Grotte historique de Cova Bastera

Useful Information

Location: Villefranche-de-Conflent, Pyrénées-Orientales Department (66).
N116 Perpignan-Andorre, opposite the Medieval city of Villefranche de Conflent.
Open: JUN daily 11:30-16:30.
JUL to AUG daily 11-19.
SEP daily 11:30-16:30.
French school holidays daily 11:30-16:30.
Fee: Adults EUR 7, Children (6-16) EUR 5, Children (0-3) free.
Two caves: discount EUR 3.
Three caves: discount EUR 6.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=14 °C.
Guided tours: Photography and videos allowed.
Address: Les 3 Grottes, Edmond Delonca, 2 rue Saint-Jacques, 66500 Villefranche-de-Conflent, Tel: +33-468-052020, Fax: +33-468-807684. E-mail: contact
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.


1095 city of Villefranche de Conflent founded by Guillaume-Raymond, comte de Cerdagne.
1674 de Vauban decides to fortify the cave.
1707 cave turned into fortifications by de Vauban.
1983 cave abandoned by the military and purchased by Elie Castillo, opened as a show cave.
1988 inherited by Bernard Castillo.
07-JUL-2008 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Grotte Cova Bastera is also named historic cave or prehistoric cave or even Cova Bastera prehisto-grotte. If you look at the cave it resembles casemates or cellars, so probably they mean "artificial" when they call it "historic" cave? No, its also a prehistoric cave, and during the stone age man used natural caves, they did not have the means to dig an artificial cave. So actually there is a natural cave with a huge entrance portal, it was used during the last Ice Age and the remains were excavated. Later it was integrated into the fortifications of the city by Sébastien Le Prestre, marquis de Vauban. This man, better known as Maréchal de Vauban was the best architect of fortifications of his time, a genious and the creator of virtually hundreds of fortifications. A natural cave like Cova Bastera could be a weakness in a fortification, but he integrated it into the construction and made it an asset.

The cave was part of the military structure for a long time and as such it was not possible to visit it.

The cave is entered through the escalier souterrain (subterranean staircase) which connects the city fortifications with the cave. The first part of the cave is the fortified part, which was stabilized by walls and vaults, and looks like casemates. From here a military post was able to control the road through the valley. This part of the cave is used to explain the military use of the cave. It is the reason why the cave was inscribed into the UNESCO WHL list, together with the rest of the fortifications. The next part of the cave is much less modified. This is the Paleolithic section, where remains of prehistoric man were discovered. Dioramas show the daily life and a bear hunt. The third part of the cave, deeper inside the rock, is dedicated to the Jurassic, the time in which the rock was formed. There are life size reconstructions of dinosaurs. All in all the cave is more like a theme park than a museum, and despite the scientific background it is definitely intended as an amusement for kids.