Cave). This is the cave that Castellana is famous for.
Helpful Tip: If you have the time and interest, it’s worth doing the long route in order to see the Grotta Bianca. If you’re traveling with kids, I’d stick to the short route.
This visit has limited dates, but it’s designed especially for families with kids from ages 4 and up. Your kids will love donning helmets with headlights for an exploration of the caves with a speleologist. The visit must be reserved in advance by email or phone (see below for contact info).
Fun Fact: The max depth of the Castellana Caves is 122 meters below street level!
Buying Tickets for the Castellana Grotte
You must enter the caves with a guide, and there are limited tours throughout the day. Most tours are in Italian, but there are some in English.
You can either buy your tickets at the ticket counter on site, or purchase your tickets online in advance.
If you decide to buy your tickes on site, arrive early to account for a possible queue at the ticket booth.
If you decide to purchase your tickets in advance, you must do so at least the day before you plan on going.
I’ve done both and prefer buying them online because then we don’t have to wait in line and I know that we’ll for sure get a spot on the English visit. On our recent visit in early May, our English visit was full.
What to Bring and Wear on a Visit to the Grotte di Castellana
Jacket or Fleece – It’s chilly in parts of the cave network (14-18°C).
Shoes with Good Tread – There are handrails and special mats on the ground in some places, but the floor can be slippery, especially the moist sections. I wore casual (non-athletic) sneakers on our last visit and I was slipping more than I felt comfortable with.
Small Backpack – You’ll need something to carry your jacket, wallet, etc, but a purse can be annoying. And, you’ll want to have your hands free to hold onto railings in certain sections. Don’t buy or bring one just for the caves, but use it if you have one on your trip.
Snacks if You Have Dietary Restrictions – There are cafès and restaurants on the grounds and nearby, but if you have special dietary needs, it’s best to bring something with you. I had some nuts and fresh fruit with me and was glad I did.
Camera – You can take photos in the first part of the tour (in the Grave, the huge cave with the hole in the ceiling), but in other parts photos are prohibited. I was given permission to take these photos by an employee.
Grotte di Castellana with Kids
Best Ages – I’ve taken my kids in the caves from around 4 years old. It’s the age they’ve been interested in walking around and seeing the caves and they’re old enough to walk for about 45 minutes in the caves and to be quiet and listen when the guide is speaking. I wouldn’t recommend bringing a toddler or early walker. You’ll likely have trouble keeping them quiet for the tour and there are a lot of drop offs and slippery areas (stress for mamma and papà!).
Strollers – You cannot bring a stroller with you in the caves. If you have a baby, you can wear him/her in a baby carrier. When our family visited with a baby in a stroller, we had onen adult stay outside while the others did the tour.
Bathrooms – There are paid toilets at the entrance to the caves (down some steps, so not handy with a stroller). Keep in mind that there are no toilets in the caves, so make sure everyone ‘tries’ before the tour begins! You can also go back to the paid toilets after the tour. Or, do like we did and use the toilet at a café near the entrance.
Diaper Changes – On our recent visit, there was a changing table in the toilets at the cave entrance. There is also a lot of space and privacy in the area so you can use a portable changing mat and change your baby’s diaper outdoors (what we’ve done).
Snacks – You can’t eat inside the caves, but you can enjoy your own snacks before or after. There are also cafés and restaurants near the entrance if you want to stop in for a quick snack (gelato, anyone?). On our recent visit, we stopped for Magnum ice cream bars and a peek at the gemstones in the small café on the grounds (before exiting the complex).
Shoes – Make sure your little ones have shoes with good tread. There are a few slippery sections (hold hands!).
Jackets – Parts of the walk are in cooler caves, so you’ll want to have a jacket or fleece handy (even if it’s hot outside the caves). I didn’t end up wearing mine, but my son wore his fleece the entire time.
Before Your Visit – I try to have my kids read a little bit about caves or watch a few videos before we visit. We looked at our atlases and these videos on YouTube:
- How Caves are Formed (Free School)
- Where Do Caves Come From (SciShow Kids)
- Explore the Hidden & Fragile World Inside Caves (National Geographic)
Good To Know: You can easily remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites by remembering that stalaCtites come from the Ceiling and stalaGmites are on the Ground.
How to Get to the Grotte di Castellana
Driving to the Grotte di Castellana
The easiest (and most reliable) way to get to the Grotte di Castellana is by car. The caves are just 45 kilometers (45 minutes) from Bari, and 20 kilometers (25 minutes) from Monopoli.
Important: Make sure you enter ‘Grotte di Castellana’ into your GPS or Google Maps, not ‘Castellana Grotte.’ The former is the name of the cave network, while the latter is the name of the town.
You may want to read
Driving in Puglia
Driving in Italy
Renting a Car in Italy
Parking at the Grotte di Castellana
There’s a huge dirt parking lot where you can park for a small fee. It’s a 5-minute walk to the entrance of the Grotte. You just turn left out of the parking area and walk and in a couple of minutes you’ll see the huge entrance sign in front of you. You may want to read our guide to Parking in Italy.
Taking Public Transportation to the Grotte di Castellana
You can take a local bus from many of the surrounding towns and depending on your route, you may get dropped off within a few minutes’ walk from the caves.
Grotte di Castellana Info
See the Grotte di Castellana official website for the most up-to-date ticket prices, opening days and hours, and tour offerings.
What to Do Before or After Your Visit to Castellana Grotte
Seeing the Grotte di Castellana doesn’t take all day, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore other sites and destinations nearby, including:
- Polignano a Mare
- Beaches of Capitolo
Grotte di Castellana FAQ
I’ve done both – waited in line to buy tickets at the site and purchased online in advance. If you know you’re for sure going to go, you’re planning on visiting in the busy summer months, and you want to be on an English language tour, I recommend purchasing tickets in advance.
Yes, there are bats in the caves. On our recent visit, we didn’t see any, but we saw an area where they used to live (but have since left), evidenced by all of the bat guano.
You could also look at the nearby Grotta del Trullo cave, located near Putignano. It also needs to be booked, but it may have availability as it’s less known (but still amazing!).
No! You’ll see sections of the caves that have been destroyed in this way, and that’s why some of the areas have a small screen on them. Our guide told us that it could take 50 years for 1 centimeter of growth.
You’ll need to choose the long route (3 kilometers, just under 2 hours) if you want to see the famous Grotte Bianco.