Gouffre de Padirac

The Padirac Abyss

Useful Information

Location: Near Sarlat.
Open: Jun 9-12 14-18, Jul 8:30-12 14-18:30, Aug 8-19, Sep-Oct 9-12 14-18
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave vertical cave.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=20,000 m, T=13 °C
Guided tours: D=90 min. V=350,000/a [1997]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: E-A Martel (1925): Padirac, Historique & Description Sommaires. 32 pp, illus., SB, Français - French.
Martel describes his early explorations.
Address: Gouffre de Padirac, F-46500 Padirac. Tel: +33-565336456, Fax: +33-565337186
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1865 Count Murat andm. de Salvagnac climbed down the entrance shaft, maybe because of a bet.
9 to 11-JUL-1889 Edouard Alfred Martel, G. Gaupillat, Louis Armand, and E. Foulquiers make the first expedition into the cave.
9 to 10-SEP-1890 second expedition by Martel discovers the Dome.
01-NOV-1898 first tourists visit the show cave.
10-APR-1899 officially opened for tourism by Georges Leygues, the 87th prime minister of France.


The entrance to the Gouffre de Padirac is a deep shaft with a depth of 75 meters and a diameter of 33 meters. This shaft opens naturally to the surface of the Causses de Gramat and is therefore known for a very long time, probably since the 13th century. It gave the cave its name, gouffre means deep hole or bottomless pit in French.

The pit was already a famous tourist destination in the 19th century, when ExplainE. A. Martel (*1859-✝1938) first came to this cave in 1889. He made a first expedition and discovered the cave below the pit and the cave river. One year later, on a second expedition he discovered what is now called the Salle du grand Dôme. The exploration did not stop after Martel, and so today more than 20 kilometers of cave river have been discovered and surveyed.

The visit of this cave is rather impressive, because of the depth. There is a tower built of steel inside the pit. 455 steps or two elevaters take the visitors down into the cave and back to the surface. However, from the bottom of the abyss in 75 m there is a further descend to the cave river in more than 100 m below gound. The trip is now continued in boats and finally reaches the Salle du grand Dôme, which is 94 m high. The Salle des Grands Gours, as the name says, contains enormous rimstone pools, which are called gours in French. The most impressive speleothems are a 40 m high stalagmite and a 25 m long and 4m thick stalactite.