2240, route de l'Aven, 07150 Orgnac l'Aven.
Near Orgnac l'Aven. Motorway Lyon-Marseille, exit Bollene, through Pont St Esprit, towards Barjac. Well signposted. 25 km west of the Rhône Valley. 18 km south of Pont d'Arc.
FEB to FEB daily 13:45-18.
MAR daily 9:45-12:30, 13:45-18.
APR to JUN daily 9:45-17:30.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-19.
OCT to 15-NOV daily 9:45-12, 14-18.
Christmas school holidays daily 13:45-18.
Closed 25-DEC, 01-JAN.
Adults EUR 14.90, Children (15-18) EUR 11.90, Children (6-14) EUR 9.90, Children (0-5) free, Students EUR 11.90, Unemployed EUR 11.90.
Disabled: Adults EUR 9, Children EUR 6.50.
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System Son et Lumière|
|Dimension:||L=4,000 m, T=12 °C.|
L=500 m, VR=121 m, D=60 min.
Audioguide download for free from website.
Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Christophe Gauchon, Stéphane Jaillet (2007):
L'Aven d'Orgnac, valorisation touristique, apports scientifiques
Coordinateurs : Fabien Hobléa ; Emmanuel Reynard ; Jean Jacques Delannoy.
Collection EDYTEM, pp.184, 2007, Collection Edytem, Cahiers de Géographie n° 5, ISBN 2-9520432-4-8.
Robert de Joly, A. Perret (1946): L’Aven d’Orgnac Ardèche. H. Peladan, Uzès 1946, OCLC 370740774.
Guy Rieu, Yves Goepfert (1983): Aven d’Orgnac Grottes. Éditions Aio, Le Cannet 1983, OCLC 461969784.
Aven d'Orgnac, 2240, route de l'Aven, 07150 Orgnac l'Aven, Tel: +33-475-386510.
Musée Régional de Préhistoire, Tel: +33-475-386510.
|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.
|19-AUG-1935||discovered by Robert de Joly and Abbé Glory.|
|1938||120 m long tunnel to the first room built.|
|11-JUL-1939||opened to the public.|
|14-APR-1940||Orgnac changes its name into Orgnac-l'Aven by decree.|
|1946||declared a Natural Monument.|
|1948||reception building inaugurated.|
|1955||tourist trail extended to include the Red Chamber, route is now 1,000 m long.|
|1965||elevator from the Joly Chamber to the surface installed.|
|01-AUG-1965||new sections of the cave called Orgnac II, III and IV, discovered.|
|03-AUG-1965||new discoveries visited by some forty people including the sub-prefect, the municipal council and the press.|
|12-SEP-1975||undeveloped cave parts visited by the Secretary of State for Tourism and the Prefect of Ardèche.|
|1988||Regional Museum of Prehistory created at the instigation of Jean Combier, then Director of Prehistoric Antiquities for the Rhône-Alpes Region.|
|1993||ventilation drilling from the second Red Room to the surface.|
|2002||major renovation with elevator and new light.|
|2003||second lift from the entrance to the Red Rooms installed.|
|JUN-2004||cave is awarded Grand site de France.|
|2011||Regional Museum of Prehistory closed.|
|2014||Cité de la Préhistoire (City of prehistory) opened, offering experimental archaeology.|
This cave is characterised by big chambers, between 30 and 50 m high. These enormous chambers are the reason why it contains the characteristic Palm Trunk Stalagmites. This enormous cave system has a natural entrance, a deep pit close to the village Orgnac, called le trou du Bertras (the hole of Bertras). So it is easy to understand, why the cave later was called Aven d'Orgnac (Abyss of Orgnac).
The cave is a major tourist attraction of the area and has an enormous amount of visitors (100.000 to 120.000 per year). The whole entrance area is designed to allow further visits and information. There is the regional Musée Régional de Préhistoire (Regional prehistoric museum) and a geologic exhibition, a pedagogic center for visiting school classes, and of course a cafe and a shop.
The cave development was a bit difficult, as the cave entrance is a pothole, a narrow and deep pit. The tour starts with a long staircase down an artificial tunnel which ends in the Entrance Hall at the foot of the natural entrance. Below the entrance hole is a huge pile of debris, which consists of rocks and animal bones. The rocks fell down from the entrance shaft above, after they were loosened by frost, and the animals entered the cave involuntarily by accident. The discovered animal bones included deer. The first chamber is also called Salle Robert de Joly (Robert de Joly Chamber), after the discoverer and shows the original entrance from inside, where the original discoverers abseiled. This huge chamber is 125 m long, 90 m wide, and has an area of 10,000 m² and is full of Palm Trunk Stalagmites. Their formation is a result of the height of the 35 m high ceiling. The dripping water falls very deep, gets a lot of speed and burst into smaller droplets when it hits the floor, covering a circular area of some diameter. The result are the plates, which are the reason why those stalagmites are also called stack of plates stalagmites. The biggest in this chamber is called Cône d'éboulis (Pine Cone) and is 11 m high. The height is quite spectacular, nevertheless it is exaggerated, we read heights of up to 20 m. The floor is full of debris and inclined, the trail winds down the continuous descend clockwise around the hall to the other end.
The next chamber is called Salle du Chaos (Chaos Chamber), which has a lower ceiling and no palm trunc stalagmites. It is also called Petit Salle (Small Chamber) as it is "only" 78 m long, 58 m wide, and 30 m high. With an area of 2,719 m² it actually has 14 % of the total area of Orgnac I. The speleothems here are stalactites and stalagmites in various colours like white, brownish, beige, and reddish, a result of the iron oxides and other impurities in the limestone. Some stalagmites were dated to be 15,000 years old. There are also numerous large draperies or bacon rinds, which look like a curtain, thin and wavy.
The third chamber is the Les Salles Rouges (Red Chambers), which is the place where we reach the horizontal level of the cave, a huge tunnel created by an underground river 6 million years ago. The huge chamber contains a few quite spectacular large formations. Actually the name is plural, as the chamber widens and narrows, and each widening is seen as one chamber, but both are called Red Chambers. This is the place where the mandatory Son et Lumière, the light show with music, takes place. This level is about 121 m below the entrance.
After the light show, an elevator brings the dazed visitors back to the surface in less than a minute. While the visit is actually not suitable for disabled, its only slowly descending, and thus it is not strenuous at all. Other show caves at the Ardèche valley require an ascent of 120 m at the end of the tour, which may be a little tiring. The first elevator was installed in 1965, and at that time the cave reached visitor numbers between 100.000 and 120.000 per year. This makes it the most popular cave in the Ardèche area, except for the painted cave.
On 19-AUG-1935, some inhabitants of Orgnac led Robert de Joly to the puits Bertras (Bertras Cave). It was a shaft and nobody had entered this shaft before. Robert de Joly explored tha abyss with four teammates, Glory, Latour, Petit and Chagnard, to the bottom of the Salles Rouges. When he returned from the trip, he had a report drawn up and signed by three municipal councillors who certified the authenticity of the exploration. Then he informed the municipality of Orgnac of his discovery. The cave was on communal ground, so they actually owned it, and as he had immediately realized the touristic value of the cavern, he wrote a letter to the mayor on the same evening. He enthusiastically wrote about the great cave and was able to convince him to develop the cave. Despite the technical difficulties, the cave was quickly developed and opened to the public in 1939.
The cave which was originally discovered and was developed as a show cave is only a small part of the cave system. While the speleologists tried to find new parts of the cave, the municipality tried to increase the number of visitors. The year 1965 brought two great novelties, the elevator and the discovery of a huge cave system. The originally discovered part was then called Orgnac I, the sections explored 1965 and 1966 were called Orgnac II, III and IV.
While the speleologists had supported the show cave with all their means, the town hall of Orgnac would have preferred to stop all exploration. Also, the cavers reasoned that further development and a second entrance would be the next logical step. The municipality blocked any such development. Finally, the cavers realized, that the newly discovered parts were the property of the neighbouring village Issirac. They had no show cave income and welcomed any idea for such a development. As a result Orgnac actually blocked access to the new sections from the show cave. The situation was a little confrontational for ten years, while Issirac forced an independent development of a show cave on their grounds. Finally, an agreement was signed, Issirac compensated and further development stopped. This means on one side that there was no further development of the cave, but also that the village continually stopped the exploration of the cave. Research was actively blocked, scientific papers or the thesis of Yann Callot in 1979 excluded the Orgnac cave, because scientists and cavers were not allowed to enter. While it is easy to understand that the show cave is the economic background of the village, it is not only small-minded but also stupid. Scientific exploration could lead to articles in newspapers, which is actually free advertisement. Nevertheless, the municipality blocked research almost completely for 30 years. It seems that this attitude only came to an end with the preparation for the Grand Site de France award in the mid-1990s. It seems greed beats spite.
There are adventure tours offered, which are actually an 50 m abseil through the natural entrance to the first chamber. Since 1998 the show cave also offers cave trekking tours, which enter the next chambers of Orgnac II and III. There are different tours, the full tour takes eight hours. The tour is rather easy, mostly walking on the natural floor with a few small climbs, but there are a few crawl passages connecting the huge chambers. Another problem is the high level of carbon dioxide. While it is actually quite harmless and not poisonous, it is heavier than normal air and so it collects in low passages forming carbon dioxide lakes. As there is no oxygene in the carbon dioxide, people simply suffocate while still breathing, they are surprised, faint and then slowly suffocate. And unfortunately the crawls are the lowest parts of the tours, so the guides have carbon dioxide sensors and check regularly.
The Orgnac IV part is still off limits, it was classified «protection intégrale», a label which actually does not exist, it was invented to make the restriction look official.
Since 2018 the cave also contains a wine cellar, a cooperation between the Néovinum winery, the Vignerons Ardéchois, and the Aven d’Orgnac. 15,000 bottles of local wine were descended 50 m underground, into a side passage of the cave. This is not a natural cave passage, it is an artificial tunnel which was not used for the show cave and has a flat floor and a normal height. It actually looks like any cellar. The winegrowers made a human chain to store the first 4,500 bottles into the tunnel. The cave obviously has ideal conditions for aging wine, a humidity level of almost 100 %, a constant 12 °C temperature, calm and complete darkness. As far as we understand the idea was to mature the Syrah wine for one year and then sell them to select restaurants in the area. However, they also offer wine tasting tours, where the guide is replaced by an oenologist, and the tasting of four wines is included. The tours are offered in JUL and AUG on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, when the show cave is already closed.
At the cave entrance is the musée régional de la Préhistoire (Regional Museum of Prehistory) which was created in 1988 at the instigation of Jean Combier, then Director of Prehistoric Antiquities for the Rhône-Alpes Region. The museum was very good and soon received the Musée de France label. It was closed in 2011 and transformed into the Cité de la Préhistoire (City of Prehistory), which was reopened in 2014. The new exhibition is restructured and modernized, has changing temporary exhibitions, and offers experimental archaeology workshops during summer.