Top enigmatic places for exploring underground Provence

Explore another Provence under the ground or under the sea, the Provence hiding under your feet. Pierce its subterranean and submarine secrets. Right in the heart of unique natural areas, – grottoes, caves, galleries – we can understand how much nature has to offer… even if it has some of it hidden away!

The Cosquer Cave, rising from the water

In June 2022 a Cosquer Méditerrannée interpretative centre dedicated to parietal and paleolithic art opened its doors. Head for the Villa Méditerranée in Marseille to visit a cultural site which houses the replica of the Cosquer cave. The cave itself is in the Calanque de la Triperie, near Cap Morgiou. It is the only submerged prehistoric cavity known to date. Currently, only one-fifth of the cavity is underwater. The exhibit will take you on a dive back in 1985 when professional diver Henri Cosquer discovered this natural gem. Along the path, over 270 rock paintings are revealed: seals, jellyfish, penguins… Think you’ll be able to imagine what life was like in the cave 33,000 years ago when it was first occupied by humans?


The strange Dromon Crypt in Saint-Geniez

To the east of the village of Saint-Geniez, you can see the Rocher de Dromon standing on the ridge above a deep ravine. The remains of an oppidum were discovered in this vertiginous landscape at the top of the rock. Mystery and curiosity go well together! At the foot of the rock, go into the Romanesque-style chapel and discover a crypt dating back more than 1200 years and made up of a so-called fertility stone. If you look carefully, you can see its columns with capitals sculpted with patterns representing lakes, plants, and even animals. The three-part crypt suggests that it was designed to hold relics.

The unavoidable Thouzon Caves

Discover in detail the only natural inhabited caves in Provence; the Grottes de Thouzon! Located about twenty kilometres from Avignon in the village of Le Thor, the cave which was discovered in 1902 during the operation of a quarry is still intact. This unusual site is currently an authentic ecomuseum. An inexhaustible “library” opens onto the geological and biological past of our planet. Walk along the fossilized subterranean river which cut this gallery in the rock for a magical show of the mineral world where the work of water has left its mark.

The Domaine de Poulvarel and its ancient tunnels

Not far from the Gard, the wine-growing estate of Le Poulvarel, the northernmost of the Costières de Nîmes designation welcomes you. Here, the third generation of wine growers produces wines with a commitment to the environment. At the entrance to the estate, the visit takes you on a trip back in time and invites you to drive to the village de Sernhac where you will see the ancient Cantarelles and Perrotte tunnels. These are the remains of the Roman aqueduct and follow on from the Pont du Gard. They once supplied Nîmes with water. Your ancient break ends with a tasting of the estate’s wines.


The Cellars of the Palais Saint-Firmin and their artisanal past

Go down into the Caves du Palais Saint-Firmin, a semi-troglodytic site dug into the rock by man. This gigantic subterranean network winds under the houses of the medieval village of Gordes. The visit shows the three levels of cellars used in the Middle Ages for crafts: the olive oil mill, the silos, and the vats. A documentary tells the story of the Cellars’ restoration, a 3D video shows the former craft activity and a little museum has objects that bear witness to the past gives you an idea of their different uses.

The Musée des Gueules Rouges, don’t forget your hard hat!

Way beyond history books and eye-witness accounts of the elders, bauxite mining in the Var is revealed in an immersive site: the Musée des Gueules Rouges in Tourves. Go back to the beginnings, between the end of the 19th century and the 1980s when bauxite mining was at its height in Provence. At the time, the Var department was the main French deposit. Six feet below ground level, dive into the heart of the daily life of the miners as you walk along a replica of a gallery. Interactive panels will tell you the story of the origins of bauxite, how the ore was processed into aluminium and how the metal is used.


The subterranean world of the Plateau d’Albion for an introduction to spelunking

You don’t get scared entering into the unknown and the depths of a cavern or a chasm? The Plateau d’Albion offers many cavities in Saint-Christol for an introduction to spelunking with the family  or as a simple adventurer. With Aventure Souterraine, choose your formula: Spéléo en famille / Spéléo Aventure / Spéléo Envergure / Spéléo Découverte. In a mineral world cut through the rocks by the water, this is a fantastic invitation to the centre of the Earth! Stalactites, gours, big rooms, bats… The underground world has many surprises in store: among them, one of the cavities offers abseiling or crossing on a zipline for even more fun.