Grotte du Cerdon

Parc de Loisirs Préhistoriques


Useful Information

Location: route Departementale 1084, 01450 La Balme sur Cerdon.
At the side of the RN 84 between Ambérieu and Nantua. From the A42 it is 10 minutes from the Pont d'Ain exit. From the A40 + A4040 it is 10 minutes from the St Martin du Fresne exit.
(46.095141, 5.477819)
Open: APR Sat, Sun, Hol 13-17.
MAY-JUN, SEP-OCT Sat, Sun, Hol 12:30-18.
JUL-AUG daily 10-18, tour every 20 min.
SEP Sat, Sun, Hol 12-18.
OCT Sat, Sun, Hol 13-17.
Guided tours: at 11, 14:30, 16:30.
Storytelling Tour: Sun 13.
Be at the reception 15 minutes earlier.
[2003]
Fee: Adults EUR 10, Children (4-11) EUR 7, Children (0-3) free, Disabled EUR 9.
Prehistoric Activities: Adults EUR 12.50, Children (4-11) EUR 12.50, Children (0-3) free, Disabled EUR 10.75.
Combi: Adults EUR 15.50, Children (4-11) EUR 15.50, Children (0-3) free, Disabled EUR 13.95.
[2023]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=1,200 m, VR=125 m, T=4-14 °C.
Guided tours: D=75 min.
V=30,000/a [2015]
Photography: allowed, no flash, no tripod
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Les Grottes du Cerdon, route Departementale 1084, 01450 La Balme sur Cerdon, Tel: +33-474-373679. 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

1914 first archaeological excavation at the cave.
1933 cave purchased by a cheese maker.
1959 end of cheese making.

Description

The Grottes du Cerdon is named after the nearby village La Balme sur Cerdon. The tour is a loop through a cave with a huge main passage and three entrances. The first entrance is a swallow hole, where once a now gone river left the surface and flowed underground though the cave. Before the end of this main through cave there is a huge collapse, where the path goes up the debris pile and leaves the cave. This is the short route, which generally takes 45 minutes. There is a trail following the main passage to the cave exit, originally the resourgence of the cave river, but today a belvedere overlooking the vineyards of Cerdon. This detour has a substantial height difference, and thus it is optional. It takes additional 30 minutes.

The cave is used by man since prehistoric times. The second entrance in the middle of the cliff face was of great strategic importance, it allowed to survey the whole area. There are legend it was used as a fortification during the last centuries, beiút neither archaeological nor written evidence. The legend also claims that all fortifications in the valley were connected underground by a vast cave system. The cave was purchased in the 1930s by a cheese maker, who used the entrance hall to refine his Bleu de Gex cheese. He observed bats semmling vanishing and reappearing high up in the wall of the chamber and actually built a wooden staircase to reach the spot. He discovered the upper level of the cave. For the transport of the cheese he installed a funicular down the slope of the entrance. There was a huge platform with wooden shelves, and numerous trails. This development was obviously the beginning of the show cave.

There are actually three different types of visits available, which have the same entrance fee. The first is a self-guided tour through the cave. In this case you should download the audioguide onto your smartphone before you start. Its available in Français - French English Nederlands - Dutch Deutsch - German Español - Spanish. This is not the only modern technology, the path is under video surveillance and there is an intercom system to call the staff in case of emergency. The second tour is guided, but there are only three times per day and places are limited. So it is necessary to buy the ticket online of book a certain time, for which the ticket is valid. And the major drawback for foreign tourists: there are only French guides. And the third is a special tour for children, which is also booked online, check the booking system for available times. It is intended for 4-6 year old children, who will reenact the story of the water including some legends and fairy tales. For this tour its necessary that an adult accompanies the children and that visitors arrive 20 minutes before the ebgin, for necessary preparations. Also, the tours are offered only on Sundays at 13 and require a combi ticket.

On the plateau above the cave is the Parc de Loisirs Préhistoriques, a reconstruction of daily life during Prehistoric times. It is intended mostly for school children, and offers prehistoric workshops. Learn how to handle the tools to make fire using friction and percussion, or make some pottery. Learn to hunt using the spear thrower, which makes it possible to throw the speat twice as far by extending the lever of the arms. It seems the activities are quite popular with children. It's possible to visit the cave and park independently, but it is also possible to visit both with a combi ticket. The visit of the cave and the workshops takes the full day, you should arrive upon opening.

The activities in the Prehistoric Park are outdoors activities intended for children and adults, children must be accompanied by an adult. You should wear appropriate clothes which might get dirty, probably bring clothes to change afterwards. During rain most activities will take place inside, except for transporting megaliths and throwing spears.

Six km from the picturesque village of Cerdon on the RN 40 country road between the gorges of l'Ain and the Lake of Nantua. Facilities include a vast parking area for cars, picnic places in the woods, a kiosk with a bar and good walking country.

A short ride on a miniature train takes the visitor to the entrance. Here a vast network of halls and galleries leads to a splendid panoramic view point in a cliff face. Many years ago the largest chamber in the cave was used as an underground store room for cheese. The magnificent speleothems make this a trip to remember.


Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.