As you might expect with so much water flowing down from the mountain tops, the Pyrénées has a wide range of cave complexes.
They are mainly concentrated in the lower reaches of the Pyrénées where one can find some real subterranean masterpieces!
They provide an excellent option for rainy days as the temperature will usually be around 13 degrees C underground, whatever the weather outside!
Grottes de Bétharram
Description: These caves boast huge limestone deposits and waterfalls. The tour lasts about 1 hour 20 mins in total.
General Info: Open daily from 9am to – 5.30pm although they close for lunch. In July/Aug open from 9am to 6pm with NO lunchtime closure.
Website: www.betharram.com. Tel: 0033 5 62 41 80 04.
Our recommendations: Make sure you arrive well before lunchtime or closing time to ensure you have a relaxed trip.
For the children: The visit is made more interesting for the family as part of the tour is made by boat and part by train.
Grotte de Lombrives
Description: The Grotte de Lombrives claims to be he biggest show cave in Europe and has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records for more than 40 years!
Location: At Ussat-les-Bains, 2km south east of Tarascon-sur-Ariège, around 100km south of Toulouse along the A66 autoroute.
General Info: Guided tours are held every 45 minutes in peak season between 9am and 7pm. Admission prices vary depending on whether you take the discovery trail or the five hour underground discovery adventure. There is an additional charge for the train ride.
Website: http://www.cathares.org/lombrives.html, 0033 5 61 05 98 40
Our recommendations: Take some warm clothes because, in common with most show caves, it will only be about 13 deg C underground. During the summer season there are regular spectaculars and concerts held. See the website for details.
For the children: They will enjoy the underground train ride.
Grottes de Medous
Description: These are huge caverns with excellent limestone formations. Part of the trip includes a boat trip on the underground river Adour.
Location: 2km south of Bagnères on the D935.
General Info: Open daily from beginning of April to mid October.
Official website: http://www.grottes-medous.com/
Our recommendations: Well worth a visit, which will last about 45 mins to 1 hour. Make sure to take some warm clothing – in common with all cave complexes it will only be about 13 degrees C underground….often a stark contrast with the summer weather above!
For the children: There is plenty of interest on this visit to keep the children’s attention, especially as it doesn’t last too long.
La Grotte de Niaux
Description: Probably the best cave in the area, rivaling Lascaux in the Dordogne for its cave paintings. There are several other attractions in the village including a museum and a forge.
Location: 2km south of Tarascon-sur-Ariège, around 100km south of Toulouse along the A66 autoroute.
General Info: There is one tour each day held in English.
Website: http://www.niaux.net/ (French only), tel: 0033 5 61 05 88 37.
Our recommendations: Reservations are essential (0033 5 61 05 88 37) for a place on the 45 minute guided tour – max of about 10 visits per day of around 20 people per visit! Cost is around €10 per person. Using torches for light you travel about 1km into the cave complex. The cave drawings of horses and bison were estimated to have been created about 10,000BC!
For the children: This visit is fascinating but is not really ideal for younger children.
Here’s more information to make the most of your visit to the Pyrenees: