Practical information for visiting the Gouffre de Padirac

Visit the Gouffre de Padirac to get closer to the Earth's core

The splendid Gouffre de Padirac offers an incredible underground walk to all its visitors. This geological curiosity is both impressive and intimidating. Once the walk begins, you begin a walk through underground cavities and a maze of galleries. Today, it is open to the public and reveals its secret to each visitor who decides to embark on the adventure. Here is various information concerning this French underground natural heritage.

The Gouffre de Padirac is an unmissable place located in the Dordogne valley and the first underground site in France. This place marks the spirits because of the wonders it contains.

Presentation of the Gouffre de Padirac

The Gouffre de Padirac is a site that is 17 kilometers by car or 11 kilometers as the crow flies from Rocamadour.

It is one of France's emblematic chasms and caves. Its orifice is 35 meters in diameter and it plunges to a depth of 75 meters from the surface of the causse or limestone plateau. At 103 meters below the ground, flows a river, that of Padirac. The latter flows through a network of underground galleries over 40 kilometers long.

History and particularity of the abyss

The Gouffre de Padirac contains more than a century and a half of history. Behind its more or less disturbing aspect, it seduces the human imagination.

Excavations carried out at the bottom of the abyss have made it possible to determine the existence of various remains of vases, kitchen utensils and iron weapons. Examination of the latter reveals their origin, which dates back to around the 14th century. The occupants of the places may be inhabitants of Padirac who used the abyss to hide from the English soldiers. Indeed, the English completely razed the village during the Hundred Years War.

In 1867, Mr. De Salvagnac and Count Murat explored the abyss using a basket tied to a rope. However, it was not until 1889 that its small opening leading to the underground river was discovered. It is Edouard-Alfred Martel who is at the origin of this discovery. For his first expedition with his companions, he explored 1640 meters of underground galleries.

Considered to be the father of modern speleology, Edouard-Alfred Martel chose to share his extraordinary discovery. It was then that he decided to buy around the site. For lack of financial means, he won the support of Georges Beamish. With the help of the latter, he manages to open the underground gallery to the public by allowing them to make a visit covering 22 kilometers in all. The official inauguration of its opening to the general public took place in April 1899.

Currently, nearly 42 kilometers of galleries are explored. Also, the chasm is one of the hundred longest natural underground cavities.

Description of the chasm

The Gouffre de Padirac was formed nearly 180 million years ago during the Jurassic Period. At that time, a shallow sea covered a large majority of France except Brittany. It is a Jurassic sea rich in sediments or aquatic contributions such as shellfish, crustaceans and fish.

Geology and structure of the cave

In its early days, the Gouffre de Padirac was above all a limestone plateau. Its appearance occurs after the constitution of the Pyrenees and following the tectonic movements of the plates which cause cracks and faults.

Underground marvels: stalactites, stalagmites, concretions

The chasm consists mainly of limestone forming stalactites and stalagmites. This is due to the marine invasion that takes place during the Jurassic period. The stalagmite displays the shape of a plateau and displays a slower development.

As for the formation of the stalactite, it is due to erosion and the circulation of water through the faults. The gallery is also composed of gours. These are small dams that form transversely to an underground flow. The speleothems or concretions present in the abyss result from the crystallization of calcium carbonate which takes the form of calcite. The latter is at the origin of the draperies, waterfalls, stalagmites and stalactites in its galleries.

Visits and activities

The visit to the Gouffre de Padirac takes between one and two hours depending on the distance you wish to travel through the galleries.

Guided tour of the cave

When visitors arrive at the reception pavilion, they are equipped with their exploration companions. An interactive and innovative multimedia guide is also allocated to adults.

The descent into the abyss can be done on foot or using an elevator. Once arrived at 103 meters below the ground, the visit of the site takes place aboard a boat and in the company of a guide-boatman. During the visit, we discover a succession of candelabras, concretions and calcite waterfalls that nature has shaped over millions of years.

Throughout the visit, one can successively discover a giant and long stalactite of more than 60 meters. This is the Grande Pendeloque, it is suspended above the Lac des Gours, the Lac de la Pluie and the room of the Grand Dôme. It has a total of almost 94 meters high under the ceiling.

Prices and opening hours

To enjoy exploring the Gouffre de Padirac, there are different rates depending on the profile of each visitor. Among other things, you have to pay:

  • 19.50 euros for an adult
  • 18 euros for a child over 12 years old
  • 14.50 euros for a child from 4 to 12 years old

Admission is free for children under 4 years old. A preferential rate also exists for adults and children from 4 to 12 years old. They are 18 euros and 12.50 euros. To benefit from it, you must present a valid proof. The special prices are dedicated to people with disabilities and their companion. Apart from that, there is also the possibility of privatizing the premises.

Accommodation and catering

For people who want to relax or retire from the city, the town of Padirac offers various lodges and accommodation.

Hotels, lodges, campsites nearby

Accommodation of all kinds follow one another around the underground site of Padirac. Each establishment has its uniqueness and its services. Some are several tens of meters from the abyss, others require a journey of several kilometres. You are free to choose the setting in which you wish to stay during your visit to Padirac. There are the stars with 1 to 4 stars, bed and breakfasts, special accommodations and condominium apartments.

Campsite La Bourgnatelle

This campsite enjoys a plush location in the Dordogne valley. It is located along the river "La Cère" which is located within a natural site. Its geographical location allows you to enjoy the most splendid villages in France. It also represents the central point to discover the valley. In addition, its location gives access to services, markets and trade in regional products.

Restaurant and snack on site

To take full advantage of this underground gallery of Padirac, you can have lunch on site. You can extend your adventure by tasting the dishes of the Auberge du Gouffre. It is located a few meters from the reception point of the site. You can taste Quercy lamb, foie gras, trout, fresh sausages...

A refreshment bar is also available in the heart of the park. This solution is perfect for eating on the go and for dining outdoors. For gourmets and gourmands, a visit to the delicatessen kiosk. There are local products of very good quality and finely selected.

Useful information

Are you planning a visit to the Gouffre de Padirac or planning to do so? Here is the information to consider.

Access and transport

Being located in the center of the Dordogne, the Gouffre de Padirac is accessible in several different ways. For example, it is 20 minutes from Rocamadour using the D673 and 45 minutes by car from Figeac using the D840.

Several shuttles and coaches also serve the place where the underground site is located. There is line 876 and line 877. You can also get there by plane from Brive-Vallée, Périgueux, Toulouse and Bordeaux airports. Traveling by train from Rocamadour, Gramat and Brive is also possible in addition to using a taxi.

Prices and opening hours

The site is open from March 31 to November 13, 2023. During its opening days, you can go there from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Otherwise, you have the choice between a group rate and an individual rate as mentioned above. For the first possibility, it is necessary to be at least 20 people to benefit from a reduced rate. Eventually, the proposed price changes during periods of high and low influence.

Equipment and visit advice

No regulations are imposed regarding the equipment and clothing to be worn during the visit. On the other hand, it is advisable to wear a long-sleeved top and trousers or a long skirt to avoid getting cold. The temperature under the gallery is 13°C throughout the year. Walking shoes are preferable to fully enjoy your walk and the discovery visit.

Nearby sights

Other tourist sites symbolizing the Dordogne are also to be visited around Padirac. Among others, there are:

  • the castles of the region
  • the gardens of the region
  • the picturesque villages
  • local markets


By visiting the Gouffre de Padirac, you become for one day an explorer making a leap in time.

Overview of the marvels of the Gouffre de Padirac

This unusual place reflects a descent into the world of underground wonders. Its underground lakes and rivers as well as the landscape visible underground are beyond imagination.

Recommendations for your visit

In order to better organize your visit, it is important to plan several days or several weeks in advance.