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Discovery of the cave – History of tourist exploitation

The existence of the cave seems to have been unknown until recent years. There has been found no reference of the cave in the written testimonies of the era of the Ottoman rule, nor in any older historical testimonies. It is believed that the entrance of the cave was not visible in the past due to illuviations, but also due to the fact that the lakeside route was then hard to reach and access could be made possible only by the lake.

Local amateur explorers, people with environmental sensibilities in the 1940s -time when the lakeside road was constructed by general Souggaridis- were the first ones to discover and describe the incomparable beauty of the cave and also the first ones who came up with the idea for its exploitation. The myth regarding the “Dragon” of the cave, after which the cave was named, was also recorded during the same period.

History of tourist exploitation

Kastoria owes a great deal to our fellow citizens Nikos Pistikos, Kostas Frassias, Anastassios Mpassakyros, Th. Morfidis and many others, as well as later, in 1954, to the swedish explorer Linberg, who all wandered in the cave and informed the local society about the incomparable beauty of the stalactite decoration inside it. In 1963, Scouts from Kastoria, in collaboration with the Hellenic Speleological Company, gave us the first draft mapping and the first photographs of the cave’s interior part, while at a later time the cave was recorded in the official annual bulletin of the Greek Speleological Company.

The first serious attempt to collect more data and train new speleologists was performed, in 1963, by Johnny Zerboydakis and the Hellenic Speleological Society. Similar work was repeated in 1964 and 1965. The research and mapping of the cave of the Dragon, though, became more intense in 1966 and was completed in 1969 by a group sent by the Hellenic Speleological Company and lead by Mr Pallikaropoylos, who performed, at the same time, a study regarding the touristic exploitation of the cave.

The explorations, which took place later on, kept on enforcing progressively the idea of the cave’s appropriateness for exploitation and development.

In light of these explorations, the local society gradually started understanding and supporting the idea of the exploitation of the cave and went on putting pressure to this direction with numerous publications on the matter.

In 1995, the Municipality of Kastoria invited the Ephorate of Speleology of the Ministry of Culture to send authorities in charge, who entered and explored the cave and on the basis of the older preliminary study for tourist exploitation performed by the civil engineer Mr Pallikaropoylos, amateur speleologist, and in collaboration with the Association “Friends of the Environment”, they submitted an official conclusion for the appropriateness and the potential touristic exploitation and development of the cave.

Thereafter, the Municipality Kastoria concentrated on finding the resources for the development and completion of the final study. When the provision of resources was ensured by the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace, the study was assigned to a group of researchers from Kastoria, who led the whole activity, and to the technical services of the Municipality, who undertook its supervision.

The study included all the necessary subfields of studies: topographic, architectural, static, electromechanical, studies of special fixing work, hydraulic, environmental and management.

Then, the work “Exploitation of the Cave of the Dragon of Kastoria” was included in the Regional Operational Programme of Western Macedonia.

In 1998, the Ministry of Culture approved the preliminary studies for the tourist exploitation of the cave and all works finally began in 2007. The project was undertaken by the Consortium “Teligioridis-Felekidis SA” and was co-supervised by the Ephorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of Northern Greece.

All necessary work for the cave to become suitable for visiting, for the shaping of the surrounding area and for the construction of buildings used for the operation of the cave, was performed with the application of soft intervention methods especially inside the cave so as to ensure that the rich stalagmite decoration would remain intact. The interventions made outside the cave have an architectural character that respects the local architectural tradition with the use of materials from the area, stone, timber and inset ceramic decorations.

The Cave of the Dragon opened its gates for the public on December 13th 2009 and was inaugurated on December 29th 2009 by the Minister of Culture and Tourism Mr. Geroylanos and the Chairman of the Greek Parliament Mr. Petsalnikos.

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Copyright © 2011 Municipality of Kastoria.
Photographs Τrasias Studio

“Cave of the Dragon” Tel: 2467026777 / 2467029630 Fax: 2467022655 Mob: 6957591303
Tuesday-Sunday and public holidays, Summer opening hours-10.00 to 18.00 / Winter opening hours-09.00 to 17.00.