Visiting The French Cave – Aven Armand

I love caves. I love the slight claustrophobic terror. The excitement of exploration. The historical significance. And the best part about France, other than what you can do with kids in France would have to be this French cave, Aven Armand.

french cave aven armand

Where are the French caves?

Cave in French is translated to la grotte. And France has many la grotte’s. The Grotte des Merveilles, Cougnac and Pech Merle are beautiful caves to visit. Where are the cave paintings in France? You might be asking, well for that you will want to visit the Lascaux cave. Which has Palaeolithic cave paintings estimated to be up to 20,000 years old. Get discounted tickets for Lascaux here.

french cave aven armand map

Why did we visit this French cave?

However, as we were in the South of France, most of the above French caves seemed a little to far out of the way. On top of this we had not actually decided to visit a French cave, it just kind of happened.

We were on our 18 day Mediterranean Coast road trip in Creissels when my daughter laid a handful of tourist brochures on the table at dinner. The majority of them were in French, but one caught my eye; a cave near our place in France.

My previous cave experience in Puerto Rico had been such a let down that I flicked the brochure aside and continued to eat my dinner. However, my family picked up the brochure and decided it was a great idea. Especially because this French cave, Aven Arman is actually known for the world’s biggest and longest stalagmites.

french cave aven armand stalagmites

What is the name of the cave in France?

Aven Armand is a limestone cave located in the Cévennes National Park of France, in the Lozère département, between Meyrueis and Sainte-Enimie. It was discovered by Louis Armand, blacksmith and amateur caver resident in Le Rozier, on September 19, 1897.

Technically Aven Armand is not a cave: but a horizontal underground cavity. It is often formed by the collapse of the vault of a cave due to the dissolution of the limestone layers.

french cave aven armand

How do you get to Aven Armand?

Decided the night before we went for a beautiful drive through the French countryside in search of our French cave. We passed gorges and cliff sides, little country towns and it was quite an enjoyable journey, although it may have been a bit further than we anticipated.

Aven Armand ended up being approximately one hour drive in our Europe car lease from the little unassuming town of Millaeu, where we had spent one night in a wooden cabin. 

How much is entry to the French Cave?

Entry to Aven Armand was 10 Euros per person, both my children were free (4 and 3 years old).

How do you explore Aven Armand?

We started our journey down into this French cave with a funicular ride. The only entrance used to be leg-power via the stairs. But it’s a long way down so we were very thankful that they had installed a funicular.

Aven Armand is one of those scary caves that remained unexplored for thousand of years. You can almost picture it as a murderous hiding hole for evil villains or a terrifying death trap for herds of sheep.  Originally there was one tiny vertical hole into this cave from 75 meters above and after throwing a stone in, Louis decided to lower himself in and take a look around. Brave man. While we didn’t have to come through a hole in the ceiling, Louis did and lowered himself into one colossal cave.

What is Aven Armand famous for?

The main chamber of Aven Arman is oval measuring 120 meters long and 60 meters wide. It lies on a slope and its greatest depth from the top of the shaft is 112 meters. It is simply enormous and inside is the largest gathering of stalagmites you have ever seen, over four hundred throughout the whole cave.

While Aven Armand is well known for the number of stalagmites, it’s made its mark for housing the tallest stalagmite known to date in the world – 30 meters tall. Do you know how big that is?

It must have been an amazing discovery for Louis, especially since he didn’t even see it the way we did with the lights and the paths, and the guide. The lighting in the cave is so dramatic, setting off its most fabulous features like the various stalagmites, stalactites, the underground lake, and the river. Once you step off the funicular and take a good look around, it’s simply breathtaking.

What do you do at Aven Armand?

Our guide spoke only in French, and my French is non-existent so I didn’t get to understand the actual tour. The cave staff, however, did give us a little guidebook in English, which I tried to decipher while exploring the cave.

As if the funicular didn’t take us deep enough, we also took over ninety-nine steps to the cave floor and discovered the beautiful surroundings in one big loop. The tour took about forty-five minutes and then we climbed the ninety-nine stairs back to the top. At the top, we took the funicular to the opening instead of more stair climbing.

french cave aven armand stairs

french cave aven armand stairs

Once the funicular ride was finished, we stood there talking about it. What an experience it was, what a treasure we unearthed in the French countryside. And how this French cave truly was a remarkable stop on an otherwise uneventful day that was just going to be spent driving two hours to Toulouse. The place where the French police stole my car to the French car pound.

If you ever find yourself in southern France I highly recommend visiting this French cave in the heart of the Gorges du Tarn and de la Jonte. The Aven Armand will blow you away with its sheer size, stunning beauty, and wicked sense of adventure.




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