Grottes de Vallorbe

Grotte aux Fées de Vallorbe


Useful Information

Location: 3 km SW Vallorbe.
30 km NE Lausanne. Street to the parking lot near the hydroelectric power plant. 300 m to cave entrance.
(46.698206, 6.345762)
Open: MAR daily 13:30-16.
APR to MAY daily 9:30-16:30.
JUN to AUG daily 9:30-17:30.
SEP to OCT daily 9:30-16:30.
NOV daily 13:30-16.
[2021]
Fee: Adults CHF 16, Children (6-15) CHF 8.
Groups (12+): Adults CHF 14, Children (6-15) CHF 7.
Guided tour CHF 80.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyriver cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=8-11 °C, A=776 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided, D=60 min. Audioguide for smartphone, free download from playstore.
Photography: allowed, no flash, no tripod.
Accessibility:  
Bibliography:  
Address: L'Office du Tourisme de Vallorbe, Grandes-Forges 11, Case postale 90, 1337 Vallorbe, Tel: +41-21-823-2583, Fax: +41-21-843-2262. E-mail: contact
Grottes de Vallorbe, Chemin des Grottes, 1337 Vallorbe, Tel: +41-21-843-2274. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1893 a diver enters the spring for the first time and reaches a depth of 11 m.
1962 cave discovered by cave divers behind the spring.
07-APR-1974 opened to the public.
1987 second tunnel built and tour extended.
1992 mineral exhibition the «Le Trésor des Fées» (Treasure of the Fairies) opened.

Description

The entrance of the Grottes de Vallorbe is close to the source of the Orbe, a very nice karst spring. The river Orbe gave its name to the valley (Val d'Orbe) and the town Vallorbe, which is just a short form of Val d'Orbe. The cave is a long and winding tunnel leading to the subterranean river Orbe. It contains beautiful speleothems like straws and calcite crystals. The cave is visited with audioguide, a free app with the text in three languages must be installed from the appstore. We recommend doing this at home and downloading the audiofiles in your langauge too. Guided tours are offered only on appointment and at an additional fee.

The cave and its hydrological situation are quite interesting. In 1962, divers tried to dive the siphon of this spring and discovered the cave behind it for the first time. In 1966, several hundred metres of galleries had already been discovered. It took 12 years until it was finally opened to the public. A company was founded with the purpose to create a show cave, and it took some years to collect enough money and build an 80 m long artificial tunnel. The infrastructure and facilities were constantly improved. A second tunnel was drilled to add further parts of the cave to the tour in 1987.

For a few years now the Dairy at Lignerolle is maturing semi soft cheese in the cave. The cheese maker Steve Berger had the idea to mature his cheeses in a natural environment. The caves offer a temperature of 11 °C and a humidity of 92 %. The cheese is rubbed down once a week and is matured for four months. The annual production is 625 cheese wheels or 5 tonnes. The cheese is sold at the cave entrance, five shops at Vallorbe, and a dozen specialty shops between Yverdon-les-Bains and Lausanne.

The legend of Donat
In ancient times, according to local legends, the Grotte aux Fées was inhabited by fairies, hence the name. A young and handsome blacksmith from Vallorbe by the name of Donat ventured to the cave to check whether this was really true. He found a bed of ferns, and tired of his walk, he fell asleep. When he woke up, the cave brightly lit and at his side was a fairy which was named Vallda. She asked him to live with her inside the cave. She offered a gold coin and a pearl a day and access to knowledge for a century. However, the fairy forbade him to see her in her chambers. The young man accepted with joy.
But he was curious, and a few days later, when she was sleeping, he sneaked into her chamber and noticed her feet were shaped like a crow's foot. The fairy woke up, went mad, and chased him out of the cave. She warned him, not to reveal anything of what he had seen, or she would punish him. But Donat told the whole story when he returned, with the result that the people laughed at him. He tried to proof his story by showing the pearls and gold coins he had received. But his gold coins had turned into dead leaves, and the pearls into grains of juniper. Furious and humiliated he left the country and was never seen again.
After Philippe-Sirice Bridel (1829): Conservateur suisse, vol 12.

The legends of fairies seem to be quite popular in Switzerland. In 1843, the scholar Alfred Maury noted that "fairies unquestionably occupy one of the first ranks in the popular traditions of our region". Fairies are often interpreted as the survival of deities and spirits of pagan beliefs, especially Greco-Roman and Celtic areas. There are so many different traditions and myths that it is very difficult to precisely characterize the appearance of fairies. But some motives, like spending many years in their realm without aging and valuables which either turn into invaluable stuff like leaves, or probably never were real, are quite common. Also the idea that fairies are actually not human and the human appearance is just a magic trick, are also common.

The popularity of fairies made the name Grotte aux Fées quite popular too. Unfortunately this is a reason for frequent mix-ups, there is actually a second show cave in Switzerland with the same name. And Switzerland has only ten show caves. This is the reason why we listed this cave as Grottes de Vallorbe, which is also a common name of the cave.

The Orbe valley does not end at the cave and resurgence. The source of the Orbe is the Lac des Rousses near the town Les Rousses, more than 30 km southwest at 1070 m asl. After 20 km the river flows into Lac de Joux, which is connected to Lac de Brenet at the village Le Pont. Its meandering flow is actually the reason for its name: orb means curve in the local French dialect. The level of the two lakes is at a height of 1,000 m asl. The lakes have no outflow, the water sinks into swallow holes under the lake on the northeastern shore. After flowing through the cave it reappears at a height of 820 m asl, 2.5 km to the northeast. The hydrological connection was proven around 1900, but the river has the same name above and below, so we guess the people knew about the connection for a long time.

The source de l'Orbe (Orbe Spring) is the largest karst apring in Switzerland in terms of average flow. Its catchment area is estimated at more than 200 km². The water originates from the upper river Orbe, but also from the precipitation on the land between the valley and the resurgence. And the karst of the northern mountain ridge, the anticlinale du Risoux, also drains into this spring. The valley around the cave, between Vallorbe and the cave entrance, is called reculée de La Dernier (dead valley of the Dernier). It has numerous springs, though they are dry most of the year. In periods of flooding, the rock faces are covered by waterfalls and streams, water gushes out from everywhere and the springs have an enormous production. The main springs are the émergence de l'Orbe, the émergence des grottes aux Fées, and the émergence des Gerlettes.