As we are staying in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie for a week, after visiting the Pyrénées and the Cévennes National Park we had the opportunity to explore Padirac Cave. Padirac Cave (AKA, Le Gouffre de Padirac) is the most visited and largest public cave of France. It is located in the Lot (South West of France) and is offering a full-scale underground adventure, suitable for all ages.
We visited Padirac Cave with our nephews, of 4 years old and 1 year old. It is the perfect place to bring your children during an hot day. When the heatwave is striking, Padirac Cave remains at 12 degrees Celsius all year long!
The visit of Padirac Cave
On the 9th of July 1889, Edouard-Alfred Martel enters a cave near Rocamadour, in South of France. At the time, the man, who will be known later as father of modern speleology do not suspect he is about to discover one of the largest, and most famous cave of France and Europe.
Edouard-Alfred Martel will dedicate several months and years to explore Padirac caves and many other across the world. In 1889, he decided to turn Padirac Cave into a public cave to enable public to visit and discover the cave! The visit of Padirac will follow Edouard-Alfred Martel first exploration of Padirac Cave.
“One would think oneself at the bottom of a telescope having for aim the blue sky”—
The entrance – At the edge of the Abyss
We arrived at the parking at around 4.25pm for the visit planned at 4.30pm with our tickets booked on internet few days in advance. Since coronavirus, pre-booking is mandatory and the limited number of places means it is often not possible to book for same day.
After a quick wait of around 5 minutes, we pass the gates of the Gouffre of Padirac and discover a huge cavity, around 100 meters down. We start the climb down, taking the 500 stairs listening to a provided “Audioguide” detailing the first expedition of E. Martel (with a different one provided for children).
The temperature cool down quickly, from 35 degrees at the top of the stairs to a permanent all-year long 13 degrees inside the Padirac cave. With a 98% humidity ratio, the air feels pretty cold and we are all glad to have our jumpers.
The underground galleries are impressive and with a mysterious gaze. We travel for a few minutes until we reach the dock of the underground boat, and meet our guide.
Underground boat and guided tour
At the dock, we are welcomed by a joyful and young guide who will also act our boatman. We embark in a small boat of 8 and start our 1km journey on the underground river.
At the half of the boat trip, we switched from the dry part of the cave to the wet part, and waters starts to drip from the ceiling, We discover more shapes: stalactite, stalagmites, stoups… and the end of our journey appears: the rain lake and a huge 60m high stalactite: the big Pendeloque.
The lake of gour and the climb back
We disembark from our boat and land onto the Lake of Gours and the Grand Dome room. Here, the geological history shaped beneath the ground strange and unimaginable marvels. They are not easy to describe, nor to photograph unfortunately as the light remains low in this area.
A few meters and extra stairs climbed up and down, and we are back at the docks to take the boat back. We decide to climb through the stairs up the Cave, and to take a lift only at the end, glad to warm up again with sunlights.
Practical Information about your visit to Padirac Cave
How to get there
The Cave of Padirac is located in the Lot. We recommend to visit it if you are in the area, as the main (and probably only) way to reach it is by car.
It is about:
- 2 hours 30 away from Bordeaux airport
- 1 hour away from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie (where we were staying)
The area is beautiful, and there is more than enough to spend a full week in the area of the Gouffre, which is full of medieval villages, foie-gras and amazing landscapes.
Other practical information about your visit to Padirac Cave
What is the cost to visit Padirac Cave?
17 euros per adult, 12.50 euros for children
When can you visit Padirac Cave?
Padirac Cave is usually opened from March until November. With the Coronavirus, it is required to book in advance on their website: https://gouffre-de-padirac.com.
How long does the visit to Padirac Cave last?
The visit will take approximatively 1 hour and 30 minutes
Who can visit Padirac Cave? Is it suitable for everyone?
We did it with our 1 year old nephew, so the visit is perfectly fine for children. There is quite a lot of stairs and a bit of walking, but everything is also adapted for people who cannot or do not want to climb stairs or walk.
Is Padirac Cave busy in summer?
Very, over 400,000 people visit the cave every year. We recommend to avoid the busiest days of the year such as the 15th of August, or even the first couple of weeks of August. Always make sure to book before you come to Padirac.
Le Gouffre de Padirac is a perfect place to stop by while visiting the Lot, one of France lesser known region by foreign tourists. With or without children, you will enjoy a visit to one of the world biggest public cave and learn about the place where speleology was invented!