Do you remember reading Jules Verne’s “A Journey to the Centre of Earth” and dreaming of taking this journey, descending all the way down there, meeting the weird creatures and plants born out of the imagination of this great French visionary and writer? Well, this is all possible, right there in the South of France, between the canyons of the rivers Tarn and La Jonte, thanks to visual mapping, sound and light, and of course the unbelievable beauty created by Nature. Aven Armand is a cave that you should visit if you happen to be in Southern France. I’ve been to many caves around the world and this one is really unique.
Read more: 10 Irresistibly charming villages in Gorges du Tarn. If you are staying longer in Southern France, you will get ideas to visit some cute little villages in the Tarn Canyon.
How to get to Aven Armand?
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to go by public transport to the cave. If you are travelling in this part of France, you are probably having a car, your own one or a rented one. The best way to reach Aven Armand is if you go up via one of the winding, full of hairpin turns, roads from either the Tarn Canyon or the La Jonte Canyon. The views will be amazing down on the canyons, and I must admit this is not a journey for the faint-hearted or the less experienced driver, but absolutely worth taking it. We went up the Tarn Canyon at Les Vignes, taking D16. There were some moments when my heart sank into my sandals, an example of literally breathtaking views.
Alternatively, If you are coming from Florac, taking D16 the other way, you will be travelling directly through the gentle rolling hills of the Causses, so no hairpins, no hearts in the shoes, but also no mesmerizing views. Another option is to travel from Le Rozier via D996 along the Gorge de la Jonte, which is also quite beautiful, and then via D63.
Aven Armand is located in the Causses Mejan, one of 4 plateaus (causses), which form the Regional Park of the Great Causses (Les Grands Causses). Together with Cevennes National Park, they are part of the the Causses and Cevennes, which are inscribed on the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites .
Distance to Aven Armand from:
- Millau – 43 km (1 hr)
- Sainte-Enemie – 22 km (30 min)
- Florac – 31 km (45 min)
History of Aven Armand
The cave was discovered by Louis Armand who was the right hand of the father of the speleology in France – Edouard Martel. On 19 September 1897 he descended 75 m down in what from above looked like a sinkhole. On 11 June 1927 the cave was first open for visitors. At the beginning the visitors did not need to descend via the sinkhole but could walk down a 208 m long tunnel, especially dug to make the cave accessible for public. Today, visitors are taken down by a funicular.
Aven Arman was formed through erosion and corrosion of the solid limestone and concretion. It all begun some 200 million years ago in the Jurassic period.
What to expect form Aven Armand?
The journey to the center of the sinkhole take a couple of minutes. Today, you don’t need to walk down, there’s a convenient funicular that will take you to the heart of the cave. You can visit Aven Armand only with a guided tour. It takes about an hour to see everything and to complete the tour. We had a very passionate guide telling the story of the cave and explaining what we were seeing. You will learn about all the unique formations. There are also brochures available in a few languages of what the guide is telling in French, so you won’t be missing anything.
With the help of colorful lights and visual mapping the weird creatures are coming to life. You’ll pass through the Virgin Forest, you’ll see the gigantic organ, the cauliflower and the jelly fishes. My favorite forms were the stack of American pancakes. They don’t call them like that, but look at them and tell me, don’t they look just like pancakes? I am missing only the maple syrup…
Aven Armand offers a truly unique experience and I can’t enough recommend visiting it. Modern technology meets a natural wonder and the result is simply magical.
Practical info about visiting Aven Armand
You can buy tickets at the visitor’s center. They give you a ticket with a certain color and then they’ll call all people that have tickets with the same color to board the carriage.
Outside of the visitor’s center, there is a lovely café with a beautiful view where you can get some refreshments while waiting to board. We visited on a very hot summer day, so we loved being able to get some drinks on site.
- Prices: A regular ticket costs 12,50 EUR and there are different tiers of discounts: for students (under age of 25) – 10,50 EUR, students (under age of 20) – 10 EUR, children (under 14) – 8,30 EUR, and kids under 4 do not need to pay.
- Opening times: from 1 April till 14 July and from 1 September to 3 November – 10 am to 12 am, 1:30 pm to 5 pm; from 15 July to 31 August – 10 am to 6 pm
- Accessibility: Unfortunately the cave is not accessible for people with reduced mobility and you can’t get in in a wheel char.
- Other info: Dogs aren’t allowed unless they are small and can be carried or are in a bag.
Prepare for your next holidays in Southern France
Read more about Southern France:
- 10 Irresistibly charming villages in Gorges du Tarn
- Gorges du Verdon – complete travels guide
- The most beautiful villages in Provence
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