Ariège has the most prehistoric caves of any department in France. See map at the bottom of this page for their locations.
The Niaux cave
The visits to this famous cave are strictly regulated in order to maintain an even temperature of 12 degrees C and thus preserve the wall drawings of bison, horses and ibex. July through September there are 11 visits per day of up to 20 people with 45 minutes between each group, including a tour in English at 1pm. Three visits per day the rest of the year (no English tours). A reservation must be made by phone, though outside the summer months you can take your chances and just show up an hour before the scheduled tour.
There are several tours each day throughout the year, with start times varying depending on the season and other factors. The tour lasts 90 minutes. When you call to reserve they will tell you tour times for the day you want to visit. From April through the summer there is at least one tour a day in English.
How to book a place in a tour of Niaux cave:
By phone: +33 (0)5 61 05 10 10 (leave off the leading zero when calling from outside France). You'll be instructed to press zero for information in English.
Adult : 12 €
Child : 7.00 €
Youth (13-18 yrs) : 8.00 €
Students under 26 yrs : 8.50 €
Family pass (2 adults, 2 children) : 33 €
With immense chambers and a network of long galleries, it is the largest cave in Europe open to the public. Located near Ussat les Bains, according to legend it contains the tomb of Hercules' lover Pyrène. Twenty-five different guided tours are offered along three circuits (unique in Ariège), at 1:30, 3:00 and 5:00 pm plus workshops for children (manual activities or observation) as well as dinners and concerts.
Le Mas d'Azil cave
The only cave in Ariège with a road going through it. Discoveries there led to the identification of the Azilian Age. The cave was inhabited continuously since the Magdalenien age and huge quantities of tools and other artifacts were found there. Many are on display in the Museum of Prehistory in the village. Tours of the cave are given throughout the day.
It is considered a perfect example of a large Pyrenean cave. Prehistoric drawings, paintings and clay moldings of bisons, horses, reindeer and ibex were first discovered there in 1906, the first in Ariège. In July and August the cave is open everyday without interruption from 10 am to 5:30 pm with a guided tour in English at 1pm. Open mainly in the afternoon during other times of the year.
La Vache cave
Located at Alliat, near the Niaux cave but lower down in the valley, is the smallest of the caves open to the public. It was long the site of encampments and thousands of man-made artifacts were discovered there. In July and August the cave can be visited everyday between 10 am and 5:30 pm with a guided tour in English at 1pm. Visits at 3:00 and 4:30 in April, May, June and September. By appointment only in winter.
The Prehistoric Park
Located on the edge of Tarascon (open from April through October), the park features reproductions of sanctuaries and paintings from other caves in the Pyrenees which are inaccessible or closed to the public. The drawings in the Salon Noir in the Niaux cave are reproduced in their entirety. Features outside include examples of the types of shelters constructed by Magdalenien people and demonstrations of flint sharpening and fire building.
The subterranean river of Labouiche
Located between Foix and the Bastide de Sérou, it is the longest navigable underground river in Europe. From April to mid November you can take a 75 min. guided boat ride along a 1 km stretch of it.