Grotte des Demoiselles

Cave of the Fairies


Useful Information

Location: Saint-Bauzille de Putois (Hérault). North of Monpellier.
(43.907554, 3.744731)
Open: 2nd Sun in FEB to FEB daily 9-17:30, tours 11, 13, 14:30, 16.
MAR daily 9-17:30, Mon-Fri 13, 14:30, 16, Sat, Sun, Hol 11, 13, 14:30, 16.
APR to MAY daily 9-18, tours 10:30, 11:30, 13, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
JUN Mon-Fri 9-17, tours 11, 13, 14:30, 15:30, Sat, Sun 9-18, tours 11, 13, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
JUL TO AUG daily 9-19:30, tours between 10 and 18.
SEP daily 9-18:30, tours hourly at half hour.
OCT daily 10:50-17:30, tours at 11, 13, 14:30, 16.
NOV to DEC Mon-Fri 10:45-17:30, tours at 11, 13, 14:30, 16, Sat, Sun 14-17:30, tours at 14:30, 16.
Closed on 01-JAN.
[2021]
Fee: Adults EUR 12.50, Children (12-17) EUR 9.50, Children (4-11) EUR 7.90, Children (-6) free, Students EUR 10.90, Unemployed EUR 10.90.
Audioguide EUR 1.50.
Groups (20+): reservation required.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: electric.
Dimension: T=14 °C.
Guided tours: D=80 min. V=150,000/a [2000] Audioguide English Deutsch - German Nederlands - Dutch Español - Spanish
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography: Guilhelm de Gruilly (1989): La Grotte Des Demoiselles, Grapho 12, ISBN 2950171427
Sophie Rihs, Jean Poidevin, Michel Condomines (1999): Premiers âges U/Th sur la grotte des Demoiselles (Hérault) : évolution karstique et relation paléoclimatique [First U/Th ages from the « Grotte des Demoiselles » (Hérault-France) : karstic evolution and palaeoclimatic relationship] Quaternaire. 10. 293-297. 10.3406/quate.1999.1650. researchgate
Address: Grotte des Demoiselles, Saint-Bauzille de Putois, F-34190 Ganges, Tel: +33-467-737002, Fax: +33-467-733232.
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

known for a very long time.
13th century first known visit of the cave.
07-JUL-1780 first exploration by Ms Lonjon, his son, and Benoît Joseph Marsollier de Vivetières.
15-JUL-1780 the same people plus some more explore the cave.
1822 visited by Professor Amelin.
1834 visited by the author Alphonse de Cailleux who described this visit in the book Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans ancienne France (Picturesque and Romantic Journeys in Old France).
1884 first visited by ExplainEdouard Alfred Martel
1889 second visit by ExplainEdouard Alfred Martel
1897 explored by ExplainEdouard Alfred Martel
1929 the Société des Sites et Monuments du Languedoc Méditerranéeen (Languedoc Mediterranean Sites and Monuments Society) decided to drill a tunnel to allow the people to discover this wonder of nature.
1931 funicular and cave opened to the public.
1970 new explorations by GSUM, the speleologists from Montpellier University and the cave guide Gaston Issert.
1973 more explorations reveal more chambers with extraordinary speleothems.
1998 closed for refurbishment.
2002 reopened with new facilities.

Description

The Grotte des Demoiselles is a large cave located near Saint-Bauzille-de-Putois in the Hérault valley. The entry to the cave is at the foot of the southern cliff of the Massif du Thaurac. This region is known amon wine enthusiasts as terraces of the Larzac and well known for its wine. A technical highlight of the cave tour is the funicular, which goes up 54 m into the cave through a 160 m long 36% inclined tunnel. Thus visitors avoid to climb 300 steps to reach the level of the cave passage.

The first chamber contains a photo of an reassembled skeleton of a cave bear (Usus spelaeus) which was discovered during the development in 1929. The skeleton is at the Montpellier University. The cave has numerous speleothems which seem to be quite old. An attempt to date them resulted in an age of nearly 700,000 years for the concretions that formed on the stalagmites and columns. Or in other words, the the concretions which grew on the existing and thus older stalagmite are 700.000 years old. The cave is obviously even older, because the floor existed as it is today when the massive speleothems started to grow. An exceptional shawl or drapery can be seen, which iscalled The Royal Coat. It was named by André Breton, the famous French writer leader of the surrealist movement, in one of his books, L'amour fou. He compared it to the coat of a Hawaiian chief, sparkling under the spotlights! A column or stalagnate cane be seen, with a circumference of 16 m.

The tour descends to the impressive Cathedral, the biggest chamber which is 120 m long and 52 m high. After the tour through the cave you return to the funicular. Visitors who want to walk the staircase can do so downwards on the way back if they want.

Descending the pass between the Esperou and Lingas mountains one enters the Hérault Gorge. Just past Ganges the Grotte de Demoiselles (Fairies Cave) is to be found. The original entrance to this cave was at the top of the hill, but with a touch of engineering genius, the owner bored a 180 m long tunnel from the cliff face, half way up the hill at an angle of 45°. The spoil from the tunnel was used to make an extensive terrace car park. An electrically assisted rock railway takes one up to the natural cave.

A series of narrow, winding passages, 6 to 10 m high leads to the Upper Entrance. The guide then prepares visitors for the piece de resistance of the trip, an enormous chamber called the Salle de Vierge (The Virgin's Hall) which measures 86 m across and is 52 m high. The tour is cunningly planned, going first to near the bottom of the chamber, then upwards towards the roof, then around the chamber, in and out of the formations, and finally returning to the starting point. Our guide was a real comedian, and at one stage of the tour he began to beat out a turn on some formations. He and the audience became very engrossed in the rhythm, and when he had finished he was met with loud, enthusiastic applause, the man should take his act to an agent.


Text by Tony Oldham (2003). Based on an article in The British Caver Vol 58 1972 by Jim Smart. With kind permission.

In former centuries strange creatures could be seen on the Plateau du Thaurac. The farmers of the area often saw strange things in white clothes around a well known cave entrance. One of these farmers named Jean, who had seen the creatures himself, decided to find out where they were coming from and what they were doing. He was obviously braver and more curious than the others.

Jean entered the cave in the evening at sundown. First he did not discover anything and after some hours he became tired, he sat down and fell asleep. At midnight he awoke by bright white light and saw a woman who held a child on her arms. She told him to follow her, and he obeyed, but he fell into a deep pit where he passed out.

After some time, he did not know how much, he came to his senses again. But the whole scene had changed, the huge chamber was lighted in red, producing light reflections which run down the stalagmites like blood. It looked as if the pools were filled with molten metal. On a huge pedestal the woman with the child stood, around her almost naked women dancing with open hair. The sounds of laughing devils is coming from the dark places of the cave. A deep roaring was sounding up from a deep pit. Again he passed out.

The next day Jean was found in the cave by friends. After they brought him back to consciousness, he told this story. So the cave was named Bauma de las Fadas (Cave of the Fairies).


Old Legend.

Obviously this story does not tell about the fairies known from fairy tales, good beings granting wishes. This fairies are like bad witches, and mangle with the devil. Quite strange is, that they did not harm Jean, he just fell into a pit. And from the modern viewpoint one would say he became fearful in the dark cave, did not watch his steps, fell down a shaft and became hallucinations because of his heavy injuries. Most likely he banged his head.

A shepherd was looking for a lost lamb who wandered into the swallow hole that marked the entrance to the cave. He heard the lamb but could not see it, and so he continued deeper and deeper into the cave, until he reached the chamber now known as the cathédrale (cathedral). With only a torch for light, he slipped and fell to the bottom of the chamber, a 60-metre plunge. Knocked senseless by the shock, he noticed — just before passing out — a group of young ladies dancing and singing around him. When he woke up, he was back on the surface with his lamb.