Les Grottes Isturitz et Oxocelhaya

Grotte d'Isturitz - Grotte d'Oxocelhaya

Useful Information

Location: Isturitz, Department Pyrénées-Atlantique.
A64 (E80) exit 3 Briscous, D21 to Hasparren, D23 to Saint-Martin-d'Arberoue. Turn left to Isturitz, at Isturitz turn left. Signposted.
Open: 15-MAR to MAY daily 14-17.
JUN daily 11, 12, 14-17.
JUL to AUG daily 10-13, 14-18, tours every 20 minutes.
SEP 11, 12, 14-17.
OCT to 15-NOV 14-17.
16-NOV to 14-MAR for groups after appointment.
Special tour prehistory and geology: every Sun.
Fee: Adults EUR 8.50, Children (7-14) EUR 3.60, Children (0-6) free, Family (2+3) EUR 25.
Special tour prehistory and geology: Adults EUR 12.50.
Groups (45+): Adults EUR 6.80, Children (7-14) EUR 3.10.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=14 °C.
Guided tours: D=45 min. Français - French English Español - Spanish V=90,000/a [2000]
Bibliography: A. Turq, C. Normand, H. Valladas, Saint-Martin-d'Arberoue (1999): Grotte d'Isturitz, Bilan Scientifique 1998. Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles, Service Régional de l'Archaéologie. Bordeaux 1999.
Address: Les Grottes Isturitz et Oxocelhaya, Oxocelhaya, 64640 St-Martin-d'Arberoue, Tel: +33-559-296472, Tel: +33-559-296472, Fax: +33-559-473017. 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.


1895 artifacts discovered inside Grotte d'Isturitz.
1912-1922 excavations by Emmanuel Passemard.
1929 Grotte d'Oxocelhaya discovered.
1953 tunnel between Grotte d'Isturitz and Grotte d'Oxocelhaya built.
1999 excavations.


The Grottes Isturitz et Oxocelhaya are actually two different caves. The first one was Grotte d'Isturitz, which was known for a long time. It was named after nearby hamlet Isturitz, which belongs to St-Martin-d'Arberoue. During the 19th century the cave was mined for its phosphate, bat dung which was used as a fertilizer. In 1895 the mine workers mining the guano discovered rocks, which seemed to be artificialy altered. Presented to Eduard Piette, one of the most important archaeologists of this time, he immediatley realized the importance of the discovery. But it took several years, until in 1912 the first excavation was carried out by Emmanuel Passemard. Between 1912 and 1922 he discovered a rich collection of artefacts of daily life.

During the first and second excavation numerous important discoveries were made. The cave was inhabited for 80,000 years, between the Moustérien and the Magdalenian. The findings are on exhibition in the Musée de St-Germain-en-Laye. Only the findings from the Aurginacien era were given to the Musée National des Eyzies in Les Eyzies. Some of the most impressive discoveries, semi circular sticks with lines and other engravings, are on display at the cave.

The second cave, Grotte d'Oxocelhaya, was discovered in 1929 by accident. The owner of the cave developed the second cave with trails and opened it to the public. In 1953 he finally constructed a tunnel between the Grotte d'Isturitz and Grotte d'Oxocelhaya, which allowed to visit both in one tour. While the first cave is worn down by millennia of human use, mining and excavations, but famous for its archaeological importance, is the second cave natable for its fine speleothems. There are stalactites, stalagmites, discs, and rimstone pools. But it also had been accessible to ancient man. 30 cave painting have been discovered, lines and patterns, painted with the fingers usind clay, and framed by charcoal lines. The paintings are not accessible to protect them, but pretty good copies may be seen on the tour.

The two caves, which are not connected naturally, belong to the same drainage system. They represent two levels formed during subsequent times by the waters of the river Arberoue. The caves are located inside a hill which is called Gaztelu.