The Hidden Caves of the Drôme and Ardèche
The dynamism of the Drôme department and Ardèche aren’t only holiday activities. Instead, this geologically-rich area is the perfect way to visit and discover some of the
world’s oldest and most unique formations at your leisure: ancient, mysterious caves. Travel far away in time and space while you explore these popular sites in France
during your holiday. Many of these beautiful caverns are located right within the jagged halls of the Vercors mountain and other plateaus. They form a unique network of
connections that transport you through the surrounding area. Let’s take a look at just five of these spectacular caves that you can discover during your holidays.
The Grotte De La Luire
The prehistoric caves of the Grotte De la Luire is a site crafted by the grand, sweeping, millennia-old movements of nature itself. The best way to experience this beautiful cave is with a tour guide on foot. There are many incredible, natural formations that give you a small look into the vast history of the caves. However, one of the most interesting hallmarks of the mountain is that, in 1944, the sick and the wounded who were bed-ridden at the Saint-Martin-en-Vercors and Toutre hospitals took shelter and hid away in these caves of the Vercors.The large, cavernous halls became a kind of home, one room where all these individuals could be protected against the German invasion of 1944.
Today, the area offers visitors a way to discover the extent and grand dimensions of the region through the extensive underground network, which is the largest located in the Drome, spanning 57 kilometres. It’s also the site for the largest Vaucluse natural spring, and the 2nd largest porch located in the Vercors. All these beautiful hallmarks of nature are available to you as you visit the caves on a guided tour. The activities also include an incredible light show during your visit, and even some fun candle making for the kids. A perfect day trip!
The Thais Caves
The next set of caves you need to tour are the Thais Caves. Located right between the region of Valence and Grenoble in France, these caves occupy a unique location: they’re right smack-dab in the middle of the village of Saint-Nazaire-en-Royans. While the Grotte De la Luire combines the beauty and awe of nature with the memories of WWII, the Thais Caves are home to something even more notable. For 3,000 years, the Magdalenians and then the Azilians occupied and lived in this area, right at the gates of the Vercors mountain. Their natural way of life is still well-preserved through artefacts that were later discovered to be tucked away in the Thais Caves – and to experience this alone, it’s worth a visit during your holidays.
Besides this significant history, the cave itself offers you a deeper look into the formation of the Drome department in France. The best way to discover this unique cave is through a tour. Your guide will be able to weave vivid images and walk you through the prehistoric origins of civilizations that used the caves and the tools and shelters they manufactured that are now left behind. You’ll realize that you’re but a small part of history and your view on humanity will forever change during your visit to this cave located in the Drome.
Ever heard of the painted caves of Lascaux? Well, the Chauvet Cave in Ardèche is just like that popular natural site – but without the crowds. The Chauvet Cave was discovered in 1994 and was instantly designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nearly 36,000 years ago, the first humans painted small but significant frescoes on he walls of the cave. Discover the likenesses of natural animals such as lions, horses, rhinos, and more, running and chasing each other. As you immerse yourself in a completely different type of “museum” during your visit, these images will forever remain with you. There is a small fee to visit and you can also embark on a guided tour if you want to view these natural paintings with a knowledgeable guide. Other activities you can discover and enjoy at your leisure include temporary exhibitions and a children’s entertainment area.
Gaze up at the natural “skyscraper” like geological formations of these caves and you’ll be astounded. The Avene D’Orgnac is home to the most stunning balsam columns inside and around the caves. There are other natural aspects that also make a visit to this region so enticing, including massive palm, twinkling fistulas, ocher draperies, and clay-based formations that resemble fir trees… all towering under the caves ceilings that can reach a height of up to 55 meters!
This is a real-life preserved museum that takes you into the heart of how pre-Neanderthal populations lived nearly 350,000 years ago. There are games areas, fire demonstrations, and activities like flint and spear shooting. These are all part of a novel experience that allow you to experience the significance of the excavations in Ardèche
Cave of the Cocaliere
Whereas the last four caves were about marvelling at the scope of history and geology, the Cave of the Cocaliere is one of the region’s most scenic, stunning caves. But, don’t fret – there is still a prehistoric excavation site to visit within the cave, featuring many objects and well-preserved bones from the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
On your one-hour journey and tour within this cave, you’ll also discover gorgeous pools of steamy greens and blues, framed by winding calcite formations. Feeling balmy? The cave sits at a temperate and steady temperature of 14 degrees. You can also spend the night in the pyramid that’s located within the cave.