When I think of Budapest, I think grand architecture, famous paprika dishes, and amazing Budapest baths. But did you know that you can also explore the underground world in Budapest’s massive cave system?
Even better, if you’re adventurous (and cave diving-certified) you can do a Budapest cave diving expedition in the Budapest underground!
Budapest Cave Diving Requirements
If you’re cave diving certified, great! But what if you’re not cave diving certified? No problem. I’m not cave certified and I did it! Read on to find out how I did my Budapest cave tour.
The “Buda” side of Budapest lies above an expansive labyrinth of caves. These Budapest caves also provide city with its never-ending thermal hot springs. The underground world is a great area for exploration for those who are seeking to literally go beyond the surface.
While some people choose unusual and unique things to do in Budapest like visiting the hidden Hospital in the Rock museum, a spelunking adventure, or exploring a catacomb, if you are a qualified scuba diver, you’re definitely in for a treat.
Consider doing this epic adventure at one of the most unique underground caves Hungary – Cave Diving at Molnár János Cave.
The Molnar Janos Cave
For centuries, from Roman times through the rule of the Ottoman Empire, hot thermal water has supplied Budapest, allowing its unique thermal bath culture to flourish. They built elaborate Budapest spa baths and medicinal pools.
The never-ending thermal water was used for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors for centuries.
But how did Budapest manage to produce so much hot water? Where did this water come from? Not until recently have scientist and modern technology discovered the answers to these questions.
The city of Budapest sits atop a geological fault line that allows geothermal elements to interact with the groundwater. This unusual interaction creates a stream of hot thermal water that seeps to the surface.
For millions of years, the water and its geothermal activities have carved myriad passages, creating a huge underground water cave system. The Budapest underground caves were only discovered and understood in the late 19th century.
A pharmacist named Molnár János started the underground content study, which eventually lead the discovery of the cave system and its exploration.
A local dive club started scuba diving the Molnár János scuba cave in the 70s and 80s. They mapped the extensive underwater cave diving network. Discoveries of new entrances, tunnels, connections, and hallways have been a regular occurrence throughout the exploration.
To date, only about 7 km of the Molnár János Cave system are mapped and identified.
The cave has been a protected area since 1982.
MJCave Dive – Budapest Cave Diving Operation
It’s not just scientists who were interested in all of this. people like you and me wanted to see what diving in a cave was all about, too. So when the demand started to rise, the idea to set up cave scuba diving operations at Molnar Janos was born.
MJCave Dive started in 2015. It doesn’t associate with the major international diving organizations, like PADI, SSI or NAUI. However, that doesn’t deter from their professional operation.
MJCave Dive associates with these organizations, which are mostly all about technical diving:
- CMAS: (Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques) – World Underwater Federation based in France
- UEF: Underwater Explorers’ Federation
- IANTD:International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers
- GUE: Global Underwater Explorers
Booking Molnar Janos cave tours
Due to the cave’s fragile environment and its protected status, Molnár János Cave allows a maximum of 30 dives a day. For example, if three people do two dives a day, that’s six dives.
If those three people each have a guide with them, that’s 12.
All this is to say that spots are very difficult to come by. A maximum of twelve guest divers a day can dive Molnár János Cave.
If you want to make a Budapest cave diving reservation, you can only do it by emailing them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be flexibile. If you give them several options for dates, it’s more likely they will be able to confirm your scheduled date right away.
Information you’ll need to provide
There are several things you will need to provide after the confirmation:
The date of your diving day: This is first-come, first-served and it fills up quickly – especially if you have a cave diving group. A typical diving day starts at 8 AM, and there are also afternoon dives. Including orientation and clean up, it lasts about three hours.
Dive Insurance: You must have diving insurance that covers cave diving (DAN Basic insurance won’t). Know what your dive insurance covers. Otherwise, purchase a day pass through the MJCave Dive Ops. It is not expensive – about 2000 forint ($7.50) per day.
Medical clearance: You must provide medical clearance from a physician stating that you are physically able to dive. The letter must be less than a year old, although if you are younger than 40, it may be within two years. Clarify this with MJDive.
Dive Certification: A cave diving certification is required to do more complicated dives. However, they will do an “Introduction to Cave Diving” with you if you don’t have the certification. The minimum requirement is Advanced Open Water, which will allow you to do their brief cave diving course.
100 Dives: You have to have at least 100 logged open water dives. But be prepared to prove it.
Getting to Molnar Janos Cave
Molnár János Cave is just across from the Budapest Lukács Thermal Baths. Public transportation can get you there. Those include buses 9 and 109, trams 17, 19 and 41, as well as HEV (Budapest regional train) that connects to the Budapest Metro system.
You can either buy the tickets separately, or use your Budapest Card, which includes free public transportation. Read more about the Budapest Card benefits here.
The entrance to Molnár János Cave is hidden behind a closed door. There are currently no signs to mark the entrance. The cave system is a protected and owned & operated by the National Parks of Hungary.
Look for the glass wall and you’ll see a scenic pond inside the complex. Here’s the address. Google maps will direct you to the right position:
Molnár János Cave (Hungarian: Molnár János-barlang)
Budapest, Frankel Leó út 48, 1023 Hungary
Google Maps link
A typical diving day starts at 8AM at the main entrance. If you happen to arrive before the MJCave Dive crew, you’ll probably think you are at the wrong address.
But don’t worry, the MJCave Dive staff will arrive shortly before 8 AM.
They’ll start the Budapest cave diving orientation shortly after.
MJCave’s main building is off site, but the day-to-day operation is inside the hill adjacent to the Molnár János Cave system.
The tunnel inside the hill is an abandoned project to connect a luxurious hotel on top of the hill to the Lukacs Baths across the street from Molnar Janos.
After completing about 200 meters of it, they abandoned the project in the 1970s. When MJDive started in 2015, they retrofitted the tunnel to become the home for its diving operation.
All of the dives inside Molnar Janos Cave start with a through pre-div orientation. They’ll check your paperwork and share any important information, especially if you are doing the cave diving intro session.
Other dives you can do
MJCave Dive organizes several different types of dives inside the Molnar Janos Cave and the Kőbánya Mine.
Cave Diving Introduction
Since most certified divers are not cave certified, you may join an introduction to cave diving in Molnar Janos. A divemaster takes you on a complete pre-dive orientation and does a quick diving test to determine your diving skill and to see if you’ll be able to continue.
Cave Diving Certified
If you are a certified cave diver, you can join a guided underwater cave tour.
Cave Diving Training
You can’t always void cave diving accidents. But you can do a certification and reduce their likelihood. MJCave Dive offers a cave diving certification. Ask for more information, including cost.
There are scientists who conduct regular studies and surveys in Molnar Janos. They are geologists, biologists, and chemists.
Diving the Kobanya Mine
This is another unique Budapest cave diving experience.This is the only MJCave Dive operation that is not conducted inside the Molnar Janos Cave.
Kőbánya Mine is an abandoned wine and beer cellar that was operated by the Dreher Brewery in the 20th century to store their products in the cave system.
You can visit the WWII plane engine factory room and discover the stair system they used as a path to the wine cellar. Unfortunately they don’t offer this dive often, but you can always inquire about the schedule and check the MJCave Dive official schedule and news web page.
This is important to understand, as not everybody can dive inside the Molnár János Cave system.
As required by strict European Union regulations, to dive inside the Molnar Janos Cave, you have to be cave dive-certified or be a student working towards your cave diving certification.
However, there is a loophole in this requirement that allows other divers who are not cave certified to do an introductory dive.
I was one of them.
But – you must still be an Advanced Open Water diver with 100 dives.
Every dive begins with an orientation. With non-cave divers, the divemaster has to go through a very thorough check that lasts about two hours.
The real check happens in the first few minutes underwater. During this time, the divemaster evaluates how comfortable you are, as well as your buoyancy skills. If he or she decides that you are not ready for this, including not being able to control your movement, they’ll abort the dive.
(Fun fact: In German, “cave diving” translates to “Höhlentauchen” – so…)
My Budapest cave diving video
Who doesn’t love cave diving videos? I documented my experience diving the Molnar Janos Cave. You can watch our cave diving video here.
We’d also love it if you “like” the video and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Dive conditions in Molnar Janos cave
Other than the pitch dark inside the cave, and having solid rock above and below you, expect Molnár János cave diving to be warm all year long – around 20-28 Celsius (68-82 Fahrenheit).
The water is crystal clear, with tons of silt deposits covering the bottom and some of the wall.
You’ll definitely want to work on being perfectly buoyant inside the cave so you do not disturb the silt. This is another reason they might abort the dive.
It would just be too dangerous to continue with a diver kicking up the silt.
There is no strong current inside the cave, although water flows very slowly to one direction.
What will you see inside Molnar Janos cave?
Mostly, it’s just the experience of being inside this very cool cave. That said, there are few great things to see:
- Limestone rock formations: you will see them everywhere inside the Cave
- Minerals: these minerals glow from the light of your torch
- Fossils: you can find a section of the cave where embedded fossils have been undisturbed for millions of years.
- Tiny animals: there are three crustacean species of Niphargus inside the Molnar Janos cave. In slightly misleading terms, they are blind shrimps that you can meet in their natural habitat.
Important note: You are in a protected area: Molnar Janos is under the supervision of the Hungarian National Park system. Therefore, the entirety of the cave system, above and below the ground, is highly protected.
It’s absolutely prohibited to destroy, or even touch, anything below the surface. They won’t hesitate to cancel the dive if you violate this important rule.
Things to consider
MJCave has a Wi-Fi connection that is available inside the cave where you set up your cave diving equipment. Obviously, not in the water!
Budapest cave diving cost
They update the prices periodically. There is a minimum charge for the diving itself, and any rental gear or cave diving insurance will be additional.
It’s about 60 EUR for the guided cave tour, plus 40 EUR to rent cave diving gear.
There is a minimum standard requirement for Hungarian cave diving, such as the double cylinder breathing apparatus, dry suit, and torches.
MJCave DIve currently does not take credit cards. You must pay either in Hungarian forinth or euros. Don’t forget to tip the wonderful divemaster as well.
Suggested amount is about 10-20 EUR per dive. See here for the official price list.
There is no shower here. The good news is that you will be diving in fresh water. And it’s clean. This is the same water that feeds the Budapest Medicinal Baths.
If you must rinse off after the dive, you can go to the Lukacs Thermal Baths across the street.
There is an abandoned Turkish Bath (Török Fürdő) at the entrance to the Molnár János. Completed and used more than 150 years ago, it eventually ceased operation.
You can peek inside this structure; however, you may not go in.
The City of Budapest has condemned it and it will eventually be demolished. You can read more of the Molnar Janos baths in our Guide to the Budapest Thermal Baths.
At a glance
Molnar Janos MJCave Dive (official page here)
Molnár János Cave Diving
(in Hungarian: Molnár János-barlang)
Budapest, Frankel Leó út 48, 1023 Hungary
phone: +36 70 389 8939
Kobanya Mine Diving
1105 Budapest, Bánya utca 35., Hungary
Phone: +36 1 247 6036
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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.