Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Let's go underground - Visit Some of the Region's Caves!

Perhaps you’ve been on holiday for a few days now and are looking for something a bit different to do. Or maybe you've been unlucky and have encountered rain. Why not leave the coast behind and head inland towards Grasse to visit one of the cave networks the area has to offer.

There are two main tourist caves – The St Cezaire Caves and the Grotte de Baume Obscure (Le Souterroscope)  in St Vallier de Thiey. They are actually only about 20 minutes drive from one another so you could do both in one day if you so wished.
The St Cezaire Caves
St Cezaire Caves - 1481 route des Grottes, 06530, Saint Cezaire sur Siagne, +33 (0) 4 93 60 22 35 They are located approx. 45 minutes drive from Cannes and you can take in some great views on the drive up there.

The St Cezaire Caves were discovered in 1890 by a farmer who found a hole when he was working in his field. He continued digging and a chasm appeared, very soon stairs were added and the caves were open to the public.
There are guided tours (approx. 45 minutes long) into the caves and our guide was great with our group of kids, pointing out shapes in the stalactites etc and keeping their interest – he spoke brilliant French and English and other languages are also available. Watch out for the lovely moment when the guide ‘plays’ the stalactites!  As it’s not too long it’s a great visit for kids of all ages but it must be noted that the caves are not suitable for pushchairs as there are many steep steps.

Prices (at June 2018) – Adults €8, Children €5,50, Under 6’s Free. Keep your eyes peeled for little discount cards that are often found in tourist information offices etc where you can usually get a 1 or 2 EUR reduction.

Before or after you have visited the cave you can also undertake a discovery walk in the woods with local flora described on panels. This also takes approximately 40 minutes.

TOP TIP: The caves are at a constant temperature of 15 degrees year round, so in the summer especially you might need to take a sweater or jacket but this makes it a great family outing all year around.

Open from February 1st – November 11th. Last visit of the cave is 20 minutes before closing.
·         from February 1st to May 31st: 10am-12am and 2pm-5pm
·         from June 1st to August 31st: 10am-6pm
·         from Sept. 1 to Nov. 11: 10am-12am and 2pm-5pm

Parking is free next to the entry to the caves and there is also a souvenir shop. Public toilets are available and there is also a restaurant serving lunch.

On the same site there is a tree-climbing adventure experience. Payable separately.
The village of St Cezaire sur Siagne is also worth a visit.

Grotte de Baume Obscure (Le Souterroscope), 2600 Chemin Sainte Anne, 06460, St Vallier de Thiey, +33 4 93 42 61 63.  The drive is approx. 50 mins – 1 hour from Cannes with some great views en route.

These caves form part of an underground network which is 1,200 metres in length and 80 metres deep. It is not all open to the public of course but the most interesting rooms and tunnels have been fitted with stairs and a self-guided tour which is approximately 700 metres long.

You wait by a big metal door to enter the cave network and when it finally beeps and clicks to let you in you feel like you could be entering another world as an intrepid explorer. Immediately you descend into the cave network and follow the self-guided information which is available in English, French or other languages. This means you stop at each point of interest / chamber etc and listen to the information and music as the areas light up before moving on to the next part of the cave. It is a walk through tour so there is no re-tracing your steps and the timing is set so each group waits a while before following through. It takes approximately an hour to complete the tour and return to the surface. It’s a great tour for young and old alike and there is plenty to see along the way… watch out for the goblins! Again, it is not suitable for pushchairs.

Fun in the dark!

 Goblin spotting! 

If you are a group of 10 or more you can request a guided tour with a speleologist lasting approximately 90 minutes - this is more expensive than regular entry - Adults €13, Kids €10, Under 3’s FREE.

For an added experience you can take part in one of the treasure hunt options. You’ll need to solve some clues and riddles during your visit and if you are successful earn your  ‘treasure’ !

TOP TIP : Clay and humidity can make the floor slippery so be sure to wear suitable shoes and make sure children don’t run.

Green lakes in the Grotte de Baume Obscure
As with the St Cezaire caves the caves are at a constant 14-15 degrees so perhaps bring a sweater or jacket.

Open from February 17th 2018 – November 18th. Reopening 8th February 2019
  • from 1st April to 30th June & 1st September to 31st October - Closed Monday. Open Tuesday - Sunday: 10am-5pm. Last visits are at 5pm or 4pm if you are doing the treasure hunt as well.
  • from 1st July to 31st to August- Open every day: 10am-6pm. If evening entertainment is on, open 7pm - 11pm. Last visits are at 6pm or 5pm if you are doing the treasure hunt as well.
  • from 1st November - 18th November: Closed Monday. Open Tuesday  - Sunday: 10am-4pm Last visits are at 4pm or 3pm if you are doing the treasure hunt as well.
There is a snack restaurant le Croc Magnon which is open from 12pm – closing from 21st April onwards.

Pricing (correct as of June 2018):
Self guided cave tour of 1 hour – Adults €9, Children (3-15 yrs) €6, Under 3’s FREE

Treasure hunt including the cave tour + 30 mins outside with an activity leader (90 mins)  – Adults €11.50, Children (3-15 yrs) €9, Under 3’s FREE

Outdoor treasure hunt in the forest (90 mins) – Adults €7, Children (3-15 yrs) €5, Under 3’s FREE

UPDATE: The access road has always been quite tricky to navigate but as of May / June 2018 they were doing lots of works on this so hopefully access will now be greatly improved.

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