Büste E.A. Martel, Gouffre de Padriac | © Bert Schwarz 2022
tip-no-68 | © Bert Schwarz 2022

The Gouffre de Padirac, an extraordinary geological curiosity, was first explored in 1889 by Edouard-Alfred Martel. On that July 9, Martel and his team descended into the bowels of the earth on a 75-meter rope, equipped only with candles, hemp ropes and rope ladders. Overwhelmed by the beauty of this extraordinary place, he decides to open his discovery to the public. With George Beamish, heir of a wealthy brewery family, he co-founded the Societe d'Exploitations Speleologiques de Padirac in 1898 to "offer access and guided tours to the gorge, caves and underground river to visitors".

Höhle, Statue | © Bert Schwarz 2022

The Gouffre de Padirac experience begins with a 75-meter descent into the center of a circular gorge 33 meters in diameter. The 207 steps of the staircase inspired by the Eiffel Tower and the three elevators that descend the karst walls of the gorge make it clear that you are going far below the surface.

Höhle, Abstieg | © Bert Schwarz 2022

On a stretch of several hundred meters between huge stalactites and stalagmites we explore a small part of the total 42 km long corridors, which were formed in thousands of years of erosion. Of the 42 km, 1 km is open to the public.

Höhle, alter Flusslauf | © Bert Schwarz 2022

Bizarre formations created by the water accompany us until we reach a landing place, from where we descend a part of the underground river.

Höhle, unterirdischer See | © Bert Schwarz 2022

At the end of the river trip, large caves and an underground lake await us. In this water no fish can live, because the necessary food is not available here. Here is also the end of the cave system accessible to everyone.

Höhle | © Bert Schwarz 2022

We return by boat and then slowly make our way back to daylight via stairs and elevators.