Grotte de Lombrives, Ariege visitors guide
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The Grotte de Lombrives is a cave system with numerous stalactites, stalagmites and other rock features at Ussat-les-Bains in the Ariege department (Midi-Pyrenees region) of southern France. It is the largest cave system in Europe, covering a total of 39 kilometres of subterranean passages spread over several levels.
Exploring the Grotte de Lombrives
Deep in the heart of the historical Occitan region of southern France, Lombrives is a very interesting site to visit - your visit combines history and mythology with a natural geological spectacle, as you follow in the footsteps of the prehistoric men who once occupied these caves, particularly in the neolithic period, and the cathars who took refuge here in the medieval period.
There are literally hundreds of different characteristics to enjoy, with rock pools, stalactites and stalagmites among them and several of them have been given names representing their unusual forms.
Because of the size of the caves* a wide range of tours are available to visitors, lasting between one hour and six hours. Access to the caves begins with a train ride along a scenic route, adding to the pleasure for adults and children alike: you can avoid the small extra charge for the train if you walk, but it is quite a long steep path!
* Many cave systems claim to be the biggest: the Grotte de Lombrives is listed as the largest cave system in France open to the public by the Guiness Book of Records, with its 'cathedral cave' alone being the size of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris!
To make your visit extra special it is possible on wednesday nights during the summer to combine your visit with a candlelit dinner and show and accompanying music by very high quality violinist and pianist (you need to reserve in advance for this).
Of course as with all caves, the Grotte de Lombrives is rather cold, the floor can be a bit slippery and you need to bend down sometimes to avoid banging your head!
The Grotte de Lombrives is at the eastern edge of the Regional Natural Parc of the Pyrénées-Ariégeoises.
As well as the many natural highlights in this region you will want to visit the town of Foix, a short distance to the north of here and overlooked by an impressive castle. The Chateau de Montsegur, the most westerly of the cathar castles, is to the east of the Grotte de Lombrives.
Map of Grotte de Lombrives and places nearby
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Vallée de Vicdessos: site of natural beauty (18 km)
- Pyrenees Ariegeoises: regional natural parc (25 km)
- Cirque du Sisca: site of natural beauty (27 km)
- Fontaine Intermittente de Fontestorbes: site of natural beauty (27 km)
- Cirque d'Anglade: site of natural beauty (36 km)
- Camon: most beautiful village (36 km)
- Parc aux Bambous: remarkable garden (38 km)
- Lac des Bouillouses: site of natural beauty (42 km)
- Lac du Bouillouses: site of natural beauty (42 km)
- Saint Lizier cathédrale (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (44 km)
- Saint-Lizier: most beautiful village (44 km)
- Gorges de la Pierre-Lys: site of natural beauty (48 km)
The French version of this page is at Grotte de Lombrives (Francais)