Located in the Kyffhäuser Hills near the village of Rottleben, the Barbarossa Cave is a spectacular cave that features large caverns, grottos and lakes. Moisture in the cave has lead to the anhydrite forming gypsum on the cave’s surface, which has gradually separate from the underlying rock and now hangs like wallpaper from the cave’s walls and ceilings.

The Barbarossa Cave was first discovered in 1856 during prospecting work for a copper mine and by 1866 it was being developed as a show cave known as the Falkenburger Höhle. Its location in the Kyffhäuser Hills is what gave rise to its links with the Barbarossa legend, with Frederick Barbarossa said to have slept in an underground palace until Germany was unified.

The Barbarossa Cave forms part of Germany’s Karst Trail that winds for more than 250 kilometers through the karst landscape of the South Harz. But it is unique in that it is made of anhydrite rocks that are rare when compared to lime-stone caves. Its enormous caverns span up to 42 meters, with bizarre rock for-mations hanging from the ceilings and crystal-clear lakes nestled below.

An 800-meter-long pathway leads through the cave, visiting the magical Neptune Grotto and the immense Dance Hall, as well as a human-made stone construction that’s known as “Barbarossa’s Table and Chair.” Guided tours offer a fascinating insight into not only the geological formation of the caves but also the famous German legend of Barbarossa that dates back to the 14th century.