2 In Arts and Entertainment/ Outdoor Experiences

Exploring The Caves at Aven d’Orgnac

The Ardèche region, often overlooked by visitors to France, is located in the southeastern area. It has the largest canyon in Europe, numerous opportunities for outdoor activities (ie. kayaking under Pont d’Arc), and villages designated “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (most beautiful villages of France). But what really stands out are the prehistoric sites and caves, some dating back over 35,000 years. The most famous: the caves at Aven d’Orgnac.

Caves at Aven d’Orgnac

The Aven d’Orgnac grottes (caves), also known as Le Grand Site de l’Aven d’Orgnac, were only discovered in 1935 by Robert de Joly, a famous French cave explorer (1887-1968) and it has been open to the public since 1939. If you’re planning a trip to France and will be near this area, the caves open February 1.

English-Speaking Tour Of The Caves

Inside the grotte at Aven d'Orgnac
Inside the grotte at Aven d’Orgnac

The place is huge with enormous chambers and massive stalactites and stalagmites. These were formed millions of years ago and you can take an English-speaking tour which will take you 120 meters below ground to see this subterranean landscape.

Highlights In the Caves at Aven d’Orgnac

Stairway to La Grotte-Aven d'Orgnac
Stairway to La Grotte-Aven d’Orgnac
Inside the grotte at Aven d'Orgnac
Inside the grotte at Aven d’Orgnac

Your tour will begin with a walk down 700 stairs into three large chambers and with every turn, you’ll encounter unique formations. The mixture of water and minerals dripping down from the ceiling have formed stalactites, which look like icicles.

Inside the grotte at Aven d'Orgnac
Inside the grotte at Aven d’Orgnac

Stalagmites, on the other hand, grow up and can either reach the roof of the cave or meet the tip of the stalactite which is very high up. These formations are brought to life with the excellent lighting system that has been installed as well as a “son et lumière” (sound and light show) which is in the deepest part of the cave in the “Salle Rouge”.

La salle rouge-son et lumiere-Aven d'Orgnac
La salle rouge-son et lumiere-Aven d’Orgnac

The formations have been given appropriate names, such as:

1. Fôret des piles d’assiettes (Stacks of plates)

La foret des piles d'assiettes at the grotte at Aven d'Orgnac
La foret des piles d’assiettes at the grotte at Aven d’Orgnac

2. Le buffet d’orgues (Organ buffet)

Le buffet d'orgues in la grotte Aven d'Orgnac
Le buffet d’orgues in la grotte Aven d’Orgnac

3. La pomme de pin (Pine cone)

La pomme de pin -Aven d'Orgnac
La pomme de pin -Aven d’Orgnac

4. Les draperies (Drapes or curtains)

Les draperies-Aven d'Orgnac
Les draperies-Aven d’Orgnac

I really like this promotional video from the Aven d’Orgnac. It shows many of the highlights:

In the summer, when it would reach 35 degrees C outside, it is still cool inside the caves, so be sure to bring a sweater. At the end of your 1-1/4 hour tour, you’ll be directed to the original entrance to the caves. It is from here that there is a single ray of sunlight streaming through into the cave.

One bit of skylight from the original entrance to Aven d'Orgnac
One bit of skylight from the original entrance to Aven d’Orgnac

La Cite de Prehistoric Museum

After the tour, check out the museum, “La Cite de Prehistoric”. While not as “exciting” as a visit to the caves, it is included in your admission (13.5 Euros).

Display at La Cite de la Prehistoire, Orgnac France
Display at La Cite de la Prehistoire, Orgnac France
Neanderthal and modern man skulls-Aven d'Orgnac
Neanderthal and modern man skulls-Aven d’Orgnac

The museum is quite large and shows the evolution of humans in different parts of the world. You’ll learn about prehistoric men from 35,000 years ago and the displays have life-size animal facsimiles, archeological objects, and interactive displays that children, in particular, will enjoy. You can also get an audioguide for this museum for 2 Euros.

The large site at Aven d’Orgnac also has a picnic area, playground, restaurant and snack bar. It’s located not far from the Ardèche river and only 30 minutes from Vallon Pont d’Arc where I stayed.

Don’t overlook the Ardeche, France and add the caves at Aven d’Orgnac to your list of unique places to visit. It will be worth your while.

Website: https://www.orgnac.com/en/

Open: February 1-November 15 and during the Christmas holidays

My visit to Aven d’Orgnac was part of a 2-day visit to the Ardèche. For more ideas on what to do, check out this post:  What Can You See And Do For 2 Days In The Ardèche?

Exploring the caves at Aven d'Orgnac

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  • Reply
    Betsy White
    April 6, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Hi, we met on a Paris walking tour. I am enjoying your blog. Do you get the MHz network? I subscribe thru amazon prime. They have a series called murder in… each episode is on a beautiful town in France it features murder and a bit of romance. Just saw one set in the caves of ardeche. I knew nothing about the region, but now I do.

    • Reply
      April 6, 2019 at 5:32 pm

      So nice to hear from you! Unfortunately, we don’t get that network in Canada, but perhaps it might be on Amazon Prime in Canada. I’d love to see that series…particularly because it’s set in France. It would be interesting to see where they exactly filmed in the Ardeche! Thanks for letting me know.

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